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).
The distance from Chiang Mai to Pai is 130 km (80 miles). In this post, we compare the 2 options to travel from Chiang Mai to Pai: by motorbike (3-4 hours),or by minivan (3-4.5 hours). Ticket prices range from 100 THB ($2.75) to 210 THB ($5.50).
If you are an experienced motorbike driver, we recommend renting and driving a motorbike from Chiang Mai to Pai. It is a liberating and scenic journey, but be aware that it can be dangerous for non-experienced drivers. The travel time takes 3-4 hours and rent starts at 100 THB ($2.75).
Another good option is to take a 3-4.5 hours minivan ride starting at 210 THB ($5.50). Note that the many twists and turns from Chiang Mai to Pai can be nauseating.
Wisdom Airways used to offer flights from Chiang Mai to Pai, but they stopped operating since the pandemic. The last time we checked (October 2022), their flights are still unavailable, as well as the public buses on this route.
Many travellers choose to rent a motorbike to drive the scenic road from Chiang Mai to Pai. Driving a motorbike on this road gives you the ultimate feeling of freedom and the opportunity to fully take in the beautiful scenery along the way.
Motorbike rental fee starts at 100 THB ($2.75) per day and the ride takes 3-4 hours.
Keep in mind that driving experience is required. Manoeuvring 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 and Aya Service are the 2 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 100 THB ($2.75) to 250 THB ($6.50).
You can check Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai website or visit their shop at Somphet Gold Place, 70/20, Chaiyapoom Rd, Mueang, Chiang Mai. Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai shop is open from 08:00 in the morning until 19:00 in the evening.
Aya Service provides 5 different types of motorbikes, with the cheapest starting at 140 THB ($3.85) plus 80 THB ($2.20) 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 ($2.75) for each additional bag.
Note that Aya Service requires a deposit for the motorbike which costs 2,000 THB ($55), and a deposit for the helmet for 100 THB ($2.75).
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 the Aya Service website or visit their office at Kamthiang Plaza 60-60/1 Srimonkol Rd., Chiang Mai. Aya Service is open 24 hours.
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 30 minutes 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.
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, minivans, 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 and Aya Service.
Aside from the different motorbike rental hire places you can book with. You can also try checking for a motorbike rental at your hostel in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai to Pai by Minivan
Duration: 3-4.5 hours
Cost: 210 THB ($5.50)
Duration: 3-4.5 hours
Cost: 210 THB ($5.50)
If you don’t feel like driving a bike, the best option to get from Chiang Mai to Pai is by minivan. The trip takes 3-4.5 hours and fares start at 210 THB ($5.50).
There are two types of minivans heading from Chiang Mai to Pai, government-operated minivans managed by Prempracha Transport and minivans operated by local travel agencies like Aya Service.
There are multiple departures daily from 06:30 in the morning until 17:30 in the evening.
Departure station in Chiang Mai
The Prempracha minivans depart from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade Bus Station), located 5km northeast of the Old City. On the other hand, Aya Service departs from Srimongkol Road which is 5km east of Old City.
These bus terminals are easily accessible by either a songthaew, taxi, or by Grab. Coming from the Chiang Mai Old City, it will just take a 15-minute ride to reach either departure point.
Prempracha minivans arrive at the Pai Bus Station within the city centre. Meanwhile, Aya Service’s last stop is at Aya Service Office along Chalsongkram Road also within Pai city centre.
Tip: Because of the endless number of turns on this route, some people suffer from motion sickness. Be sure to have your anti-motion sickness tablet with you.
Prempreacha 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.
Be sure to plan ahead and book tickets in advance. Tickets can be difficult to get or even sell out during the peak season from November to February.
Rustic, endless nature and a cosy bungalow... it doesn’t get much better than this! Pai Yard Guesthouse feels like a jungle retreat surrounded by nothing but greenery and stunning views. The spacious bungalows offer privacy and your own deck to really appreciate these views. There's also a barbeque and terrace for guests to enjoy - a perfect way to end your day.
If you want to be at the centre of the action, you can't get a much better location than here. The Nest House is only 300m from Pai Night Market. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, you won't even realise you're this close. Every morning you can sit on your private terrace, enjoying your delicious breakfast, and take in the quietness.
Peace, tranquility and serenity are what Pai Princess Resort is all about. Every room has their own private balcony with a hammock. Sit back and admire the mountain views as the sun rises. A tasty breakfast is also included in your stay, made by the incredibly friendly owners.