Adventures in East Asia

Songthaews and Other Transport in Chiangmai

We came across the unusual Songthaews in Chiangmai. Unusual because we had to get used to the idea that they were kind of like shared taxis, where the driver would transport a bunch of passengers who were all roughly heading in the same direction.


As you might imagine, this suits passengers who may want a cheaper ride at the cost of a longer journey, as the driver cruises the streets a little to pick up as many fares as he can.

Apparently, songthaew literally translates as "two rows" since they have two rows of seats on the inside of the passenger cabin. There's also a stand at the back of these minibuses where its not unusual to find passengers hanging on when there isn't enough room inside.

Riding a Songthaew

We flagged down and rode a songthaew a few times and had to agree a fixed price beforehand, which is negotiable. Therefore, each time, we had to tell the driver where we were going, and then actually know ourselves when we got there so that we signal to them (via the bell, although I'm not even sure that it was working) to let us off. Since we paid afterwards, I've no idea how the drivers remember how much fares are when they have a load of passengers picked up from various points.


Quite a few songthaews seemed to specialise in trips up to Doi Suthep and other slightly more distant tourist destinations. We noticed these stayed parked on main roads probably until the driver felt that he picked up enough fares. We also understood that these types of journeys operated on a stricter fixed fare approach.

Songthaew Fare Tips

Speaking of Doi Suthep, our hotel recommended that the cheapest way to get there was to take a songthaew to Chiangmai Zoo first, then take another songthaew from there onwards to Doi Suthep. It might sound strange to change, but apparently the fare from the zoo is fixed far cheaper than if a songthaew is taken from downtown Chiangmai all the way to Doi Suthep. It makes sense as quite a few people, locals and tourists alike, seemed to congregate at the zoo for the onward journey.

We paid 50 THB (95p) for both of us from downtown Chiangmai to Chiangmai Zoo. We then paid 80 THB (£1.55) (fixed at 40 THB each) to get up to Doi Suthep. A return journey total of 260 THB (£5). Our first songthaew tried to quote us 400 THB for the trip, including his time in waiting for us. In the scheme of things, the price difference isn't much but its the principle.


If time is an issue, then Chiangmai still has the trusty tuk-tuk, which can be flagged down instead and you get a vehicle all for yourself.


This entry posted in : Thailand. Tourism.

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