Pai is a favourite among nature lovers and the landscapes are filled with canyons, caves, mountains and excellent hiking trails. If you’re interested in water activities, there are several waterfalls and hot springs to visit, and you can also go white water rafting and river-tubing. Feeling acrobatic? There is even a circus school for those looking to try something a little different.
The town of Pai is very easy to explore by foot and the main route is even excluded from traffic in the evening. On this street, you will find lots of bars with live bands, small shops, and many food stands where you can try some Asian dishes (including Sushi).
When travelling the 130km distance from Chiang Mai to Pai, you have 2 options: you can take the van for 3 hours ($6.50) or take the public bus for 4 hours ($3). Alternatively, you can also rent a motorbike and drive this scenic journey in about 3-4 hours.
If you are an experienced motorbike driver, we highly recommend driving a motorbike from Chiang Mai to Pai. It is a very liberating and scenic journey, but can be dangerous for non-experienced drivers.
Another good option is to take a 3-hour van ride. Note though that the many twists and turns from Chiang Mai to Pai can be nauseating. It’s best to drink an anti-motion sickness medicine beforehand so you can enjoy the ride.
The public bus is the cheapest but slowest option. The journey can take at least 4 hours, but it’s a nice way to travel like a local.
Note that there also used to be an option to take a flight from Chiang Mai to Pai with Wisdom Airways, but this company has ceased its operations.
Many travellers choose to rent a motorbike to drive the scenic road from Chiang Mai to Pai. Driving a motorbike gives you the ultimate feeling of freedom and the opportunity to fully take in the beautiful scenery along the way.
Keep in mind that some driving experience is required. Maneuvering through the 762 twists and turns along this route can be a lot of fun, but also a challenge for less experienced drivers.
Where to rent a motorbike?
Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai, Aya Service and Tony’s Big Bikes are the 3 well-known motorbike rental shops in Chiang Mai. These shops will offer you directions and safety tips for the journey.
Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai
We had a very good experience when we rented a motorbike with Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai. They have a very courteous staff and they let you know which bike is best for you, your budget, and your destination.
Depending on which model you choose, bike prices range from 99 THB ($2.70) to 300 THB ($8).
You can check out their website or visit their shop at Somphet Gold Place, 70/20, Chaiyapoom Rd., Chiang Mai.
Aya Service – Motorbike Rental
Aya Service provides 9 different types of motorbikes, with the cheapest starting at 140 THB ($3.80) plus 40 THB ($1.05) for insurance. However, the availability of these bikes is mostly very limited so you likely end up paying higher prices.
If you prefer to only drive one-way, they also have an office in Pai so you can drop off the motorbike when you arrive. They charge an extra 300 THB ($8) for the one-way journey, including luggage transport to Pai. One bag is free and there is a charge of 100 THB ($2.70) for each additional bag.
Note that Aya Service requires down payments for the motorbike, (2,000 THB ($54)), and the helmet, (100 THB ($2.70)), they provide.
You are required to pick-up and return the motorbike at their offices and there is a minimum rental period of 1 day.
For more information on the rental agreement, you can go to their website or visit their office at Kamthiang Plaza 60-60/1 Srimonkol Rd., Chiang Mai.
Own experience: Although they offer bike rental for low prices, the staff can be rude and don’t be surprised if you have to wait for 30min or longer before they help you. Also, pay attention to the condition of the bike and make a small test ride on their parking lot to check brakes, etc.
Tony’s Big Bikes – Motorbike Rental
Tony’s Big Bikes provides higher-end motorbikes. While they are a bit more expensive, they are in top-notch condition and may provide a more comfortable drive from Chiang Mai to Pai.
If you are a motorbike enthusiast and prefer to travel this route in style, it’s time to visit Tony’s Big Bikes and see their rental offers. Their office is located along 17 Ratchamankha Rd., Chiang Mai.
Important Things to Remember When Renting a Motorbike
You are required to have an international or Thai driver’s license (motorbike category) to drive a motorbike in Thailand. Be sure to have this document with you at all times. This can also serve as your ID at random checkpoints along the road.
Thai law mandates wearing a helmet at all times while operating a motorbike.
The fuel tank will be full when you pick up the motorbike and you are required to fill it up again prior to returning it. Be sure to check the fuel level throughout your trip so you don’t run out along the mountain roads.
All vehicles larger than a motorbike will always have priority on the road. You may need to pull over to the side to allow buses, trucks, vans or cars to pass. Always stay on the left side of the road.
Drive with care. The twists and turns along this route can be exhilarating but be sure to tone down the adrenaline and prioritize safety. This can be a very dangerous road if you are not careful.
Tips: There have been cases of motorbike theft scams in the past where the renters themselves steal the motorbikes and then demand that you pay for the stolen vehicle. Be sure to only rent from reputable shops such as Bamboo Bikes, Aya Service or Tony’s Big Bikes.
Chiang Mai to Pai by Van
Duration: 3 hours
Cost: 195 THB ($5)
Duration: 3 hours
Cost: 195 THB ($5)
If you don’t feel like driving a bike, the best option to get from Chiang Mai to Pai is by van.
There are two types of vans heading from Chiang Mai to Pai, government-operated vans managed by Prem Precha and vans operated by various local travel agencies.
Tip: Because of the endless number of turns on this route, many people suffer from motion sickness. Be sure to have your anti-motion sickness tablet with you, we suggest taking one before you depart to ensure a comfortable trip.
The government-operated vans depart from the Arcade Bus Station, northeast of the Old City.
You can head to the bus station directly and pay for your ride before boarding the van or book online in advance for 195 THB ($5).
Departs from the Arcade Bus Station, 5km northeast of the Old City
Arrives at the Pai Bus Station in the city centre
Prem Precha is a well-known and trusted transport company for this route. However, some travellers complain that drivers drive too fast. The road is full of hairpin turns and it can be quite scary so be sure to wear your seat belt at all times.
Departs from Mcdonald’s along Kotchasarn Road, 4km east of Old City
Arrives at Pai Terminal Green Office in city centre
Departs from Aya Service along Srimongkol Road, 5km east of Old City
Arrives at Aya Service Office along Chalsongkram Road in the city centre
Chiang Mai to Pai by Vans via Local Travel Agencies
There are several vans operated by local travel agencies that can also take you from Chiang Mai to Pai.
Expect to pay about 185 THB ($5) up to 200 THB ($5). Most of these buses include pick-up at your hotel.
Chiang Mai to Pai by Public Bus
Duration: 4 hours
Cost: 90 THB ($2.45)
Duration: 4 hours
Cost: 90 THB ($2.45)
Taking the local bus is a good option for those who want to save a few bucks. A one-way bus ticket costs just 90 THB ($2.45). Local buses are not air-conditioned, but the windows do open to allow a breeze through the bus, this also helps to alleviate motion sickness.
Taking the local bus isn’t too bad but it is a bit slower than taking a van. The bus will make at least one bathroom break halfway through the journey.
Buses depart Chiang Mai at 07:00, 08:30, 10:30, 12:30 and 16:00. You can pay for the ticket at the designated ticket counter prior to boarding the bus.
Buses depart from the Arcade Bus Station which is located northeast of the old city. You may need to hire a taxi or a tuk-tuk to get there, this journey should only take about 20 minutes.
Rustic, surrounded by nature and a private bungalow... it doesn’t get any better than this! The Pai Yard Guesthouse is surrounded by lush greenery, gardens, and stunning views. The spacious bungalows offer privacy and your own deck for relaxing on. There are a barbeque and terrace here for guests to enjoy and the excellent mountain views are the perfect way to end your afternoon.
Fantastic location, just 300m from the Pai Night Market, The Nest house is the perfect choice for travelers. Breakfast is included with your stay and there is a shared kitchen for guests to use as well as a beautiful garden for relaxing. Take in the stunning scenery from your accommodations or take a short walk across the beautiful Bamboo bridge into the center of Pai.
Peace, quiet, serenity and the most beautiful, relaxing surroundings you can find, the Pai Princess Resort is one of the most amazing places to stay when visiting the area. Just a short 500m walk to the Night Market, restaurants, shopping and bars, it’s also a perfect location. Breakfast is included with your stay and each room is equipped with a private patio.