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How to get from Chiang Mai to Pai

Pai is located in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, and it is a 3 hour road journey (with hundreds of turns) to get there. There are three options for travel from Chiang Mai to Pai:

  • Motorbike: Some visitors rent their own motorbikes or cars to do the journey.
  • Flights: There is also a daily flight from Chiang Mai to Pai with Kan Air which leaves at 10.20 and arrives at 10.45 and costs around 2,095 THB per person.
  • Bus and Minivan: Most people, however, choose to take public transport on either a bus or a minivan.
What bus services are there to Pai?

On this route the best minivan and bus services are provided by the Prem Pracha Company and Jolly Travel. They depart from different places in Chiang mai, but both terminate on Pai Town’s Walking Street. See below for more details.

Service 1: Prem Pracha Minivan to Pai

The Prem Pracha company bus and minivan services from Chiang Mai to Pai depart from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2. This company has its own office in the car park of Bus Terminal 2. There are services every hour from Chiang Mai bus station to Pai bus station.

Cost:  195 THB   

Company: Prem Pracha 

Prem Pracha Minivan Timetable from Chiang Mai to Pai
Departure Arrival Departure Arrival
07.30  10.30 13.30 16.30
08.30 11.30 14.30 17.30
09.30  12.30 15.30 18.30
10.30 13.30 16.30 19.30
11.30 14.30 17.30 20.30
 12.30  15.30
Departure Point for the Prem Pracha Service: 
  • Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 is located on the Kaeo Nawarat Road Soi 5, about 3 km from the Old Town and 1.5 km from train station. From most of the popular areas in Chiang Mai you need to get a tuk-tuk or songthaew (converted pick up truck) to get there. Expect to pay around 100 THB to get there.
Location of Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2:

Service 2: Jolly Travel Minivan to Pai

The Jolly Travel Minivan Service departs from the Red Brick Guesthouse near to Chiang Mai Old Town. This is service is more popular with foreign visitors than the Prem Pracha Service because it saves the need to travel to Chiang Mai Bus Station, which is some distance away from Chiang Mai Old Town. The only other difference is that the Jolly Travel service is 155 THB more expensive than the Prem Pracha Service.

Cost:  350 THB   

Company: Jolly Travel 

Jolly Travel Minivan Timetable from Chiang Mai to Pai:
Departure Arrival Departure Arrival
07.00  10.00 13.00 16.00
08.00 11.00 14.00 17.00
09.00  12.00 15.00 18.00
10.00 13.00 16.00 19.00
11.00 14.00 17.00 20.00
 12.00  15.00
Departure Point for the Jolly Travel Service: 
  • The Red Brick Guest House is located on the Chang Klan Rd to the South East of Chiang Mai’s walled Old Town. From the Tha Phae Gate it is a 1.5 km walk to the Red Brick Guest House which should take around 18 minutes to complete. From the Night Bazaar it is a 1.3 km walk to the Red Brick Guesthouse which should take 17 minutes. Alternatively, take a tuk tuk and expect to pay less than 100 THB from most points in Chiang Mai Town.
Location of the Red Brick Guest House in Chiang Mai:

What is the bus journey to Pai Like?

The journey takes in some great scenery although be warned because the road goes up and down high mountains so it has a lot of turns in it. A large percentage of passengers will feel car sick at some point in the journey. The trick is to concentrate on the road ahead. If you read a book or use a phone or computer (like I did) you are more likely to feel sick. The minivan stops halfway at a restaurant and local produce shop with toilets. Consider purchasing some local products like wild rice or local honey at the shop as these unusual products are very cheap and specialities of the region not available to purchase in other parts of Thailand.

Chinese Village near Pai

How can I travel onward from Pai Bus Station?

There no taxis at the bus station but you are unlikely to need one as most of the resorts are within easy walking distance. If your resort is out of town phone the resort to pick you up – this is a very common customer request in Pai and most resorts will arrange transport from the bus station for free or a small charge.

Where is Pai Bus station located?

Pai is a small town and the bus station is right in the centre of the town on Walking Street. See map below.

Can I travel by motorbike to Pai?

Renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai for the journey to Pai is popular amongst younger visitors. There are lots of people doing this journey every day. However, before you decide to make the same journey there are some things which we advise you to consider:

  • Safety: There are frequent accidents on this route because of the many sharp bends in the road, and the steep inclines and descents on route.
  • Condition of the bike: There are not many places to get a motorbike fixed on route. Check the oil and brakes because you depart from Chiang Mai.
  • Gasoline: For an automatic motorbike, such as a Yamaha Click, you are likely to use 2 full tanks of petrol. Refuel frequently to avoid become stranded on route a long way from a petrol station. Taking account of the cost of renting a motorbike and the gasoline costs it is actually cheaper (and safer) to take a minivan from Chiang Mai and rent a motorbike when you arrive in Pai.
  • Overheating: Automatic motorbike normally start to overheat after about 90 minutes of use, which can make the engine cut out. Plan to stop every hour for at least 15 minutes to allow time for the engine to cool down.
  • Depart in the morning: There are no street lights on this route. Ensure that you set out early in the day (definitely before 11.00) to complete the journey in daylight hours. If you travel in the dark it may be difficult for you to see the road, and more importantly for other road users to see you.

The famous Coffee in Love near Pai

Where is Pai?

  • Distance from Chiang Mai to Pai: 149 kilometres
  • Driving time from Chiang Mai to Pai: 3 hours 3 minutes
Route Map from Chiang Mai to Pai

Next read our Review of the Pai Village Resort, Pai (near Chiang Mai)