About a month ago we found out about a free shuttle service out to the new Central Festival Mall. This is the newest and biggest mall in Chiang Mai. If you need a fix of western goods at western prices, then this is your place to shop.
This mall offers free shuttle service to surrounding hotels in the Chiang Mai area. There are four different routes (Night Bazaar, Nimmanhaemin, Old City Road, and Nong Hoi Road) that pick-up/drop off from selected hotels. The shuttle delivers you to Central Festival's front entrance and returns to those same hotels beginning roughly two hours later. You do not have to be staying at any of these hotels to use this service. It is paid for by the mall, not the hotels.
Pick-ups begin about 11 a.m. and stop at several hotels before getting to the mall. From the first stop to the last it takes about 40 minutes one way. You could get there in about a 1/3 of the time, if you use a tuk-tuk or songthaew, but it will cost you 50 baht ($1.65) and up.
The first return trips begin at 1 p.m. and leave every two hours after that until 7 p.m. All shuttles leave at the same time to drop off and pick up.
Here is the cool thing about this. Let's say you are staying on one side of the city like we are. We are on shuttle route 2. We can go to the mall to shop and then if we wanted to go to the Night Market after that, we could get on shuttle route #1 and get dropped off at a hotel in that area. Since there are four routes, you can make your way around the city to different sites if you choose.
Transportation in Chiang Mai is relatively cheap, but if you are on a tight budget, this may be just your form of transport around Chiang Mai.