Chiang Mai

The biggest touristic hotspot in the north of Thailand would definitely be Chiang Mai. If you fly from the south of Thailand to the center of Chiang Mai, you'll notice a big change in nature during your flight. Chiang Mai is more popular for its forests and laid-back culture, maybe even a little hippie vibe.
From the airport it is only a short drive with the tuk-tuk before you arrive in the bustling center of the city. The central point from the city can be found behind the city walls. Here, you'll find most things to do. But don't let that stop you to go explore outside the walls too!

Kies voor ethisch olifanten toerisme in Chiang Mai!

Choose only for ethical elephant tourism in Chiang Mai!

  Average costs

Stay – I stayed at a hostel while I was in Chiang Mai. It must be said that Chiang Mai is a true backpackers heaven. There are quite some youth hostels, and most of the time at a very inexpensive cost. I found a hostel that was right in the city center, because I could visit most of the things a lot more easy from there. For this centrally located hostel I only paid 100 THB a night (€2,5 or $3). Hostel prices lay between 100 and 300 THB a night.
For a budget hotel, expect to pay between 250 and 350 THB (€6,5 to €9 or $7 to 10$) as a minimum.
You prefer a little more luxury? Check out the many luxury hotels or ressorts. A hotel or ressort with four or five starts will cost you anything between 700 and 3000 THB+ a night (€18 to €77+ or $20 to $85,5+).
A complete overview of accommodation in Chiang Mai can be seen on this webpage.

Eat – Just like the rest of Thailand, there are plenty of street carts with delicious food available. The many markets in Chiang Mai are very competitive with each other, and because of that you often get even cheaper food. Prices start at only 25 THB (€0,65 or $0,8).
For a restaurant expect to pay something between 100 and 200 THB as a minimum (€2,5 to €5 or $3 to $6).
Transport – There really isn’t any form of public transportation in Chiang Mai. Your best bet is to take a tuk tuk or taxi. Short rides only cost you 50 to 100 THB.
If you’re travelling with a group, or if you can wait for other people to arrive, there also are songthaew available. These taxi busses are to be shared with others, and eventually you’ll all split the cost. In the city itself, you’ll pay 20 THB if you are with enough people. If you would like to see Doi Suthep, then it will cost you around 50 to 200 THB a person (€1,3 to €7,7 or $1,5 to $9).

De rivier buiten Chiang Mai.

The river just outside Chiang Mai.

   Saving money

Street food – To eat cheap and yet delicious food, just roam through the street carts spread over the city. Dirt cheap and mouth watering. Meals start at only 25 THB (€0,65 or $0,75).

Haggle – Actually a rule for the whole of Thailand. Haggling works every time. It doesn’t matter if you just want to buy some souvenirs, go to markets or take a tuktuk… The only places where you can’t haggle, are when entrance fees are asked. But maybe you can try your luck… In Chian Mai you’ll never know!

Marktjes met lekker eten in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai markets with mouth watering food.

   Zeker doen

Temples, temples, temples – Everywhere in Thailand you can find temples. But in Chiang Mai there probably are the most. Definitely go see Doi Suthep for a great view. Wat Phra Kaew and Phra Sing also are worth a visit!

Rent a bike – Only if you’re good at riding a bike, because traffic can be crazy! With a bike, you’ll get from temple to temple a lot quicker and you can see a lot more than by walking. It’s also a lot cheaper to rent a bike instead of always paying for a tuktuk.

Markets – While I think of it, my lips still curl into a smile. There are lots of little and big markets all over Chiang Mai. Some are permanent, some are only once or twice a week. The best markets in my opinion are the ones in the weekend. A must do for everyone who wants to try some yummy food or buy great souvenirs in bulk.

Trekking – Chiang Mai is known for its beautiful and broad nature. Definitely go on a multiple day trekking tour through the jungle of Chiang Mai. Talk to the old, local tribes and let them amaze you by their way of life.

Elephant camps – To see an elephant is one thing. To be so close that you can actually hug it is another. It’s definitely bucket list material!
These gentle giants are definitely worth a visit, probably multiple. If you go to an elephant camp, please choose one that treats their animals respectfully.
Whenever they use bull hooks, just say no. Don’t book tours where elephants do tricks or paint paintings. If you really want to sit on an elephant, choose an organisation that lets you sit on the giant’s neck. An elephant can’t take that much weight on its back. I heard from pretty much everyone who did an elephant tour that it’s not very pleasant, since they rock a lot and it’s pretty hard to site on one. So why do it?
I went with an ethical company, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, where you can’t sit on the elephants but where you can play with them in mud pools and rivers. Much better experience in my opinion.

Chiang Rai – Keep a day off for a visit to Chiang Rai. This city is located a couple of hours away from Chiang Mai, but has some of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The most Karen Long Neck people (an ethnic tribe with elongated necks) also live in these parts of Thailand. Both are a must do and see!
More about Chiang Rai can be read here.

Doi Suthep tempel in Chiang Mai.

Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai.

   Don’ts

Unethical elephant camps – I can’t stress it enough. Elephant camps need to be fun for both tourists and elephants. Luckily, a lot of the camps start doing ethical practices with their giants, but still… There are some! So watch out.
Elephant might be huge, they can absolutely not carry heavy loads on their backs. Painting elephants or animals who do tricks are an absolute no go too. To be able to do this, they get tortured for years on end…
If you go to a show like this, these practices can keep on going for years and years. Besides, it’s so much more fun to playfully meet the elephants. You can see that they’re happy and thankful for their rescue.

Don’t rung around in swimwear  – Or at least not in bare torso’s. Tantkops, t-shirts and shorts are fine, but locals don’t like it when people are parading half naked along the streets of Chiang Mai. Why should you even? The closest beach is hundreds of miles away from the city.

Doi Ithanon - De koninklijke tempels.

Doi Inthanon – De koninklijke tempels.

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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