Getting Around Chiang Mai: Songtaew, Tuk-tuk, and Grab

Navigating the transportation options in Chiang Mai can be confusing, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. From the iconic red buses to the speedy tuk-tuks and modern ride-sharing services, there are many ways to get around Chiang Mai. But which option is best for you? Let’s explore each mode of transportation, highlighting the benefits of each, so you can make an informed decision. Whether you’re looking for an authentic Thai road experience or the comfort and convenience of a private ride, we’ve got you covered. So buckle up, and let’s hit the road!



The red bus, or songtaew, is a popular and affordable mode of transportation in Chiang Mai. It’s an excellent way to explore the city and immerse oneself in the Thai lifestyle. To ride the red bus, simply flag one down on the side of the road. You can easily recognise the distinctive red trucks with their route signs displayed on the sides.

Riding the red bus allows you to see Chiang Mai from a common perspective. You’ll hear the sounds of city life and catch glimpses of street vendors as you travel. The cost of riding the red bus is reasonable, typically much cheaper than taking a tuk-tuk or a taxi, ranging from 30 to 50 baht depending on the distance travelled.


red bus


‘Songtaew’ means ‘two rows’ in Thai, referring to the two rows of seats in the back of the vehicle. While the system can be chaotic, especially for those unfamiliar with the city, it’s a great way to experience Chiang Mai on a budget. But if you need to take the driver off his route, be sure to agree on the fare before taking the ride.

Compared to tuk-tuks, the red bus system is more affordable and efficient for travelling short distances within the city. Tuk-tuks are still a good option for longer distances or for visiting sites that aren’t accessible by red bus. The red bus system in Chiang Mai is an exceptional option for those looking for a unique and budget-friendly way to get around.



Tuk-tuks are a popular and iconic mode of transportation in Thailand. They offer an intimate and personalised way to see the city of Chiang Mai. However, how do they compare to other options like ride-hailing and taxis?

Unlike air-conditioned taxis, tuk-tuks are small, open-air vehicles powered by a motorbike engine. They offer a streetwise experience, allowing passengers to feel the wind in their hair as they zip through the city’s streets. Tuk-tuks are also relatively inexpensive, making them a budget-friendly option for travellers.

One of the biggest advantages of tuk-tuks is their flexibility. They can take passengers anywhere, regardless of whether it’s on a regular route or not, making them great for getting around. Plus, their drivers are often friendly and chatty. They can provide insider knowledge about the best places to visit and things to do. It’s like having a local tour guide but in a tuk-tuk.




But tuk-tuks do have some downsides. They can be more expensive than other forms of transportation, particularly when travelling to further destinations. They are also less reliable, which can potentially be a problem. Plus, passengers need to be mindful of their safety when riding. Tuk-tuks do not offer much protection in the event of an accident.

If you’re looking for a more comfortable and reliable option, Grab, Maxim, or taxis might be better choices. Grab and Maxim are ride-hailing services widely available in Chiang Mai and often cheaper than taxis. Taxis offer a more comfortable and air-conditioned ride but can be more expensive.

In any case, exploring Chiang Mai by tuk-tuk is a unique and unforgettable experience that should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Just remember to negotiate the price before hopping on, and hold on tight as you embark on a thrilling ride through the city’s vibrant streets!


Grab, Maxim, and Taxis

Grab, Maxim, and traditional taxis are more comfortable and convenient than red buses and tuk-tuks. You can easily book a ride through your smartphone app or by calling a taxi dispatch centre, and the driver will come to pick you up. You won’t need to flag down a red bus or tuk-tuk on the street and negotiate the price.

Maxim, Grab, and taxis are more private modes of transportation. These vehicles are typically air-conditioned, making them more comfortable on hot days.

Ride-hailing pricing is more predictable than with red buses and tuk-tuks. With Grab and Maxim, you can see the estimated cost of your ride before confirming the booking. So there are no surprises on the bill. With traditional taxis, the pricing is based on a meter system, so you can easily calculate the cost of your ride. In contrast, the pricing for red buses and tuk-tuks can be less predictable, as these modes of transportation can sometimes involve negotiating with the driver over the price.


grab app


While taxis and ride-hailing can be more expensive than red buses and tuk-tuks, you can expect a more comfortable and convenient ride. Red buses and tuk-tuks are typically much cheaper, with fares ranging from 30 to 100 baht. But can be less reliable and have a less predictable pricing structure.

Grab and taxis are widely available throughout Chiang Mai. They can easily be hailed on your phone. But during peak hours, it may be more difficult to catch a Grab or taxi, and the rate will be higher. In contrast, red buses and tuk-tuks can almost always be flagged down for a ride.




In Chiang Mai, the right mode of transportation can greatly enhance your experience of this city. Whether you’re exploring the ancient temples or indulging in the night markets, each option offers a unique way to take in the sights and sounds. To make the most of your journey, consider your budget, travel needs, and personal preferences. And remember, reading online reviews can help you avoid any potential problems or scams.


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