*Post Updated 5 Nov 2018
It’s super easy.There are a few ways, not including going to the bus station.
- When we took the Green Bus to Phayao we booked our tickets through a ticket agency that charged us a 100 baht service fee. Yes, I’d rather walk up to some travel agent than drive my bike over the Arcade. I’m lazy that way.
2. But when I went to Chiang Rai, I found an ever lazier way (score!). All you had to do was call the call center and book your ticket via telephone. However, this does not appear to be an option any more. Anyone?
3. Now, they have an online booking option. If you go to their homepage, you can click on the English option.
Choose Chiang Rai Bus Station 1.
If you want to chose the “pay at 7-11” option, you’ll get a receipt not unlike when I was able to use the call center to book my ticket. They will give you a receipt like this:
On your day of travel, bring your receipt to Chiang Mai’s Arcade bus station. This is your ticket! No need to grab a number and cue up. Just show your receipt to the bus attendant and you are set to go! Easy peasy lovely.
*Of course, you can always practice your Thai. Check out our video: http://ressources.learn2speakthai.net/thaigirltalk/buy-a-bus-ticket-in-thailand/
*If you are too scared to purchase your ticket online then buy your ticket at the bus station, but advance booking is necessary – most especially during the weekends and holidays! The folks at the ticket counters speak enough English to help you. And both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai bus stations have “Tourist” counters that can help you as well.
- Buses from CM leave about every hour. From CR, however, the VIP buses run: 9am, 12.45, 3.15 and 5pm. On Friday and Saturday they have extra buses.
- VIP buses cost about 288 baht and 1st class 188. And sometimes they have promotions! VIP has more leg room. And if you’re lucky, you get to enjoy a badly dubbed horrible movie.
- If you have time to kill/spare, I’d recommend heading over the Star Avenue, the mall next to Chiang Mai’s bus station. It’s kind of dying these days, but there are restaurants, and cleaner restrooms.
- The bus ride takes about 3 hours. I’ve taken this route several times now, both ways, and it doesn’t matter if you get a driver who is fast or slow, it’s pretty much a 3 hour drive. If you hit a lot of traffic you might be delayed half an hour. (Nov 2018 – There is still road work being done, so you might experience some delays.)
- And if you are prone to motion sickness then you might want to try to sit at the front of the bus and/or take some Dramamine which is sold at pharmacies and even at the bus stations. The roads are windy and hilly and even though it is a short drive, when you are sick, the road feels like it can’t end soon enough.
- If you lose your bus ticket, it will cost 30 baht to replace it.
- There are 2 bus stations in Chiang Rai. Bus station #1 is located in town and this is where most of you will probably want to get off. When I took the bus in late July 2014, the bus attendant prevented the foreigners from getting off at bus station #2 because bus station #2 is the first one the Green Bus will stop at.
- Generally speaking, bus station #2 is for travel well outside of the Chiang Rai provinces. If, for example, you are traveling to Nong Khai (for that dreaded visa run), you will want to go to bus station #2. There is a 15 baht red songtaew taxi that you can take between the bus stations. English signage.
- Baggage allowance is 20kg per person. If you have a lot of stuff, they might charge you 6 baht per kg over the allotted weight. But when we traveled with a lot of bags they just tossed them in.
- Keep in mind that even though Chiang Rai is a small town, there is rush hour traffic. High season is October from January -ish, but I hear that the Chinese take over in December. Plan your times to get to and from the bus station accordingly. Safe travels and good luck! 🙂