Want to know how to get from Chiang Rai to Pai? In this post, we’ll share a summary of the two ways to get there and compare each option on duration, costs and level of comfort. For each option, we go into more detail to help you decide which transport provider to book with and where to buy your tickets.
What to expect when visiting Pai
Pai is a backpacker’s paradise in the North of Thailand. It boasts a laidback hippie vibe that makes you want to slow down and explore at a relaxed pace. If you ride a motorbike, you’ll have a great time driving through its winding roads backdropped by lush greens everywhere you look.
For a small town, there are a lot of exciting things you can do in Pai. You can enjoy spectacular views from Pai Canyon and the White Buddha, explore the bamboo Boon Ko Ku So Bridge, trek to hot springs and waterfalls, and go white water rafting or river tubing. When the sun sets, Pai’s quiet streets come alive with music, dance, and a vibrant night market.
2 ways to get from Chiang Rai to Pai
There are two ways to travel the distance of 300 km (186 miles) from Chiang Rai to Pai: by bus + minivan (combined tickets) (8h50m) and bus + minivan (separate tickets) (6h20m-8h45m). The journey takes between 6h20m - 8h50m and the quickest way is by bus + minivan (separate tickets). The lowest priced tickets start from 435 THB ($12.00) for the bus + minivan (separate tickets).
Chiang Rai to Pai by Bus + Minivan (Separate tickets)
Starts from: 435 THB ($12.00)
Cost: 435 THB ($12.00)
Another option is to book separate minivan and bus tickets for the Chiang Rai to Pai route. You will also have to make a stop at Chiang Mai. The only difference is that you will have to take care of your next transfer upon arrival and time it accordingly so that you don’t miss your connecting bus.
Booking separate tickets from Chiang Rai to Pai allows a later departure and is even slightly cheaper than the combined trip. The travel duration for this option is 6.5-8 hours excluding the transfer time.
There are several trips per day so make sure you align your schedules. We have provided a step-by-step guide below for the separate booking.
Step 1: Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai by Bus
Costs: 225 THB ($6.00)
Costs: 225 THB ($6.00)
Green Bus is one of the most popular bus companies on the Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai route. This company offers several trips from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai daily, with several departures from 08:30 to 16:00.
We recommend booking a morning bus for the trip to Chiang Mai, so you can continue the journey in the afternoon from Chiang Mai to Pai. The bus fares start at 225 THB ($6.00) and the journey takes about 3.5-4 hours.
Prempracha and Aya Service are the two well-known companies that operate on this route. There are multiple trips per day. The earliest departure is 06:30 in the morning and the latest is at 17:30.
Upon arrival at Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3, you can take a 5-minute walk from the terminal to reach Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade Bus Terminal) if your connecting minivan is booked with Prempracha. Head to the minivan parking area to find the next minivan leaving for Pai.
On the other hand, if your connecting trip is booked with Aya Service, you can take a 10-minute taxi ride from the terminal going to Srimongkol Road to board the minivan going to Pai.
From Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3, you need to switch bus stations and proceed to Chiang Mai Arcade 2 to board the Green Bus heading to Pai. These two bus stations are just a 5-minute walk from each other.
Note that you have to wait for about 1 hour for the next departure going to Pai. The final bus stop is at Pai Bus Station. From this terminal, you can reach Pai city centre in 5 minutes by taxi.
*Self-connect trip and includes 1-hour transfer time
In case tickets are sold out, you can also check with the local travel agency in Chiang Rai for a connecting trip. Some companies cover the entire route from Chiang Rai to Pai, which means you don’t need to switch or book two different buses.
It’s hard to believe the price of this place. Having your own cottage with a private balcony and hammock, yet it’s still a budget option! The cosy cottages boast thatched roofs and traditional wooden furnishings.
Set amongst a tropical landscape, you’d never know that you’re only 100 metres from the lively Pai Walking Street. You’re also only a short walk from Pai River. And as if it couldn’t get better, a delicious breakfast is included in the price.
Pai Village Boutique Resort is one of the most popular places to stay in Pai. It’s pretty easy to see why! There’s a beautiful swimming pool, flourishing gardens, an incredible onsite restaurant and even a Koi pond for you to sit and relax around.
The rooms vary from luxury wooden bungalows with private balconies to huge rooms designed with every little detail in mind. This is the kind of place that you don’t want to leave.
Amazing onsite restaurant
Exceptional free breakfast
Private rooms start from $82 per night.
Frequently Asked Questions about Chiang Rai to Pai
What is the distance from Chiang Rai to Pai?
The distance from Chiang Rai to Pai is 300 km (186 miles).
What is the fastest way to get from Chiang Rai to Pai?
The fastest way to get from Chiang Rai to Pai is by bus + minivan (separate tickets) and takes 6h20m-8h45m.
What is the cheapest way to get from Chiang Rai to Pai?
The cheapest way to get from Chiang Rai to Pai is by bus + minivan (separate tickets) with ticket costs starting from 435 THB ($12.00).
Rounding it up
We hope this guide was helpful in planning how to get from Chiang Rai to Pai. If there's anything else you're wondering about, drop us a comment and we'll do our best to answer you within a few days.
PS: If you've recently travelled this route, share your experience with fellow travellers and help us improve this post. Thanks for helping out our travel community!
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.