Press "Enter" to skip to content

Chiang Mai

Asia > Thailand > Chiang Mai

See: Why rent a car in Chiang Mai ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Chiang Mai?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Chiang Mai?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Chiang Mai car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Chiang Mai with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Chiang Mai? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Chiang Mai, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Why? Visiting Chiang Mai using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Chiang Mai ?

Generally, car hire in Thailand doesn’t make a great deal of sense, because visitors are most likely to spend time in frenetic Bangkok, where driving is a nightmare, or in any one of the country’s famous coastal resorts, such as Phuket or Koh Samui, where the emphasis is always going to be on the beaches and the water.
Yet Chiang Mai is quite different, firstly because it is very deep inland, and secondly because it is surrounded by so many natural parks and other scenic forested areas.

    • There are also no rail services in Chiang Mai, and although local scheduled bus services are readily available within the city.
    • Buses to any other scenic areas around the city are much less widely available.
    • Buses are mainly focused on intercity service, rather than at stopping at the parks in between.

Why not? Visiting Chiang Mai without a car

Why don't you need a car in Chiang Mai ?

This doesn’t mean that the only way to visit Chiang Mai is to do so with a rental car – as with any scenic area, a car is only going to get you so far, and this is really the sort of destination that lends itself to long walking excursions. You may well prefer to hire a local guide, who might also provide transport, rather than renting your own car, and this might well work out as better value anyway.

Ratings: How does Chiang Mai compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Chiang Mai? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Chiang Mai, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Chiang Mai? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Chiang Mai (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Chiang Mai? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Chiang Mai airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Chiang Mai car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 4

2019 - 4

2021 - 6

Average score - 5





Do you or don't you need a car in Chiang Mai ?

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five + 13 =