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In this article, we will show you the best ways to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand as well as the costs for each option.
Chiang Rai is located about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Chiang Mai near the borders of Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Being so close to Chiang Mai, there are no flights to Chiang Rai other than from Bangkok.
There are a few different options to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by road and all of them involve taking Highway 118 and Highway 1.
By far the most convenient and quickest way to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is with a private driver. Our driver will pick you up at your hotel, meaning you don’t have to make your own way to the bus stop in a taxi.
There is also no waiting around. Buses in Thailand often leave later than scheduled and can take longer than advertised to reach your destination due to the fact they stop to pick up passengers along the way.
Another benefit to having your own driver is that you can stop anytime you want. Whether you need a toilet break or you want to check out some of the attractions, having a Thai/English-speaking guide on hand makes everything a lot easier.
Hiring your own car definitely has its advantages. Like having your own driver, it means that you’re not wasting time waiting for buses. You can do things on your own schedule.
Having your own vehicle also gives you the freedom to explore Chiang Rai and the surrounding areas. For instance, you can take a detour to the coffee and tea plantations that are quite a distance from the city center.
We would only recommend hiring a car if you are 100 percent comfortable driving in a foreign country. The rules on the roads in Thailand can be quite different to those in the West and this can take some getting used to.
Also, once you get to Chiang Rai, the traffic in the city center can be terrible during rush hour. If you think beeping horns and overtaking motorcycles might stress you out, maybe stick with a private driver.
The Green Bus service runs from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3 to Chiang Rai from 06:15 to 17:45 every day. The buses are air-conditioned and vary in quality depending on which class of ticket you purchase.
For example, the most expensive ‘V-Class’ buses do not stop to pick up passengers along the way, which can save quite a bit of time compared to the cheaper buses.
The trip between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai takes between 3 and 5 hours. Taking a bus is definitely not a luxurious form of travel but there is a toilet on board and it’s cheap and comfortable enough when compared with other buses and minivans in Thailand. It’s also the cheapest option on the list.
To get to Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3, your best option is to get a taxi or a tuk tuk. From the center of town, this should cost between 150 and 200 baht ($4.85–6.50).
While hiring a private minivan with one of our trusted partners is a great idea for large groups, a shared, public minivan is definitely not!
The shared minivan option only has one benefit over the public bus and that’s the hotel collection. Although the journey by minivan tends to be quicker than a bus journey in Thailand, this is generally due to the fact that the drivers often have no thought for road safety.
Apart from going dangerously fast, minivans are very uncomfortable compared with a normal bus. Unless you book two seats, which will double the price, you will be cramped in a full vehicle with very little room to move.
If you are traveling with a large group, we can provide private minivan hire with one of our trusted transport partners. This ensures you have a fully qualified driver and guide for a safe journey to Chiang Rai.
Visiting Chiang Rai with a private driver can actually work out much cheaper if it’s included in one of our personalized tours of Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. Why not let one of our professional tour operators help put together your dream itinerary for Chiang Rai today? Check our tours below for more information.