Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are 2 of the must-see places to visit when traveling in Thailand. If Chiang Mai is the big city, the capital of the north, Chiang Rai is a small provincial town, with a quiet atmosphere and eager to receive tourists to show them its beauty and especially its surroundings.
So how do you get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? If you’d like to use public transportation, the best way to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is by bus or mini van which takes around 3-4 hours. You can also rent a car, motorcycle or taxi to make the trip. There are no trains between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Read on for more information, prices, times etc.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai By Bus or Mini Van
The distance between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai is around 250 km. The road condition between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai is pretty good and the journey takes between 3 and 3 and a half hours.
To travel to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai by bus, you need to go to the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai. The buses arrive at the Central Station (Chiang Rai Central Station).
Greenbus is the main bus operator that runs buses for this trip. All the buses are air-conditioned and in pretty good shape. There are buses between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai several times a day (sometimes several buses an hour). Depending on the class of bus, the prices range between THB 220 and THB 360.
The first departure of the day is around 6 AM and the last departure is around 6 PM. Please make sure that you check the latest schedules before planning your trip.
Here’s the location of the Greenbus office in Chiang Mai:
107/2-3 Moo 4, Nong Pa Khrang Subdistrict,
Mueang District, Chiang Mai Province 50000
Can You Do A Chiang Mai To Chiang Rai Day Trip?
Is one day enough to visit Chiang Rai? Like almost any city in the world one day will not be enough to let you completely explore Chiang Rai, however, you will definitely be able to see the main attractions of Chiang Rai and in some cases even go a little further.
Doing It Yourself
If you only have one day in Chiang Rai you just need to organize your day well in order not to miss its main attractions and of course visit the White Temple or Wat Rong Khun, the symbol of the city. This temple is located about 30 minutes from the center of the city so it is advisable to arrive by car or motorcycle.
Here are some other places you shouldn’t miss in Chiang Rai:
The Blue Temple that I would qualify as one of the most beautiful and unmissable temples not only in the north of Thailand but in the whole country is one of the places you can visit for free.
The Museum of the Black House which is a very peculiar place dedicated to contemporary art and composed of 40 black houses. The entrance fee is 80 baht and is certainly highly recommended.
The Wat Phra Kaew, a temple with a lot of history, since it is where the Emerald Buddha was originally located and is currently in the Bangkok Palace.
How to get around in Chiang Rai?
Due to the distance between the different attractions, I recommend renting a motorcycle, hiring a taxi driver or booking a tour that will take you to the points that interest you in the city. Half a day by car that covers 5 attractions costs around 1000 baht (30 USD) for 4 people, while a tuk tuk with capacity for 2 people can be negotiated for 600 baht (18 USD).
Booking A Day Trip in Chiang Mai
Day tours to Chiang Rai cost from 25 USD to 100 USD depending on the tour operator and what is included.
Most tours include:
Return transport in the most economical option
One lunch and one dinners
Half-day tuk tuk / minivan tour
Entrance to the White Temple and the Black House Museum
Renting a Motorcycle or Car
Another option to go to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai is to rent a motorcycle. You can rent a motorcycle at any of the specialty shops or travel agencies in Chiang Mai.
- Avoid visiting Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai in one day, the city and its surroundings deserve to spend several more days. The best thing is to stay overnight in some of the many cheap hotels in the city.
- Between going by bus or minivan (van), my advice is to do it by bus, they are very comfortable and have a lot of daily frequency.
- From Chiang Rai Central Station you can go by collective taxi or Songthaew to the main attractions of the city.
- If your idea is to do a day trip, my advice is to take the first bus in the morning and return in the last one.