CHIANG MAI TRAVEL GUIDE: Tourist Spots, Itinerary & Budget

Our comprehensive Chiang Mai travel guide featuring the city’s top tourist spots, must-try restaurants, recommended hotels, plus itinerary.

Once the capital city of the kingdom that was known as Lan Na (or Lanna), Chiang Chai makes for a beautiful remembrance of its past that endures even to this day. When visualized from its “Old City” exterior, Lan Na is best described as a place of many temples that are a landmark in the area.

Chiang Mai travel guide
Chiang Mai, Thailand | BigStock Photos

VISA REQUIREMENTS TO CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

Philippine passport holders do not require a visa to enter Thailand for up to 30 days as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). [Read: Visa-Free Countries for Filipinos]

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT CHIANG MAI

Chiang Mai is an all-year-round destination but the ideal time to visit Chiang Mai is between the months of October to April. During this period, the weather is mostly cool and dry particulary between November to February, April is when you experience the Thai New Year.

HOW TO GET TO CHIANG MAI FROM THE PHILIPPINES

There are no direct flights from the Philippines to Chiang Mai, Thailand so your best option is to fly from Manila or Cebu to Chiang Mai via Bangkok, Thailand or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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HOW TO GET TO YOUR HOTEL IN CHIANG MAI FROM THE AIRPORT

There are a lot of ways to get out of Chiang Mai Airport to the city proper. The most convenient way is to take a taxi. The taxi booths are located inside the arrival hall so you can book easily. You can choose to pay a fixed amount or take a meter. We recommend taking the former.

If you prefer a private car, you can book it for less than Php500 via Klook which you can book online.

Aside from taxis, there are also share transporatation you can opt to take. There are share taxis (Songthaew), tuktuk, and vans just outside the airport. These are good options if you are traveling on a budget.

HOW TO GET AROUND CHIANG MAI

The most convenient way to get around Chiang Mai is by taking an Uber. It’s quite cheap and safe. In order to use Uber anywhere you are in Chiang Mai, we highly recommend you get a local sim which you can order in advance and pick it up from Chiang Mai Airport. You can order via Klook. Mobile internet in Chiang Mai is fast and reliable.

HOTELS IN CHIANG MAI: WHERE TO STAY IN CHIANG MAI

Budget Hotels and Backpacking Hostels in Chiang Mai

Fun Wahn Hostel Chiang Mai

Fun Wahn Hostel

Location: 213 Prapokklao Rd., Old City, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I have tried here and it’s clean and very cheap. The rates start at Php350 / USD6.6 for a bunk bed in a dorm room. Check availability and book.

Hostel by Bed

Location: 54/2 54/4 Singharat Road, Old City, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room rates start at Php550 / USD10.5 for a bed in a dorm room. Check availability and book.

Mid-range hotels in Chiang Mai

Duangtawan Hotel

Location: Night Bazaar Area, 132 Loy Kroh Road, Chang-klan, Night
Bazaar, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room rates per night start at Php2,500 / USD45 for a superior room. Check availability and book.

Luxury Hotels in Chiang Mai

The Dhara Dhevi Hotel Chiang Mai

Location: 51/4 Chiang Mai – Sankampaeng Road Moo 1, Amphur Muang, Tha Sala, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room rates start at Php20,000 / USD380 a night. Check availability and book.

TOP TOURIST SPOTS IN CHIANG MAI

Doi Inthanon National Park

Home to the highest elevation in all of Thailand whose ranges transcends neighboring countries, the Doi Inthanon National Park is a carefully preserved area around Chiang Mai for its diverse animal and plant life. The national park is also known for the three waterfalls that are inevitably its major hallmark as a tourist destination.

How to get to Doi Inthanon National Park from Chiang Mai

The most convenient way to go to Doi Inthanon National Park from Chiang Mai is by booking a tour. The tour costs around Php1,800 which you can book in advance via Klook.

If you are on a budget and prefer to travel by public transport, you can take a bus to Doi Inthanon junction and take a songthaew to the park. I’ve personally tried this and it’s complicated than I thought. I was lucky I was with my Thai friend.

Doi Suthep

There is a misconception when people refer to “Doi Suthep.” For the locals of Chiang Mai, it may refer to a place that is popular in the area. But for people outside of Chiang Mai—possibly, foreigners—Doi Suthep may suggest a sacred temple: it is not, until you refer to it with its full name, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Nonetheless, this temple within Doi Suthep is indeed worthy of getting renowned for its amazing architecture which imbues golden coloration from the exterior.

Chiang Mai's Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Buddha statues in Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand | BigStock Photos

How to get to Doi Suthep

One of the most popular ways to get to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is by taking a red songthaew (more like a jeep). The thing is, you have to go to Huay Kaew Road, near the zoo to take it. If you are traveling with a group, you can charter a songthaew from where you are in Chiang Mai and pay between 300-500 Baht. You may also book a tour via Klook.

Elephant Nature Park

The elephant is a significant part of the Thai culture. Yet, for a life that is open for exploit and possible extinction, the elephant is a treasured animal, particularly around Chiang Mai. As a means to preserve the creature that is somewhat symbolic of the Thai culture, the Elephant Nature Park makes for a secured home to this precious animal. In here, elephants flourish as they live in a natural habitat, free from captivity. You can book a hassle-free tour here.

Chiang Mai travel guide - elephants in chiang mai
Family of Elephants bathing in the river at Chiang Mai, Thailand. | BigStock Photos

Wat Chiang Man

Not all temples around Chiang Mai towers. Some are actually quite small, but are not any less ornate which makes them rather special, such as Wat Chiang Man. More than its looks, the Wat Chiang Man is valued within Chiang Mai for its pivotal role in the development of the city.

Bua Thong Waterfalls (Nam Phu Chet Si)

While climbing the so-called “sticky waterfalls” of Bua Thong may seem to be an exciting experience to do with a waterfall, the real marvel of the overall experience is the small shrine and spring that lies hidden in the jungle. Yet, for something considered as “sacred” by the locals, swimming in the spring is extremely forbidden.

Wat Chedi Luang

Originally making up three unique temples around the same area, only the Wat Chedi Luang remains standing to this day. The development of the Wat Chedi Luang had been a very long process which ended up being reconstructed in the ‘90s.

Royal Park Rajapruek

Combining the majestic element of commemorating a significant royal event—60 years of rise to power of the longest-reigning Thai king and 80th birthday celebration— as well as a showcase of a wide variety of flowers and plants, the Royal Park Rajapruek makes for a very interesting look into a peculiar Thai culture not usually seen elsewhere.

MUST-TRY RESTAURANTS IN CHIANG MAI

There are plenty of interesting restaurants in Chiang Mai but these are our favorites.

Kinlum Kindee

If you want to have a taste of the authentic Northern Thailand cuisine, head over to Kinlum Kindee (pronounced as Ghin Lum Ghin Dee) a popular restaurant in Chiang Mai serving one of the best Lanna food in town.

Kinlum Kindee

Must try: Northern Thai Spicy Sausage made from pork and chicken with herbs (Baht60-150); Puu-Ong or grilled local crab paste (Baht60); Spicy chicken turmeric soup with herbs (Baht80); and Northern Thai style stir-fried minced pork with herbs and fresh vegetables on the side.

Address: 9 Soi 11 Nimmanhaemin Rd. Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand. Opens daily from 11am to 8pm. Telephone no.: +66 85 867 8993

Anchan Noodle Restaurant

Located at Nimmanhemin Soi 7 Road, Suthep Mueang, Chiang Mai, Anchan Noodle Restaurant is one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai. They serve interesting and colorful dishes that will surely entice you to eat more.

Anchan Noodle Restaurant

Must-try: Anchan Noodle, Anchan rice, and Anchan drink. Kinda difficult to eat here if you do not have a local companion who speaks Thai. Forgot how much was it but it’s pretty much affordable.

Address: Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand. Opens daily from 8am to 4pm. Phone: +66 84 949 2828

CHIANG MAI ITINERARY & BUDGET

Day 1 Chiang Mai Travel Guide Itinerary – Explore the Old City
Visit the temples in the old city: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Sri Suphan, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Suan Dok
Lunch at Kinlum Kindee
Dinner at Suki Koka Sukiyaki

Day 2 Chiang Mai Travel Guide Itinerary – Doi Inthanon
Early morning trip to Doi Inthanon National Park
Lunch at Doi Inthanon
Dinner at a local babrbecue shop

Day 3 Chiang Mai Travel Guide Itinerary – Food trip
Brunch at Khao Soi Khun Yai
Late lunch at Anchan Noodle Restaurant
Coffee at A Day in Chiang Mai Cafe
Dinner at Guu Fusion Roti & Tea

Day 4 – Off to Bangkok

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