The easiest way to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is by bus. And the most convenient bus is the Green Bus, which runs from Arcade Bus Station.
This is located at the far end of Kaeo Narawat Road, near where it joins the superhighway. To get to the bus station, just jump on a songthaew, which should cost around 50 baht per person from central Chiang Mai.
When you enter the Arcade Bus Station, turn left and you’ll see the Green Bus ticket office. You need to get a ticket from the machine to the right of the counters and then wait for your number to be called. Of course, if you’d like to plan in advance, you can always buy Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai bus tickets online.
Road travel in Thailand can be dangerous, and I’ve seen numerous reports of bus crashes in the last few years, with many deaths and serious injuries. For this reason I tend to travel by rail or VIP bus. The VIP bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai costs 288 baht ($9.60, £6.40) for a single journey. There aren’t any trains running between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
The journey to Chiang Rai takes three hours, with most of the journey through beautiful mountain areas. There is plenty of legroom and the seats are very comfortable. There is also a clean toilet at the back of the bus. At the beginning of the journey we were given a bottle of water and a small snack.
There are two bus station in Chiang Rai – a new station on the outskirts of town, and the old station in the town center near the night bazaar. If you’re going to the city, then stay on until the second stop.
All in all, a very simple and straightforward journey.
From Chiang Rai bus station, you’ll need to get to your hotel, so you can either take a songthaew or tuk-tuk, and you should find a few of each around the station. We tried to get a songthaew, but the driver didn’t know where the hotel was, even though we gave him the address. So we got a tuk-tuk instead, which cost 50 baht.
Alternative: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by Tour
If you’re concerned about bus safety for some reason, then a more comfortable way to travel to Chiang Rai is by private car on a tour. Thailand Hilltribe Holidays have excellent reviews for their safe driving, and their Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Tour travels to the best and most authentic parts of the province.
They cover the highlights of Chiang Rai such as the White Temple and Golden Triangle, but also get off the tourist trail, to show you local life and culture in the most authentic parts of Chiang Rai.
Once you arrive in Chiang Rai, you’ll need to consider where you want to stay. We stayed at B2 Hotel, which is about five minutes’ walk from the center of town. On the way for dinner on our first night, we came across this clock tower. Fascinating, isn’t it?