Travel Tips: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Green Bus - Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

So, you’re planning on traveling the popular route from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Without a doubt, the Green Bus service, which monopolizes this well-trodden route, is convenient and quite painless.

In Chiang Mai, Green Bus operates out of the newly renovated Arcade Bus Station. Walking through the main entrance, the shiny, green ticket counter is on your left. To the right of all the windows, there’s a queue number machine, so choose the purchasing option: same-day or future travel. Similar to Chiang Mai’s Immigration system, when your number is called, head to the designated counter, and buy your ticket(s). Keep in mind that you select your seat at this point, so if you’re prone to motion sickness like Mindy, avoid the seats near the back.

Green Bus Ticket Counter

Green Bus Ticket Counter

Given how busy the route between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai is, consider buying your ticket at least a day in advance. Note: At the time of writing, Green Bus appears to be implementing a new online service, possibly even including the opportunity to buy your ticket(s). So, before heading out to buy your ticket in person, check out the Green Bus website.

We splurged for the Green Bus VIP class, which includes a toilet, air-conditioning, boarding music, a moist towelette, bottle of water, a snack, and on the return trip, a movie in Thai. The 3-hour trip through gorgeous scenery was definitely comfortable!

Green Bus - Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Green Bus – Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

The VIP bus schedule runs northbound from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai starting at 7:00am with up to 10 departures per day. Other classes – X and A – cost less and offer fewer perks, and fill up the timetable with different departure times. The last bus leaves at 7:30pm (Fridays and Sundays only), or 5:30ish on other days. View the full schedule.

When booking your travels, it’s utterly important that you know thatย there are two bus terminalsย in Chiang Rai. Terminal #1 is located downtown, and is most likely your desired destination, whereas Terminal #2 is located a few kilometers outside of Chiang Rai. Check your ticket: under the date and time of your journey, there will be some Thai script and then the familiar Roman numeral of 1 or 2, which represents the terminal. If you find yourself at the wrong station, a tuk tuk will shuttle you to the other one for 10 Baht.

Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1

Chiang Rai – Bus Terminal 1

Hopefully, these travel tips make it easier for you when you make the trip between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai… Happy Travels!

17 thoughts on “Travel Tips: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

  1. Cynthia and David Shaw

    Great advice, very clear, I think we can manage this bit of our holiday now thanks to you. Have a great nomadic life in Thailand. You are very fortunate. Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Mercedes

    Muchas gracias por las aclaraciones, son muy importantes! Te molesto con otra consulta sabes si hay lockers en consigna en las terminales de buses porque en ninguna pรกgina figura y solo queremos pasar el dรญa en Chiang Rai antes de volver a Bkk para seguir con nuestro viaje.

    Gracias por todo!


  3. laura

    hello, do you think that it is doable to complete a trip to chiang rai and back to chiang mai in a day? I really want to see the white temple! many thanks!


    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Hi Laura,
      Going up to Chiang Rai to visit the White Temple in a day is definitely doable. It’s a 3 hour drive up and a 3 hour drive back, making for a long travel day but if you leave early in the morning you could sleep on the way up there and enjoy the lush green scenery on the way back. There are tours that you can book from Chiang Mai specifically for visiting the White Temple, or you can do it on your own, buying the bus tickets yourself and taking paying a red car to take you to the temple. You should not pay more than 300 baht for a red car(no matter how many people are in it) to take you to the temple, wait for you and take you back. Also, there is a nice vegetarian restaurant, called Boon Sita (a review is on our blog) right near the bus station. There are many other things to do in this part of the country so if you do have more time, we recommend spending a couple of days. Enjoy your trip! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Jie


    Do you know how far is Golden Triangle from the bus station in Chiang Rai? Do you think we can rent the red car going there and passing by the white temple? I heard there was a nice garden in Chiang Rai also. We will be taking an overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. I think we will be there before 11 am, and we are planning to rent a red card to see the White Temple, Golden Triangle and any nice places before going to the bus station again and proceed to Chiang Mai before 6pm. Can you suggest places we can visit within 4-5 hours?

    Thank you.

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Hi Jie,
      Wow, that’s a lot of time on buses! But the White Temple is worth seeing. During the time you will have, you could also see the Golden Triangle, which is about 1 hour north of Chiang Rai and we also recommend visiting the Black House, which is only 2 kilometers south of Chiang Rai. The White Temple by the way is about 10 kilometers south of Chiang Rai.
      You could also visit the Emerald Buddha replica. The original is in Bangkok at the Grand Palace. Be sure to check out our “Things to Do in Chiang Mai” post to help plan your visit here. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Azra. Shah

    Great info re train travel.we are planning a trip to Chang Mai ,Chang rai and Mai Hong Son Loop,would love to have your advice and input.cheers from Vancouver island B C.

  6. Guest

    Thanks for the very helpful information! I really want to see the white temple, and I was wondering which terminal is closer to the white temple.
    Are both terminals close to Chiang Rai International Airport? Many thanks!

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hello, We’re glad the information was useful. The White Temple is definitely a must see when visiting Chiang Rai. Terminal 1 is in the old city of Chiang Rai and Terminal 2 (the newer terminal) and the first stop on the green bus from Chiang Mai, is located about 7 km south of Chiang Rai city on the super highway. The White Temple is about 6 km further south of that so Terminal 2 would be closer. But consider that it may be easier to get transportation from the old terminal than the new one. The airport is relatively equi-distant from the two bus stations but there is no public transit to the airport so you will have to take a tuk tuk. Have a wonderful trip and consider checking out the Black House while you’re there too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Oy

    Awesome… your information is very useful for travellers >>hope to visit another informations of more than 50 countries to open our world …someone from Bangkok Thailand

  8. Joke

    My family really would like to see Chiangrai more than a day tour from Chiangmai. Kindly let me know which tourist destinations you suggest and the transportation . I plan to spend 1 night in Chiangrai and expect to visit the tribal villages also.

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Chiang Rai is a very quaint town especially in comparison to Chiang Mai, which is becoming more and more like a big city every day. We agree that taking a day trip to Chiang Rai is not enough time to appreciate this small quiet town. You can take the 3 hr bus ride by yourself from the bus station. More information on this is detailed in the post.
      We also recommend visiting the temple with the jade Buddha. We also enjoyed just walking around and we found a really good vegan restaurant that we have also written about on this blog. Have a wonderful trip Joke. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai – Beyond Mekong

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.