Where to Stay in Chiang Rai First Time: Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Chiang Rai for first-times are the Clock Tower Area, North Sanambin Road, The Riverside, Near Highway 1/Airport, and North Chiang Rai. These are popular and safe neighborhoods for tourists that offers some attractions and amenities. In this post, we will be looking at where to stay in Chiang Rai for tourists and the best things to do in each area.

Located on Northern Thailand, Chiang Rai is only an hour from the Golden triangle, the meeting point of three countries: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Chiang Rai is also close to Chiang Mai, and Pai. To reach Chiang Rai, you can take a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai airport, or take local bus from Chiang Mai.

In deciding on an area to stay in Chiang Rai, you need to choose whether you would like to stay centrally or out of town. The city center itself is relatively small and compact. Anywhere you choose to stay in a central location like the riverside, or the Clock Tower area, or around Sanarmbin Road will be convenient for shops, restaurants, banks, and infrastructure.

Clock Tower is the best place to stay in Chiang Rai for tourists, especially for first-timers due to its prime location. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the heart of action, within walking distance to top sights, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

An alternative to staying central is to choose an out-of-town location like the North City, or close to the airport or main highway. These are convenient locations only if you are traveling onwards or have your own car or bike.  So, unless that is the case, then a central area may be the best place to stay in Chiang Rai. 

There are some good quality 5-star hotels along the Kok River, so if you are looking for luxury hotel with river views, the riverside is the place to book your accommodations. You can also find a good selection of mid-range and backpacker hostels in the town center.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Clock Tower Area
💎 Best luxury hotel:MORA Boutique Hotel
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Le Patta Hotel Chiang Rai
💰 Best budget hotel:SuanTung Coffee & Guesthouse

🎬 To get an overall idea of where to stay in Chiang Rai for the first time, check out this video:

Where to Stay in Chiang Rai: 5 Best Area to Stay Chiang Rai

1. Clock Tower, where to stay in Chiang Rai for first-timers

where to stay in chiang mai: Clock tower
Clock Tower @Paul Arps

The Clock Tower area is the best area to stay in Chiang Rai for first-time traveler because it is the travel center of Chiang Rai. There are scores of hostels, café’s, bars, restaurants, and everything else a traveler could hope to find. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the middle of action!

Situated right in Chiang Rai’s main town, the clock tower has a golden architectural style, designed by Chalermchai Khositpipat, similar to the famous White Temple. It was built in 2008 in honour of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. There is an interesting music and light show in the evening here.

The clock tower area has a good budget and mid-range places to stay, and despite all the tourist stuff, it still retains Chiang Rai’s laid-back charm. You can find lots of backpacker hostels in this area.

Here, you are just a couple of minutes’ walk from the City’s main shopping area and just a few minutes more away from the views of the river. It is an excellent place to stay for independent travelers, particularly those who want to meet like-minded souls.

Chiang Rai is not noted as a party town, but what action there is, happens here.

STAY IN CLOCK TOWER AREA IF you are a first-time visitor; you want a great place to stay for eating and drinking; you want to stay somewhere central; you want to explore the city on foot.

Best places to stay in Clock Tower:

luxury ($$$): MORA Boutique Hotel This 5-star hotel is located within walking distance from Chiang Rai Saturday Night Walking Street, Wat Pra Sing, Statue of King Mengrai and Clock Tower Chiang Rai. The hoteel has a restaurant, free private car parking, free bikes and a fitness centre.

mid-range ($$): Le Patta Hotel Chiang Rai This 4-star hotel is set within easy walk from Chiang Rai Old Bus Station, Clock Tower and Night Bazaar. There is a 24-hour security service and CCTV, as well as an on-site restaurant that serves both Thai and Western dishes.

budget ($): SuanTung Coffee & Guesthouse This guest house is located close to attractions such as Saturday Night Walking Street, and 10km from Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport. All rooms have air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, slippers and a desk.

MORE HOTELS IN CLOCK TOWER

2. North Sanambin Road, where to stay in Chiang Rai for shopping

Sanambin, or airport, Road is the central thoroughfare of Chiang Rai. This road runs south through the middle of town out to the suburbs and the airport.

At the northern end, the road intersects with the Clocktower Area, but as you head a couple of hundred meters south, you will find a great selection of mid-range hotels. Sanambin Road also has lots of shops, banks and travel agencies so there is an extremely convenient and central place to stay.

STAY IN NORTH SANAMBIN ROAD IF you want mid-range accommodation; you want to be close to the center of town; you want shopping nearby; you want restaurants and bars nearby.

Best places to stay in Sanambin Road:

FIND BEST HOTELS IN CHIANG RAI

See more:

3. The Riverside, where to stay in Chiang Rai for views

where to stay in chiang mai: Chiang Rai riverside
Chiang Rai riverside @Miguel Discart

The Kok River area boasts some of the best views and the best hotels in the city. If you head out to the east or west, you will rapidly come to the countryside. But the central area around Wat Phra Kaew Temple is very convenient for city restaurants, bars, and infrastructure.

Chiang Rai has a good selection of five-star hotels and resorts. Many of these are in extensive grounds on the banks of the Kok River that runs from east to west through the City. This location provides the most picturesque setting in Chiang Mai. So, if you are looking for a top-quality resort, then you should definitely plan on staying in the Chiang Rai riverside.

You can stroll down the riverside or enjoy the setting from your hotel grounds. If you have the budget, staying beside the river is it is well worth the expense.

 STAY IN THE RIVERSIDE IF you want a great river and mountain view; you are looking for a five-star hotel; you want to be close to temples; you want to stay somewhere central and quiet.

Best places to stay in Koh Chang riverside:

luxury ($$$): The Riverie by Katathani You can probably tell from its name, but this five-star hotel sits right on the banks of the Kok River. The views from the balconies of the rooms look out over Chiang Rai and the surrounding mountains, as well as the river. If you really want to push the boat out, you could book one of their River View Suites

luxury ($$$): Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort This sumptuous hotel sits in a prime spot right next to the river, so the views are great. The huge gardens feature a large lake and an outdoor pool. It is spacious, luxurious, and pretty much all that you would wish for in a five-star resort.

mid-range ($$): The Legend Chiang Rai Boutique River Resort & Spa This 4-star hotel is situated along the banks of Mae Kok River. It offers panoramic views of the hills, mountains and river, an outdoor infinity pool with massage jets, as well as 3 on-site restaurants. There is van transfer service to Night Bazaar and the walking street on Saturdays and Sundays.

BEST HOTELS IN CHIANG RAI

4. Near Highway 1/Airport, where to stay in Chiang Rai near Airport

Highway 1 is the main artery that connects Chiang Mai Province with the rest of Thailand. It runs through the South and East side of Chiang Rai up to the Myanmar border at Mae Sai.

There are lots of hotels located conveniently close to this highway and also to Chiang Mai Mae Fah Luang Airport in the Northeast of the city.

The accommodation in the environs of the highway and airport is largely mid to upper range and you can find some good value hotels that are conveniently placed for exploring Chiang Mai Province and for onward travel. So staying here is a good idea if you want to be close to, but not in, the center of Chiang Mai.

STAY NEAR HIGHWAY 1/AIRPORT IF you want to be away from the tourist center; you have your own transport; you want to be close to the airport.

Best places to stay near Chiang Rai airport:

MORE HOTELS IN CHIANG RAI

5. North Chiang Rai, where to stay in Chiang Rai close to countryside

The bulk of Chiang Rai City lies to the South of the River Kok. But there is a smaller settlement on the north bank, and this area has an interesting selection of hotels and hostels at all price ranges.  It is a good place to choose if you want to be out of the city while still enjoying the convenience of the city center just a 15 or 20-minute walk away.

If you have a bicycle or moped, you can head west into some lovely countryside in just a few minutes. One of the appeals of staying here is how quickly you can free yourself from the city center and get into some of North Thailand’s beautiful hill country. 

So this is a part of Chiang Rai that will appeal to independent travelers and those who like to head a little way off the beaten path. If you’re traveling alone and looking to meet people, maybe somewhere more central will be a better choice.

STAY IN NORTH CHIANG RAI IF you want something a little different; you want to be close to the countryside; you like central, but not too central; you are looking for great value low to mid-range places.

FIND BEST HOTELS IN CHIANG RAI

Read Also:

Best Hostels in Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai has long been a favorite destination for backpackers and independent travelers. These days it is also a go-to location for digital nomads. Therefore the city has an unusually large number of hostels and budget guesthouses.

Connect Hostel

best hotels in chiang Rai: connect hostel chiang rai thailand
Connect Hostel @booking.com

Connect Hostel is located in the center of Chiang Rai and is convenient for pretty much everything. It has a clean and modern white design. Guests enter a huge communal lounge and dining area with a cool spiral staircase leading to the bedrooms and dorms above. There is also a terrace at the front.

A shared kitchen is another popular facility. A common observation from guests is that the staff are very friendly and helpful. The Hostel also has a tour desk that can arrange activities and onward travel.

It is a great meeting place and very popular with solo travelers, and couples like to stay in the double aircon rooms with a private bathroom.

Baan Mai Kradan Hostel

best hotels in chiang Rai: Baan Mai Kradan Hostel Chiang Rai
Baan Mai Kradan Hostel @booking.com

This central hostel had an ultra-modern design. The frontage is all about metal posts contrasted with wood paneling. It looks great situated in a small garden setting with outdoor seating. 

Guests can choose from private double rooms or family rooms. There are dorms as well that sleep six or eight. And they have triple rooms and quadruple rooms. The hostel caters to everyone!

Guests can choose between a buffet or an a la carte breakfast. There are plenty of facilities, and the hostel even has a table tennis table and a dartboard for the use of guests.

Where should I stay in Chiang Rai for the first time?

Clock Tower is the best area to stay in Chiang Rai for first-timers due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of the city, within walking distance to the top attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

What to do in Chiang Rai?

There are so many things to do and see in Chiang Rai from Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Hill tribes, Baan Dam Museum, and Golden Triangle. The city can be easily reachable by plane, bus, train or car.

Where is Chiang Rai?

Chiang Rai is a small city located in Chiang Rai Province, the most Northerly of Thailand’s 76 provinces. It is close to the “golden triangle” area where Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet on the banks of the Mekong River. Chiang Rai is 187km Northeast of the much larger city of Chiang Mai. It is 800 kilometers by road to Bangkok, or just a short and economical flight away.

Where To Stay In Chiang Rai Backpacker?

Everyone is different, but I’d suggest that it is usually a great idea for backpackers to choose a central base in Chiang Rai. The Clock Tower Area has a lot going for it. Firstly, there are plenty of hostels and places to stay. There are also plenty of café’s, bars, and co-working spaces, all designed with the independent traveler in mind

Another advantage of this central location is that it will help you to save money. The Clock Tower area is a short walk from the stalls, noodle shops, and Thai fast-food joints of the market area. There is great food here, and it is the perfect place for some adventurous budget-friendly dining.

Where Is The Best Place To Stay In Chiang Mai?

The best place to stay in Chiang Rai, if money isn’t an object, is beside the river. This is the most scenic spot in the city, yet it is still convenient for all amenities. The hotels that occupy the prime riverside real estate are generally pretty high-end, however. So if this area is out of your price range, then I’d recommend that you choose one of the more central city areas like around Sanambin Road or near The Clocktower area. If you aren’t interested in staying centrally, then an alternative is to choose a hotel or hostel over the river on Chiang Rai’s quieter north side.

How Long Should I Stay In Chiang Rai?

I predict that you will find that you stay in Chiang Rai for longer than you plan. Most people love its laid-back vibe and beautiful setting. You should plan for a minimum of three or four days to check out a good selection of the local sights. You might include The Black Temple, Singha Park Chiang Rai, The Hill Tribe Museum, and the Cultural Center, and, best of all, the fabulous gardens of Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park.

But you will be well rewarded if you take your time to soak up the atmosphere and pace of life of this most relaxed and inviting city. And Chiang Rai is a great place to stay and take excursions to the golden triangle and the coffee plantations and parks of the surrounding mountains.

Does grab work in Chiang Rai?

In case you haven’t encountered it before, GRAB Taxi is Thailand’s most popular taxi booking app. It is a simple and very handy way to get around in and around Chiang Rai. All that you need to do is download the app, and then you can order and arrange your taxi using the English-language interface. Simple.

You should bear in mind that the center of Chiang Rai City is very compact – with most things located within walking distance. I suggest that you take a stroll around when you first arrive just to orient yourself. After this, you’ll have a better feel for the place. Then you can make a decision on what journeys you will need to use GRAB.

What Area Should I Stay In Chiang Mai?

A great place to stay in Chiang Rai, if money isn’t an object, is beside the river. This is the most scenic spot in the city, yet it is still convenient for all amenities. Ithe hotels that occupy the prime riverside real estate are generally pretty high-end, however. So if this area is out of your price range, then I’d recommend that you choose one of the more central city areas like around Sanambin Road or near The Clocktower area. If you aren’t interested in staying centrally, then an alternative is to choose a hotel or hostel over the river on Chiang Rai’s quieter north side.

Is Chiang Rai Safe?

Chiang Rai is a city, and like all cities, you should take the usual precautions to look after yourself. Don’t walk alone at night in quiet areas. Make sure that people know where you are. Secure your belongings and don’t carry large amounts of cash. If you take these obvious steps, then you should be fine. Chiang Mai is generally a friendly and non-threatening place to be.One precaution that applies to everywhere in Thailand is to take special care on the roads both as a driver and a pedestrian. Thailand has shocking road fatalities, so be observant. If you plan to drive a motorbike or car, then be aware that you need an international license to qualify

Overall, Clock Tower is the best area to stay in Chiang Rai for first-timers due to its central location. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of everything, within walking distance to top tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

So, there’s my guide to where to stay in Chiang Rai – 5 best areas. By now you will have a good feel for the city. It really is one of the best destinations in Thailand and I hope that you have a wonderful and memorable stay!

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