Chiang Mai
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Plan Your Trip to Chiang Mai: Best of Chiang Mai Tourism

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

You could spend your whole vacation just exploring Chiang Mai's famous city center, where the remains of ancient walls wrap around 30-plus temples. Energetic travelers can climb 300 stairs to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, an ornate Buddhist temple in the hills. Wat Chedi Luang holds a jade replica of the famed emerald Buddha. But don’t just explore historical sights—experience Thailand’s vibrant present, too. At the Night Bazaar, master the art of haggling for souvenirs and treat yourself with spicy pad Thai and sweet banana roti. The Botanic Garden is the place to soak up some local culture and to breathe in the delicate fragrance of Thai orchids. And when you need to recharge from all your exploration, treat yourself to a spa moment at one of the local spots.

Travel Advice

Essential Chiang Mai

How to do Chiang Mai in 3 days

A mountaintop temple, a raucous night market, and touring a tea plantation
Read on

My favorite spots to grab a bite in Chiang Mai

During my months-long annual trips to Chiang Mai, I find myself falling in love with the city again and again. That’s mostly because of the city’s continuously evolving culinary scene. From bustling street food markets to contemporary coffee shops to kitchens run by grandmas, here are my favorite spots to eat in Chiang Mai—in no particular order.
Zinara Rathnayake, Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Cafe Arte
    Chiang Mai is known for its great coffee culture, with beans sourced from nearby hill tribe farms. In the Jed Yod neighborhood, try Cafe Arte. The smiling owner and barista, Pop—he’s the one with the long gray beard—serves incredible coffee. The ambiance, with chandeliers and fresh roses, is straight out of a Japanese anime movie. Go for ham and cheese croissants in the morning, and keep an eye out for the seasonal apple pie.
  • Hong Tauw Inn
    For a hearty lunch, I usually head to Hong Tauw Inn. It's located in Chiang Mai’s trendy Nimmanhaemin neighborhood, but it’s not like the flashier spots in the area. It’s homey, with fresh table linens, vintage clocks, and exceptional northern Thai food. My favorite is khanom jeen kaeng phed kai (fermented rice flour noodles with spicy red chicken curry). Don’t overlook the restaurant’s sai ua (grilled pork sausage flavored with herbs), a regional specialty.
  • Smiley Kitchen
    In food-focused Chiang Mai, locals love to frequent the city’s many Japanese restaurants. Smiley Kitchen, run by a woman from Hokkaido, stands out from the rest because it excels at Japanese home cooking. When you head here in the evening for the bento dinners, you’ll notice that the dining room is packed with Japanese expats, a sign that you’ve found the right place. A nice extra is a free, self-service herbal tea corner.
  • Khao Soi Lam Duan - Fa Ham
    Northern Thailand’s beloved coconut curry noodle soup, called khao soi, is usually topped with crunchy fried egg noodles, shallots, cilantro, pickled mustard stems, lime, and nam prik pao (sweet, spicy chili paste). For my biweekly khao soi fix, I follow the locals to Khao Soi Lam Duan, one of the oldest restaurants in the area. Get your thick and flavorful broth with juicy pork chunks and a refreshing, sugar-free, cold-pressed orange juice.
  • B Samcook Home 16
    Chef Samak Phoolsawat’s (everyone calls him Chef Boy) bold, refined take on Northern Thai cuisine at his modest B Samcook Home16 restaurant is making waves across the city, and for all the right reasons. Made from the freshest ingredients, these seven-course chef’s table dinners are a true delight, with Chef Boy explaining what goes into dishes like garlic pepper pork ribs and duck leg served with homemade mixed berry sauce.
  • Grandma Thong's Kitchen
    Driving outside the city to Grandma Thong’s Kitchen, you’ll feel like you’re visiting relatives you haven’t seen for a while. She and her husband serve Thai classics like tom yum goong (a spicy prawn soup) and tod man kung (shrimp cakes with a sweet and sour dipping sauce). Drop in with friends for a crash course on Northern Thai cuisine. Decorated with fresh orchids, the sharing platters taste as good as they look.
  • Warorot Market (Kad Luang)
    Thais head to this large indoor and outdoor market by the Ping River to shop for everyday items, so it’s a lot less touristy than the city’s night markets. Go early, grab a cup of black coffee from one of the stalls inside, and stroll around. You’ll find everything from fresh flowers to hand-embroidery clothing, but it’s also a great place for local snacks like deep-fried pork rinds and grilled sausages.

Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Chiang Mai


Walk. There are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai – so visually it is an interesting place for a wander. Allow time in your planning to just ‘be’ in the city, walk around, have a coffee, find a little bar, explore the many bookshops and local markets. Don’t fill all of your time with planned activities.


Chiang Mai has some wonderful tournaments during the year which are great times to visit, like the Cricket 8's around Easter, the town comes alive and the atmosphere is excellent. Also October/November for golf, there is an amateur golf tournament run by Golf Asian, another great week for a sports enthusiast. I enjoy going to both and will be back again this year for golf.


Please be careful when you are crossing a street here as there is no "pedestrian right of way.” The vehicle will win and you will then perhaps need more than a pharmacy.

Kirsty S

Chiang Mai isn’t known as the “rose of the north” for nothing. Its beauty and charm are evident in almost every corner of the city and in the natural landscape that surrounds it. As such, it’s the perfect destination for couples looking for a combination of adventure, culture and relaxation, all set against a backdrop of some truly spectacular scenery.


Chiang Mai has something for everyone: from temples to college-town nightlife and touristy bars; delicious street food to boutique restaurants; from luxurious spa treatments to adventurous excursions to nearby mountains, rivers, elephant parks, and hill tribes; from massage & massage training to muay Thai - as a spectator or as a participant!; from vegan restaurants to American comfort food; from hostels galore to luxury hotels...


Food, night markets, shopping, culture, handicrafts, history... what else would you want? It's all here in Chiang Mai.

What is the best way to get there?


The most common way for foreign visitors to get to Chiang Mai is by air. It is possible to fly directly into the Chiang Mai International Airport from nearby Southeast Asian cities, but this is generally not an option. Most travelers will connect via Bangkok. Fortunately, air travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai can be extremely cheap.

For detailed information on getting to Chiang Mai, including alternative modes of transportation, please refer to this article.

Do I need a visa?

Thailand has many bilateral agreements in place with other nations that allow visa-free travel. To check if your country is on that list please check here.

If your country is not listed, you will need to apply for a visa at your nearest Thai embassy. You can check here for more information on visas.

When is the best time to visit?

Winter: Late November through to mid-February are the cooler months to be in Chiang Mai. You will find you may need a jacket and jeans at this time of year. Some of the pools in Chiang Mai can be quite cold if they don’t get the sun. The days are still warm and pleasant. From mid-February onward, it starts to warm up and it’s unlikely you’ll need warmer clothes unless you are going into the mountains.

Chiang Mai also, unfortunately, suffers from air pollution in certain months due to crop burning. Please check out our forums to keep up to date on the situation.

Get around


There are more than 300 temples in Chiang Mai. Visually, it is an interesting place for a wander. Allow time in your planning to just “be” in the city, walk around, have a coffee, find a little bar, explore the many bookshops and local markets.


To get around town you will usually use a songthaew or a tuk-tuk. Songthaews are red trucks with bench seats along the back and a cover over the top. The rate is 20B per person (young children don’t pay). Flag one down and say where you want to go. If the driver says no, it is probably because they are not going in your direction or on a set route. You can also negotiate to hire a tuk-tuk by the hour or to do a specific trip. Negotiate with the driver. Tuk-tuks will charge you between 60B and 100B for trips around town. They seat three comfortably.

For more detailed information on getting around, you can refer to this article.

On the ground

What is the timezone?

Indochina Time, GNT +7

What are the voltage/plug types?

220 Volts / 50 Hz. Plugs are Type A, B, C, F (World Plugs)

What is the currency?

Thai Baht

Are ATMs readily accessible?


Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes and no. The cards accepted can vary widely, but if you intend to visit street stalls or use tuk-tuks/motorcycle taxis, it is useful to have cash.

Is it easy to find a bank?



Tipping is not customary in Thailand, there is absolutely no mandatory requirement to tip anyone, but small gratuities for great service are very much appreciated.

Are there local customs I should know?

The King

The king is very highly regarded in Thailand, as evidenced by the pictures displayed everywhere. Do not say or do anything disrespectful of the king or the royal family, even to the extent of stomping on a Thai coin or banknote which has been dropped and is rolling/blowing away. (It bears an image of the King's head, and is highly insulting to be touched by your feet.)

Royal anthem

Before each performance at movie theaters, the Thai Royal Anthem — known as Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami (เพลงสรรเสริญพระบารมี) or sometimes more simply as "Kha Wora" — is played. It is mandatory to stand up while it’s playing.

Temples and Monks

When visiting temples, dress conservatively. Women particularly should wear long skirts or trousers and cover their shoulders and knees. Many temples do not permit photography.

Remove your shoes

Always remove your shoes when entering temples (the same rule applies when entering a person's home), and do not sit with your feet towards the Buddha. Sit either cross-legged or with your feet tucked behind you.

No nudity

Thai people are very modest in nature, and public nudity is frowned upon even on beaches.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chiang Mai

If you're a more budget-conscious traveler, then you may want to consider traveling to Chiang Mai between June and August, when hotel prices are generally the lowest. Peak hotel prices generally start between March and May.