Road Traffic in Chiang Mai
Although Chiang Mai is only a small city far away from the capital, the traffic here has increased in recent years. Their are quiet spots and there are busy spots and these can flucuate during different times of the day. From what we've seen and experienced on Chiang Mai's roads the general mood is that riding a bike here in Chiang Mai is safer than Bangkok and more useful than a car. The traffic in general is less aggressive and more benign compared with Bangkok.
As with everywhere in Thailand, during a public holiday or celebration the traffic conditions can intensify further. As country folk and city folk depart and arrive in Chiang Mai traffic can grind to a halt in places. Chiang Mai is famous for its many markets, the Night Market in particular at the market zones traffic is hustle and bustle most of the time.
One advantage of the traffic system in Thailand is being allowed to turn left when the traffic lights are on red. This allows traffic flow to increase considerably. With this in mind, when you see the traffic Zones section below mentioning intersections and the like, they are orientated from the POV of a rider heading into the latter. That is to say Canal Road / Suthep Road means a rider is heading from the Canal Road onto the Suthep road going straight on/turning right. Obviously if you somehow only have to turn left all the time then you'll have no problems! Almost all of the intersections mentioned are controlled by traffic lights.
Thailand having allows left-turns at traffic lights, therefore it can usually be easier to get into a city by living in the outskirts to the north-east. Getting out of the city (during heavy traffic for example) back to your home would be slower however. The complete opposite applies if you lived in the south-western outskirts.
Chiang Mai Traffic Zones
Listed below are the main traffic zones that tend to get heavy traffic and traffic jams at rush hour.
By and large the University Quarter is a busy part of Chiang Mai with the Chiang Mai University traffic filling the roads and the surrounding markets and commerical areas adding to it as well. The roads tend to wide though and soak up the traffic pretty well. When rush hour comes along it's a different story for car drivers but bikes are usually able to get through ok.
Canal road / Suthep Road intersection is usually a steady road throughout the day with the exception of rush hour when it's reasonably congested. The southern exit of the main University campus see's much of the traffic spill onto here.
Canal Road / Huay Gaew intersection is usually a steady road throughout the day with the exception of rush hour when it's reasonably congested. The northern exit of the main University campus see's much of the traffic spill onto here
Nimmanhaemin / Huay Gaew Road intersection is usually a busy road throughout the day with the exception of rush hour when it's massively congested. A bike is recommended for slipping through the traffic to the front of the queue here.
Nimmanhaemin / Suthep Road intersection is usually a steady road throughout the day with the exception of rush hour when it's reasonably congested.
Suthep Road / Suan Dok Gate intersection is almost always a fluid and clear road throughout the day even during rush hour due to it meeting the moats one-way system north.
Huay Gaew Road / Canal Road intersection is usually a busy road throughout the day, at rush hour it's quite congested from the university traffic.
Huay Gaew Road / Super Highway intersection. Usually a busy road throughout the day, at rush hour it's quite congested.
Huay Gaew Road / Moat Corner (NW) intersection. It's usually a busy road throughout the day, at rush hour it's very congested. In addition traffic from the nearby Kad Suan Gaew Mall spilling out can make heading into Huay Gaew Road from the moat an additional hotspot throughout the day.
While the inner Old City Quarter of Chiang Mai is traffic light for much of the day, the same cannot be said for the surrouning moat road. The traffic runs clock-wise on the outer moat road and anti-clockwise on the inner moat road. It's nowhere near Bangkok levels of traffic but it does get pretty tight sometimes. As a general rule of thumb, the outer moat road gets more traffic and congestion than the inner moat road (which typically only has some outer traffic and the inner city to contend with).
Chiang Mai Inner City
Chiang Mai Moat Road
Chang Puak Gate. The outer moat road can be slow at periods throughout the day but is by no means a congestion hotspot.
North-East Moat Section - outer road. Some congestion throughout the day and especially a during rush-hour.
Eastern Moat section - Chiang Moi intersection. Some congestion throughout the day and especially a during rush-hour.
Eastern Moat section - Thae Pae Gate intersection. Some congestion throughout the day and at rush hour.
Eastern Moat section - Loh Kroh intersection. Some congestion at rush hour, throughout the night and into the early hours.
Loh Kroh - Night Bazaar (Charoen Prathet) intersection. Plenty of congestion throughout the day and at rush hour. Turn right is often the only way onward (although there is the potential for heading straight on, if the coast is clear).
Chang Mai Facts
Founded: 1296 A.D
Population: 1.6 Million (Approx)
Size (Metropolitan): 12.5 Sq. Miles
Distance from Capital by Air: 370 miles
Distance from Capital by Road: 450 miles
Seasons and Weather.
Despite Chiang Mai being one of the most northerly of the Thai cities the heat can still be brutal in the month of April. The wettest is normally September and the coldest is usually December and January.
Cool Season - October to February. Avg Temp - 22 C.
Hot Season - March to May. Avg Temp - 29 C.
Wet Season - June to September. Avg Temp - 26 C.
Provincial Map of Chiang Mai