General Tips to Know for Chiang Mai
Currency: 1 US dollar = 33 thai baht
Here are some money tips:
1) Before leaving for Thailand, make sure to call your bank to let them know that you will be traveling so your card does not get declined when you withdraw money.
2) Bring cash with you to Thailand and then exchange it into Thai baht at an exchange booth.
3) ATMs charge a withdrawal fee of approximately $6.50. Some banks will reimburse you for all fees incurred abroad.
4) Credit cards are rarely used. Cash is preferred.
Dress Code: During the summer, Women can wear shorts, tank tops, and dresses. However, when going to temples, women should make sure to dress appropriately by covering their shoulders and wearing pants that are at least knee length. The same applies to men.
Transportation: The old city, which is surrounded by 4 gates, is where most tourists stay. Transportation is extremely easy as you can choose from a taxi, tuk tuk, or songtaew (thai taxi) to get around. It’s even possible to walk around the old city on foot as long as you wear comfortable shoes.
Language: Most of the locals living in Thailand speak thai; however, do not fret because most of them speak some sort of basic english. Additionally, a lot of the signs are in both thai and english.
Food: There are tons of restaurants in Chiang Mai. Most of the restaurants serve thai food, but there are also a few that serve American style food. Night markets are also another good option because there are many booths that offer cheap, fresh, and tasty food.
Accommodation: You will find a lot of boutique hotels in Old City. I stayed at Estia Hotel, located in the middle of Old City, which was close to all the main shops and restaurants, as well as the Sunday night market.
Essentials to Bring/Buy: Bugspray, sunscreen, pepto-bismol, and probiotics
Water: Drink bottled water and stay away from tap water. Ice is fine because most of the restaurants get their ice from ice factories, which use purified water.
Special Event: If you happen to visit Chiang Mai on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month, it is a must to experience the Loi Krathong festival. The Loi Krathong festival is an annual event in which krathongs (baskets) are placed in the moat surrounding Chiang Mai to show respect to the Buddha. During the same time the kratongs are placed in the water, lanterns are released into the sky. If the Loi Krathong festival is on your bucket list, make sure to book your hotel room early.
After checking into your hotel and depending on what time of the day it is, you may want to rest, get food, or start exploring the city.
If you decide to get lunch, go to Keatocha, which serves delicious Hainanese chicken, fried chicken, and chicken satay. The food is cheap and always packed with a lot of people.
Just a few minutes walk from Keatocha is a small temple called Wat Inthakin Sadue Muang located in the center of the old city. Surrounding the temple are adorable baby buddha statues.
The temple will only take 5-10 minutes of your time. After, walk around old city and check out the souvenir shops and food stands. There is no “correct” path that you should take; just go wherever your heart desires.
During your walk, make sure to stop by an exchange booth to exchange your money into thai bahts. The exchange rate is 1 dollar to approximately 31-33 thai bahts.
If time permits, visit Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh.
Book a half day morning tour with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (They also offer a half day afternoon tour and a full day tour).
I advise that you book the tour on their website ahead of time to ensure the tickets do not sell out. The tour is extremely popular!
On the day of the tour, a jeep will pick you up at your hotel between 630am-7am. It will also stop at other hotels to pick up more people until the jeep has a total of 10 passengers.
Once everyone has been picked up, the ride to the sanctuary, which is approximately 1 hour and a half, will begin. The ride will stop halfway at a market for a 15 minute food and bathroom break. Towards the end of the ride, it gets extremely bumpy because the roads are not paved.
Once the jeep parks, there will be a short 10 minute walk to one of the elephant camps, which houses 5 elephants.
Enjoy time feeding the elephants lots of bananas, massaging the elephant’s body with mud, and then bathing in the river with them to wash off the mud. Lastly, you will eat a homemade lunch before heading back to the hotel around 1pm.
What to Bring
Before heading out to the elephant tour, I suggest wearing a swimsuit under your clothes, bringing an extra set of clothes, a towel, waterproof case for your phone, and sunscreen.
After the Elephant Tour
After getting back to your hotel, get some rest at the hotel or pamper yourself with a traditional thai massage. Massage parlors are located on almost every street and prices are always more than reasonable.
If you are not tired for the elephant tour, take a tuk tuk to the silver temple. The Wat Sri Suphan temple is located just outside of the Old City and is known for its impressive hand crafted silver decoration.
Due to old buddhist rules, women are not allowed inside of the temple, so they can only walk around.
For dinner, give Dash a try. Consistently ranked in the top 5 restaurants in Chiang Mai, Dash is beautiful and has a great lively atmosphere. The green curry, fried noodles, and drinks are top notch. The restaurant is extremely popular with tourists so there may be a wait.
Take a 45 minute songtaew ride up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, one of Thailand’s most venerable temples. Admission into Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is 30 thai baht per person and there is a short walk up some stairs to reach the temple.
The temple itself has a magnificent chedi that is made completely from gold, and includes lots of statues and paintings. Since the temple is located high in the mountains, you will get a great panoramic view of Chiang Mai.
There are also many shops and small restaurants located near the entrance of Doi Suthep temple in case you get hungry or want some souvenirs.
If you are adventurous and up for a challenge, hike to either Sai Yoi waterfall or Mon Tha Than waterfall. The trail takes approximately 2.5 hours so make sure you wear running shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
When you finish seeing all the sights at Doi Suthep National park, there are songtaews lined up at the Doi Suthep entrance. The songtaew will take you back to the Old City gate for only 60 thai baht.
For lunch, head on over to Umakutegoukyura-men Ramen, a small restaurant located in the middle of Old City that offers a wide variety of delicious ramen.
Last but not least, if you happen to be in Chiang Mai on a Sunday, take a stroll at the Sunday night market (aka the most popular night market in Chiang Mai).
The night market runs along the entire length of Ratchadamnoen road and is open from 4pm-midnight.
Why is this night market so popular?
The market consists of hundreds of small booths selling handmade artwork, jewelry, clothing, food, bags, lamps, and more! It is literally a souvenirs galore type of market.
1) The night market gets extremely crowded so keep a close eye on your backpack/purse to not get anything stolen.
2) Bargain with the merchants to try and get a cheaper price.
Chiang Mai is a wonderful city full of history and lots to see.
Although 3 days is not nearly enough time to see everything, it’s more than enough to get an idea and visit the main popular sites. As long as you visit at least 3 of the attractions listed above, you will have a blast.
Where in Chiang Mai are you burning to go?
Let me know in the comments below. Thanks! 🙂