Is Chiang Rai Worth Visiting? 15 Photos To Convince You It Is! (2023)

Wondering if Chiang Rai is worth visiting?

You’re probably sitting in Chiang Mai debating if it’s worth the travel. We were wondering the same thing too.

Well, having spent nearly two weeks in Chiang Rai, in my opinion, it definitely is!

More chilled out than Chiang Mai, but much more than a sleepy smaller brother, there is lots to do in Chiang Rai that will keep you occupied.

In fact it was probably our favourite city in Thailand.

We had planned to visit for a few days, but ended up staying for nearly two weeks, even making time for a road trip around the province.

So is Chiang Rai worth visiting?

If you haven’t got the hint yet, then yes, it definitely is!

Here are 15 of our favourite photos that we took whilst in the city.

Hopefully, they’ll convince you to take a trip to Chiang Rai….

P.S. The Bus Ride isn’t too bad….

If you’re worried about the bus ride, then it was better than we expected, only about 3 1/2 hours and through some beautiful countryside. There are three types of bus (VIP, 1st and 2nd), I would suggest going 1st as it combines good value and a nice coach. The cost for us in May 2018 was 160฿ per person, check out

1. Chiang Rai’s Golden Clock Tower

WHY VISIT?: Spectacular enough during the day, at night Chiang Rai’s clock tower puts on a Vegas-style coloured light display.
OPENING TIMES: Timings for the light show are 1900, 2000, and 2100 every evening.
COST: Free.
LOCATION:Right in the heart of Chiang Rai.

2. Sunday Walking Street Market

WHY VISIT?:Every Sunday Ratchadamnoen in the Old City is closed and a kilometre long market springs up selling pretty much anything you can imagine.
OPENING TIMES: From 1900 on a Sunday.
COST: Free (until you give in to the enticing smells of street food!).
LOCATION: Ratchadamnoen about a 10 minute walk from central Chiang Rai.

3. The White Temple (WatKong Khun)

WHY VISIT?:The White Temple is one of the most iconic places in Chiang Rai, and the most beautiful in the whole of Thailand. The restoration project and brainchild of Thai artistChalermchai Kositpipat, it is still a work in progress with the expected finish not until 2070! Opened to the public in 1997, it has even survived a 2014 earthquake.
OPENING TIMES: 0800-1700 Daily.
COST: 50฿ for foreigners (this has recently changed, so any articles claiming it’s free are outdated).
LOCATION: 15km South-West of the town centre, a bus will cost you around 20฿ or a taxi 250฿-300฿.

4. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of theEmerald Buddha) & Lanna Museum

WHY VISIT?: Original home of the most revered statue in Buddhism, The Emerald Buddha. A replica is now on display that is much easier to access than the true version in Bangkok. The complex also contains the dark teak-wood Lanna museum, containing a multitude of ancient and wonderful objects.
OPENING TIMES:Grounds 0700-1800 Daily. Museum 0900-1700 Daily.
COST: Free, though there are opportunities to donate and support the upkeep of the buildings.
LOCATION:Northwest of the town centre, about a ten-minute walk from the clock tower.

5. Royal Chariot Museum (Princess Mother 90thAnniversary Building)

WHY VISIT?:Stunning replicas of Royal Chariots.
OPENING TIMES:0830-1630 Daily, closed on Mondays.
COST: Free.
LOCATION:Near the Klang Wand Road bridge across the Kok River, about a 20 minute walk from central Chiang Rai. There is very little information about the place online, but if you search for ‘Princess Mother 90th Anniversary Building, Chiang Rai’ on Google you will find it.

6. Cat ‘N’ a Cup Cafe

WHY VISIT?:Cats, cake and coffee. What’s not to like!?
OPENING TIMES:1100-2200 Daily.
COST:Free to enter, but you can’t just sit with the cats, you have to purchase something. The sandwiches were excellent, as was the cake. Slightly more expensive than other cafes, but – there are cats!
LOCATION:On Phaholyothin Road in thecentre of Chiang Rai, about a 2 minute walk from the night market.
MORE INFORMATION:Cat ‘N’ A Cup Facebook Page.

7. Wat Phra Singh

WHY VISIT?:Dating back to 1385 this is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Rai, which used to hold the Phra Buddha Sihing that is now at a sister temple in Chiang Mai. It is a great example of Lanna architecture, with intricately carved wooden doors and ornate interior.
OPENING TIMES:0600-1700 Daily.
LOCATION:On Pakdeenaroung Road in thecentre of Chiang Rai, directly north of the clock tower, about a ten minute walk.

8. Dinner Late Rooftop Bar

WHY VISIT?:A chilled out venue looking our over the centre of Chiang Rai, serving craft beers and unique, refreshing cocktails.
OPENING TIMES:1700-Late Daily. Happy hour 1800-1900.
COST:Free. Cocktails were around 100฿.
LOCATION:On Phaholyothin Road, which is the main street in central Chiang Rai, about a three-minute walk from the night market.
MORE INFORMATION:Dinner Late Facebook Page.

9. The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

WHY VISIT?:Chiang Rai’s newest (and bluest) temple – having only opened in 2016.The temple’s full name is Wat Rong Suea Ten which translates as ‘House of the Dancing Tiger’. Like alot of Asia, there used to be wild tigers in this area which would apparently ‘dance’ over the local Mae Kok river.
OPENING TIMES:1700-1800 Daily.
COST:60฿ for foreigners.
LOCATION:Located across the Kok River, about 3km outside central Chiang Rai. It is walkable in around an hour, but most people choose to get there by tuk-tuk. I would suggest combining it with a trip to the Black House, as it is on the way.

10. Night Bazaar (Food Market)

WHY VISIT?:A nightly market that is completely pedestrianised. A vast array of clothing and gifts, as well as a large food court at the back that became our favourite place eating tasty, cheap food whilst sipping a beer and watching local dancing.
OPENING TIMES:1800-0000 Daily.
LOCATION: On Phaholyothin Road, which is the main street in central Chiang Rai, right beside the bus station. The food court is right at the back. Not the main restaurant style area as you first enter, head for the yellow metal chairs and local food which is deeper into the market.

11. The Black House (Baan Daam Museum)

WHY VISIT?:The Black House is the life’s work of Thai artistThawan Duchanee. It is more that just a single house, there are over 40 separate buildings here, all filled with curiosities of the world. You will find curious carvings, snake skins, crocodile skeletons, furs, antlers and even a toilet filled with shark jaws. Confused? Yes us too. It certainly takes some figuring out, and there is probably no good conclusion you will reach! One thing’s for certain, it’s a unique and unmissable sight.
OPENING TIMES:0900-1700 Daily. Closes for lunch 1200-1300.
COST: 80฿.
LOCATION: About 12km north of Chiang Rai, just off of route 1, it will take about 25 minutes to get here. A tuk-tuk should cost you between 200฿-300฿, but combine it with a visit to the on route Blue Temple for added value.

12. Wat Ming Muang

WHY VISIT?: A 700-year-old temple, and in my opinion one of the best in Chiang Rai. The spectacular golden display, carved wooden ceiling and 400-year-old golden Buddha make it well worth the visit. The complex itself is also beautiful, with a red archway leading you in towards unusual statues, stairs with carved serpent balustrades and colourful murals.
OPENING TIMES:0830-1630 Daily.
COST: Free.
LOCATION:On the corner of Trirat Road and Uttarakit Road equidistant between Wat Phra Kaew and the clock tower.

13. Singha Park

WHY VISIT?: Singha Park is a beautiful location for an afternoon walk, however when we visited it was a little disappointing. It is advertised as having a small zoo, but this didn’t appear to be open at all and alot of the attractions seemed to be waiting for the main tourist season. The park itself is well maintaining, and has some sweeping panoramas such as the one above, but double check the details as to what’s open before heading out.
OPENING TIMES:0900-1700 Daily.
COST: Free.
LOCATION:About 12km southwest of Chiang Rai central, it will take around 20 minutes by car or tuk-tuk. If you want to go, combine it with a trip to the White Temple, as they are only about 5km apart.

14. Night Bazaar for Unique Gifts

WHY VISIT?: I know I’ve already covered the night bazaar once on this list, but that was for the incredible food court. We also found it one of the best places in Thailand to find some unique gifts, with local artists in amongst the knock-off clothing stores. We found the guy above painting some really unique canvases, and snapped a couple up. He took them off of the frames, and tolled them into a tube for us. It cost around 800฿ to ship them back to the UK from the (very helpful!) Chiang Rai post office.
OPENING TIMES:1800-0000 Daily.
LOCATION: On Phaholyothin Road, which is the main street in central Chiang Rai, right beside the bus station. The food court is right at the back. Not the main restaurant style area as you first enter, head for the yellow metal chairs and local food which is deeper into the market.

15. Wat Jed Yod

WHY VISIT?: We stayed right beside this temple on our first visit to Chiang Rai, so visited it lots! It is a peaceful place, with a huge golden Buddha, that stares down at you through the huge entrance doors and out to the street. It also has some amazing pictures on the wall depicting various scenes from Buddhist teachings, and the caretaker drives an old army Jeep which is often parked up outside, and worth a look!
OPENING TIMES:0800-1800 Daily.
LOCATION:Directly south from the clocktower on Jetyod road, about a five minute walk.



Is Chiang Rai worth seeing? ›

Is Chiang Rai Worth Visiting? Yes. Chiang Rai is close to Chiang Mai, so a trip to Chiang Mai is usually combined with Chiang Rai. The landscape, ethnic villages, and interesting temples in Chiang Rai will show you what northern Thailand is really like.

How many days in Chiang Rai is enough? ›

2 days is enough time to visit Chiang Rai, but if you want to see everything, it will be 2 full busy days. Also, most places are not too closed to each other and you will need to drive quite a bit.

Is White Temple in Chiang Rai worth visiting? ›

The White Temple is equally terrifying and beautiful. Though with all the fascination about the place it draws in huge crowds of tourists throughout the day. It is said that over a million people visit Wat Rong Khun each year which is huge as Chiang Rai isn't a city that is on the main backpacker trail in Thailand.

Is 1 day enough for Chiang Rai? ›

As described, Chiang Rai is usually a short stay destination for many travelers. If you're spending time in Chiang Mai and making a side trip to Chiang Rai, then one full day should be enough.

Is it better to go to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai? ›

Both cities are worth visiting, but it depends on what you're looking for in your trip. If you're interested in culture, history, temples, and street food, Chiang Mai is the best choice, while if you're looking for natural beauty and a more relaxed atmosphere, Chiang Rai is the better option.

Is Chiang Rai walkable? ›

Chiang Rai Old City is very walkable, so don't miss the opportunity to go temple hopping, admire the art and feel its genuine vibes. While Wat Ming Muang, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Phra Singh aren't that big, the architecture and sculpture on the temple grounds will take your breath away.

Do you need a car in Chiang Rai? ›

The most convenient way to get around Chiang Rai is really to rent a car. There is no subway and very few taxis. You can easily visit the city center and its few temples on foot. However, to get to the main tourist attractions of Chiang Rai such as the famous White Temple, you will need to have a car.

How long do you need in Chang Rai? ›

Ideally four nights and five days will give you enough time to explore and get a true sense of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 and is located in an area of majestic mountains. This city was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and remains a religious and cultural centre.

How do you get around Chiang Rai? ›

Getting Around Chiang Rai
  1. Tuk-tuk or Samlor. Thailand's iconic tuk-tuk is a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw, while samlor is a three-wheeled manual cycle rickshaw. ...
  2. Songthaews. Songthaews is another public transportation in Chiang Rai. ...
  3. Walking. ...
  4. Taxi. ...
  5. Motorcycle or Bicycle. ...
  6. Private Car/Van. ...
  7. Booking Tours.
Sep 10, 2019

Which is better Chiang Rai or Pai? ›

It's a tough choice but depends what you're looking for, Pai is laid back and Chiang Rai has a little more culture. If you can squeeze time for both then even better! If your arriving into Bangkok there here are 8 things you can get up to in the big city.

What is the best time of day to visit White temple Chiang Rai? ›

The best time to visit apparently is at sunrise before the large coach tours arrive and the grounds around the temple are free to explore. The temple closes at 5:00pm on weekdays and 5:30pm on weekends.

What is Chiang Rai known for? ›

One of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Thailand, the Golden Triangle is renowned for it's natural beauty and phenomenal scenery. The mighty Ruak and Mekong Rivers converge in this region, and the riverbanks are lined with golden Buddha statues, shrines to the royal family, and massive sculptures.

Is Uber available in Chiang Rai? ›

While Chiang Rai doesn't utilize Uber, know that they do use Grab, which is a very similar service, and they're the best way for you to get around the city. Other forms of travel also include the famous tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicles).

What is the best month to visit Chiang Mai? ›

November to February: This is the ideal time to visit Chiang Mai because the weather is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it does not get too cold, you should carry a jacket and some light woolens.

How much baht Do you need a day? ›

For a budget day without being tight you can still spend 100 THB for breakfast, 100 THB for lunch, 250 THB for an evening meal, and 150 THB for rehydration and cheap snacks, totaling 600 THB for the day.

How much money do I need in Chiang Mai? ›

You should plan to spend around ฿1,307 ($38) per day on your vacation in Chiang Mai, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travelers have spent, on average, ฿299 ($8.68) on meals for one day and ฿106 ($3.09) on local transportation.

Can you do a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? ›

You can also travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by yourself, as there are buses running daily and the tickets are quite cheap. But once you are in Chiang Rai you still need to get a taxi or a tuk-tuk to visit the temples and attractions.

Should I visit Phuket or Chiang Mai? ›

If you're looking to do nothing all day, read a book, sip a wine or cocktail and hang out on the beach then Phuket is your choice. However, if you're looking for more physical activity like hiking, Elephant Trekking and more cultural activities Chiangmai is the choice for you.

Does Chiang Rai have a beach? ›

Chiang Rai beach is located a little bit out of town on the border of the Mae Kok (River Kok). It is nice to walk (on both sides) of the river and enjoy nature, the long tail boats and the locals.

Is it easy to drive in Chiang Rai? ›

Driving in Thailand is super easy. It makes sense to be independent and it is a much cheaper way to get around. We recently did a fun road trip driving from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with our family.

Is there malaria in Chiang Rai? ›

Malaria precautions

There is low to no risk in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Sot, Pattay and Phuket, the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Chang and the River Quai bridge area. High risk areas: atovaquone/proguanil OR doxycycline is advised throughout the year.

Can I rent a car in Thailand with US license? ›

An international driving license is accepted as long as it is valid, but a foreign license is not accepted in Thailand.

How long is bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? ›

- A Class Bus (48 seat bus, Air-con, No Toilet) = 129 THB - Duration / Travelling time 3 hours 30 minutes. Tickets can be bought directly at the Green Bus counters at Arcade Bus Terminal 3 or at one of the many ticket selling counters found in Chiang Mai.

Is it better to rent a car in Thailand? ›

Thai cities generally have extremely congested traffic but good public transportation, meaning that hiring a car is not recommended for travel in solely urban areas. However, renting a car in Thailand is a great way to enjoy more flexibility and get off the beaten track to explore other areas of the country.

How many nights do you need in Chiang Rai? ›

Many travelers visit Chiang Rai as a day trip from Chiang Mai. This is ideal if you're short on time but I recommend that you try to spend at least 2 days in Chiang Rai to make the most of the region. Besides the temples, you have museums, art galleries, waterfalls, and even a beach to discover.

Is 5 days too long in Chiang Mai? ›

If your Thailand itinerary allows, plan at least 5 days in Chiang Mai as well, or stay longer and use it as a base to explore northern Thailand!

How many days do you need in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai? ›

Chiang Mai and it's smaller sister Chiang Rai are the two main cities of North Thailand; both are superb places to visit with many sites to see. To do justice to both, you need to spend five or six days exploring both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Is Uber in Chiang Mai? ›

Yes, you can use GRAB and UBER in Chiang Mai, the two popular mobile ride-sharing app that allows you to call for taxi services right at your fingertips.

How long does it take to drive from Bangkok to Chiang Rai? ›

The direct drive from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is 515 mi (828 km), and should have a drive time of 9 hrs 53 mins in normal traffic.

Is there a train from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai? ›

There aren't any trains running between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The journey to Chiang Rai takes three hours, with most of the journey through beautiful mountain areas. There is plenty of legroom and the seats are very comfortable. There is also a clean toilet at the back of the bus.

How many days should you spend in Pai? ›

With two nights based in the town of Pai, you have enough time to experience everything in and around Pai, and take a day trip west to Pang Mapha district.

Is Chiang Rai cheaper than Chiang Mai? ›

Cost of Living Comparison Between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

You would need around 76,318.8฿ in Chiang Mai to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 69,000.0฿ in Chiang Rai (assuming you rent in both cities).

How long does it take from Pai to Chiang Rai? ›

How far is Pai from Chiang Rai? If you're traveling by land, it's important to know the distance from Pai to Chiang Rai. Your trip will be a total of 187 miles (300 km). The flying distance is 187 miles (300 km).

Can I wear jeans in Thai temple? ›

Your knees do not need to be covered. You can also wear long pants or jeans if preferred but most will be more comfortable in shorts due to the heat. Footwear – You'll need to remove your shoes in most indoor areas at Thailand's temples. You can wear trainers if preferred but I recommend flip-flops or sliders.

What do you wear to a Thai temple? ›

Dress politely

Please dress respectfully when you visit any temple in Thailand. Make sure your shoulders are covered (no vests, tank-tops or spaghetti straps) and although skirts or shorts are acceptable at many temples, they should be smart and at least knee-length.

What should I wear in Chiang Mai? ›

What to pack
  • Tops. It's most likely going to be hot in Chiang Mai so make sure you pack tops that are made from lightweight or breathable fabric. ...
  • Bottoms. Again, you want to opt for a material that is either quick dry or extremely lightweight and breathable. ...
  • Outdoor gear. ...
  • Dresses. ...
  • Scarf. ...
  • Nice clothes. ...
  • Swimwear. ...
  • Pyjamas.

Can you wear leggings in Thailand? ›

What is this? The dress code is simple really, for both men and women, knees and shoulders must be covered. Additionally, no see-through clothing or skin-tight clothing. So, ladies, this means no leggings, please!

What is a fact about Chiang Rai? ›

Chiang Rai lies at an elevation of 1,150 feet (350 m) in the basin of the Kok River, near the Khun Tan Range. It has an airport with scheduled flights, and road connections lead south to Lampang and north to Myanmar (Burma) and the Laotian border. It is a trading centre dealing in teak, coffee, and rice.

What does 555 in Thailand mean? ›

It's the Thai equivalent of “LOL”; when you see “555” /hâa hâa hâa/ (ห้า ห้า ห้า) in Thailand it means “funny” and “laughing out loud”. Occasionally, we will add a plus sign to the fives in order to indicate that the laugh is longer than typed and express a higher level of amusement, e.g. “555555” or just “555+”.

How far apart are Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai? ›

As Thailand's northernmost city, Chiang Rai is only 118 miles (190 kilometers) from Chiang Mai.

Is Chiang Rai close to Bangkok? ›

The distance between Bangkok and Chiang Rai Province is 676 km. The most popular airlines for this route are Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, VietJet Air, Thai Lion Air, and Thai Smile. Bangkok and Chiang Rai Province have 133 direct flights per week.

Is Uber cheap in Thailand? ›

There is no Uber in Thailand, but there is Grab

It is a little more expensive than a taxi or tuk tuk, but the cars are safe, secure and usually air-conditioned—totally worth it for a cross-city journey.

Can you walk around Chiang Mai? ›

Chiang Mai is a beautiful city to walk around, especially during the “Thai Winter” time – November – February, when the temperature is cooler.

What is the hottest month in Chiang Mai? ›

The hot season which runs from March to May is Chiang Mai's hottest time of the year with midday temperatures often climbing beyond 32°C. On average April is the hottest month with daytime temperatures can rise up to 40°C.

Is Chiang Mai walkable? ›

Although Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, it's very walkable—especially the Old City, surrounded by the moat and remains of the defensive wall. Take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures to wander around the small streets and visit ancient Buddhist temples and small markets.

How much is $1 US in Thailand? ›

1 USD = 35.206 THB Feb 28, 2023 16:45 UTC

The currency converter below is easy to use and the currency rates are updated frequently.

How much US dollars should I bring to Thailand? ›

Mid Range Budget: Average daily budget: $50-100 USD

If you're willing to spend a bit more money than the average backpacker, you can upgrade your Thailand travel budget to include more fun things. Visit all the best attractions, even if they cost a bit more.

How much US dollars can I carry to Thailand? ›

Any person who brings or takes an aggregate amount of foreign currency exceeding USD20,000 or its equivalent out of or into Thailand shall declare such amount of foreign currency to a Customs Officer.

How many days do you need to see Chiang Mai? ›

Ideally four nights and five days will give you enough time to explore and get a true sense of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 and is located in an area of majestic mountains. This city was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and remains a religious and cultural centre.

Which month is best for Chiang Mai? ›

November to February: This is the ideal time to visit Chiang Mai because the weather is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it does not get too cold, you should carry a jacket and some light woolens. January is usually considered the best month and sees a high influx of tourists.

What should I wear to Chiang Mai? ›

What to pack
  • Tops. It's most likely going to be hot in Chiang Mai so make sure you pack tops that are made from lightweight or breathable fabric. ...
  • Bottoms. Again, you want to opt for a material that is either quick dry or extremely lightweight and breathable. ...
  • Outdoor gear. ...
  • Dresses. ...
  • Scarf. ...
  • Nice clothes. ...
  • Swimwear. ...
  • Pyjamas.


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