Chiang Mai Trekking – Everything you need to knowMarch 3, 2023
What to do in Chiang Rai in 2 daysMarch 21, 2023
Where is Chiang Rai?
Chiang Rai is located northeast of Chiang Mai, and is around 3-4 hours drive away, approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast, and is near the borders of Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma).
How to travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
There are various ways to travel to Chiang Rai such as by bus, private transfer, hiring your own car, or going in a shared minivan. Although one-day trips from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai are very popular and widely advertised, we think that this is a very poor way to experience Chiang Rai. You will spend half of the day travelling there and back, and only briefly see the tourist attractions such as the White Temple and Golden Triangle. Whilst these attractions are touted as the ‘highlights’ of Chiang Rai, there really is so much more to discover and limiting yourself to these places would be a shame ! The province of Chiang Rai is a melting pot of different hill tribe and minority groups. It has mountainous borders and vast valleys of fertile land are sights to discover.
Travel by bus
One of the popular bus companies to travel with is the Green Bus company and tickets can be booked online at the booking site 12GoAsia. Tickets range from 270THB – 370THB depending on if you choose a VIP or Express bus. For travel across the country, this post covers more about transportation in Thailand.
Travel by shared minivan
Out of all the different transport options to reach Chiang Rai, going on a shared minivan is not one we recommend. Travel agencies across Chiang Mai sell tickets for these mini-van trips, whereby each passenger is picked up from their hotel in Chiang Mai. Travelling to Chiang Rai by minivan is faster than travelling by bus, but such shared minivan services are notorious for having accidents as their drivers neglect speed and road safety. Note that this is different from going in your own private mini-van, where drivers are more likely to be trained well and pay greater attention to driving safely.
Although there are various ways to get to Chiang Rai, ultimately we think that the best way to discover Chiang Rai is to travel through the province , rather than travelling to it. So instead of aiming to arrive at Chiang Rai city, we suggest starting from Chiang Mai, and heading north, spending an overnight in the countryside of Chiang Rai such as Thaton or Mae Salong. This way you’ll get to see the countryside which lies at the heart of Chiang Rai. If you base yourself in Chiang Rai city and make day trips you’ll be very limited as to how far out into the province you can explore. As such any hill tribe villages or rural life that you see are likely to be on a well-trodden path.
You could even make a loop, starting from Chiang Mai and travel north through Thaton, Mae Salong , Chiang Rai, and then loop back down to Chiang Mai. This means you won’t be going and coming back the same way and duplicating what you are seeing.
Private car and driver
By far the most convenient and quickest way to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is with a private car and driver. This a great option for families travelling with kids or the elderly, or anybody who needs flexilibty or comfort when travelling. Having your own private transport means that you can stop anytime you want, whether it’s a toilet break or to take pictures. Or you could also opt for a private tour which would let you learn about the sights you are seeing along the way. For information about our private tours to Chiang Rai then read more below.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Tour
If you want to see the real Chiang Rai (and not just the tourist sites), we suggest allowing a minimum of 3 days.
Here’s an example outline itinerary:
Day 1) Chiang Mai – Fang – overnight in Thaton
Day 2) Thaton – Mae Salong (Chinese village) – overnight in Chiang Saen by the Golden Triangle
Day 3) Chiang Saen – Chiang Mai
Non-Tourist Things to do in Chiang Rai
Here are our suggestions for non-tourist things to do in Chiang Rai
- Travel with a local hill tribe guide and visit authentic hill tribe villages
- Stay overnight at a hill tribe homestay in a village
- Enjoy local and hill tribe food
- Authentic treks through the forests
- Learn about local agriculture, visit to Chiang Rai’s orchards and plantations
- Visit to a village school
For more articles about Chiang Rai: