Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Buses in Chiang Mai

Buses in Chiang Mai

On previous trips (about one per year), I found that Chiang Mai has all the disadvantages of traffic (I clearly remember it once took me 10 min to cross road from outside the moat to inside the moat) without the advantages of Bangkok such as MRT, BTS, ARL, metered taxis, public buses, pedestrian overpasses (there are even a few pedestrian tunnels in Bangkok). And the rudimentary public transport system in form of red songtheos at 20 THB minimum fare is twice as expensive as in Pattaya (10 THB) and three times as expensive as Bangkok and provinces (starting at 7 THB). (Nong Khai is an exception: no bus or songhtheo system in town.)

On previous trips I noticed timetables and marked stops for buses or songtheos, but spotted only few. Here pictures from my last visit (May 2015) near Chiang Mai University:

 But now it seems a public bus system has been introduced:

direct link to high resolution map: 

good article that confirms above buses:
However a Farang friend who lives in Chiang Mai said he has seen only few of these buses and thinks only some lines are in operation.

Further links to buses in Chiang Mai: (2006, map in Thai, west is up instead of north) (same map, Thai/English) (2011) (2015, map too small) virus warning 

Above friend send me the following information about public transport in Chiang Mai:

The baht bus (สองแถว or รถแดง) system is rather easy to use and, given I have neither a car or motorcycle, invaluable to me.  Would note a few things (not in order of importance but in the order I'm remembering them!) about using the red baht buses:
(1)  They don't run fixed routes.  Just stand by the street and put your hand out (palm down) and one will eventually stop (if it keeps going by, it's because it's full or the guy is off duty or something).  Then just go to the window and ask if he's going to wherever it is you want to go.  If they shake their head no, they aren't going there and just flag down the next one.  If they say yes or shake their head yes, then get on and it's 20 baht (unless the driver tells you a higher price and you've agreed to it).  By the way, all the baht buses traditionally stopped running about 9PM at night although I've noticed more of them out later in the last 6-8 months so maybe that's changing a bit.
(2)  The easy way is to ask for a landmark they're likely to know which is near where you want to go, e.g., Chang Phuak bus station, Kad Suan Gaew, Thapae Gate, etc.  And, unfortunately, you kinda need to know what direction your destination might be.  For example, if I wanted to go to the zoo, it'd be a waste of time for me to stand on the north side outside the moat on the north end of the city (as the baht buses going by there are heading east toward the river!).
(3)  If you asked one to go to Adams Apple, I'd bet 99% of the drivers would just shake their head no (no reason for them to go there plus probably almost none of them have heard of the place).
(4)  I'm probably missing some tips here....would be easier to show you then to remember all the nuances.

I'd note that I'm not aware that any baht bus goes to Doi Inthanon (which is maybe 90 minutes southwest of town).  Other baht buses go to various places (Lamphun, Lampang, Doi Saket, Mae Rim, etc., and almost all of them leave from Warrarot Market (which, by the way, is known as "Kad Luang" to all the locals and I've experienced some baht bus drivers that have no idea what you're talking about if you say "Warrarot Market."  Incredibly, almost all of those charge less than 30 baht.  There are different colored buses there according to destination and most of the vehicles have writing (in Thai) on them telling you where they go.  Oh, there are baht buses that go to Hang Dong area from the market by Chiangmai Gate and there also are some baht buses that go north that hang out at the Chang Phuak bus station.  And there are blue baht buses on the east side of the Iron Bridge that go to Lampang and Lamphun.

P.S.  I'll copy hereafter the info I have about the various baht buses:

Red - All locations around the city of Chiangmai.

Wararot Market (Kad Luang):
Yellow - North to Mae Rim; East to Doi Saket
Blue - South to Sarapee and Lamphun
Green - North to San Sai and Mae Jo
White - East to Bosang and San Kamphaeng

Chang Phuak Bus Station
Yellow - South to Chom Tong
White - East to Bosang and San Kamphaeng
Orange - North to Chang Dao and Fang

Chiangmai Gate
Yellow - South to Hang Dong and San Patong

East Side of Iron Bridge
Blue - to Sarapee and Lamphun 

See here as well for buses and songhteos around Chiang Mai:

Updated Aug 2016:

Update Nov 2017:

Copyright 2016 ChristianPFC


  1. Good report, but the Baht buses are better then your article would have you believe. Yes 20 baht, but they DO know most of the bars and restaurants in town. In five years that I lived there I never had any difficulty getting a baht bus-day or night. However look for higher prices at night. Night is when I would take a tuk-tuk. A quick 100bht offer will get you anywhere in town or you can bargain down to 50 baht if you have the time. Two or three of you? The same 100baht will get you a direct baht bus ride to where-ever. Why no better regular bus service? The city gov. tried it, and the baht bus drivers got together and started sabotaging the buses and stands.
    Only in Thailand.

  2. Was there in jan-in that cold spell, and found 2 routes running-both ev 30 mins, with detailed timetables 9in thai only) on all stops: Bus Stations to Airport, via old town, and Bus stations/Arcade to tesco-road toward Hot. other routes as on map dit NOT run. Fare ws 15 bt flat, and just by chance they offered exact the routes i wanted and at times i wanted. Brand new small buses with all seats still in plastic, on both I was of course the only passenger. AT airport they leave from far left side of terminal. At Arcade they stop at old+new terminal.
    For 100 bt one can get a direct taximeter, dozens in a inute, in BKk for a much, much longer ride as indicated. In general I found CM-after an absence of over 3 yrs- much more expensive, overrun with chinese and more chinese and as also the massageshops were utterly disappointing, I will abstain from going there for a considerable time.

  3. In 1992 I made the same assessment CM is a polluted mini version of Bangkok with a poor public transportation system. While BKK didn’t have a BTS back then they did have Taxi’s & Busses but CM only Tuk Tuks and a song taew system. Crossing a CM road was like play the arcade game frogger and walking paths ran out and became part of a road.


Comments are currently unmoderated and open to everyone. I will see how this works out and might switch to moderation. Please sign your comment with a name or identifier.