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Chiang Rai Travel Essentials


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Ideal duration: 2-3 days

Best Time: November to February Read More

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"Of temples and culture"

Chiang Rai Tourism

Chiang Rai is a mountainous city in northern Thailand, near the borders of Laos and Myanmar. It has many ancient temples and tribal villages along the Mekong River. Chiang Rai is part of the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar and is an excellent base for exploring this region. The small backpacking destination has become popular due to the White Temple, also called Wat Rong Khun.

Chiang Rai was once a hub for the opium trade. However, it is now famous for its temples and other cultural attractions, especially its lovely collection of temples, art, music, and local food. To experience the real beauty of this countryside, take a calming boat ride in the Mekong. The city is also known for its very delectable and inexpensive local Thai food. And it is an ideal destination for jungle trekking and engaging with the hill-tribe culture.

The city is serviced by Chiang Rai international airport and is well connected to other major destinations in Thailand and outside the country. Tourists can also avail of buses and private taxis traveling to and from Chiang Rai on a regular basis. If you're an enthusiast for history, beautiful architecture, and a laid-back vacation, Chiang Rai should definitely be on your list.

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Traveller Tips

  • It is safer and more cost-effective to exchange money at the airport. If exchanging or withdrawing money in the city, most of the ATMs and exchange centres can be found in the night bazaar area.
  • Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept all debit and credit cards but while shopping in the night markets and in street stalls, only cash is accepted.
  • If visiting Chiang Rai in the summer, it is advisable to carry comfortable clothes as the hot weather can make it uncomfortable.
  • Temples also provide sarongs for women to cover their legs. Appropriate dressing is expected in temples, as in any other Thai city.
  • Tipping isn't necessary, but it is considered a kind gesture for someone's services. Usually, THB 20 - 30 is enough.

Nightlife in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai has limited options for nightlife. There are a few bars near Jet Yod street, like Cat Bar. Many bars here have live sports broadcasts and pool tables, and CD music is played more often than live music. A few more bars are near Punyodyana road, like Bar Lamyai. Travelers can also visit the Night Bazaar of Chiang Rai to buy a cheap beer or two and enjoy some live music. However, you shouldn't expect a happening nightlife from Chiang Rai because this city is more about immersing yourself in its culture and natural beauty.

Shopping in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is especially known for handicrafts and other varieties of things made by the people from the hill tribes like jewelry, scarves, bags, carpets, etc. The primary spot for shopping in this city is the Night Bazaar on Prasopsuk Phaholyothin Road. The goods here are available at very reasonable rates. One can enjoy the live music, sit, laze around, eat delicious and inexpensive local food, and shop for souvenirs from here. The Walking Street, located on Thanalai road, makes for a similar experience. It is famous for its Saturday market, which has a more local flavor.

Daily Budget for Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is cheaper than most Thailand cities, and hence, a budget of THB 900 - 1000 per day would be enough. This includes THB 200 for food, THB 30 for water, THB 200 for alcohol, THB 200 for traveling, THB 200 for activities, and entry fees at certain places.

History of Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is known for it's excellent and rich history. It is said that 5,000 years ago, ancestors migrated from China, Laos, and Burma to this city along the Mekong river. Hence, today the culture found in Chiang Rai is a mixture of all these three places. King Mengrai is believed to have found Chiang Rai in 1263. It became the capital of the Mengrai dynasty. Later in 1296, King Mengrai built Chiang Mai and lived there until he died.

Best Time to Visit Chiang Rai

How to Reach Chiang Rai

How to Reach Overview

Chiang Rai has the Mae Fah Luang Airport and is well-connected by flights to and from Singapore, Hongkong, Bangkok, etc. There are daily buses from Bangkok too.

How to reach Chiang Rai by flight

Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang Airport is located 10 km north of the city centre and operates both, international and domestic flights. This makes air travel a convenient way of reaching Chiang Rai.

How to reach Chiang Rai by road

Chiang Rai has well-connected roadways from Bangkok and Chiang Mai. However, the route from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is almost 800 km and can get uncomfortable if you plan to cover it without any other stops. 

How to reach Chiang Rai by train

To reach Chiang Rai by train, you need to get to the nearby city of Chiang Mai by train, and then take the Green Bus to Chiang Rai. Chiang Mai is approximately 200 km away from Chiang Rai, and the Green Bus will take approximately 3 to 3 and a half hours to cover this distance.

How to reach Chiang Rai by bus

There are two bus stations - Old Bus station (Terminal 1) and New Bus station (Terminal 2) here. The Old bus station is the main one where most of the bus services arrive and depart. Green bus services to and from Chiang Mai arrive and depart from both these bus stations.

Local transport in Chiang Rai

The main modes of public transport in Chiang Rai are tuk-tuks, songthaews, and taxis. Exploring on foot is also a good option, but travellers prefer a vehicle due to time restrictions. If you don't want to travel by public transport, you can choose to rent a car or a motorbike; neither will cost too much. A couple of places to rent bikes from are ST Motorcycles and Chiang Rai Big Bike Rentals.

Most frequently searched routes to Chiang Rai

Route Name Distance Time
Chiang-mai to Chiang Rai 186.1 km 3 hr 10 min
Bangkok to Chiang Rai 791.7 km 11 hr 20 min

Chiang Rai Photos

Chiang Rai, Thailand
Chiang Rai Clock Tower - One of the Most Unique Attractions in Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai Province
Wat Klang Wiang - Historical Buddhist Temple in Chiang Rai

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FAQs on Chiang Rai

What is the best way to reach Chiang rai?

Chiang Rai has the Mae Fah Luang Airport and is well-connected by flights to and from Singapore, Hongkong, Bangkok, etc. There are daily buses from Bangkok too.
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What are the places near Chiang rai?

The top places near to Chiang rai are Chiang mai which is 153 km from Chiang rai, Bangkok which is located 688 km from Chiang rai, Phuket which is located 1339 km from Chiang rai, Krabi which is located 1319 km from Chiang rai, Pattaya which is located 784 km from Chiang rai

What are the things to do in Chiang rai?

The top things to do in Chiang rai are Wat Rong Khun, Clock Tower, Chiang Rai, Baan Dam Museum, Doi Mae Salong, Doi Chang, Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong. You can see all the places to visit in Chiang rai here

What are the top hotels in Chiang rai?

There are 335 in Chiang rai which can be booked through Holidify. The most popular hotels in Chiang rai are Bann Fasai 3, Doitung Home stay(ดอยตุงโฮมสเตย์2), ปันดีการ์เดนท์โฮม, Chiang Rai Bicycle Homestay, Glass House, Mountain View, Near Airport-City, บ้านบุญสิริ. You can see all the hotels in Chiang rai here

What is the local food in Chiang rai?

Chiang Rai has lesser options for food compared to Chiang Mai. The best and cheapest options are available at the Night Bazaar and the walking street. The street food at these two places is famous for its fried insects like ants, crickets, worms, etc. as snacks, and fresh fruit juices and smoothies. Every local restaurant here will serve sticky glutinous rice, which is the staple food for people of northern Thailand. Laab Sanam Keela, Lu Lam restaurant are a few restaurants that serve delicious local northern Thai food and should be a must-visit if you want to experience the Chiang Rai culture.
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What is the best time to visit Chiang rai?

The best time to visit Chiang Rai is from October to February as the weather is much cooler and less humid. The average annual temperature is around 24 ℃, but it can go as high as 36 ℃, and as low as 10-15 ℃, depending on the more warmer or cooler seasons. Winters are an excellent time to trek and go on a cruise.

Although beware of the tourist crowd also it's essential to carry warm clothing. Summers (March-May) see a surge in temperature which can go as high as 36-degrees Celcius while the rainy season (June - September) see the low temperature with 80% of humidity. The months of April to June are the worst months to visit Chiang Rai because it's extremely humid and sightseeing would be very uncomfortable. Indoor activities, museum visits and waterfalls are great places to explore during warm and rainy seasons.
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