Pai is a quaint little hippie village in the North of Thailand, nestled in a valley just 130km’s from Chiang Mai. If you’re considering a visit to Pai, then you’ll be wanting to know how to get there and I am pleased to say that there are a few travel options available to you.
Bus options to Pai
I have to prepare you for this – the bus journey is a little bendy so if you suffer from travel sickness, take some meds or wear your sick band before you climb on in. Personally, I found that crocheting or listening to music via my headphones really helped and sitting with an eyeline view of the horizon is best too. The drive takes you up and down green mountainous roads so it’s not all that bad.
Minibus from Chiang Mai to Pai
There are two minibus options from Chiang Mai to Pai; one is a Government licensed minibus and the other is the tourist minibus. They are both basically the same vehicle but the Government minibus is booked and caught from the bus station, whereas the tourist minibus can be booked by your hotel, hostel or any travel agency and will collect you from your chosen destination. They are run by a company called Prem Pracha and each bus offers air-conditioning and fairly comfortable seating.
I have taken this bus ride a handful of times now and only ever ridden the Government Licensed Air-con Minibus which seats 13 people. You can purchase tickets at the Arcade Bus station which is located in the North-eastern part of Chiang Mai, make sure you arrive 30-45 minutes before departure time. The earlier you purchase your tickets, the better the seat options available as these buses can become crowded.
They usually chuck your backpack or suitcase on the large roof tray on top of the bus and cable tie it down, so don’t worry too much about the size of your luggage. I found this option cheap enough and fairly comfortable, just try not to sit at the back if you can help it!
Cost: Government minibus is 150 baht per person/ tourist minibus is 200 baht per person
Timeframe: 3-4 hours
You can check the timetable here for the Government minibus.
Return Bus from Pai to Chiang Mai
Minibusses run frequently from the Pai Bus Station and you can purchase your ticket in the same way as mentioned above, from the ticket counter for the same price as Chiang Mai to Pai. The local bus is less frequent but still available to book at the ticket counter in Pai.
You can check the timetable for your return journey here.
Local bus from Chiang Mai to Pai
There used to be a local bus that ran 4 times a day from Chiang Mai to Pai and only cost 75 baht per person. This looks as though it has ceased to run since 2017. If you are really trying to budget whilst travelling, you can always check to see if they have started the local bus again when you visit the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai.
Flight options to Pai
You can choose to fly from Chiang Mai to Pai as there is one flight option a day available from the Thai airline Kan Air. I have not had the privilege of taking this flight yet but I definitely think it’s a good option if you suffer badly from travel sickness but it is a very expensive option so you need to weigh this up if you’re on a budget. You should also consider timings as this will end up taking just the same amount of time, if not more than the bus when you include the jounrey to the airport, check in, security and boarding plus collecting your luggage at the other end.
When you arrive, Pai airport is a mere 1.5km from Central Pai so you can either take a taxi or choose to walk the 20 minutes’ if you’re brave enough.
Cost: approximately 2000 – 2500 baht
Timeframe: 25 minutes
You can book your flight here.
Motorbike riding Chiang Mai to Pai
An option is to rent a moped or motorbike from Chiang Mai and ride to Pai. Now, this option is not to be taken lightly as the roads and riders are not like they are in the western world. I have not ridden a motorbike via this route but have previously in both Thailand and Vietnam, and would suggest wearing a helmet and sturdy clothing and shoes. Read my tips on riding Vietnam by motorbike as they will apply similarly to Thailand.
Top tips when renting a motorbike in Thailand
- Take some photo ID with you (passport or driving license)
- Take photos of the bike for proof of condition
- Test ride the bike before signing any paperwork
- Choose a bike rental service that includes insurance
- Ask for a map to help you navigate your surroundings
- Haggle a good price which is usually easier to do the longer you need the bike for
Adventure in You recommends Tony’s Big Bikes in Chiang Mai as they offer motorbikes and mopeds in great condition and at a reasonable cost. This choice means enduring around 4 hours on the bike including breaks to devour some refreshments and have a stretch but the views will be breathtaking. Make sure you have space for your luggage and cable tie it down as the 762 sharp mountainous bends will not be kind to you or the bike if your luggage comes off!
Cost: this will depend on the duration and type of motorbike you choose to rent
Best Motorbike Route from Chiang Mai to Pai:
- From Chiang Mai head North towards the 107 road.
- Follow the signs for Mae Rim and then the signs for Pai – approximately 1 hour.
- Follow sign for 1095 to Pai
- Take a left turn and follow 1095 road until you reach Pai.
Regardless of the option you take when travelling to Pai from Chiang Mai, make sure you’re safe and use your common sense – but most of all have fun. Once you reach the wonderful village of Pai, relax and grab a cold beer.
Peace, Love and Happy Travels.