Chiang Mai is a city that feels refreshingly more like a town. Its streets are notably quiet, the locals quickly recognize familiar tourist faces, and the surrounding mountains offer a welcome reminder that you’re a mere dot in the expansive nature-based region of northern Thailand.
But charm aside, is Chiang Mai wheelchair accessible?
Chiang Mai isn’t as accessible as more modern Thai destinations like Bangkok. However, there are enough accessible features for many wheelchair users to explore, especially if you use a manual chair.
I’ll share details on some items you can expect accessibility-wise in Chiang Mai with the hope that it will help with your trip planning.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Chiang Mai, I’d love to hear about your time there in the comments section. I appreciate it, and I’m sure our future readers will too.
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An Overview of Accessibility in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has a combination of positives and negatives when it comes to wheelchair accessibility. Its old town is well-equipped with sidewalks, but not all of them have drop-down curbs.
Most of Chiang Mai’s sidewalks are wide enough for wheelchairs and passersby to comfortably share, but the sidewalks aren’t well maintained in areas, causing wheels to get stuck in cracked sidewalks.
You shouldn’t have to deal with cobblestone anywhere in Chiang Mai, though.
I was impressed by the number of accessible restaurants in Chiang Mai. Many have 100% barrier-free entrances, while others have a portion of their restaurant that’s accessible.
Unfortunately, shops are a different story.
Even if a shop is accessible, the aisles are often so narrow and items are packed so tightly together that it makes it challenging or impossible to get around by wheelchair.
If you explore outside Chiang Mai, it’s best to rely on driving between sites instead of using the sidewalks. Sadly, someone thought it was a good idea to plant massive trees in the middle of some of the sidewalks outside of the old town.
The good news is that some of the areas outside of the old town are more modern. So, you’ll have access to several accessible malls and shops.
Wheelchair Transportation in Chiang Mai
Wheelchair Tours offers accessible vans in Chiang Mai with a lift.
You can either hire an accessible van and driver to get around Chiang Mai or rent the vehicle yourself for more independent exploring.
Accessible Tours in Chiang Mai
Get Your Guide features accessible tours on its website. Some of the activities they list are questionable regarding their accessibility, and I’m pretty sure you’d need to transfer out of your chair and into their van.
But if you can do van transfers and want to save some money by taking group tours rather than private ones, it could be worth looking into a Get Your Guide tour.
Accessible Restrooms in Chiang Mai
I encountered accessible restrooms at the following places in Chiang Mai:
- Warorot Market
- Central Festival Mall
- Royal Project Kitchen*
- Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center
*This is a restaurant near Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the most famous Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai. So, it’s a great place to stop at for a bite to eat before or after your Doi Suthep visit, given that this temple is about a 30-minute drive from Chiang Mai’s old town.
Accessible Things to Do in Chiang Mai
Although you’ll usually need a vehicle to get from point “A” to point “B” as a wheelchair user in Chiang Mai, there are a number of accessible activities you can do there.
1. Doi Suthep Temple
Visiting the Doi Suthep Temple is the most popular thing to do in Chiang Mai. It takes around 30 minutes to drive from downtown Chiang Mai to the mountain that Doi Suthep sits on.
Once you arrive at the parking lot, you’ll encounter an elevator that will take you to an accessible cable car. From there, you’ll have free reign to explore the base of the temple. The paths are wide, but the temple grounds become packed with people, so visiting early in the morning is best for ease of getting around.
Once you’re ready to go inside the main temple, head to the back, where you’ll encounter a ramp. The ramp is steep, so manual wheelchair users may need help pushing.
Power chair users may also want to ask someone to walk behind them, given the ramp’s steep grade.
Doi Suthep was the only temple I encountered that offers an accessible entrance to get inside. All the other temples I visited in Chiang Mai required going up several steps.
2. Visit Other Temples
You’ll see temples galore when driving around Chiang Mai. Although the inside of the temples is mostly inaccessible due to stairs, many of them offer beautiful, accessible grounds you can explore.
Below are some accessible temple grounds you can visit in Chiang Mai. Should you wish to go up the steps to visit the inside of the temples, you should easily be able to find monks or other locals happy to assist you.
Wat Phra Singh
If you only visit one temple in Chiang Mai’s old town, make it Wat Phra Singh. This temple offers a massive area to wander, with sidewalks leading between various temples and structures. You may see monks eating in their cafeteria, meditating, or holding meetings.
The pedestrian entrance to Wat Phra Singh is a little funky since it doubles as a parking lot, so you may have to deal with navigating around cars trying to enter the grounds. But once you get past them, you’re in the clear for enjoying the beautiful temple grounds.
Wat Phra Singh has an accessible outdoor cafe if you want to grab a drink or bite to eat.
Wat Chedi Luang
When you’re exploring old town Chiang Mai, you might see Wat Chedi Luang in the distance, for it has a nearly 300-foot-tall brick chedi (a Buddhist stupa).
You’ll need to pay a small entrance fee to visit Wat Chedi Luang. But first, you’ll need to enter to the right of the pedestrian gate where the cars enter, for the main entrance has stairs. Once inside, you’ll encounter a large, flat space for exploring.
There’s even a ramp leading to the Ceremonial Hall if there’s an event on the day of your visit. Although Wat Chedi Luang has a barrier-free restroom, the stall doors aren’t wide enough to fit a wheelchair.
Wat Lok Molee
Wat Lok Molee sits just outside of the old town on the other side of the mote. You can enter it via a dirt parking lot.
From there, you can explore the small grounds, which are flat.
You’ll also have access to the tower area and a place where people pray, thanks to ramps.
3. Warorot Market
Warorot is a wonderful way to experience an authentic Thai market. It sits a short drive east of the old town and has several entrances.
Based on my observation, it appears that you’ll have barrier-free access to Warorot regardless of the entrance you use. Many of the market’s aisles are wide, and large concrete ramps lead to each floor.
If you’re in the mood for a cheap, authentic Thai meal, don’t miss the opportunity to head to the lower floor, where tasty food is abundant.
The Warorot Market is open daily from 4:00 am to 6:00 pm. However, if you visit on a weekend, you’ll enjoy an even larger market scene in and around the area.
4. Sunday Night Market
It would be a shame to visit Chiang Mai and leave before a Sunday rolls around. Every Sunday from 5:00 pm to around 10:00 pm, the local government shuts down Rachadamnoen Road to traffic, turning it into a pedestrian street.
Vendors and tourists come out in droves for this weekly event. It’s an excellent activity to do as a wheelchair user in Chiang Mai, given that you’ll be able to explore the vendor stalls from the road, avoiding the sidewalks.
Be sure to bring lots of small change with you so that you can load up on Thai treats and souvenirs.
Since the market becomes more crowded as the evening goes on, it’s best to arrive early if you’d like to beat some of the crowds.
5. Three Kings Monument
The Three Kings Monument isn’t something to write home about in and of itself (although the founding fathers of Chiang Mai, who the monument represents, may disagree).
But this plaza offers excellent accessibility, and it often becomes a hopping place at night with street vendors and activities.
Since there isn’t much shade at Three Kings Monument, I recommend following suit and visiting this site in the evening to avoid Chiang Mai’s heat.
6. nong Buak Haad Park
Nong Buak Haad is an adorable park on the southwest corner of Chiang Mai’s old town. It’s small but well-equipped for wheelchair accessibility, with paved paths throughout the park and a ramp leading to its pavilion.
February is an especially exciting time to visit Nong Buak Haad, given that the flower festival is hosted there.
A Note on the Burning Season
I didn’t know about the burning season before arriving in Chiang Mai. But that lack of knowledge didn’t last long.
From around January to March, farmers burn their fields to prepare them for the next planting season. Although this practice is technically supposed to be illegal, there’s little enforcement.
I stayed in Chiang Mai for a one-month period from the end of January to the end of February, and I can attest to the air quality in Chiang Mai deteriorating towards the end of my stay.
So, if you’re reading this before booking your trip, you might want to avoid traveling to Chiang Mai from January to March.
Ready to Visit Chiang Mai?
The burning season aside, Chiang Mai is a breath of fresh air compared to many more bustling cities in Thailand.
Chiang Mai still has a long way to go in improving its wheelchair accessibility. However, it offers many more accessible features than some other Southeast Asian destinations I’ve visited, such as Hanoi and Bali.
If you have questions about wheelchair accessibility in Chiang Mai, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.
I’d also love to hear about your experience after you travel to Chiang Mai. How was your time there, and what recommendations would you give to other wheelchair travelers?
P.S.—If you’re concerned about safety during your trip, check out our guide on Is Chiang Mai Safe?