The route from Chiang Mai to Pai is filled with refreshing views of nature. You can tour along the new asphalt road and enjoy the hairpin turns while keeping your eyes on the beautiful scenery.
If you want to drive a motorbike in Thailand, this is the place to do it. However, a little driving experience is required as the drive will take 3-5 hours and the turns can be quite sharp.
If you never drove a bike before or are not too keen on driving yourself, you can also take the van, local bus or plane.
|3-5 hours||From 180 THB (€5)||Check article for more info|
|3 hours||200 THB (€6)||Check van tickets|
|4 hours||90 THB (€2,50)||No online tickets|
|1 hour||1.790 THB (€51)||No online tickets|
Option 1: Motorbike from Chiang Mai to Pai
Route: Chiang Mai Pai
Unique travel experience
Free to make multiple stops
Some incidents of motorbike theft scams
Not the safest option
Duration: 3 – 5 hours
Costs: From 180 THB incl insurance
A lot of travelers prefer renting a motorbike than taking the bus or van from Chiang Mai to Pai. Unlike being confined in the bus or van, driving a motorbike gives you the ultimate feeling of freedom.
With a motorbike, you can fully enjoy the beautiful scenery and make multiple stops along the way whenever you want. And you are likely going to enjoy the challenge of maneuvering through 762 twists and turns.
Aya Service and Tony’s Big Bikes are the 2 well-known motorbike rental shops in Chiang Mai. Both motorbike rental shops will help you with the directions.
Aya Service provides 9 different types of motorbikes, with the cheapest starting from 140 Bath (€4) plus 40 Bath (€1) for insurance. They have an office in Pai so they also allow a one-way rental for an extra charge of 300 THB (€8).
If you decide on a one-way rental, they can transport your luggage from Chiang Mai to Pai. It’s free if you only have one bag and the charge is 100 THB (€3) per additional bag.
Aya Service requires a down payment for the motorbike and the helmet they provide. The down payments are 2,000 THB (€53) and 100 THB (€3) respectively. The minimum rental period is 1 day.
Additionally, you will have to pick-up and return the motorbike at their office. For more information on the rental agreement, you can go to their website or pay their office a visit at Kamthiang Plaza 60-60/1 Srimonkol Rd., Chiang Mai.
Tony’s Big Bikes provides more high-end motorbike units. Expect to pay more for the rental, but rest assured that the motorbikes are in top-notch conditions.
If you are a motorbike enthusiast and prefer to travel this route in style, you should consider renting a motorbike from Tony’s Big Bikes. Their office is located along 17 Ratchamankha Rd., Chiang Mai and you can also reach them via their website.
Important Things to Remember When Renting a Motorbike
- You need an international or Thai driver’s license (motorbike category) in order to be permitted to drive a motorbike. Bring this with you at all times as this can also serve as your ID on random checkpoints along the road.
- Thai law mandates wearing a helmet. Make sure to wear your helmets at all times.
- Motorbikes have a full tank when you claim them from the shops but you are responsible for re-filling the fuel. Always be mindful of the fuel level so you don’t run out on the middle of a mountain.
- All vehicles bigger than a motorbike will always have priority. This means you have to give priority to buses, trucks vans or cars on the road and of course, always stay on the left side of the road.
- Always drive with care. Though driving through the turns can be exhilarating, tone down on the adrenaline and prioritize safety.
Tips: Though not common anymore, there have been cases of motorbike theft scams in the past where the renters themselves steal the motorbikes and demand that you pay for the stolen vehicle. Be smart about this and only rent from shops that have good reputations such as Aya Service and Tony’s Big Bikes.
Option 2: Van from Chiang Mai to Pai
Route: Chiang Mai Pai
Less leg room
Drivers tend to drive fast
Duration: 3 hours
Costs: 200 THB (€6)
There are two types of vans heading from Chiang Mai to Pai. One is the van operated by Prem Pracha (government-operated) and the other vans are operated by various local travel agencies.
Government-operated vans depart from the Arcade Bus Station, northeast of the Old City. They have 12 departures daily between the hours of 6:30 and 17:30. Travel time is about 3 hours.
You can either head to the bus station directly and pay for your ride before boarding the van or book online for 200 THB (€6). See the schedules below:
|Prem Pracha||Every hour from 6:30 to 17:30||3h||200 THB (€6)|
- Departs from the Arcade Bus Station, 5km northeast of the Old City
- Arrives at the Pai Bus Station in the city center
Prem Precha is a well-known and trusted transport company for this route. However, some travelers complain their drivers tend to drive too fast.
Vans Operated by Local Travel Agencies
There are also vans operated by local travel agencies that can take you from Chiang Mai to Pai. The two main differences from the government-operated van are that they provide pick-up service and they charge a slightly higher fee per person.
Expect to pay somewhere from 180 THB (€5) to 200 THB (€5,50) including pick-up. If you don’t want to exert the effort to go to the bus station in Chiang Mai then this option is best for you.
Tip: Because of the endless number of turns on this route, many people suffer from motion sickness. Take an anti-motion sickness tablet before making this trip to prevent this internal rollercoaster.
Option 3: Local Bus from Chiang Mai to Pai
Route: Chiang Mai Pai
Most buses are not air-conditioned
Duration: 4 hours
Costs: 90 THB (€2,40)
Taking the local bus is a good option for those who wish to travel on a budget. A one-way bus ticket only costs 90 THB (€2,40). Local buses are not air-conditioned so don’t be surprised if you experience an airy bus ride. The good thing is, an open window bus ride helps to alleviate motion sickness caused by the many bends along this route.
Taking the bus isn’t really that bad but it is slightly slower than taking a van or renting a motorbike. Buses depart Chiang Mai at 7:00, 8:30, 10:30, 12:30 and 16:00. You can pay for the ticket just before you board the bus at the designated ticket counter. The bus will make at least one toilet break halfway through the journey.
Buses depart from the Arcade Bus Station which is located northeast of the old city. You may have to hire a taxi or a tuk-tuk. The taxi or tuk-tuk ride from the old city to the bus station takes about 20 minutes.
Bear in mind that Pai is only a stopover for most of the buses as buses usually head further on to Mae Hong Son. You can get down at the Pai Bus Station in the center or at the bus’ designated stop in Pai.
Option 4: Flight from Chiang Mai to Pai
Route: Chiang Mai Pai
Beautiful view from the top
Flight schedules are not fixed
Duration: 1 hour
Costs: 1.790 THB (€51)
Kan Airlines operates a few flights from Chiang Mai to Pai, but they recently suspended their operations temporarily. No further notice has been given as to when they will resume flights for this route.
There is, however, a new airline that operates chartered flights for this route. A one-way flight starts at 1.790 THB (€51). For more information, you can visit CNX P&P Travel Agency along Thapae Road, a few minutes walk from Tha Pae Gate or you can visit their official website.