How to get to Pai from Chiang Mai

To those who have been up north of Thailand would have been familiar with places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. There is this small province which is a few hours away from Chiang Mai which is starting to get traction by tourist all around the world. This is no other than Pai!

Pai is located 146km north-west of Chiang Mai making it an interesting stop over for those who are travelling to Chiang Mai. It is a pretty small town with only 2,284 population (based on 2006 figures). Just to give you a rough idea how small the place is.

4 out of 5 travellers I met when I was travelling told me how much they love Pai and that includes me as well. The fact that it is small makes it an ideal place for backpackers to chill out. Perfect getaway from the city. You can read more on things to do in Pai. So the question is, how do I get there?

How to get there?

You can easily reach Pai through Chiang Mai since it is only 146km away. In term of getting there, there are many options you can choose from depending on your travel style and budget. I took a mini van which i pre-booked through my hostel. Not the cheapest way but the most convenient way I would say.

Here are some alternatives you would want to consider on your upcoming trip to Pai:

Get To Pai by minivan

Minivan is the most commonly used transport mode to Pai. The entire journey takes approximately 3 to 4 hours depending on the driver. Do note that the road is windy so get a bag in advance if you get car sick easily. The minivan cost around 150 to 180 baht which leaves a couple of times each day.

It would be cheaper if you book directly from Aya tour services as compared to booking through your hostel which usually involves a slight markup in pricing (usually 20 to 40 baht range). If you want to save the hassle of looking for the tour agency office, you may consider paying that additional sum in which they will pick you up from your office directly.

In terms of booking, the minivan travels pretty frequently in which I book few hours before it departs. But to be on the safe side, would be good to book in advance.

Here is the website of Aya: http://www.ayaservice.com/

Get to Pai by Public Bus

If you want to travel there like how locals do, public bus might be a viable option. It cost lesser too at approximately 90 baht but it comes with a downside of course. It has no air conditioning and it might take a longer time to get there depending on the traffic

You can catch a bus from Arcade Bus Stattion in Chiang Mai which is located in the northeastern part of Chiang Mai. You will probably need a taxi or Songthaew to get there but you can always opt to walk there if you have the time (4.2km from Tha Phae gate). Bear in mind that you should book the ticket from the bus station counter and to try avoid buying from random stranger as it might be a scam to pocket the difference.

Get there by motorbike

Another viable option to get there is through motorbike. I would say only do so if you are an experienced biker as the road is windy with 762 twist in total from Chiang Mai to Pai. You can always rent a motorbike when you are in Pai as it is way cheaper to rent there.

But if you would want to experience the thrill of biking to Pai, bear in mind of the windy road you would be facing and the incoming cars and buses on the road. I have not bike from Chiang Mai to Pai but here are some tips which might come in handy.

  • Drive on the left side of the road in Thailand in case you are wondering on which side of the road you should be on.
  • The road to Pai and vice versa to Chiang Mai is extremely windy with approximately 762 twist. Try not to bike unless you are extremely comfortable biking. This is definitely not the time for beginners to learn how to ride a motorbike.
  • Be mindful that there will be plenty of buses and van driving at high-speed.
  • Always start your journey with a full tank. I have met travelers who started with half tank and later got out of fuel in the midst of the journey. Definitely a situation you would want to avoid.
  • Police checks are common so always comply with the road regulations (wearing your helmet in specific).

Google Maps or Waze will come in handy during your entire journey but the road is pretty straightforward once you are out of the city in which you just go straight all the way to Pai through Route 1095.

Moving around in Pai

Once you arrived in Pai, there are many ways you can get around. If you rode a motorbike all the way from Chiang Mai, chances are, you would be exploring Pai with a motorbike. However, if you get to Pai through the mini van or bus, you can easily rent a scooter when you are there. That is the best way to explore Pai!

If you are not intending to explore the outskirt of Pai (which is beautiful) and just chill in the town, you can explore the town by foot or bicycle. The amazing things about Pai is the traffic is not as bad as other part of Thailand which is perfect for beginners to ride the scooter.

The scooter rental is cheap! I rented a scooter for 100 baht (excluding petrol) for 24 hours from Aya Services. Also, it is also wise to pay the 40 baht for the agreement of rental to avoid any liability in case of any damage. There are lots of other providers out there but Aya Services is the most reputable one.

Most shops require you to deposit your passport upon renting the scooter so it is important to go to the shops which are well established. Alternatively, you can deposit a huge sum of money. You can easily locate Aya services as the minivans drop you right in front of the shop.

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