It is estimated that there are over 700 turns on the hair-raising journey from Chiang Mai to Pai. With that being said, every veer on the mountainous journey is well worth the end destination. Pai is slowly but surely becoming one of the top cities to visit in all of Thailand. Between the delicious food scene, the mountainous landscapes, and the chilled out vibe, it is easy to see why. Do not miss out on visiting this gem of a city in the Kingdom, and make your journey here with ease thanks to our complete transportation guide to Pai!
Chiang Mai to Pai Transportation
There are several ways in which to get to Pai from Chiang Mai. Pai is found about 135 kilometers northwest of Chiang Mai. Though some would argue it is worth the risk, we do not recommend that you make this journey by motorbike. The winding roads are subpar at best, and drivers rarely seem to abide by the rules of the road, including keeping on the left-hand side or speed limits, for example. Save yourself the hassle and instead travel from Chiang Mai to Pai by car, bus, or plane.
Please note: all prices are average rates, updated July 2018
Bus from Chiang Mai to Pai
Though the four-hour bus ride can be brutal (especially if you are prone to getting car sick), this is by far one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get to Pai. The cost of most minibus services is ฿200 (about $6) per person. You can pay an additional ฿50 (about $1.50) charge to pick you up directly from your accommodation option.
AYA is a popular bus service that runs from Chiang Mai to Pai. It runs 11 times a day and starts running at 7 a.m. The last bus is at 5:30 p.m. It is well-known around town for being reliable, and you can bring one free piece of luggage, which is included in the cost of a ticket. Any additional luggage can be stored in the AYA office for ฿100 a day or transferred to Pai. It depends on the bag’s size and space availability! Prepare for some sick (pun intended) turns and maybe bring a puke bag, just to be safe.
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Fly from Chiang Mai to Pai
A flight from Chiang Mai to Pai is only about 30 minutes in length. For those of you with baht to blow or simply cannot handle being in a minibus for those 700 and something turns, this may be the best way to get here. Kan Air runs three times a week from Chiang Mai to Pai and vice versa. You would land at Pai (Mae Hong Son) PYY Airport. It is only a five-minute drive from the city center of Pai and will depart from the Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).
Drive from Chiang Mai to Pai
If you are traveling in a group, hiring a private car to get to Pai from Chiang Mai is a good transportation option. Hiring out a car and driver will normally cut your total trip time down by about an hour, if not more as you can stop and go as you please. Prices start at about ฿1,000 (about $30). Cars can also be rented out, which you can inquire about at the Chiang Mai airport or other companies, such as AVIS Thailand. Renting a car will cost around ฿1,600 (about $50) a day. While expensive, you can enjoy having the freedom to take your time and stop whenever you like. It is also way more comfortable!
How to Get Around Pai
There are multiple ways to get around this little mountain town. Whether you are more active, wanting to be as efficient as possible, or simply looking for the cheapest way to get to your destination, we have got you covered. We have outlined each possible mode of transportation to make getting from point A to point B easier!
Get Around Via Bicycle
If you are wanting to see picturesque Pai at your own pace and sneak in some cardio while you are at it, then renting a bicycle is the perfect way to get around town. Bicycles can be rented all along Walking Street, and it is only about ฿50 (about $1.50) for 24 hours of cycling. Be wary that while getting a bicycle is one of the easiest ways to get around the city center, a quick ride just ten minutes outside of it will have you facing hill after hill. Because of this, prepare to sweat and wear breathable clothing before taking to your bike. You should also try out the breaks of a bicycle before renting it.
Or Electric Bicycle
If you want to have the freedom of getting on and off a bicycle but without the workout, rent an electric bicycle! Renting an electric bicycle actually costs more than a motorbike, but it is also better for the environment and not as dangerous because they do not go as fast. Electric bicycles can be rented from the shop right next to Sawasdee Pai Yoga in the city center.
Pai Motorbike Rental
There are few places in Thailand that offer better scenery to motorbike through than Pai. Cruising through the rolling, green hills is an adventure in itself. There are many places to rent motorbikes, especially along the main walking street in town. Prices are generally between ฿100 and ฿250 for an automatic motorbike. With such affordable rental and fuel prices, motorbiking through this lush paradise is ideal. Not only will you easily reach those fairly distant places like the caves and epic viewpoints, but you’ll save money opting out of the day tours. If you do decide to rent a bike to go on day trips outside the main town center, make sure to get a more powerful bike (at least 125cc) to climb those mountains Pai is famous for!
Mad Monkey Insider Tips
Whenever renting motorbikes, it is always a good idea to photograph any dings, scratches, and dents on your bike so they don’t charge you for damages when you return it. Most places don’t check for an international license or Thai license, but it is still important that you have one or the other. It’s illegal to drive in Thailand without a license and police may ticket you if you get pulled over. You should also make sure that you have travel insurance and that you wear a helmet when you ride. Thailand is second in the world for road fatalities per capita, evident in the bandages you will see many travelers brandishing in Pai. Check your insurance to make sure motorbiking is covered; even if it is, you will not be covered if you ride without a license or helmet. Safety first!
Getting Around on Foot
The majority of Pai is accessible on foot. You can venture to any one of the best restaurants and cafes in town found within the city center without renting any form of transportation. The Pai River, main bus station in Pai, Walking Street, and more are all within walking distance of one another. Pai also has a milder climate because of its northern location, making it a bit cooler and (for the most part) bearable to explore on foot. Nothing ruins a day of exploration like some blisters, so be sure to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes! There are free water refill stations around town, as well, so be sure to bring your reusable water bottle around with you for an incredible day of exploration around the city of Pai.
Taxis are not as relatively available in Pai as they are in other major cities around Thailand. You will not be able to order Grab or Uber while in the northern city, but most of the nightlife venues are within walking distance of one another. The city is relatively safe after dark, but be sure to try to make the walk home in the evening with a few friends in tow.
More Information About Pai
Did you love this article about Pai? Do you want more information on how to travel this incredible, Northern Thai city? Then be sure to check out these articles we have rounded up for your reading and traveling pleasure! We only recommend blogs and articles that we love ourselves, as well. Enjoy!
- 10 Tips for Travel to Pai, Thailand for One Modern Couple
- Pai Transportation Guide for Mae Hong Son
- Pai 2018 Destination Guide for Go To Thailand
- Getting Around in Pai, Thailand for Lonely Planet