Use the quicklinks below to jump to the desired section regarding transport in and around Chiang Dao.
Local orange fan buses ply Route 107 between Chiang Mai (Chang Puak bus station) and Chiang Dao and Fang, terminating in either Mae Ai or occasionally Tha Ton. Fares to Chiang Mai or Chiang Dao are 40 and 50 baht respectively and in theory the buses pass by every 30 minutes.
Air-con minibuses originating in Fang also stop in town approximately hourly between 06:20 and 18:20. If there is a seat available they ought to let you have it for 70 baht however if you book in advance, which is advisable, it’s 150 baht.
Minibuses running from Chiang Mai to Wiang Haeng leave from just north of town by the hospital, costing 150 baht either way, though these also require advanced booking to assure a seat.
A couple of Bangkok buses also serve the town, stopping outside the Chiang Dao Inn (which functions as a booking agent) on their way between Tha Ton and Bangkok. Two services depart at 18:30: a standard air-con bus for 590 baht and a VIP sleeper for 918 baht. Both terminate some 10 hours later in Mor Chit bus station.
If you are heading north, the bus station is on left side of the main road as you leave the centre of town while the songthaew station is on the right as you enter the centre.
There are no direct services between Chiang Dao and Pai or Mae Hong Son. If you’re travelling to either place, you'll have to change in the small town of Mae Malai, an important road junction. It lies on Route 107 at approximately the half way point between Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao and around a third of the way to Pai. According to our map it’s 37 kilometres from the former, some 40 kilometres from Chiang Dao, with around 100 kilometres of hills and bends before you hit Pai. There is now a Mae Malai bypass, so not all Chiang Mai, Fang buses will stop in the old town centre but all Pai-bound buses stop opposite the market by the T-junction. Local services between Chiang Dao and Chiang Mai stop on the main road in the centre of town.
Since minibuses running up to Pai won’t leave Arcade bus station until they’re full, you’ll have to hope that someone is alighting in Mae Malai, otherwise there’ll be no free seats. If you book at the Prem Pracha office they will call Arcade and reserve a seat but you’ll have to pay the full 150 baht fare. Local, hop-on, fan, buses also stop here but they are few and far between. (See our Pai transport section.)
If you do find yourself stuck in Mae Malai for a while, then the lively market at the T-junction should keep you amused. Plenty of hilltribe women, mainly Lisu, come into the market to shop plus there are numerous cafes on the town’s main street. If you have your own wheels it’s a good spot for a break anyway.
Just about any resort or guesthouse in Chiang Dao will organise transfers to and from the bus stops in town, as well as to points of interest, which is convenient since local public services are on the expensive side. There’s a songthaew station on the main road in the centre of town -- directly opposite the Model Farm Restaurant -- where yellow pick-up taxis will take you to the caves (or adjacent guesthouses) for 150 baht one-way, or 300 baht return. Doi Ang Khang is 1,800 baht or a reasonable 2,000 baht return in the same day. Unusually, songthaew drivers in Chiang Dao seem to be almost all women.
Motorbike hire is available in Chiang Dao but it is more expensive than in Chiang Mai. Most guesthouses will rent them or can obtain them for you, and a motorbike hire shop is on the town’s main street too. Expect to pay between 300 and 400 per day for a Honda Dream. Try Sompraew Coffee Shop and Star (same owners) in town while towards the cave Nature Home advertises motorbikes for 390 first day, 300 subsequent days, and bicycles for 150. The Cave also has both motorbike and bicycle hire and the well organised Nest and helpful Malee’s should be able to find wheels for you too.