Chiang Mai Local Transportation

Chiang Mai City

Songtaew Taxi in Chiang mai, Thailand If you are going to remain within 5 km of Chiang Mai city center then don't even think about renting a car. Thais simply love cars, the bigger the better, and Chiang Mai is beginning to suffer from traffic jams and heavy congestion.

Many roads within the city are too narrow for two cars to pass through at the same time, which has resulted in a rather confusing one-way system that usually has first-time visitors suffering from acute road rage. And Thais are famous for their "me first" attitude when driving.

Songtaews

Hundreds of red pick-up trucks that operate as a kind of public transport system across Chiang Rai town and into the countryside. This is how ordinary Thais and savvy tourists make short to intemediate trips around most areas of Thailand.

The drivers don't speak English and the route system they use is often haphazard and inflexible, but mostly it works. However, some patience is required.

Cycling

Bicycling is still a feasible option but the recent increase in motorized vehicles has made this dangerous and less than enjoyable.

Motorbikes

Renting a small moped is probably the best option. You won't have trouble finding one and they are only about 100 baht per day.

Drivers' Licenses

While it is theoretically illegal to ride a moped if you don't have an international driver's license, most of the police at the many police roadblocks will wave foreigners past since bribes are far easier extracted from locals.

If you do get stopped - some policemen like to practice their rudimentary English skills - then just smile and be humble and chances are they will let you go. Always wear your crash helmet - Thais often don't.

Walking

For venturing within the old city, the square area inside the moat, then walking is a feasible option. That also gives you a good excuse to try one of the numerous foot massage / reflexology joints dotted around town.

Renting a Car in Chiang Mai

While renting and driving a car in Bangkok borders on suicide, renting your own transport in Chiang Mai is a great way to get around if you want to visit places outside the city.

As a general rule, ten kilometers outside Chiang Mai center, in any direction, and you'll have a relatively clear passageway.

Ensure that you have a valid driver's license since it's possible you will be stopped at random police roadblocks. An international driver's license is required in Thailand to drive a car although you can usually get by without one. It's a good idea to bring your normal license so you have something to flash for anyone wearing a uniform.