How to get from Chiang Rai Airport to the city center
You have three options to get from Chiang Rai airport to the city center:
- An airport Taxi which starts at 220 Bht and you find booths all around the airport building. It will take you 10 mins to get to the center.
- At Exit 3 you find the booth for metered taxis. They are 160 Bht and they’ll also take 10 mins.
- At exit 1 you find a bus stop. It leaves every 30 mins and has several stops all over the center. I told them my hostel to ask where I should get off and then they let me out right in front of it (I’m not sure whether it was a bus stop but Thai people are friendly like that). It will take you 15 mins to get to the city center and costs 20 Bht 🙂
What to do in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is very easy to roam around on your own and not lose directions as it’s rather small. You will find tons of amazing places to eat with Pad Thai starting at 30 Bht and Hot Pot starting at 100 Bht. However, the reason you probably came is to visit the famous White Temple.
Cycle to White Temple – Wat Rong Kun
My hostel (Connect Hostel) rented out bicycles for free and if you are used to being on a bicycle you will also be able to cycle the 15 km (1 way, flat) to White Temple. My bicycle was in an okay shape but check whether you have enough air, the peddals are in a good shape, and the breaks are working before you leave.
The way there, I rode through the backcountry where there were less cars. In the end, I rode along rice fields which in October started gerting yellow. I set off at 8 a.m. in an agreeable 24 degrees. With a few stops it took me about 1.5 hours to get there. By 11, the sun really came out and every 100 meters felt like a challenge. Therefore, better start early as well.
The White Temple already looks cool from the outside area, which is free. It’s a truly special place and therefore worth to pay the 50 Bht and be able to take pictures from all angles, without any other people on it. It’s also fun to walk across the bridge and marvel at all the sparkles.
Around the temple, there are a few free art exhibitions, buddha figures and good luck wishing trees. There also are many restaurants and cafés with more expensive but still reasonable prices.
The way back, I cycled along the main road which was okay because I was already on the side I needed to be and for most part, there was a broad shoulder lane which I could drive on. This route took me 30 minutes but cars drive past you with 90 km/h and therefore you always have to pay attention really well.
In case you don’t want to cycle, a blue Songtaew will bring you to White Temple in 30 minutes and then back again for 20 Bht each way. They start at the bus terminal and stop at the bus stops along the main road.
What else to do after you visited White temple:
Take a walk in the city
Visit the new, golden clock tower and every nice temple you stumble by.
Shop on a market
Chiang Rai has many great outdoor markets. They happen all day, all over the place but in case you are in Chiang Rai on a Saturday or Sunday, you must go to the Saturday/Sunday night market. They were as good as the one in Chiang Mai. A great experience!
Plus, in the street along Sunday night market, there are two massage parlors which offer massages for 150 Bht/hour. Otherwise, most massages are priced at 200 Bht which is still cheap compared to the South.
Eat at the night market
Every evening, there is a night market next to the bus terminal, starting at 6 p.m. You’ll find many Thai delicacies but the main thing to eat is Hot Pot. You cook meat or fish and vegetables in a clay pot in front of you. Sets are 100 or 200 Bht and plentyful. While enjoying your dinner at one of the yellow tables, you will be entertained by musicians on stage and some Thai girls showing traditional dances. The guitar players that night were very talented and so, this whole dinner was a very enjoyable experience!
Central Plaza Mall
If you are only in Chiang Rai for two days, don’t visit this mall two kilometers South of the bus terminal. It’s much more fun to shop and eat on the local markets or restaurants. However, if you are in Chiang Rai for longer, you might enjoy the a/c in there and a movie in the cinema at the top.
Do you prefer Southern or Northern Thailand? Why? Answer in a comment.
Read more about Thailand in my I love Thailand travel guide which you can buy on Amazon in English and in German.