Are you planning a trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? You’re probably wondering what is the best way to travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? We can easily answer that question for you: take the Green VIP Bus! In this guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know to take the Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai bus!
Which bus company should you use?
The Green Bus has a VIP bus option that runs from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai multiple times per day. The VIP buses have super wide seats that recline, and they’re very comfortable. The Green VIP bus also provides you with a snack and water during your trip.
The Green Bus company also offers less luxurious buses from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai at slightly lower fares. In my opinion it’s worth the extra 100 baht (about $3 USD) for the VIP option, but if you’d like to save some money check out the slightly cheaper Green Bus tickets.
Where will you book your Green Bus ticket?
You can book your ticket in advance online, but you will have to pay an extra fee.
Since the buses leave Chiang Mai frequently throughout the day, you can simple arrive at the Chiang Mai bus station 1 hour prior to the bus’s departure, and you should have no trouble getting a seat.
Head to Terminal 3 (the newer terminal) of the Chiang Mai Arcade bus station, and look for the Green Bus ticket counter. You won’t miss it, it’s bright green and has several windows open at all times.
On the Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai bus
As soon as you step foot on the Green VIP bus you will be glad you booked it. The seats are made of a soft leather with plenty of cushioning. Each seat has a headrest and a footrest that extends under your legs like a Lazy Boy lounge chair! The seats recline nearly flat, allowing you to sleep comfortably for the whole ride if you’d like.
We’ve traveled by bus all over Thailand, and the Green VIP Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai was by far the nicest bus we’ve been in. The ride from Chiang Mai up to Chiang Rai covers some winding, bumpy roads, and it was SO nice to have comfortable seating for this trip.
It takes a little over 3 hours to reach Chiang Rai, and be aware that the bus will make two stops in Chiang Rai. The first stop is at the newer Chiang Rai bus station, which is mostly used to transfer to other buses for onward travel. The second stop is at the older Chiang Rai bus station in the city center- this is where you will get off if you are staying in Chiang Rai.
Alternatives to the Green Bus
We saw some tour companies advertising minivans between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. These minibuses will pick you up at your hotel in Chiang Mai and drop you off at your hotel in Chiang Rai.
While this may sound tempting we don’t recommend it! Minibus drivers in Thailand are notoriously crazy drivers, and every minibus I’ve been in has given me motion sickness.
The drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai covers winding, bumpy roads, and I imagine a minibus would be VERY uncomfortable.
Also, the tour companies always pack the minibuses full of people so you will often find yourself crammed into a bench seat next to other passengers. This makes for an awkward and uncomfortable ride, especially if anyone gets sick in the van! (Check out this photo of a minibus packed full of people for an idea of what we’re talking about)
Our rule of thumb in Thailand is to always book a big bus over a minibus when possible.
When you arrive in Chiang Rai
You will be dropped off at the bus station in the city center. This is right next to the night market and lots of restaurants. There are also plenty of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in the vicinity.
If you have already booked your hotel and it’s not within walking distance from the bus station (most hotels will be) you can grab a songthaew taxi to take you to your hotel for a fair price. Songthaews are the shared taxis in Thailand, they are basically a pick-up truck with bench seats installed in the back where passengers can ride. These are our favorite local transport option in Chiang Rai!
There will also be plenty of tuk-tuk drivers available to transport visitors to their hotels, but if you hire a tuk-tuk be sure to coordinate the price before you get in! Tuk tuks are fun, but usually more expensive than a songthaew.
Enjoy your time in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai hosts some of the most unique temples we visited in Thailand. The White Temple complex (Wat Rong Khun), in particular, is a thought provoking work of art that totally surprised us.
Be sure to check out the Chiang Rai night bizarre, it is right next to the bus stop, and is open every night from about 6pm to midnight. We found this night bizarre to be more laid back and less crowded than the night markets in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
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