Hiring a car in Chiang Mai International Airport
Car rental desks can be found in the arrivals hall of Chiang Mai Airport. There are three companies that operate out of CNX, and these are run by Avis, Thai Rent A Car, and Hertz.
You can find a good variety of vehicles in Chiang Mai, from 2-3 door compact or economy cars, to 4x4s, vans and SUVs. Most of the cars here will have an automatic transmission, but you can request a manual transmission, or book online to ensure you secure a vehicle for the duration of your stay.
Leaving Chiang Mai International Airport
The airport is right next to the centre of the city, and without traffic the journey should only take you around 10-15 minutes. All you need to do is follow Route 1141 north, directly into town.
If you have to return your hired vehicle with a full tank of petrol, there is a Shell petrol station in the town centre on Prapokkloa Road.
Driving in Chiang Mai
In Thailand, traffic flows on the left. Please be aware that driving in this country can be challenging due to the volume of traffic, and that the roads may not be as well maintained as those you are used to back home. Ensure that you feel confident enough to drive here before making the decision to rent a vehicle. If you do intend to hire a car in Thailand, you need a full and valid driving license; some car companies may tell you otherwise, but this is incorrect. It is also advised that you check with your travel insurance company at home that you are covered to drive a car overseas.
Lastly, it is recommended for drivers required to hold an International Driving Permit (IDP) as this helps to legitimize your license when you are abroad. Please make sure you carry your IDP, passport and license with you when you are driving in Thailand.
What can you see and do in Chiang Mai?
Though Chiang Mai isn’t as large or as busy as the cosmopolitan Bangkok, it oozes charm, and has retained a very Thai identity that can get a bit lost in the skyscrapers of the capital.
Start at the Chiang Mai Gate Market, and enter the old heart of the city by picking up delicious street treats to set you up for a day of touring. Within this part of the city, travellers can wander through shrines and temples, such as Wat Prasingh. Smack-bam in the middle of the Old City, it is the largest of its kind in Chiang Mai, and dates back as far as the 13th century.
Outside of the city, it’s worth a trip up to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand, and atop its peak sits two chedis, or stupas, structures built in the 1980s and 90s in honour of the 60th birthday anniversaries of both the King and Queen of Thailand. This is a fantastic lookout for anyone who loves a view, and a great way to see the natural surrounds of the district.
Or if that doesn’t appeal, drive 30 minutes outside of the city, and marvel at the floating houses in Mae Ngat Dam. The village can only be reached by boat, and it is a singular experience staying overnight here.
Please note all information is current as of November 2015.