-- TO LAOS --
From downtown Chiang Rai, there are minibuses to Chiang Saan and then to Chiang Kong. There, you can catch a ferry across Kong River (Mae Kong) to Laos. From Luang Namta district on Lao's side you can either catch a fast (6-7 hours) or slow (overnight) ferry to Luang Prabang via Vang Vieng.
-- TO BURMA --
From downtown, take a minibus to Mae Sai (there're also direct buses from Bangkok to Mae Sai.) From Mae Sai, I suggest you catch Mandalay Air to Mandalay or Yangoon cuz the road condition is really poor.....
Take bus from Chiangmai (Arcade) Bus Terminal , there are both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned bus services , air-conditined bus price 169 baht, it's take
around 3-4 hours to get to the city.
-- Travel in Chaing Rai in one day--
Buy return ticket from Chiang Mai (Arcade bus terminal) to Chiang Rai .
I suggest you to visit Wat Rong Khun first, it's nearby the main road on left hand side, just ask bus driver to drop you at " Wat Rong Khun".
After enjoy seeing Wat Rong Khun in the morning, You can get a local bus or Songtaew from the main road to Chiang Rai city and start a city tour by walking, taking Sam lor or rent a bicycle.
The government's VIP bus is a great way to travel between Chiang Rai and Bangkok. It cost about 900B, and it's better to reserve the ticket at least the day before, so you can get a better seat. The seats are recliners that can allow you to almost lie down. And there is plenty of leg room (if you are not tall). Food and drinks are served on board, and of course, Thai entertainment programs! There are also washroom breaks and you can stretch your legs.
If you want to save a night's accommodation, take the last bus. From CR it was the 7pm bus, and it arrived at BKK at around 6am or so. The bus schedule is posted on the ticket window, make sure it's the VIP bus. There are other companies that operate the same route at about the same price. They are of similar qualities.
I was thinking of heading back down to Chiang Mai by regular bus, then take the train back to BKK. But the price works out to be roughly the same. But it's troublesome as you have to transfer from the CM bus station to the train station. So I think taking the VIP bus is the best way if you do not plan to fly.
Public transport consists mainly of tuk-tuks and songthaews, plus a smaller number of taxis. The city itself can be explored on foot, but for trips into the province consider renting a car or a motorbike. Budget and Avis both have offices in Chiang Rai and there are several local agencies. If you don't feel up to driving in what may be a very different environment, then consider hiring a car with driver - it doesn't cost much more.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai we were pleased to see there were lots of taxis available. We had afrieindly driver that gave us a mini tour on the way to the Hotel. The price was 200 BHT ...for two people with luggage.
You can travel by both on road and fly-in. From Bangkok, catch a bus at Mo Chit Bus Station, near Jatujak weekend market. I recommend the VIP (24-seat) buses, very comfy and reliable. There are several operators, but the most famous one is Siam First Tour. The bus leaves at 5-6-7-8 p.m. expect to pay around 800 Baht - travel time 12+ hours.
I took a VIP bus from the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai which left at 10.15am, took 3 hours and cost 280 baht. It was a lovely bus with reclining leather seats with leg-rests and miles of legroom and space, a/c and a piece of cake and bottle of water thrown in for free. You'll pass by some lovely scenery on the way plus go over some big hills. I arrived in Chiang Rai at 1pm.
I am quite convinced, and I have mentioned it in other tips, that the siting of new bus stations in Thailand is conducted by the so-called tuk-tuk mafia. I can think of no other reason why they are situated in such inaccesible spots far out of town other than to provide a captive audience for the drivers. There are two bus stations in Chiang Rai, this tip deals with the prosaically named Bus Staion #2 which is on the main Highway several kilometres out of town. This services long-distance buses although more local buses stil depart from the old Bus Station in the centre of town (Bus Station #1 would you believe?) Again, I must say that my Lonely Planet guide let me down, making no mention of the new station although in fairness it does look very recently opened.
I arrived quite late in the evening, and the place was totally dead, with only one tuk tuk man in evidence so I grabbed him. From memory I think the fare into town was about 200 baht. I had occasion to return during the day and it was a bit livelier, although many of the new associated retail outlets still remain unoccupied. For a daytime departure or arrival, there are sufficient food outlets and shops to stock up in.
We flew to Chiang Rai with fly12go . We found the service to be fine They even give you a snack . Hard to believe as it is only an hour and twenty min flight from Bangkok. The price was over one thousand Bht cheaper than Thai airlines . We paid 2200 bht for a one way flight. Here's the link phttps://www.fly12go.com/b2c/front/booking.php
You can book online.
To get to the golden triangle from CHiang Saen is not too difficult.. you can get there by songathew or tuk-tuk--- the first option is the cheapest... once one of this vehicles is filled... with monks, people, baskets, chickens, veggies, anything.. then it leaves. it takes about 30 minutes to get there... the price may have been 20 baths - but i dont remember exactly.
The last one back is at around 3 PM - so try not to miss it
State run buses are the best buses to take in Thaialnd... they are also the cheapest and the safest. from Chiang Mai there's several buses to Chiang Rai every day (5-6 hours), roughly every hour or so - some of them are ordinary, others air-con. The price difference is minimal. To go towards the Chiang Saen (2-3 hours), for the Golden Triangle, there are several (rustic) buses too - then from Chiang Sean there's songathews.
Buses to Chiang Khong which lies on the banks of the Mekong River opposite the Laos town of Huay Xai, depart from the bus station in the town centre, every hour on the hour from 6am to 5pm. The journey is on a rather cranky old bus along rather poor roads which seem to get worse the further you go. The trip takes about 2-2.5hrs and costs 70 baht. The bus drops you off about 2km south of the Thai immigration control so it's best to take a tuk-tuk.