Although not connected to Thailand’s rail system, Chiang Rai is the transportation centre for the far north of the country. It has two bus stations plus an airport with direct flights from Bangkok, Hong Kong and various other cities in China. Between them, the two bus stations have direct bus services to and from most towns and tourist sites in Chiang Rai Province as well as Bangkok and the likes of Khon Kaen and Phuket.
Chiang Rai Bus Station 1 is in the town centre and serves buses for provincial destinations such as Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Phu Chi Fa and Mae Kachan. Those travelling from Chiang Rai to the White Temple could board southbound buses for Mae Kachan or Phayao. The newer Bus Station 2 is six kilometres south of town and alongside Phahonyothin Road. It is the arrival and departure point for long-distance buses. Additional details about the main transport options for getting to and around Chiang Rai are listed below.
Last Updated: November 2018
GETTING TO CHIANG RAI
Flight from Bangkok
There are frequent flights from both of Bangkok’s airports to Chiang Rai Mae Fah Luang Airport (IATA code CEI). Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Nok Air fly from Don Mueang, Bangkok’s budget airport, to Chiang Rai, while Bangkok Airways, Thai Smile and Thai Vietjet Air fly from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Flights are direct and take an average of 1 hour 20 minutes to fly the 800kms between the two cities. [Read more about Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi Airports]
Don Mueang Airport: Tel +66 2 535 1192, +66 2 535 1254, | Website, | Suvarnabhumi Airport: Tel +66 2 132 1888, +66 2 132 1111-2, Website, | Chiang Rai-Mae Fah Luang Airport: Tel +66 53 798 000, +66 53 793 071, Website,
Bus from Bangkok
Buses for Chiang Rai depart from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Bus Station. Sombat Tour and Bangkok Busline are among the bus operators on this route. The fastest buses offer travel times of 11 hours and the slower ones can take up to 14 hours to make the same journey. The bulk of the buses are overnight and come with air-conditioning, blankets, reclining seats, snacks and drinks.
Mo Chit Bus Terminal: #2, Kamphaeng Phet Rd., Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, | Sombat Tour: At Mo Chit Bus Terminal, 1st Floor & 3rd Floor, Open 04:00-22:30 (Daily), Tel 1215, +66 2 030 4999, Website, | Bangkok Bus Line: #23/21, Soi Vibhavadi 13, Bangkok 10210, Open 08:30-17:30 (Mon-Fri), Tel +66 2 792 1488, Website,
Bus from Chiang Mai
Green Bus operates the main franchise for direct bus services between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Air-conditioned services operate between 06:45 and 18:00 and depart fairly frequently from Terminal 3 at Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station. They call at Chiang Rai Bus Station 2 before continuing on to Mae Sai, Chiang Saen or Chiang Khong. Some buses also stop at Chiang Rai Bus Station 1. There are later buses on Friday and Saturday evenings. Journey times to Chiang Rai are around three hours, or a little more, and depend on the class of bus. [Read more about Chiang Mai Bus Stations]
Chiang Mai Bus Station 3: Open 05:30-22:00 (Daily), Tel +66 95 145 1756, +66 95 145 1766, | Chiang Rai Bus Station 1: Open 05:30-20:00 (Daily), Tel +66 53 740 467, +66 95 145 1750, | Chiang Rai Bus Station 2: Open 06:00-20:00 (Daily), Tel +66 53 773 550, +66 95 145 1753, | Green Bus: Tel +66 53 266 480, Website, Email,
Travelling from Bangkok Via Chiang Mai
Tourists wishing to spend a few days in Chiang Mai while en route to Chiang Rai have several travel options from Bangkok before boarding a Green Bus for the last leg of the journey. There are three night trains and two daytimes ones on the Northern route from Bangkok Hua Lamphong Station to Chiang Mai. Regular flight and bus departures enhance the choices. The What’s Up Guide to Transportation for Chiang Mai provides more details. [Read more about Chiang Mai and Bangkok Railway Stations]
Green Bus: #107/2-3, Moo 4, T. Nong Pa Krang, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50000 | Tel: +66 53 266 480 | Website | Facebook | Email |
The Mae Kok River cruise from Tha Ton
The final option for travel to Chiang Rai is taking a Mae Kok River cruise from Tha Ton. Tha Ton is a four-hour bus trip from Chiang Mai. Longtail boats for the onward cruise to Chiang Rai depart from Tha Ton at around lunchtime and take an average of four hours to make the trip. Along the way, passengers get beautiful views of distant mountain peaks, natural greenery and traditional villages. [Read more about Tha Ton Travel Guide]
Tha Ton Public Boat Office: T. Malika, A. Mae Ai, Chiang Mai 50280 | Open: 08:00-16:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 053 727, +66 53 373 224 |
From Chiang Rai to the White Temple
Chiang Rai’s iconic White Temple is less than 15kms south of the town centre. It is just 200 metres from Phahonyothin Road and easily accessible using public buses. Local blue buses for Mae Kachan and Phayao stop at the junction for the White Temple. There are also buses run from Chiang Rai Bus Station 1 to the temple between 06:00 and 17:00 every day. Hiring a a tuk-tuk, songthaew or taxi are the other choices for travel to the White Temple, but are nowhere near as cheap as the bus. [Read more about Chiang Rai’s Best Attractions]
Chiang Rai Bus Station 1: Open 05:30-20:00 (Daily), Tel +66 53 740 467, +66 95 145 1750,
GETTING AROUND CHIANG RAI
There are no city bus routes in Chiang Rai itself but the 2018 launch of airport buses from Mae Fah Luang Airport added a welcome alternative for this particular trip. Air-conditioned buses run from the airport to Chiang Rai Bus Station 1 and terminate at Bus Station 2. The first bus is at 06:00 and the last at 23:00. A standard fare applies no matter how many stops travelled.
There are plenty of Thailand’s famous tuk-tuks in Chiang Rai and these provide a convenient means of getting around town. Drivers are usually more than willing to go to the Blue and White temples or other tourist sites if asked. Passengers should agree on fares for trips before starting journeys
Songthaews are not as common in Chiang Rai as in Chiang Mai, but can be found near the two bus stations. There is a songthaew route between the Bus Station 1 and Bus Station 2. Passengers pay a fixed fare for this.
Taxis are the final public transportation choice for journeys around town, to and from the airport, or to nearby provincial destinations. Apart from at the airport, taxis are not common but this is not a problem as reservations services are now available online or by phone. GrabTaxi is operational in Chiang Rai too and downloading the Grab smartphone app gives access to an additional mode of transport.
Taxi Call Center Chiang Rai: #9, Moo 11, T. Rob Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 24 Hours | Tel: +66 53 601 622 |
Car hire in Chiang Rai gives the freedom to explore at will and set your own sightseeing itinerary. There are a number of car rental suppliers to choose from when visiting Chiang Rai. Avis and National are among the companies offering car hire services in the Arrivals hall at Chiang Rai Airport. Rentalcars.com is a preferred partner for What’s Up and is a global car hire provider offering competitive daily rental rates in Chiang Rai.
For the adventurous, motorcycle tours are the way to go when exploring the incomparable tourism destinations of this region of Thailand. There is no shortage of motorcycle hire shops in the centre of Chiang Rai. These include Bikky, K Buddy Bike and B-Rider. Most offer smaller Honda Clicks, Waves and Dreams or the equivalent. ST is one of the agencies with big bikes like the Honda CB 500X available for hire.
Bikky Chiang Rai: Tel +66 96 684 6464, | K Buddy Bike: Tel +66 85 869 2236, Website, | B-Rider: Tel +66 89 700 0338, | ST: Tel +66 53 713 652, Website,
Renting a bicycle provides a leisurely means of getting around the city or to nearby destinations such as the Blue Temple. Several city based shops have bicycles for rent. Fat Free Bike’s Chiang Rai outlet is on Klang Wiang Road. The fleet here is city bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes and offers a machine for all needs and terrain. Rental rates include locks and helmets.
Fat Free Bike: #448/2, Klang Wiang Rd., T. Wiang, A. Muag, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 09:00-18:00 (Mon-Sat) | Tel: +66 86 430 5523 | Website |