Traveling with Stephy

Best things to do in Chiang Rai with the most beautiful temples in Thailand

Located in Thailand, Chiang Rai is one of the northernmost cities in the country. Famous for its authenticity and its magnificent Buddhist temples, Chiang Rai is a must while exploring Thailand. In this blog post, I share with you the best things to do in Chiang Rai which includes all my recommendations about how to get there, where to stay, and how to move around. After reading my Chiang Rai guide, you will have all the information you need to plan your trip to Chiang Rai accordingly and enjoy this wonderful region to the fullest!

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Located in South East Asia, Thailand is easily accessible either by plane, bus, boat, or car. If you come from outside Asia, you will probably land in Bangkok (the capital of Thailand). From Bangkok, you have several possibilities to reach Chiang Rai, located in the North of the country. 


Chiang Rai is home to an International Airport (CEI), which makes its access super easy. Therefore, you can easily reach the city by taking a 1-hour flight from Bangkok. Many flights are available per day and cost between US 20$ and 50$ per passenger (without checked luggage), depending on the airlines. AirAsia tends to be the cheapest airline company for such short-flight trips.


You can also get to Chiang Rai by bus from Bangkok. It will take you about 13 hours to get to Chiang Rai. The road is very popular and many bus companies make the trip at different times during the day. Being a popular destination for tourists, I highly recommend you book your bus in advance here (at least 5 days prior).   Also if you come to Chiang Rai from a neighboring country such as Laos, it will be very simple to cross the border by bus.

When to visit Chiang Rai?

As a matter of fact, the rainy season doesn’t occur at the same time throughout Thailand since the country has different climates. However, the Northern part of Thailand such as Chiang Rai can be visited (almost) all year round. Of course, each season has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Having said that, the best time to visit Chiang Rai would be during winter, meaning from November to January. If possible, try not to visit the Northern part of Thailand later than January since from February until the end of March, the farmers start burning their fields to prepare their land. As a result, the air quality is very bad for your health. This phenomenon is very well known in most of the South East Asian countries and is even called the burning season. 

In case you visit Chiang Rai during the rainy season which is mainly from June to October, you will still be able to enjoy your time there. However, be prepared for very high temperatures and humidity close to 100%. The rainy season in the Northern part of Thailand is much less catastrophic than on the southern islands, but still not suitable for everyone.

How long to stay in Chiang Rai?

Despite its relatively small size, the city of Chiang Rai offers many opportunities to visit. That’s why, I advise you to stay a minimum of 3 nights. This way, you will have two full days to enjoy the wonders of the region. Of course, if you have more time at your disposal, don’t hesitate to stay one week in Chiang Rai and enjoy the sweetness of life. 

Check out the perfect 10 days itinerary in Thailand that includes a stop in Chiang Rai.

Where to stay in Chiang Rai?

Chiang Rai is a human-sized city, where walking is easy if you stay in the center of the town. In other words, if you stay close to bus terminal number 1 (be careful there are several bus terminals in Chiang Rai), you can do everything on foot. Surprisingly, most of the big hotel chains are situated outside the city, making walking more complicated. That’s why, I 100% recommend you to stay in this lovely and cheap hotel which is located perfectly. Close to the bus terminal (4 minutes on foot), clean with different types of rooms, and with nice common areas (breakfast included!), it is the ideal accommodation for your stay in Chiang Rai. On top of that, you can book a room for less than US$ 10, how cool is that!

How to move around Chiang Rai?

Great news! Public transportation in Thailand is very good and (mostly) on time. On top of that, prices are relatively cheap for the distance you will be traveling to. As a result, I don’t especially recommend renting a car while you are in Thailand. I sincerely think that everything can be visited by public transport. However, if you want to be more independent, you can rent a car here at the best prices. Otherwise, you can also rent a scooter for less than 350 baths per day once you arrive in Chiang Rai (prices may vary depending on where you rent the scooter).  That is to say, in my opinion, the best way to get around Chiang Rai (other than by a scooter) is by public bus, TukTuk, or taxi. Indeed, there are public buses that take you to the most iconic places in Chiang Rai, such as the White Temple and the Blue Temple (see “what to do” tab” for more detail).  In case you decide to grab a taxi, I recommend downloading the Grab application. This will allow you to book a ride at a fixed price and pay directly by credit card. Grab is very popular in South East Asia like Uber in the United States.

Things to know before visiting Chiang Rai

  • Don’t shake hands or kiss to say hello. In Thailand, greetings are by doing the Wai, a slight bow with palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion.
  • Most of the people in the Northern region of Thailand are Buddhist.
  • Cash is king. Credit or debit cards are not accepted everywhere.
  • You will always be charged 220 baths when you withdraw money from the ATM no matter which bank you use.
  • Wear appropriate clothes when visiting temples. That is to say, you must cover your shoulders and knees (women and men).
  • You have to remove your shoes each time you enter a temple.
  • Thai people are the kindest and will always help you.
  • Depending on the region, the locals are able to speak English (some better than others). In Chiang Rai, English is not commonly spoken.
  • Book your train/bus tickets in advance (at least 1 or 2 days prior) with this famous booking platform. It will save you time and worries (everything is written in English).
  • Buy a local SIM at the airport in order to have WiFi everywhere and will allow you to book a Grab taxi at any time.
  • Food is super cheap and delicious.

What to do in Chiang Rai?

Chiang Rai is packed with some of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. I share with you my favorite ones down below, with notably all the information on how to get there. However, if you prefer you can easily book a day tour package here that will bring you from one place to another with an (English) guide.
  • Wat Huay Pla Kang
Also called the Goddess of Mercy, this impressive Buddhist site is located only 30 minutes away from Chiang Rai city center. If you came by plane from Bangkok, you would have probably seen it from the air since the statue is 90 meters long. In order to get closer to the statue, you will have to climb several stairs. No worries, there is also a free shuttle from the parking lot that brings you to the base of the statue if you don’t want to climb the stairs (under the sun). 
How much is it?
The entrance is free but if you want to go up to the top of the statue you need to take a lift that costs 40 baths (return) per person. 
What is available on site?
Free toilets, food trucks, restaurants, and cafes.

How to get there?
Unfortunately, there is no public bus that goes to Wat Huay Pla Kang. Therefore, if you don’t want to rent a scooter, I advise you to take a taxi via the Grab app. It costs approximately 160 baths (return).

“If like us you don’t have data to search on the Internet, just stay in the parking area and wait for a taxi to come to drop off clients.”
Couple sitting in the middle of the stairs with a large white statue in the background during their 10 days in Thailand
Large white Goddess statue in Thailand
Large white Goddess statue including in the perfect itinerary for 10 days in Thailand
  • White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
Located 20 minutes away from Chiang Rai city center, the White temple is definitely a must-see while in Northern Thailand. The construction details are very impressive!
How much is it?
Wat Rong Khun is actually a large site with different monuments such as a golden temple. Therefore, the entrance to the site is free but if you want to get inside the White temple it costs 100 baths per person. Once you leave the temple, you can’t go back as you please. In other words, there is a one-way direction of the visit, you can’t turn back (just be aware if you are a photographer!). 
What is available on site?
Free toilets, restaurants, and shops. 7/11, 5 minutes away by foot.
How to get there
From Chiang Rai town, it costs 160 baths by taxi to get to the White Temple. The cheapest option would be to take the public bus (blue one) at Chiang Rai bus terminal 1 for 25 baths per person (one way). The first one is around 6:00 am.

“Great news, you will be able to see the white temple directly from the road (outside the entrance’s site). As a result, no need to wait for the opening hour (8:00 am) to take the first pictures. Then, once the gate opens get inside the White temple to beat the crowds.”

Beautiful white temple in Thailand
Couple sitting together inside the white temple during the time of 10 days in Thailand
Portrait of a couple inside the white temple during their 10 days in Thailand
Couple walking in the middle of the white temple in Thailand
  • Blue temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

Another iconic place in Northern Thailand is called the Blue temple. Different from the other religious places notably by their sparkling color, the temple is a magical place to visit.

How much is it?
Good news, the entrance to the Blue temple is free!
What is available on site?
Free toilets and shops.

How to get there?
Only 10 minutes away from Chiang Rai city center, you can either take a TukTuk (most likely they will ask you for 100 baths one way but you can bargle if you want) or a taxi (60 baths one way). There is also a public bus that leaves from Chiang Rai Bus terminal 1 to the blue temple. It costs only 25 baths for a one-way trip.

Details of a blue temple in Chiang Rai
Dragon's head outside a blue temple in Thailand
Overview of a blue temple to visit during your 10 days in Thailand
Blue Buddha statue

In conclusion

To sum up, Chiang Rai is the ideal place to visit during your trip to Thailand if you are looking for authenticity with an amazing green landscape and impressive Buddhist temple sites. 

I sincerely hope I have inspired you to add Chiang Rai to your bucket list and helped you organize your stay. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I would love to share more with you.

Don’t forget to check out all my posts related to Thailand to get more inspiration for your next trip to Thailand! Finally, in case you want to immerse yourself in this incredible country through videos, find me on my YouTube channel.

Sending you lots of love,

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