Tip: Rent e-bikes to explore Singha Park!

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Looking for the best things to do in Chiang Rai? Let’s dive in!

Chiang Rai was on my bucket list for so many years before I finally visited at the end of 2023. I had heard about it most frequently as an easy day trip from Chiang Mai, so I naively assumed there wasn’t too much to do in Chiang Rai. Luckily, I was so wrong! We had the most fun exploring Northern Thailand cities like Chiang Rai, Pai, and Chiang Mai.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Prepare for your trip to Thailand

How to get to Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is located in Northern Thailand, 4 hours north of Chiang Mai. While Chiang Mai is the biggest gateway to reach Chiang Rai, the city is well connected to the rest of Thailand, and the rest of Asia, by bus, plane and car. 

By bus

One of the most popular ways to get to Chiang Rai is by direct bus from Chiang Mai. The bus runs almost every hour between these two major destinations, and takes between 3.5 to 4.5 hours. Tickets can be booked online for $6-7 USD. 

It is also possible to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Rai on an overnight bus. The journey takes around 13 hours and usually costs around $20 USD. 

By plane 

Chiang Rai also has a small local airport with direct flights from Bangkok for as little as $12 USD, plus baggage fees, one way. This is a great option if you are going to or coming from Bangkok, and not visiting other cities in northern Thailand. 

By car 

If the bus schedule doesn’t work for you, or you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable, you can also grab a private taxi directly from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, or vice versa. We paid around 2500 THB ($72 USD) when we booked the day before for 3 people. 

By tour (visit Chiang Rai on a day trip from Chiang Mai)

If you are limited on time, it is possible to visit Chiang Rai on a one-day tour from Chiang Mai. While you won’t be able to see everything, it will still give you a great taste of the city. You can find both private and group tour options.

Getting around Chiang Rai 

Getting around Chiang Rai is super easy and affordable, with options available for all budgets.

By Grab

The easiest way to get around Chiang Rai is by using Grab, Thailand’s rideshare option, similar to Uber. Overall we found rides to be easy and reliable, and typically cheaper than hailing a tuktuk on the street. You can choose to order a normal car or tuktuk.

Bolt is another rideshare alternative available in Chiang Rai, but it is less popular than Grab.

By foot

While you won’t be able to walk to the main temples, which are scattered throughout the outskirts of the city, the main center of Chiang Rai is super walkable. In the evenings we could easy walk between our apartment and the restaurants and bars.

How many days in Chiang Rai?

I recommend spending 2-3 days in Chiang Rai to see all of the main attractions and experience the city. I personally don’t recommend only visiting as a day trip as there is so much to see and so much good food to eat. If I had had more time I definitely would have joined a local cooking class.

Where to eat and drink in Chiang Rai

  • ร้านอาหารไทยผัดไทย (Pad Thai – Thai Food & Drink in Chiangrai )
  • ร้านอาหารจานด่วน (Thai food easy style and Pad Thai)
  • Khao Soi Restaurant
  • NINETY ONE° COFFEE
  • The Roastery By Roj
The most delicious meal from ร้านอาหารไทยผัดไทย (Pad Thai - Thai Food & Drink in Chiangrai )
The most delicious meal from ร้านอาหารไทยผัดไทย (Pad Thai – Thai Food & Drink in Chiangrai )
Iced matcha latte from The Roastery By Roj
Iced matcha latte from The Roastery By Roj

Best things to do in Chiang Rai

I had originally heard of so many people visiting Chiang Rai as only a day trip, so I was surprised by how many amazing things there are to do in Chiang Rai. We spent two full days exploring the city, and could have stayed much longer!

Wat Rong Khun – White Temple

Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, is easily the most popular thing to do in Chiang Rai, and for a god reason! This super unique temple is absolutely stunning, and one of the most popular temples in all of Thailand.

The temple, which is covered completely in white and sparkling decals, beautifully reflects the sun on a clear day.

Unlike many of the other tourist attractions in Chiang Rai, the White Temple has a small fee to enter. Entrance to the White Temple costs 100 THB, or around $2.85.

I recommend visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai first thing when it opens, as you may be able to get ahead of the throngs of day trippers coming up from Chiang Mai. Another option would be to visit around sunset, when most day tours have ended, but I personally loved how the bright sun reflected in the temple!

Glistening White Temple in Chiang Rai
Glistening White Temple in Chiang Rai
Entry into Wat Rong Khun
Entry into Wat Rong Khun

Wat Huay Pla Kang

Before visiting Chiang Mai, I heard so much about the White Temple and not nearly enough about the beautiful Wat Huay Pla Kang, or the Temple of Mercy. Sitting atop a hill, you’ll find a long dragon (naga) staircase leading up to a giant Goddess of Mercy sculpture.

Wat Huay Pla Kang at sunset
Wat Huay Pla Kang at sunset

This temple complex is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and easily one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai.

It is free to enter and explore the temple area of Wat Huay Pla Kang. The temple is open daily from 7am to 9pm. I recommend visiting around sunset for a beautiful view over the city. Most visitors visit Chiang Rai on a day trip

The colorful dragon at Wat Huay Pla Kang (Chiang Rai, Thailand)
The colorful dragon at Wat Huay Pla Kang (Chiang Rai, Thailand)

Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)

Completely different from the other temples in Chiang Rai, but equally as beautiful, is the Blue Temple. A visit to the Blue Temple, or Wat Rong Suea Ten, is one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai. Located closest to the main city center, this beautiful temple is painted blue and adorned with gold trimmings, a combo of traditional Thai architecture and Buddhist styles.

In front of the temple you’ll find various mythical creatures, inside the temple a steaded Buddha, and a larger than life sculpture of Buddha stands tall behind the main temple building.

The temple is free to visit, open daily from 7am to 8pm.

Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)
Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)
Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)
Visit the Blue Temple at sunset for stunning views and less crowds

Night Bazaar

Yes it’s touristy, yes it’s worth it! The Night Bazaar, located right in the center of the city, is a great place to enjoy local dishes and desserts. The bazaar is specifically known for their hot pot, which can be enjoyed while listening to the nightly live performances.

There is no fee to enter the market, but make sure to bring cash for any food or drink purchases.

There is a coin-operated toilet at the back corner of the market.

Singha Park

Let me introduce you to Singha Park (like the beer), my favorite thing to do in Chiang Rai. Unlike the white temple up the road, this park barely had any tourists when we visited! You are not allowed to explore the park on foot but you can rent an e-bike for $8 for 2 hours to explore. Otherwise you can join a bus tour (but the bikes are way more fun)! While in the park you’ll find lakes, tea fields, wild flowers, a theme park and a zoo. There are also a number of cafes for food and drinks.

The famous Singha logo
The famous Singha logo
 explore Singha Park is by e-bike
The best way to explore Singha Park is by e-bike

Lalitta Café

If you’re looking for a fun cafe experience, make sure to check out Lalitta Cafe. Just down the road from Wat Huay Pla Kang, this cafe is a great stop before heading up to see the temple at sunset. We stopped by after sunset and it was still beautiful though!

There is a fee of 60 THB ($1.71 USD) to enter the cafe premises, all food and drinks cost extra. You’ll find man-made waterfalls, mist, and mossy greens. While we didn’t actually try any of the food and drink, it is still worth stopping by for the experience.

Lalitta Café
Enjoy a visit to Lalitta Café
Lalitta Café (Chiang Rai, Thailand)

Visiting Thailand? Here are some other articles to check out:

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