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What to Expect when Arriving in Chiang Mai

Downtown Chiang Mai

By Courtney Ridgel

You may find yourself arriving into Chiang Mai via either a domestic flight (coming from somewhere else in Thailand) or on an International Flight.  If you are coming from a neighboring country such as Cambodia or Laos, you’ll likely be arriving on a smaller aircraft, which means that you’ll disembark outside.  Intercontinental flights will be arriving on larger aircraft which taxi up to the gate as usual.

Smaller international flights may disembark on the tarmac

A very short bus ride will ferry you to the air conditioned Immigration wing of the airport.  (If you are arriving on a domestic flight, you won’t need to pass through Immigration again – you’ll just collect your luggage and head out to meet your guide.)

A bus will transfer you to Immigration

Thailand is one the most visited places in the world, so the airports tend to be much busier than those found in Laos and Cambodia. For US citizens, if you will be staying less than 30 days, no visa is necessary.  Your passport will be stamped on arrival.  You should receive the necessary entry and exit forms on your flight into Thailand.  (If not, you can always pick them up in the airport when you arrive.)

The Immigration desks in Chiang Mai are divided between citizens of Thailand and other ASEAN countries, and all other travelers

If you are not a US citizen, be sure to check the Immigration and visa requirements for your home country before traveling.  If you need visa on arrival, the visa application window is to the left of the main Immigration line in the Chiang Mai airport.  You may need a passport photo, and you can bring this with you, or have a photo taken for a fee.

Journeys Within guide, Tien helping with luggage and checking the schedule

Once you pass through Immigration, collect your luggage and head outside to meet your waiting Journeys Within guide, who will be holding a sign with your name.

Cars in Thailand drive on the other side of the road!

Your guide and driver will help load your luggage into the car, and will transfer you to your hotel to check in.

The Ping River runs right through Chiang Mai

Welcome to the ancient city of Chiang Mai!

The original city walls of Chiang Mai can still be seen in between the modern buildings and streets