Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai is modern with a historic heart. A great option for tourists looking for a hub to explore parts of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai city has excellent transportation connections with Bangkok (about 700 kilometers south) and many other major cities and tourist destinations around the country. Connected by buses, trains and flights, by far the most affordable and usually most frequent transport option is bus. There are several bus stations in Chiang Mai, and our guide aims to inform readers all about them.
Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 1 (Chang Phueak Bus Terminal)
When you search for bus stations in Chiang Mai you’re going to see three main results pop up: Terminals 1, 2 and 3, each operating to different destinations, whether local or long distance.
As you may guess from the name, Terminal 1 was the original, and hence main, Chiang Mai bus station. It is located just north of the walled city of Chiang Mai in a central location that makes it easy to get to. Originally you would have arrived and departed at this bus station if coming from other cities like Bangkok, but following a popular recent trend, many of the new bus stations in Thailand are now being built on the outskirts of cities so that they have more space and so that buses do not get caught up in city center traffic congestion.
Today, Chiang Mai Bus Station 1 is also known as Chang Phueak Bus Terminal and you would use this bus station for local services as well as buses to a few destinations within Chiang Mai province and the neighboring provinces of Lampang and Lamphun. For local services, great to get around the city and its outskirts, you would catch a local bus. These are usually not air conditioned and can be quite uncomfortable, stopping numerous times along the route to pick up and drop off passengers. Getting from A to B can take time but local buses are a very cheap option when compared to taxis.
Minivan services do also operate from Chiang Mai bus station 1. With 12 seats to each vehicle these are a more comfortable but also more expensive option and will usually travel to destinations within a 90-minute radius. Regular services operate to places like Lamphun, Phrao, and Chiang Dao from Chiang Mai bus terminal 1.
Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade Bus Terminal)
The second bus terminal to be opened was Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2, also known as Arcade Bus Terminal 2 Chiang Mai. Arcade Bus Terminal 2 was opened when the original, in the city center, reached its operating capacities. Buses to and from Chiang Mai became more popular with visiting tourists and hence additional services were added, putting too much stress on the existing bus station. Easing congestion in the city center, the new Arcade Bus Terminal 2 is on the edges of the city, close to the major ring road, Highway 11.
As the first out of town bus station in Chiang Mai to offer long distance bus and minivan services, Arcade Bus Terminal 2 quickly became too busy for its size, just as Terminal 1 had, so a further bus station was added to Chiang Mai right next to Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 and aptly named Terminal 3. When the newest bus station was built, many of the big bus companies decided to move their operations from Arcade Bus Terminal 2 to Terminal 3. As a result, Chiang Mai Bus Terminal Arcade is now mainly a hub for lower cost bus services and minivans, along with some of the more upmarket services. You can travel from Chiang Mai to Bangkok from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 as well as Terminal 3, so which one you depart from will depend upon the bus company you choose – Transport Co and Bangkok Busline are two options. Do carefully check your tickets if buying in advance to make sure you’re at the right Chiang Mai Bus Terminal.
One of the popular routes from Arcade Bus Terminal is Chiang Mai to Pai. You can travel this route by minivan operated by Prempracha Transport, and they have services throughout the day. The journey from Chiang Mai to Pai is about 3 hours.
|Chiang Mai - Pai ฿ 200 3h|
Another of the popular routes from Arcade Bus Terminal is Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son. This route is also operated by Prempracha Transport.
|Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son ฿ 250–300 3h 30m – 6h|
Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3
As mentioned above, Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3 was built when it became obvious that Chiang Mai’s existing bus stations were operating at capacity and needed more space. Luckily, they were able to build a new bus station for Chiang Mai right next door to Arcade Bus Terminal 2.
Many of the big bus companies moved their operations across the street to Chiang Mai bus station 3, where passengers can make use of the better and more modern facilities. This larger bus station has more services for passengers such as several places to buy food and drink, an air conditioned waiting room, shops and mini-marts, and even a massage service in case you need to loosen up before or after a long trip!
Greenbus is one of the largest operators out of this Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3, with frequent VIP and Express services from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Greenbus also offers routes to Phuket, Chiang Khong, Mae Sai, Mae Sot, Nan, Phayao, Phrae, and many other destinations.
Chiang Mai Bus Station to Bangkok
For services to Bangkok, you have a lot of different bus companies to choose from. You can always book online if you like to have all your plans sorted in advance, using a website like 12go, or you can just arrive at the Chiang Mai bus station and see which company appeals. Prices vary depend on the quality of the service so you may find cheaper buses to Bangkok from Arcade Bus Terminal 2 whereas from terminal 3 you can choose a service with Sombat Tour.
|Chiang Mai - Bangkok ฿ 534–988 9h 50m – 13h 20m|
How many bus terminals are there in Chiang Mai?
There are 3 main bus terminals in Chiang Mai.
How do I get from Chiang Mai to Pai?
You have the option of bus, minibus, taxi or drive yourself.
How much does a bus cost from Chiang Mai to Pai?
The average price is around 200 THB to go from Chiang Mai to Pai by bus.
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