Want to know how to get from Pai to Chiang Rai? 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 Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is a great place to escape from the more touristic Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Home to the iconic Wat Rong Khun or White Temple, this city is a fusion of two countries that captured and recaptured Chiang Rai for centuries: Thailand and Myanmar.
Adventurers will not run out of amazing things to do in Chiang Rai. With its lush green mountain landscape, you can hike or trek to a number of hot springs and waterfalls. Within the city, you can find interesting shopping finds and traditional Thai food at the lively street market and night bazaars.
2 ways to get from Pai to Chiang Rai
There are two ways to travel the distance of 300 km (186 miles) from Pai to Chiang Rai: by bus + minivan (combined tickets) (8h55m) and bus + minivan (separate tickets) (6h20m-7h55m). The journey takes between 6h20m - 8h55m 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).
Pai to Chiang Rai by Bus + Minivan (Separate tickets)
Starts from: 435 THB ($12.00)
Cost: 435 THB ($12.00)
Booking separate bus and minivan tickets for the Pai to Chiang Rai route can be a really good option, especially if you want to have a little trip in Chiang Mai or want to save some bucks.
The total travel duration for this option is 6.5-8 hours, excluding the transfer time. The combined fare starts at 435 THB ($12.00).
There are multiple trips per day so best to align your schedules. We have provided a step-by-step guide below.
Step 1: Pai to Chiang Mai by Minivan
Duration: 3-4 hours
Costs: 210 THB ($5.50)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Costs: 210 THB ($5.50)
To travel from Pai to Chiang Mai, you can take a minivan for the first leg of the journey. There are also buses, but we don’t recommend this as the road is full of hairpin turns. This can be an unpleasant journey in a larger vehicle.
In travelling from Pai to Chiang Mai, we recommend booking with either Prempracha or Aya Service. There are multiple trips daily from 07:00 until 17:00. The ticket starts at 210 THB ($5.50) and the travel duration takes 3-4 hours.
Prempracha buses depart from Pai Bus Station in the city centre, near Pai Walking Street. Its final stop is at the Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade Bus Station). Beside this terminal is the bus station where you can take a bus bound for Chiang Rai.
On the other hand, Aya Service departs from Aya Service Office in Pai and completes its journey at Srimongkol Road. This road is just a 5-minute drive from the Chiang Mai city centre.
Bus + Minivan (Separate tickets) options from Pai to Chiang Rai
We recommend travelling this route during the day due to the curvy roads and poor lighting in the evening. Also, keep in mind that drivers manoeuvre this trip twice a day and might drive extremely fast, which can make it a scary journey.
Tip: If you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to take some anti-motion sickness pills for the first part of the journey from Pai to Chiang Mai.
Pai to Chiang Rai by Bus + Minivan (Combined tickets)
Starts from: 510 THB ($14.00)
Cost: 510 THB ($14.00)
The advantage of booking a combined ticket is that you won’t worry about missing out on tickets for the next part of your journey. The disadvantage is that there are very limited seats, so you have to book tickets well in advance.
There used to be a direct trip from Pai to Chiang Rai operated by Terminal Green. However, the last time we checked (October 2022), this direct trip has been unavailable since the pandemic.
Instead, you can book combined bus and minivan tickets in 12GoAsia for 510 THB ($14.00). The whole travel takes about 9 hours, which includes the 1-hour layover time.
The combined tickets from Pai to Chiang Rai are offered by Prempracha and Green Bus companies. There is only one trip per day departing at 09:00 in the morning.
Departure and arrival station
The minivan departs from the Pai Bus Station beside the Pai Night Market in the city centre. The minivan takes you to Chiang Mai Arcade 2. At this station, you will need to self-transfer to the connecting bus heading for Chiang Rai, located in the nearby Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3.
Note that this is a self-connect trip and you have to wait for about an hour for the next departure going to Chiang Rai. The final bus stop is at Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1. From this terminal, you can reach the Chang Rai city centre in just a 5-minute ride.
*Self-connect trip and includes a 1-hour transfer time
If tickets are sold out, you can also ask a local travel agency in Pai for a connecting trip. Some companies cover the entire route from Pai to Chiang Rai, which means you don’t need to switch or book two different buses.
If you really want to treat yourself, Mora Boutique Hotel is the place to do that. You can go for a relaxing swim in the beautiful swimming pool or chill in the huge bathtub in your own room. This is where we’d spend most of our time!
There’s a great onsite gym, free bicycles and a complimentary breakfast — essentially anything you could possibly need from a hotel. And if you need something else, the staff are more than willing to help.
A day of temple hopping can be exhausting, and there’s nothing better than coming back to a comfortable and luxurious room. Sooknirund Hotel is the epitome of luxury. The uniquely designed clock-themed rooms come with robes and incredibly comfortable beds.
There’s also a wonderful courtyard surrounded by plants for you to relax in too. But you won’t have to walk far to get back to the hotel, as it’s situated in the perfect location in Chiang Rai.
Sleepy House is simply beautiful. Stepping into one of their rooms instantly puts you at ease just because of the way they’re designed. They’re clean, modern and spacious, with a cat theme.
The house has resident cats that are super friendly and loving. It’s hard to beat the location of Sleepy House. You’ll be within walking distance of a number of Chiang Rai’s top sites. Plus, their cutely packaged free breakfasts are great at filling you up for a day of exploring.
Not many budget accommodations in Chiang Rai come with a swimming pool, but Na Na Doo Homestay has a small but beautiful outdoor pool. This is a great place to stay if you’re a family. There’s plenty of space for the kids to run around and even rabbits to play with.
The rooms are clean and spacious, and the staff are always there to help. It’s impossible not to smile when you see their smiling faces! A delicious free breakfast is served every morning.
Just a 1-minute walk to the Clock Tower and a 2-minute walk to the Night Market, Kanlaya Place is all about location!
The rooms are spacious and very clean, offering a good night’s sleep after a day of temple hopping. The staff are very friendly and there to help with anything you could need. There is a 2-night minimum stay.
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.