TOP SECRET: Chiang Mai Aircon Local Bus Routes/Times!
Last Update: 15 May 2016.
Imagine stepping into a new, air-conditioned bus at Arcade bus station, the Airport, Central Airport Plaza, Tha Pae Gate, the Train station, Chiang Mai Zoo, or other popular locations, paying a fixed 15B fare (less than red taxi) with no stress or hassle, and riding across town on a hassle-free trip with cool and clean air.
This is reality NOW and has been (on and off) for more than 10 years: Chiang Mai has a public aircon bus system that is run by the Chiang Mai local municipality (the Chiang Mai เทศบาล, [têet-sà~baan, têet-sà~baan, เทดF-สะL~บานM, thaehtF-saL~baanM, tâyt-sà~bahn, ˈthêet sà ˈbaan, ˈtʰêːt sà ˈbaːn, thētF-saL~bānM, ˈtâyt sà ˈbahn, thêht-sà~baan, tâyt-sà~baan, thêt-sà~ban]) under the umbrella name of "Chiangmaibus."
I want to spread the word as far and wide as possible about this service: as frequent users of CM public transit, it's our only hope in the never-ending battle with surly, greedy red-taxi (รถสองแถว, [rót-sɔ̌ɔng-tɛ̌ɛo, rót-sɔ̌ɔng-tɛ̌ɛo, รดH-สองR-แถวR, rohtH-saawngR-thaaeoR, rót-sǎwng-tǎeo, ˈrót ˈsɔ̌ɔŋ ˈthɛ̌ɛw, ˈrót ˈsɔ̌ːŋ ˈtʰɛ̌ːw, rotH-sǭŋR-thǣoR, ˈrót ˈsǒrng ˈtǎir-o, rót-sǎwng-thǎew, rót-sǒng-tǎew, rót-sǒng-thǎeo]) drivers and their super-heated carbon monoxide coops!
It's always been the best kept (or best suppressed) secret in Chiang Mai.
I contacted the [têet-sà~baan, têet-sà~baan, เทดF-สะL~บานM, thaehtF-saL~baanM, tâyt-sà~bahn, ˈthêet sà ˈbaan, ˈtʰêːt sà ˈbaːn, thētF-saL~bānM, ˈtâyt sà ˈbahn, thêht-sà~baan, tâyt-sà~baan, thêt-sà~ban] and collected the latest routes/times, rode the full route B1 and B2 with a GPS unit to confirm the route and stop locations, translated all stop names to English, created an interactive map of the stops, and assembled all information for you below.
As far as I know, this is the first time any route/time information for the "Chiangmaibus" aircon service has ever been presented in English.
I will continue to update this is as I can. Make sure to note the Last Update at the top of the page.
The [têet-sà~baan, têet-sà~baan, เทดF-สะL~บานM, thaehtF-saL~baanM, tâyt-sà~bahn, ˈthêet sà ˈbaan, ˈtʰêːt sà ˈbaːn, thētF-saL~bānM, ˈtâyt sà ˈbahn, thêht-sà~baan, tâyt-sà~baan, thêt-sà~ban] runs several fixed-price, fixed-route services, all falling under the umbrella name of "Chiangmaibus:"
The phone number of the [têet-sà~baan, têet-sà~baan, เทดF-สะL~บานM, thaehtF-saL~baanM, tâyt-sà~bahn, ˈthêet sà ˈbaan, ˈtʰêːt sà ˈbaːn, thētF-saL~bānM, ˈtâyt sà ˈbahn, thêht-sà~baan, tâyt-sà~baan, thêt-sà~ban] bus service (probably Thai only) is 053 261 011.
The website for "Chiangmaibus" (chiangmaibus dot org: has viruses: do not go here!) almost entirely discusses the red-taxi part of the service, with no route/time info for the aircon buses.
"Chiangmaibus" CMTRANSIT Smartphone App
There is a smartphone app for Android and a smartphone app for iOS/iPhone/iPad called CMTRANSIT which is supposed to show you, in real-time, the position of every fixed-route "Chiangmaibus" red taxi on a real-time map. This is a very cool idea because it gives you much more confidence about whether the taxi will really come and slightly lessens your need to know the schedules (so it's a clever technological workaround for whatever intractable management problem plagues these transport systems).
Currently this app does not show you the location of the aircon buses, minivans, or trams, but that seems to be a goal since all these forms of transport are co-branded. These apps seem to be the result of some kind of joint academic-government effort in Chiang Mai.
Unfortunately, many of the reviews indicate that the apps (or the data the apps depend on) is flaky and often the little red-taxis are just stuck on the map. So I am not sure how much use the apps really are. Perhaps the technology will get more reliable in the future.
"Chiangmaibus" vs. "Kwan Wiang" bus
There is another aircon local bus service in Chiang Mai—one that is not under the "Chiangmaibus" umbrella: 21-seat aircon pink/magenta-colored half-buses known as the "Kwan Wiang" bus, or route #10. In late April 2016 they re-opened daily regular 20B daily service every 10 minutes from 5:30am to 22:00pm, serving Kwan Wiang village (near Hang Dong), Chiang Mai airport, Central Plaza, around the old city (moat), Warorot market, Chiang Mai Gate, Wua Lai road, and other locations. They even have a route map with Thai, English and Chinese. They are on Facebook as Khwanwiang Transport. We hope they stick to their published routes!
"Chiangmaibus" vs. non-fixed-route red taxis
The local fixed-route transport services like "Chaingmaibus" and "Kwan Wiang" will never, and should never, replace non-fixed-route red-taxis and tuk-tuks, which will always range much more widely. Sometimes you need something right to your door, and/or something with a more reliable schedule.
But the fixed-route services should also not be smothered by the traditional taxi services: a huge percentage of those arriving at Arcade Bus Terminal, the train station, and the airport are going somewhere on their routes.
"Chiangmaibus" Bus Stops
The "Chiangmaibus" aircon bus and red taxi stops look like this:
Officially, the blue-green signs are for the fixed route taxis (even though they have a picture of the aircon bus—go figure) and the blue, circular signs are for the aircon bus.
In reality, the aircon bus stops:
This leads to our most important advice:
For 9+ years, the [têet-sà~baan, têet-sà~baan, เทดF-สะL~บานM, thaehtF-saL~baanM, tâyt-sà~bahn, ˈthêet sà ˈbaan, ˈtʰêːt sà ˈbaːn, thētF-saL~bānM, ˈtâyt sà ˈbahn, thêht-sà~baan, tâyt-sà~baan, thêt-sà~ban] bus company has been in a continuous budget bust and boom cycle, offering between 1 and 9 simultaneous aircon bus routes at different times (not to mention the red-taxi routes), constantly changing routes and times, but they never remove any old signage or bus stops!
You will see many bus stops like this in locations that are not currently served by the bus or red-taxis at all. Don't believe the signs and wait forever!
Instead, use the info here and/or call the bus company to see what the current routes and times are.
If you are on a hard deadline (e.g. plane, bus, train), you will definitely need to go to the bus stop 20-40mins earlier than you would if you were taking a red-taxi/tuk-tuk, so that if the bus doesn't come you can fall back to a red-taxi/tuk-tuk. If you can choose a stop in the shade (and ideally with something to do, like Somphet or Ton Phayom market) it's not too bad. If you have to wait in the sun then it's probably better to take a red-taxi/tuk-tuk directly.
Always Hail the Bus, Even at Bus Stops
Armed with the route maps on this website, you can actually just walk to the nearest point the bus passes and hail the bus (choose a place where the bus can pull out of traffic or it may not stop).
Actually, you should hail the bus even when waiting at a stop, in part because the bus stop signs are so messed up, and in part because their PR has been so poor that the driver needs to be convinced that you, a Westerner, actually know about the service and where the bus is going!
Beware this cultural pitfall: Many Westerners use the wrong gesture to hail the bus, and are shocked when the bus does not stop!
You should use this gesture with palms down, which means "please stop for me!":
You should not use this gesture, which means "I am not interested in this bus, keep driving!":
Catching the Bus at Arcade Bus Station
To catch a bus at Arcade Bus Station, do not go inside either terminal building (despite the fact that you see many [têet-sà~baan, têet-sà~baan, เทดF-สะL~บานM, thaehtF-saL~baanM, tâyt-sà~bahn, ˈthêet sà ˈbaan, ˈtʰêːt sà ˈbaːn, thētF-saL~bānM, ˈtâyt sà ˈbahn, thêht-sà~baan, tâyt-sà~baan, thêt-sà~ban] buses around the corner from the Pai bus company): pick up the bus directly between the two Arcade terminals (old terminal #2 and new terminal #3) along the street (on the side of the street closer to the old terminal #2). Look for the exact bus stop signs pictured above.
Catching the Bus at the Airport
While there technically is an official stop at the airport with a round blue sign, the stop is inconveniently located near the taxis and has no seats or shade at all!
But you don't need to go there. To catch a bus at the airport, stand outside the arrivals hall (either domestic or international), look for the vehicle pictured above entering the airport across the parking lot from you and be ready to vigorously hail the bus with palms down (as shown above) as it passes in front of you (it will not normally stop and wait for passengers at the arrival halls).
"Chiangmaibus" Bus Routes and Times
Currently there are 2 aircon bus routes, B1 and B2.
Weekends: Buses leave from Arcade every 60 minutes, 6am-6pm, except noon.
Weekdays: Buses leave from Arcade at: 06:00am, 06:30am, 07:00am, 08:00am, 08:30am, 09:00am, 10:00am, 10:30am, 11:00am, 12:00noon, 12:30pm, 01:00pm, 02:00pm, 02:30pm, 03:00pm, 04:00pm, 05:00pm, 06:00pm
Arcade to Zoo Stops (Click here for larger map with stop names)
Zoo to Arcade Stops (Click here for larger map with stop names)
Weekends: Buses leave from Arcade every 60 minutes, 6am-6pm, except noon.
Weekdays: Buses leave from Arcade at: 06:00am, 06:40am, 07:20am, 08:00am, 08:40am, 09:20am, 10:00am, 10:40am, 11:20am, 12:00noon, 12:40pm, 01:20pm, 02:00pm, 02:40pm, 03:30pm, 04:00pm, 05:00pm, 06:00pm
Arcade to Airport Stops (Click here for larger map with stop names)
Airport to Arcade Stops (Click here for larger map with stop names)
"Chiangmaibus" Bus Route Maps
General map of Route B1 and B2 (yes, this is the best available in English that they have produced; they claim a shiny new map with English is coming; for a map of specific station locations, see the four detailed maps above):
Here is another map, very pretty but only in Thai Language, uses an outdated terminology (stop numbers start with "A" for route B2 and stop numbers start with "B" for route B1!) and most map points are not really useful for finding the stops (for a map of specific station locations, see the four detailed maps above):
Aircon Bus Raw GPS Data
For map nerds, here are the raw KML files, which include both the complete GPS tracks for B1 and B2 in each direction and also waypoints for each of the stops:
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