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Visitors Useful Info. Getting Around
As with most arrival points in Asia touts hang about and offer
extortionate rates for transport into town or to your favoured resorts. If you do not
have accommodation booked you are likely to be told that your recommendation is closed
down, burned, flooded or an array of fabrications. The reason for this is that these touts
get commission from any place that they send visitors to. No prizes for guessing that the
ones they recommend give the best commissions and subsequently dubious service. If you
have a phone number call yourself, you will probably be picked up from your arrival point
by the owners. Don't rely on the tout to help you with calling. It's not really in his
Guest at large hotels should walk a little way from their hotels before
hailing transport. It works out much cheaper that way without the luxury surcharge.
Thailand has extensive domestic flight routes which connect most major
cities directly or via the capital - Bangkok.
Try our interactive timetable for info
The best way to go around Northern Thailand is by you own private vehicle. As most
people don't come equipped with such a luxury then the next best thing is a rental. Rates
are very good in this area with a Suzuki 4WD jeep available from around US$30 per day.
These jeeps are suitable for mild off road experiences, are cheap to run and are fairly
easy to drive. Passport and international driving licence are necessary.
Other types of
vehicle available for self-drive include Volvo's, Toyota's motorcycles and mountain bikes.
Chauffeured 12 seat mini-vans and larger buses can be rented, along with a guide if you
arrive with your own party. Rates start from around US$20 per day. All forms of vehicles can be pre-booked through Gem Travel's car rental section link.
The area is ideal for the energetic cyclist. There are paths and routes to suit people
of any fitness standard. Mountain climbs to tire a tour-de-France winner or simple
pathways for the leisure cyclist abound in this area. The locals, still unused with
foreign cyclists, are very welcoming and will often wave and call as you pass by. A great
way to see the countryside. There is also two Chiang Mai bicycle clubs, one for mountain
bikes and the other specialises in roadsters. Mountain bikes are available from Gem Travel
but advance booking is recommended in the busy season.
The samlor (three wheels) is still one of the favourite local forms of transport in
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Although a little slower than their motorised cousins the
samlor is capable of negotiating the narrow lanes and soi's of these cities. Rides start
at 10 baht and increase according to distance. Other uses include carrying shopping,
courier and delivery of goods. Local school children often have their favourite
Seelor / Songtaew
Converted Pick up trucks with twin rows of seats in the back ply the main routes
looking for passengers. These are the main form of transportation in the cities and
countryside. City rates start at an incredible 10 Baht (20c) for a local trip and increase
to around 20 Baht for longer trips. Before boarding ensure that you are not getting a
private vehicle and negotiate the price beforehand. A knowledge of Thai is helpful. Seelor
means four wheels whilst songtaew means two rows of seats.
A noisy version of the samlor the tuk-tuk (called after the high pitched scream that it
makes) can be found all over the main cities. Tuk Tuk's should only be used for trips
around the city and visitors should be warned about the many scams operated by some of the
drivers. Under no circumstances should you arrange a trip to the
craft factories with a tuk tuk driver as they will often take you to the shops that
proffer the highest commissions, and guess who will be paying extra for the goods. Strong
negotiations are crucial before boarding a tuk tuk. Rates start at 20 Baht for a
very short trip but you will be lucky to get such a low price.
If you see any real taxi cabs in the North you can rest assured that they we hired from
Bangkok by wealthy visitors. Metered taxi's are not yet available in any city in Northern
Thailand. The touts outside hotel lobbies and guest house's are unlicensed and should be
avoided at all costs. The taxi's at the airport are, however licensed, and the reasonable
80 Baht into Chiang Mai town is a good deal.
The local bus service is unlikely to be of use to most visitors for getting around
town. An extensive inter town bus network does exist and long range buses to the North
East, Bangkok and the South are in place. The latest information can be found at main bus
The State Railway of Thailand's track system ends at Chiang Mai but can be used for a
number of interesting excursions. A short ride to a national park, accessible only via
train makes for a nice trip to the unspoiled countryside. The timetables, however, do not
allow for the use of train as a convenient way to travel around the
timetable and on-line booking.