Chiang Rai

Wat Phra Kaeo

Chiang Rai (เชียงราย) is the capital of Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand.


The town proper has a population of around 62,000. It is the commercial centre of the Golden Triangle border region of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. It is an excellent base for exploring the region. Chiang Rai is essentially a service city for the surrounding province. The greater area has a relatively small population of 200,000 people, but also has a respected university and other civic facilities.

The character is distinctly Northern and is distinct from Chiang Mai to the south in various ways. The food is spicier and the ethnic composition includes a good percentage of hill tribes and Burmese exiles.

Get in

By plane

Chiang Rai International Airport

Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI) is on Phaholyotin Rd 8 km from the centre of Chiang Rai. The airport is served by AirAsia, Nok Air and Thai Airways to Bangkok. There are 3 weekly flights to Kunming operated by Eastern China Airlines.

Car rental is available on arrival from Avis, Hertz, Sixt and Thai Rent A Car.

At a desk in the airport you can hire a pre-paid taxi. It costs 200 baht to the city centre and more to other places (the prices are on display). It will take you to your hotel, or the driver will find you one if you give him the price range you want to pay.

Metered taxis are much cheaper than the pre-paid taxis, but they may not wait for customers at the terminal. However, if you don't have too much luggage and you don't mind walking about 200 m, there are normally some metered taxis waiting just outside the airport area. You should be able to see them from the curb when you leave the arrival hall. A trip downtown will cost under 100 baht, and you don't have to bargain or insist on the use of the meter, drivers will always use them automatically.

By bus

There are two bus stations in Chiang Rai. The old bus station and new bus station. There is a songthaew (officially a "minibus") connecting the two bus terminals. It costs 15 baht per person and takes 15 minutes. Some drivers ask you to pay more if there are fewer than 10 passengers, despite what the official price list posted inside the songthaew says. You can just wait for the next one and pay 15 baht.

Old Bus Station (Bus Terminal 1) is in the centre of town. Buses coming from Chiang Rai Province stop here. From here you take the bus south to Phayao, and north to Mae Sai. There is enough English written on the signs and buses at the terminal to tell where the bus is going. You board the bus and pay the ticket collector (confirm with him/her first that the bus is actually going where you want to go. They stand outside the entrance door of the bus as well as help load large luggage to the top of the bus).

New Bus Station (Bus Terminal 2), (7 km south of the city, just off the super highway). Buses from elsewhere in Thailand stop here

NB: You may well pay more for the tuk-tuks at each end than for the trip itself.

By train

Chiang Rai's Clock Tower

The nearest train station is in Chiang Mai.

By car

Chiang Rai is about 820 km north of Bangkok and is easily accessible from Bangkok via Hwy 1, Hwy 32, and from Chiang Mai via Hwy 118.

Get around

Public transport consists mainly of tuk-tuks and songthaews, plus a smaller number of taxis. The city itself can be explored on foot, but for trips into the province consider renting a car or a motorbike. Budget and Avis both have offices in Chiang Rai and there are several local agencies. If you don't feel up to driving in what may be a very different environment, then consider hiring a car with driver. It doesn't cost much more.

Chiang Rai has a few cyclo-rickshaws, which can be a pleasant way to see the main sights if you want a fairly quick tour.

By motorcycle

A motorbike is a good way to see these parts; there are several trails and a 250 cc dirt bike is a great way to see the countryside.


For a suggested itinerary, see Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai in 3 days




Chiang Rai Beach

Sacred places

Guardian statue, Wat Klong Wiang
Wihan at Wat Ming Meuang
replica Buddha at Wat Phra Kaeo
Gate to Wat Phra Singh
White Temple





Night Bazaar food court opening up at dusk

There is lots of good food in Chiang Rai, but most tourists seem to end up eating at the Night Bazaar. There are two separate places to eat here: "Centrepoint", run by a single restaurant with a Western-Thai menu and comparatively high prices (dishes 100-200 baht), and then the "actual" night bazaar food court (dishes 30-100 baht). Both have free music and dance performances almost nightly. Centrepoint has comfortable wooden furniture while the food court uses rather ugly yellow metal tables and chairs. While there are over 50 food stalls to choose from, the fare on offer is mostly quite touristy, with food toned down for the farang palate. About half the stalls seem to be devoted to selling deep-fried stuff (fritters, French fries, tempura) to accompany beer. There are also a few non-Thai stalls, offering Italian, Indian, German, plus the obligatory insect stall for creepy-crawly cravings.


Khao soi at Po Sai





This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget less than 500 baht
Mid-range 500-1,500 baht
Splurge over 1,500 baht




Go next

Routes through Chiang Rai

Mae Sai  N  S  Phayao Bangkok

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.