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Though you won’t find any skytrains or giant public buses in Chiang Mai, navigating your way around with local modes of transport is alot easier than it looks. Although Thai drivers speak little English, they are very well versed in dealing with tourists, but if you’re unsure of the pronounciation of your destination, have your hotel write it down for you on paper in Thai. So, here are your options:
The cheapest and most common way of going around town is by hailing a songthaew, a sort of pickup truck fitted with benches for passenger sitting at the back. These red wagons are somewhat mini versions of public buses, going around town picking up and dropping off anyone that flags them down. However unlike buses, songthaews do not follow any schedule or routes, they simply drop people off as they go along. If you want to go to a specific location fast or privately book the driver for a few hours, make sure you talk it out with the them to negotiate a fair price. Short trips will cost you ฿15-50 and long trips can add up to ฿100.
Tuk Tuk ตุ๊ก ๆ
Another great way of travelling around Chiang Mai is by going around in a three wheeled rickshaw. Though they cost more than a songthaew, tuk tuk is a quicker, more scenic and direct option to get to your destination. The biggest downside to tuk tuks is that there is a high chance that drivers will try to rip you off, especially when hailing them down around touristic areas. One trip should cost you around to ฿60-150.
Bicycle and motorbikes
If you are confident enough to take on Thai drivers, travelling with a bicycle or a motorbike is a convenient and fast way to cut through traffic. Otherwise, stick to the songthaew or tuk-tuks because the last thing you want is to end your trip early with an accident.
Chiang Mai is a small city that you can conquer by walking (the city centre area at least!). Though I would still recommend you to take a tuk tuk or songthaew for the experience, walking around Chiang Mai lets you see the city in a greater detail and gives you the chance to sample the food lined along the city streets. Best part of it is that it’s absolutely free!