Greenbus Thailand: Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

If Cambodia has Giant Ibis, Thailand has Greenbus as one of the best operators in the country. Among so many routes they have, the most popular one is the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and the other way around.

I got a chance to try their service when I traveled from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. At first I thought I'd have to take a minibus service like most routes available in Thailand, but as I bought the bus ticket go-show at Chiang Rai bus terminal, I only found out that there's a proper bus service for the route and that's how I got a chance to try the Greenbus service in Thailand for the first time.

In this post, I'm going to share my firsthand experience of traveling from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai by bus, including the review of using Greenbus for the transportation operator in North Thailand. So, what do you need to know about the bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai with Greenbus?

Bus From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with Greenbus.
Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with Greenbus.

As I mentioned a few times before, most tourists usually travel on a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by bus. Among many, Chiang Mai-Golden Triangle bus is the most popular route catered by Greenbus in North Thailand.

While it's doable, I elaborated on why I wouldn't recommend a day trip to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai in my previous post. But if you insist, Greenbus has the routes available from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal. Whether you want to travel all the way to the Golden Triangle or start with the Chiang Rai city center, you can book the bus ticket for your preferred route through websites like 12Go.

Since the starting point of my travel to North Thailand was in Chiang Rai and I got a chance to stay there for a couple of nights, I took the bus route from Chiang Rai Bus Terminal to Chiang Mai instead.

We didn't get a chance to book the bus ticket online, so we bought the bus ticket on the D-day of our departure at the Greenbus ticket counter at the terminal. The price for the Chiang Rai-Chiang Mai bus route (or the other way around) may vary depending on the availability, but we paid 285 THB (around $8 USD) per person.

Traveling by Bus to Chiang Rai

Greenbus ticket counter at Chiang Rai bus terminal.
Greenbus ticket counter at Chiang Rai bus terminal.

As Chiang Rai is pretty popular as a day trip destination from Chiang Mai, booking a bus ticket in advance is advisable. When we took the bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, we couldn't get a ticket for the nearest departure since everything was sold out so we had to wait for the 2 PM departure even though we arrived at the bus station from 10 AM.

The good news is that the bus station is only within walking distance from some of the best places to visit in Chiang Rai so we got a chance to explore the city while waiting for our bus. In addition, you can also pay for luggage storage in Chiang Rai terminal for 80 THB (around $2.3 USD) per piece so you can just leave your bags there if you don't want to carry them around.

Initially, I thought I could just leave the bags at the ticket counter like we did in Kanchanaburi. But the lady at the Greenbus ticket counter told us to ask for the toilet attendant not too far from the ticket counter since they have luggage storage there.

This convenience with the luggage storage and the fact that the bus terminal in Chiang Rai looks pretty artistic with murals and all the artworks makes traveling on a day trip from Chiang Mai sound like a good decision. But still, I think you'd also appreciate Chiang Rai better if you could explore the city more than just for a day trip!

Review: Greenbus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Unless you plan to hire a private transfer from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Greenbus seems to be the only option if you want to travel between both cities in North Thailand. The bus departs almost every 1.5 hours from Chiang Mai, but you may want to book the bus ticket in advance to ensure the availability since the Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai route is pretty popular among travelers.

How to Book a Bus Ticket From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

You can expect to pay around 250 to 300 THB (around $7 to $8.5 USD) per trip, and booking the bus ticket online in Thailand tends to be cheaper than purchasing it on the spot like I did at Chiang Rai bus terminal.

Whether you book your bus ticket online or on the spot, you need to buy your ticket with your personal information so you can expect the staff at the ticket counter to ask for your passport and phone number.

When my boyfriend and I bought the bus ticket from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai with Greenbus, the staff printed a bus ticket for us, and they also sent the e-ticket to my Thai number at the time. If you book the ticket online, you can just show your e-ticket to the bus attendant although it won't hurt to check with the staff at the ticket counter first in case they need to issue a ticket for you.

You can also choose your seat number when booking your bus ticket online. Since the available ticket from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai was limited when we purchased it, we got the leftover seats on the bus. We sat separately, but it wasn't a big problem for us.

However, I found out that unlike the Thai regulation for the sleeper train where it's not allowed for passengers with the opposite sex to share the same cabin, there's a possibility that you may have to share your seat with strangers with the opposite sex with Greenbus. So if you have a problem with this, you may want to book everything in advance for your convenience.

Bus Comfort & Facilities from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Compared to the typical inter-city minivan services in Thailand, Greenbus offers a more premium approach in its comfort and facilities. Apart from the assigned seat that guarantees the seat of your choice, you will also get complimentary bottled water in each seat pocket.

The seat is quite comfortable, and the leg space isn't too bad for me. But don't take my word for it since I'm barely 160 cms so I never have a personal problem with the leg space in the bus or any other transportation methods.

Other than that, the bus journey that I took from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai was considered express so there were no bathroom breaks except for some stops to drop off some passengers in a few bus terminals between both cities.

I got a seat in the front at 3C so I didn't get a chance to the aft of the bus, I'm not sure if the bus comes with an attached toilet but if that's the case I'm glad that I got a front seat. 😛

Travel Time From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by Bus

The bus departed from Chiang Rai at around 2 PM, and we arrived at Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station at around 5.30 PM so it took around 3.5 hours to travel between Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai without any stop in between by bus.

It was a scenic journey, and I recommend staying awake just to see the greeneries between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. But as I said, traveling between both cities on a day trip can be pretty exhausting so if you have enough time to stay in Chiang Rai for a night or two, I'd suggest staying overnight in Chiang Rai instead of going back to Chiang Mai on the same day.

FAQs About Bus From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

In this section, I'm going to answer some of the frequently asked questions about traveling from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by bus. So, what do you need to know about the Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai bus?

Chiang Rai bus terminal in North Thailand.
Chiang Rai bus terminal in North Thailand.

How to travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by bus?

The easiest way to take the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is by making Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station as your point of departure. If you stay in Chiang Mai city center, you may need to take a taxi or tuk-tuk as the bus station is around 30 minutes drive from the center.

You can buy a bus ticket that stops at Chiang Rai bus terminal, where you can leave your bags at the luggage storage if needed. From the bus terminal, some of the best places to visit in Chiang Rai are within walking distance, including Chiang Rai Night Bazaar or Garden of Reeds.

Alternatively, you can also take the bus from Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle instead. If you choose this route, instead of purchasing a ticket to Chiang Rai bus terminal, you can buy a bus ticket to Chiang Khong instead.

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

The bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai (and vice versa) takes approximately around 3.5 to 4 hours in total. If you take the Greenbus Express like I did, there won't be any stop in between cities which can be convenient if you want to arrive at your destination as soon as possible.

Greenbus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.
Greenbus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

What are the most popular Greenbus routes from Chiang Mai?

While the Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai route is hands down the best-seller route for Greenbus, the bus operator also offers a few other routes from Chiang Mai, including the following:

  • Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai
  • Chiang Mai-Phayao
  • Chiang Mai-Nan
  • Chiang Mai-Tak
  • Chiang Mai-Lampang
  • and the other way around for each route.

Final Verdict: Bus From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with Greenbus

Overall, Greenbus seems like one of the best bus operators in Thailand that offers premium services for their customers. Starting with helpful staff, along with some decent facilities on board with the seat, complimentary water and snacks, etc.

Chiang Rai bus terminal in North Thailand.
Chiang Rai bus terminal in North Thailand.

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  • The bus ticket price is quite affordable compared to their premium service from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. 
  • If you prioritize punctuality, then Greenbus is for you. We were told to be back to the bus station 15 minutes before our departure and the bus was already there waiting for us when we got back. 
  • Comfortable seat with complimentary bottled water in the seat pocket. 
  • There is no stop between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, so you can expect to arrive at your destination on time, depending on the traffic condition between the cities. 

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  • The Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai route is practically the most popular route available at Greenbus so the bus ticket sells quickly, and you may have a hard time getting a bus ticket on the spot. Booking the bus ticket in advance is recommended for this route. 
  • It seems like the fleets at Greenbus come with attached toilets in the bus so you may want to avoid sitting near the toilet for a more comfortable experience when traveling with Greenbus. 
  • The journey will be pretty exhausting for a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

So, are you planning to take the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? Are you planning to do it for a day trip between the cities? Or do you have any experience with a different bus operator other than Greenbus in North Thailand? Share in the comment below, and cheerio! 😉


marya the beautraveler author profile
Marya The BeauTraveler

I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.


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