A beautiful view from within central Chiang Mai-mobile

How to get from
Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai Trip Overview

Distance161 km (100.6 miles)
Price range$7-$178
Ride Duration Range3h-5h 10m
Earliest Departure17:30
Latest Departure23:00

The Green Bus is the best option for traveling from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. The transport takes approximately three to four hours and it is far less expensive than flying. Chiang Mai is famous for its history, especially its many temples and museums. You will want to be sure to bring a camera and take pictures of the beautiful mountainous landscape. Bring a jacket if you want to travel during the best time of the year, which is from November to February. If you go during the summer, it can get hot, humid, and rainy.

Travel Schedule Options from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Taking a bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Fastest bus: 3h 20m

Cheapest bus: $7

The fastest: 3h 20m

The cheapest: $7


Makes toilet stops

Comfortable journey

Low cost

Ample luggage allowance


Slow journey

Shared bus: possibly noisy and crowded

Possible motion sickness




The fastest: 3h

The cheapest: $161


Makes bathroom stops

Multiple departure times

Luggage allowance

20 mins toilet break


Shared van: crowdedness

Speedy driving

Limited luggage allowance

toilet stops might not be clean



The fastest: 3h

The cheapest: $116


Private transfer (personal pick up and drop off)

Comfortable travel

Modern, clean car



Passenger limitation



The available amenities for this trip are currently unavailable. For specific questions, please contact our customer service, available 24/7.

A beautiful view from within central Chiang Mai

About the ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Maybe you’re overlanding through Southeast Asia and heading to Myanmar next. Maybe you’re exploring Northern Thailand. Maybe you’re escaping the heat of Bangkok. Whatever your reasons are for visiting Chiang Mai, you’ll be glad you did. The city is a worthwhile stop and the ride from Chiang Rai gives you the chance to see lots of rural Thailand along the way.

The central city of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has hundreds of temples, tasty food, markets, and is surrounded by idyllic countryside dotted with tribal villages. Keen hikers might want to think about trekking in the nearby mountains, which are some of Thailand's highest. To see a real spectacle, visit during the flower festival in February.

There are no direct flights or trains between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, so your only option is to go by road. This isn’t a problem though, because the roads are good and the ride is a great opportunity to see some of rural Thailand. If you’re opting for public transport, Bookaway suggests taking the long-distance VIP Bus which is comfy and affordable.

Be aware that you’ll arrive in Chiang Mai at an out-of-town bus station, so you’ll need to take a taxi, songthaew or tuk-tuk to your hotel. If you prefer to travel in privacy, several companies offer car and minivan transfers, with prices starting at around $149 for a car between the two cities.

If you’re traveling on, flights from Chiang Mai Airport connect to places all over Thailand including Bangkok and Phuket as well as many outside of the country, including Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Yangon, Hong Kong, Doha, Dubai and more. From Chiang Mai, you can also take a long-distance bus to Myanmar or make the 17-hour journey overland to Luang Prabang, as well as many Thai cities including Bangkok.


What you’ll see when traveling from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

There is lots to see on this road trip. Keep your eyes peeled for roadside temples, buddha statues, hilltop wats, and lush mountain scenery.


How to get from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Taking an express bus

This bus has A/C and a typical seating arrangement with 2 seats on either side of the aisle (2+2). It leaves from a bus station located around 6 km (4 miles) outside of  Chiang Rai, so you’ll need to jump in a taxi or songthaew to get there. Along the way, the driver will make stops so you can stretch your legs, use the bathroom and buy snacks and water.

Be aware that you’ll also arrive at an out-of-town bus station, so you’ll need to book a Grab taxi or hop in a songthaew to get into the center of Chiang Mai.  

Taking a VIP Bus

Run by the same company, Green Bus, the main difference between this bus and the Express Bus is that the seats are spaced further apart and in rows of 3 rather than 4 (2+1). They also recline and have padded headrests making the ride comfier. This seating arrangement is also good if you are traveling alone and don't fancy sitting next to someone you don't know. Other perks of this ride include free bottled water and snacks, USB charging ports for your phone/laptop and a mini TV system with headphones.

Taking a private minivan

If you’re a group or a family you might want to book a private minivan for this journey. Vehicles are modern with comfy seats and A/C. Prices start at $171 and include hotel pick up and drop off.

Something to think about is that while minivans can take up to 12 passengers if you also have a lot of heavy bags, you might have to sacrifice a couple of seats for the luggage.

Taking a private car

If you’re a couple traveling together or in a group, you might want to book a private car and driver for this journey. Cars for between 2 and 4 passengers cost from $149 and the driver will collect you and drop you off in any hotel in the city center. The main plus point is flexibility - you can leave whenever you want. However, it’s not a very cost-effective way of traveling if you’re on your own.

Companies Operating from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Average time

3h 20m - 5h 10m

Average price

$7 - $8


Average time


Average price



Average time

3h 30m

Average price

$150 - $178


Popular stations and stops in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

Departure stations in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai - Any hotel

Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1

Arrival stations in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai - Any hotel

Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3

Cool Muang Coffee

Chiang Mai - Any hotel in the city center

Why travel with Bookaway?

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