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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > Thailand > Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Weather

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Local time Chiang Mai

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Getting around Chiang Mai

Public transport

Chiang Mai's town centre is relatively flat and compact making it easy to walk or explore by bicycle.

For local transportation, most visitors prefer to take a songthaew (shared taxi) or hire a tuk-tuk as there isn’t a public transportation system, other than a very basic, limited bus service. Renting a motorbike is also popular.

Taxis

Metered taxis are generally painted yellow and blue; you can pre-book these by phone from Taxi Meter (tel: +66 53 241 955; www.taxichiangmai.com) or flag them down in the street. They’re best used for journeys to and from Chiang Mai International Airport and for privately chartered day trips out of the city.

For quick trips use tuk-tuks and songthaews (red pick-up trucks that act as shared taxis). When getting into a tuk-tuk, be sure to bargain and fix a fare before you set off. Songthaews usually charge a fixed price unless you’re travelling to the edge of town. A handful of samlors (tricycle rickshaws) also operate in the city centre.

Driving

Driving around Chiang Mai is not for the faint-hearted. Cars, motorbikes, bicycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, vendors and stray dogs all jostle for space on the road, while traffic signals and road lines are generally ignored. That said, renting your own set of wheels is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to explore beyond the city centre.

Car hire

You can hire cars at the airport or from agencies around Tha Phae Gate. Recommended companies include North Wheels (tel: +66 53 874 478; www.northwheels.com) and Avis at Chiang Mai Airport (tel: +66 8 9969 8677; www.avis.com).

There are several agencies on the east side of the old city that rent out motorbikes. You can also hire them from local shops, hotels and guesthouses. Dependable companies include Mr Mechanic (tel: +66 53 214 708; www.mr-mechanic1994.com) and Tony’s Big Bikes (tel: +66 53 207 124; www.chiangmai-motorcycle-rental.com).

To hire a car or motorbike, foreigners are technically required to have an international driver's licence, although most rental car companies accept national licences. Few motorbike rental shops even ask for proof of a licence. International agencies accept credit card details as security, whilst small agencies often want a cash deposit or to hold on to your passport.

Bicycle hire

Bicycles are available from several agencies or at hotels and guesthouses. Chiang Mai Mountain Biking at 1 Thanon Samlan (tel: +66 81 024 7046; www.mountainbikingchiangmai.com) rents out mountain bikes and runs cycling tours.

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Riverside House

Spacious, air-conditioned and simply furnished rooms are set in three blocks, and there's a small swimming pool in the garden too. Breakfast is free, and there's also a small cafe serving meals. Set along the Ping River near Saphan Lek (Iron Bridge), the hotel is also five minutes' from the night market.

Varada Place

Set on a quiet side street, this hotel offers excellent value. The simple, spacious rooms all have balconies and are furnished with small fridges, microwaves and balconies. Breakfast isn't offered, but there are plenty of options nearby.

Galare Guest House

The riverside setting is the big draw at this long-established, family-run guesthouse. Upmarket, comfortable rooms with air conditioning and hot water overlook a shady, peaceful lawn that leads down to an appealing covered restaurant on the banks of the River Ping.

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi

A few kilometres east of the city centre, the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi is a stunning mock-up of a traditional Lanna village, with elegant stucco and mahogany villas and pavilions dotted around a vast garden of rice fields, palm trees and pools. Additional features include a spa, a themed swimming pool and three restaurants. One of the best hotels in Chiang Mai.

Gap's House

Centred on a leafy courtyard, this comfy hotel in Chiang Mai is crammed with antiques and northern Thai bric-a-brac, and the tasteful rooms have air conditioning and hot showers. The restaurant serves a popular evening vegetarian buffet, and the owners run a Thai cooking course in their village home. No advance reservations are taken.

Julie Guesthouse

The most popular backpacker haunt in Chiang Mai, this agreeable guesthouse has a relaxing garden full of exotic plants, a roof terrace full of hammocks, a popular travel agency offering adventure tours, and a terrace restaurant that is always full of travellers swapping stories.