Getting Around Chiang Mai:
Depending on how long you are visiting and what you want to do while you are here there are many options for getting around.
If you are staying for a week a more you might want to consider renting a small 100-125cc motorbike. Like everything in Thailand, the cost is what you negotiate but the longer you rent the lower your daily cost will be. Automatic motorbikes will cost more than a manual. Prices can be 80bht to 250bht depending on type of bike and length of rental.
Although you will see many people riding motorbikes without a helmet and sometimes riding with 3, 4 or even 5 people – both are illegal. Wear a helmet and only ride with two people or you will get a ticket and have the chance to meet the very friendly police and visit their police station to pay a 300-500 Baht fine - this would be a good opportunity to use a new Thai word – “caw toat” or sorry.
There are few traffic control devices (lights and signs) and the general rules are whoever gets there first or whoever is driving the bigger vehicle has the right of way. Surprisingly, there are relatively few accidents. Traffic tends to move like a school of fish and has a steady even flow. You will do best if you move with the flow, not make any sudden lane changes and indicate your intentions with a hand or flasher.
In Chiang Mai you will see red, blue, white and yellow taxis (“song taew” which means two rows of seats) traveling around and outside of the central city. Red song taews provide transportation within the central city and you should expect to pay 20 baht per person. Yellow, blue and white song taews will take you outside the city. You can also jump into what may be the most fun ride outside of Disneyland – the Tuk Tuk! Tuk Tuks are everywhere in the city and you should negotiate the cost to your destination before you get in – expect to pay more than song taew for the same trip. If you want a slower pace you can also hire a three wheel bicycle to get you around. Some more Thai language for you – three wheel vehicles are called “sam law”.
The trains and buses in Thailand are very reasonable and a good way to travel a long distance for minimal cost. You have many choices in quality and comfort – you can ride with chickens or sleep your trip away in a sleeper car. Chiang Mai also has several local and low cost airlines and you may find air travel a good low cost option.