The road to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai is easier than you think.

The bus station is about a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from the old center of town. The tuk tuk ride will run you anywhere from a 80 to 150 baht depending on time of day and how much you want to negotiate. VIP buses go back and forth from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai throughout the day.  There are two bus stations in Chiang Rai, and the VIP buses go to the old bus station which is right in the centre of town adjacent to the night bazaar.

  Buying a Ticket: To buy a ticket, you will need to go to the bus station. You should buy your tickets a day in advance unless you want to chance buying it the same day. The bus line is the Green Bus line. You can't miss as it will be the bus line that is the busiest and with a bunch of tourists in line. There's an information booth at the station if you need help. There are different class of buses so you will probably want to request the VIP Bus once you get in front of the line. The ticket officer speaks some  English  Cost of a round trip ticket to Mae Sai for the VIP bus is 728 baht. This is to Mae Sai past Chiang Mai and the closest bus going to the border.

Bus line to Chiang Rai

Bus line

 

  The Bus Ride: The VIP bus is nice and seats are leather. There are only 3 seats across so the seats are roomy. There's also a bathroom in the back. The attendant will serve you a bottle of water and also give you a sweet roll which is tasty.  A thai movie will be shown on the bus' LCD screen. The language though is in Thai.  The trip will take about 3 hours each way. More if there's traffic.

Bus Seats

Chiang Rai Arrival/Departure: The station in chiang rai is simple but clean. The station is the old bus station in the center of town.

  Chaing Rai Bus Station

Chiang Rai Bus Boarding

 

Overall: The trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is pretty easy to do and quite inexpensive. If you want a little adventure then grab a seat on the bus. Once you're in Chiang Mai you have several sight seeing options. Several include doing the Elephant Treking, checking out the Golden Triangle and the Opium History Museum and going to the night market in downtown Chiang Rai. See other posts for information.

 

Update June 2014

There is a Green Bus ticket shop near the Phran Singh temple, in the center, tel 0898508381 and they sell tickets adding only a 20 baht commission. They are open 8,30 am to 8 pm mon to tue (and friday, saturday and sunday from 8,30 am to 6 pm). Updated timetable (bus schedule) for Green bus (Vip and non-Vip), Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and return, is below

  Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai bus schedule

This is Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

  chiang rai to chiang mai bus Jube 2014