Chiang Mai is a fairly compact city with many of its attractions within walking distance from each other. Even better, the main hotels are situated near the major tourist attractions, which makes walking around the city a pleasant experience. But if strolling underneath the heat of the sun is undesirable, there are plenty of ways on getting around Chiang Mai.
Car rental companies are plenty in Chiang Mai with large companies such as Avis, Hertz and Budget available. Small local companies also offer rental services at highly competitive prices. Rentable vehicles range from small compact cars to four-wheel drive jeeps that are well-suited for exploring the rugged countryside. Renting a car in Chiang Mai will require valid passports and a valid international driver’s license. Insurance is provided including third party liability. Make sure to read your rental agreement carefully and choose a car that will fit your scheduled itinerary for your Chiang Mai visit.
Song thaews are those abundant red open-air buses that constantly orbit around the city. They are the standard means of travel for most residents of Chiang Mai. They are cheap, readily available and perfect for traveling within the city. Most song thaews drive along specific routes but some may be more than happy to take you to your desired specific destination. Simply flag the driver down and ask where he’s heading. If you’re lucky enough to be headed to his direction, hop on and enjoy the ride. Fares are usually around 10-20 baht but may significantly increase with specific destinations. Expect to pay a common fare of about 30 baht to get anywhere in the city.
Tuk Tuks are colorful, three-wheeled vehicles that are perfect for those traveling outside the main city or are simply in a hurry. These fast vehicles can be found near major hotels and tourist sites and can be an appropriate means when touring around Chiang Mai on land. A ten-minute ride will usually cost about 50 baht but make sure to negotiate the fare before you climb into the vehicle.
Hiring motorbikes may be your best option when wanting to have the freedom to drive your own vehicles without the heavy expense of renting a car. Several motorbike rental companies offer 100 or 125 cc Hondas that are reliable and easy to drive. They cost about 100 baht per day with discounts for weekly and monthly rentals. Know that Chiang Mai is a fairly safe place to ride motorbikes compared to the rest of Thailand.
Some tourists may opt to explore the city using their own push power on a bicycle. Bicycles are cheap and an enjoyable way to see the city. There are actually group bike rides that go around the city together stopping at the major tourist destinations. Some actually rent bikes and go up the rough mountain trails and down to the nearby mountain tops.
Finally, we have the ever-reliable metered taxis that are steadily increasing in number. They usually run from the busy Chiang Mai airport and are your best option to use to get to your hotel when getting to the city by plane. Be careful not to settle with “off-meter” prices as you will be paying more than the actual fare. Insist that the cab driver should use the meter to avoid being cheated.
Getting around Chiang Mai is ultimately easy as it is a very tourist-oriented town. Wander around the old city, indulge in its antique charm and find yourself taking in the genuine Thai lifestyle.