Chiang Mai is northern Thailand’s largest city. It is well-known for its local foods, Thai culture and historical sites. When visiting Chiang Mai be sure to check out the amazing night market for Thai cuisine, local fare, and handmade souvenirs.
Kao Soi noodles, also known as Chiang Mai noodles, are a favourite in this area and we recommend trying this dish while there. You can also check out one of the many ethical elephant sanctuaries or make a trip into the mountains to meet the local long neck tribes of Chiang Mai.
The distance from Pai to Chiang Mai is 130 km (80 miles). In this post, we compare the 2 options to travel from Pai to Chiang Mai: by motorbike (3-4 hours),or by minivan (3-4 hours). Ticket prices range from 100 THB ($3) to 210 THB ($6).
If you’re skillful in driving a motorbike, we suggest renting a motorbike and driving at your own pace from Pai to Chiang Mai. This is a very scenic route that is best enjoyed with the wind blowing on your face. The travel time usually takes 3-4 hours and the rental fee starts at 100 THB ($3).
If you are not into that kind of adventure, you can comfortably ride a minivan. Fare starts at 210 THB ($6) for the 3-4 hours of minivan ride from Pai to Chiang Mai.
Wisdom Airways used to offer flights from Pai to Chiang Mai, but they stopped operating because of the pandemic. The last time we checked (October 2022), their flights are still unavailable, as well as the public buses on this route.
For Motorbike rental in Pai, unfortunately, we don’t have any recommendations.
Important Things to Remember When Renting a Motorbike
You need an international or Thai driver’s license (motorbike category) to drive a motorbike in Thailand. Keep this document with you at all times as this can also serve as your ID at random checkpoints along the road.
Be sure to wear your helmet at all times, for safety purposes and to obey Thai laws.
Motorbikes have a full tank of fuel when you pick them up from the shops and you are required to return them with a full tank.
Be mindful of the fuel level throughout the journey so that you don’t run out in the middle of the mountains.
All vehicles larger than a motorbike have priority. This means you have to give way to buses, trucks, minivans, and cars along the road. Always stay on the left side of the road.
Always drive with care. Driving through the twists and turns can be exhilarating and fun, but be sure to tone down on the adrenaline and prioritize safety.
Pai to Chiang Mai by Minivan
Duration: 3-4 hours
Cost: 210 THB ($6)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Cost: 210 THB ($6)
Although there are several local buses in Pai, it is not easy to find a bus departing from Pai to Chiang Mai. We suggest taking a minivan for the 3-4 hours of journey.
Government-regulated Prempracha offers hourly minivan trips starting at 07:00 until 17:00. A seat costs 215 THB ($6.50). Aya Service also offers trips every other hour from 08:31 to 15:30 for 210 THB ($6).
Departure and arrival stations
The Prempracha minivans depart from Pai Bus Station which is located within the city centre of Pai. On the other hand, the Aya Service minivan departs from Aya Service Office along Chalsongkram Road.
Prempracha and Aya Service are both well-known companies for the Pai to Chiang Mai route. However, some travellers have complained that their drivers tend to drive too fast.
Tip: Due to the endless number of turns along the Pai to Chiang Mai route, many people suffer from motion sickness. We recommend taking an anti-motion sickness tablet before making this trip to prevent any queasiness.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.
Abby is a writer who finds joy in mountains, beaches, and road trips. She considers her solo backpacking trip to the rice terraces of Bontoc one of the most fulfilling moments in her life. She’s loyal to the islands of her home country, the Philippines, but Thailand’s beaches also have a special place in her heart.