Generally, car hire in Thailand doesn’t make a great deal of sense, because visitors are most likely to spend time in frenetic Bangkok. There, 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.
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.
Should you hire a car in Chiang Mai? Verdict – yes (possibly guide with car)