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Taking the bus from Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai

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Kanchanaburi

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 23/05/2024, 23:45

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Kanchanaburi has quite a lot of connections to the rest of the country. Buses to Chiang Mai are the latest addition and they are pretty popular with travelers. The journey takes about 12 hours and is quite pleasant, considering its length. If you’re traveling from Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai in the future, you need to read this post to prepare accordingly.

I spent about a week in Kanchanaburi. It was supposed to be 3 days, but I stayed longer. The stay there was really nice and I enjoyed riding the Death Railway and enjoying all the other things you can do in Kanchanaburi. When the time came to say goodbye, I decided to head to my beloved Chiang Mai. Purchasing the ticket turned out to be a bit more difficult than I thought, but at the end, I was glad I didn’t have to go back to Bangkok and get my connection from there.

If you’re in Kanchanaburi and wondering how to get a bus to Chiang Mai, don’t worry. It’s doable, even if you’re in the city outside of the high season. I hope I can help you with going through the process of purchasing the ticket and you can buy it without any problems. Here are my experiences and some advice for you.

Read on how to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi 

From Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai – What I did

After 3 days in Kanchanaburi, I extended my stay at the Bamboo Bungalows for another 2 days. I decided to spend them reading books and relaxing. I knew I was going to Chiang Mai later on but wasn’t too bothered with figuring out how to buy the ticket for a bus. I normally use 12GoAsia to buy tickets for overland transport. This time I wanted to do it, too. But I was so relaxed and laid back that I was putting buying it off.

When I finally went on the website to check the availability, it turned out that it was too late. You normally need 48 hours to buy a ticket, which was a bit too late for me. My next option was the hostel.

It’s quite easy to travel overland to Thailand. Usually, you don’t even need to go to the bus station. Hotels and hostels sell the tickets and offer pick up services. I saw the information at my hostel that there were buses to Chiang Mai and that I could get the ticket there. From my many previous experiences, I knew I could just buy it a day before and that would be it.

When I asked the receptionist about it, she told me that it would be best if I could just go to the bus station and buy it myself. It was a low season and the agency they used didn’t sell them at that time and besides the prices were higher now. I would save money if I buy the ticket directly at the bus station, she advised.

As I was going to the Erawan Waterfall that day and had a scooter, I went to the station in the morning.

As you can imagine, the place was a total chaos. As soon as I got off my motorbike, I was surrounded by drivers trying to sell me trips to different parts of the country, or day excursions to the Hellfire Pass and other attractions. It was hard to just politely refuse, but that’s what you do in Thailand – you smile and say ‘mai bpen rai’ (which can mean ‘don’t worry’, but also ‘no, thank you’).

I finally found a tiny box, where a very nice lady sold me a ticket to Chiang Mai. I paid around 600 Baht.

On the day of the departure, I was dropped off by a tuk-tuk at the station and waited around half an hour for the bus. I got some curious looks from the locals and one of the drivers helped me with my suitcase and pointed me to the right bus stop.

The vehicle was tidy, with big reclining chairs. I got a pillow and a blanket – all clean and smelling nice with washing detergent. There were some sweet snacks and water on offer as well. I was glad to get a drink, but the Thai snacks are quite bad. I had a whole bag of peanuts and fruit to last me for the ride.

The trip took exactly 12 hours. We stopped once for 20 minutes to straighten our legs and eat some warm food. It was a pleasant and uneventful trip.

Taking a bus from Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai – Useful Information

Getting from Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai by bus is easy and straightforward, but it’s always good to prepare before. That’s why I created this list to help you with your travel preparations.

How to buy your ticket?

As you can see from my story, you have quite a few options.

You can buy the ticket directly at the bus station. As the station is far from the main tourist area, where you will probably stay, you will need to take a taxi there and back or drive yourself. The station is surrounded by shops and a market. Inside of it, you will find booths for a different destination. Ask for the one selling tickets to Chiang Mai. You will pay around 600 Baht.

Another option is to buy it at your hostel. This is a very easy way of dealing with it. However, as you read before, it’s not always available. Outside of the high season, you might have to go to the station anyway. A ticket bought at a reception costs 800-900 Baht.

For me, the most convenient is booking my ticket online. I recommend 12GoAsia. Just remember to do it 2-3 days before the departure date. Online tickets cost 600-700 Baht.

Travel like a local using trains and buses! With 12Go you can now easily book tickets for rides through Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, or Singapore. Buy bus or train tickets

Book your bus ticket from Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai 

Kanchanaburi Station

Yes, the station is busy and chaotic, but it’s easy to find the right stop or counter. Simply ask around. On the ticket, you’ll have the number of the stop, which is clearly marked. Once you get to the place where your bus should be, ask the staff if this is the right one as sometimes they change the departure stops.

There are toilets at the station and many small shops, including 7-11, where you can buy supplies for your trip.

The bus

Buses are quite comfortable. As mentioned before, there are reclining seats, toilets and you will get drinks and snacks. Sometimes there might be even some entertainment. Very often, the driver plays some Thai soap operas or western movies. If you’re traveling overnight, as soon as it starts getting dark, the lights are out and everyone starts sleeping.

When you get to Chiang Mai

When you get off, you will be surrounded by taxi drivers. You can, of course, hire one there, but they usually offer very overpriced services. I recommend going to the front of the bus station and catch a songtaew there. Depending on the time of the day and how many people you’re traveling with, you might pay a maximum of 100 Baht to get to the city center.

What to take with you?

  • Food – you will get snacks on the bus and you can get a free meal at the stop in the middle of the way, but I am not a big fan of those options. The snacks on the bus are usually really sweet, or it’s a strange combination of a sweet bun and minced meat. The food at the stop doesn’t look like it’s fresh. You can get some fruit there, but that would be about it. Buy something before you go. 7-11 and the stalls at the station in Kanchanaburi are a better choice.
  • Water – on the bus you will get a tiny bottle. If you like to drink a lot, then have another one with you.
  • Tissues – there is no toilet paper in the toilets.
  • Warm clothes – I can never understand why travelers go on bus journeys in Asia in shorts and tank tops. Air con on public transport is usually turned up to the maximum in Thailand. Yes, you will be sweating while waiting for the bus, but if you want to have a good night sleep, it’s better to have long pants, socks, and a jumper.

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