With the introduction of RTC Smart City Bus, getting around Chiang Mai city by public bus has become the best mode of transportation here.
When it comes to getting around the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, travellers have several options for transportations. Whether it’s by taxi, songthaew (the red truck), tuk-tuk or GRAB, getting around Chiang Mai city is relatively easy.
Adding to the list is the new and modern RTC Smart City Bus which was launched in mid-2018. It is THE CHEAPEST public transportation in Chiang Mai.
The RTC City Bus covers a vast area of Chiang Mai city and it charges a flat fare of only 20 Baht per ride. This is the cheapest public transportation in Chiang Mai city.
It charges a flat fare of 20 Baht per ride, making it the most economical way to get around, as well as being one of the most scenic. Chiang Mai is an ancient city filled with plenty of sightseeing opportunities where passengers can pass a scenic spot every 5 or 6 minutes.
These buses are spacious with air-conditioning – a welcome comfort in a tropical city. They have priority seats for the elderly, pregnant woman, disable or injured people and people travelling with small children, indicated with signs and pictures.
Passengers can also enjoy free wireless internet with the complimentary Wi-Fi on-board their buses. Open your phone’s Wi-Fi setting and look for CM TRANSIT FREE WIFI. No need registration to use the free Wi-Fi.
Travelling by bus in the city is a generally comfortable experience. They are fully air-conditioned and bring you through a scenic journey in Chiang Mai city.
The buses are wheelchair-friendly and priority seats are reserved for the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities.
How To Board The Bus And Pay
Buses will only stop at the marked bus stops for passengers to board or alight from the bus. Bus stops at busy locations may have shelters and seatings, but mostly they are just a simple pole and sign.
These buses don’t stop automatically at every stop. When you see the bus coming, raise your arm and wave up and down to get the bus to stop for you. When it stops, you board the bus at the front door near the driver.
If you are using cash, you pay the fare (by coins) into the fare machine. The bus charges a flat fare of 20 Baht per ride so you need to get ready two 10 Baht coins with you, or you could change coins with the bus driver.
The designated bus stop with a simple pole stating the station name to mark the location.
The bus charges a flat fare of 20 Baht per ride. You can pay by coins, or by using the Rabbit stored-value card.
An easier way to pay the bus fare is with a RABBIT stored-value card, which you tap on the card reader next to the driver as you board, and 20 Baht will be automatically deducted from your card.
If you are a frequent MRT or the BTS Metro Systems user living in Bangkok, then you will be familiar with this Rabbit Card. It provides the convenience for cashless transaction, by simply top up and use the card to pay for train tickets and at many other merchants like the Macdonald’s, Burger King, convenient stores, cinemas etc.
If you are going to ride the bus a lot, you may use the Tourist Card. It costs 180 Baht for 1-day unlimited ride or 400 Baht for 3-day unlimited ride.
Both the Rabbit Card and Tourist Card can be purchased at the RTC Counters located at Chiang Mai International Airport (exit door No.1), Central Festival Mall and Promenada Mall. You can also buy it directly from the bus driver when you’re getting on the bus (but it tends to run out fast).
Use Rabbit Card to pay for bus fare. It also can be used at the restaurants, cinemas, supermarkets, convenience stores etc. When going to Bangkok, you can use it to ride the MRT and BTS Skytrain.
Pay the bus fare using Rabbit Card which you tap on the card reader located next to the driver as you board, and 20 Baht is automatically deducted from the card.
Different types of cards available for different group of users. If you will ride a lot, consider buying the Tourist Card and get unlimited use for 1~3 days.
The “CM Transit” Mobile App
One of the best features of the RTC Chiang Mai City Bus is their CM TRANSIT mobile app that provides detailed information about the bus service map.
When you start the app you will see buses on the map (it uses Google Map). It allows you to track them in real-time almost like the UBER (or GRAB) app, except you have to refresh it frequently. It displays all bus routes and current buses location.
The app is also very useful when looking for the nearest bus stop around you because most bus stops are just a sign pole without proper shelter. You might not notice even when they are very near to where you stand.
This CM TRANSIT mobile app is available for both iPhone and Android devices. It is a trilingual app which allows you to choose from Thai, English or Chinese language. No need to sign up or log in to use this app. It works as long as your phone is connected to the internet and the location is turned on.
You can download and install the CM TRANSIT mobile app from Google Play Store or Apple App Store. The app is easy to use and it’s available in English.
The CM TRANSIT app provides very detailed information about their routes and current buses location on a map.
The Bus Routes
The RTC Chiang Mai City Bus covers a major part of Chiang Mai city but not the rural part of the province. You can’t use them to visit some popular tourist’s attractions far from the city like the elephant sanctuaries, the national parks, hill tribe villages, the Chiang Mai’s “Grand Canyon” etc.
To go to these places far from the city, you can use a taxi, the songthaew, or by Grab.
The best way to knowing all bus routes (and the latest) is by looking at the CM TRANSIT mobile app. The following explanation uses screenshots from the app.
Route B1 – Arcade Bus Terminal > Kruba Srivichai Monument
Route B1 – From Arcade Bus Terminal to Kruba Srivichai Monument
Route B1 is a non-continuous loop, starting from the Arcade Bus Terminal and ends at Kruba Srivichai Monument (the foothill of the popular Doi Suthep), before turning back to Arcade Bus Terminal again.
Route B1 Points of Interest:
Arcade Bus Terminal, Chiang Mai Railway Station, Warorot Market, Thapae Gate, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Suan Dok Gate, Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai University (the back), Malin Plaza, Chiang Mai Zoo, Kruba Srivichai Monument.
The most epic road-trip adventure as you’ll be passing through the national park, dense jungle, hill tribe village, rolling farmland, waterfall …
Route B2 – Arcade Bus Terminal > Chiang Mai International Airport
Route B2 – From Arcade Bus Terminal to Chiang Mai International Airport
Route B2 is a non-continuous loop, it starts from the Arcade Bus Terminal and ends at Chiang Mai International Airport, before turning back to Arcade Bus Terminal again.
Route B2 Points of Interest:
Arcade Bus Terminal, Nawarat Market, Warorot Market, Thapae Gate, The Three Kings Monument, Wat Phra Singh, Suan Dok Gate, Nong Buak Hard Public Park, Electric Plaza, Saturday Night Market, Chiang Mai Gate, Wat Srisupan (The Silver Temple), The Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center, Chiang Mai Immigration Office, Chiang Mai International Airport.
Route B3 – Arcade Bus Terminal > Chiang Mai Provincial Government Office
Route B3 – From Arcade Bus Terminal to Chiang Mai Provincial Government Office.
Route B3 is a non-continuous loop, it starts from the Arcade Bus Terminal and ends at Chiang Mai Provincial Government Office, before turning back to Arcade Bus Terminal again.
Route B3 Points of Interest:
Arcade Bus Terminal, Central Festival Mall, Tesco Lotus Kam Tieng, Mueang Chiang Mai Stadium, Sri Wattana Market, Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium (Behind Sri Wattana Market), The Tribal Museum, Flea Market, Chiang Mai International Convention & Exhibition Center, The Chiang Mai 700 Years Stadium.
Route R1 – Chiang Mai Zoo > Central Festival Mall
Route R1 – From Chiang Mai Zoo to Central Festival Mall.
Route R1 is a non-continous loop, it starts from Chiang Mai Zoo and ends at Central Festival Mall, before turning back to Chiang Mai Zoo again.
Route R1 Points of Interest:
Chiang Mai Zoo, Chiang Mai University, Malin Plaza, MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center, One Nimman, Kad Suan Kaew, Computer Plaza, Wat Lok Moli, Mueang Chiang Mai Stadium, Thapae Gate, Warorot Market, The Riverside, Central Festival Chiang Mai.
Route R2 – Promenada Loop
Route R2 – A loop, begins and ends at Promenada Mall.
Route R2 is a continuous loop (running one-way in a circle), it starts from Promenada Mall and ends at the same place.
Route R2 Points of Interest:
Promenada Mall, Art in Paradise 3D Museum, Shangri-La Hotel, Pantip Plaza, Anusarn Market, Kalare Night Bazaar, The Night Bazaar.
Bus displaying the Route R2 sign, in front of Promenada Mall.
Route R3 – The Airport Loop
Route R3 (Red) – A loop, begins and ends at Chiang Mai International Airport. It goes the “clockwise” direction.
Route R3 (Yellow) – A loop, begins and ends at Chiang Mai International Airport. It goes the “counter-clockwise” direction.
Route R3 is a continuous loop (running one-way in a circle). It starts at Chiang Mai International Airport and ends at the same place. Take note of the R3 Red and R3 Yellow routes, they go in different direction.
Route R3 Points of Interest:
Chiang Mai International Airport, Chiang Mai Immigration Office, Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport, Electronic Plaza, Chiang Mai Gate, Saturday Night Market, Pantip Plaza, Anusarn Market, Night Bazaar, Kalare Night Bazaar, Warorot Market, Thapae Gate, Sunday Night Market, Wat Chedi Luang, The Three Kings Monument, Wat Lok Moli, Central Kad Suan Kaew, MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center, One Nimman, Nimmanahaeminda Street, Wat Suan Dok.
Route 10 – From Khwan Wiang Village To The City
Route 10 – A continuous loop, starting from Khwan Wiang Village, going to the City and returning back to the same place.
Route 10 is a continuous loop (running one-way in a circle). It starts at Khwan Wiang Village, going to the city and returning back to the same place.
Route 10 Points of Interest:
CentralPlaza Chiang Mai Airport, Chiang Mai International Airport, Wat Lok Moli, The Three Kings Monument, Thaepae Gate, Warorot Market, Night Bazaar, Kalare Night Market, Shangri-La Hotel, Art In Paradise 3D Museum, Chiang Mai Gate, Wat Sri Suphan (The Silver Temple), The Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center.
The Bus Schedule and Timetable
The RTC City Bus is running from 6.00 a.m to late night. The timetable below shows the designated scheduled time the bus will leave its main terminal.
However, the timetable is only reliable when cars are travelling under free-flow conditions. The real passenger waiting time may be longer in peak traffic conditions. When you are really in a hurry, always use a taxi, or Grab.
A Few Tips and Talking Points
If you are coming to Chiang Mai by train, you can take Bus No. B1 at Chiang Mai Railway Station going to the Old City, passing by Thapae Gate.
You can go to Chiang Mai International Airport (or leaving) by Bus No. B2, R3 (both Yellow & Red), and No. 10.
If you want to go to (or arrive at) Arcade Bus Terminal, take Bus No. B1, B2 or B3.
Thapae Gate is the most famous landmark in Chiang Mai. ALL BUSES pass by Thapae Gate, except Bus No. B3.
If this is your first visit to Chiang Mai, take Bus No. R3 at night (after 7 p.m) and finish the entire loop. You’ll glimpse more of the “real” Chiang Mai city when the vibrant night markets (they are everywhere) open. The moat, mall, and temples look different too at night.