How to Get to Pai from Chiang Mai: Guidebook to a Winding Road

How to Get to Pai from Chiang Mai

Planning your journey to the infamous hippie town starts with learning how to get to Pai from Chiang Mai. It’s not quite an essential stop in every backpacker’s journey, especially for those who have to cram a lot into a short schedule. It’s about 4 hours away from Chiang Mai at the end of a long, winding uphill road after all!

In the midst of the Northern Thailand mountains are beautiful rice fields and such a laid-back, unique atmosphere that would make Stephen Hawking think time has stopped. This is the reward you’ll visualize during the dizzying ride to Pai from Chiang Mai. Perhaps it’s this mental preparation that gives Pai its atmosphere but it is worth noting that many get motion sickness on the way there (and back).

Biking to Pai from Chiang Mai

The ultimate, most adventurous way to get to Pai! No debate to be had here, this is the most exciting (and possibly most dangerous) travel option. With all risk comes reward and in this case, the reward is the absolutely beautiful, scenic drive. Sure, you could get some of these incredible views from the window seat of a bus but it’s just not the same. Driving from Chiang Mai to Pai isn’t complex; take Route 1095 and it’s a straightforward journey.

We don’t recommend this to beginner riders though, since there are many sharp turns and curves along the way. It’s not exactly an easy ride, that’s for sure. It’s a 4 hour drive and you’ll likely make some stops along the way to take in the view. On the plus side, renting a bike for the trek is only going to run you 300-500 THB. Not too shabby.

viewpoint on the way to Pai from Chiang Mai
Taking the Minibus from Pai to Chiang Mai

Booking a minibus to Pai from Chiang Mai is how the vast majority of people visit the wonderful hippie town. You’ve got air-conditioning, pick-up service from your hostel (or hotel) and it will only cost you 180 THB. It’s the 2nd cheapest option but most luxurious choice for backpackers. Just be sure to pack some water and eat light before the drive! The winding road is known to make people carsick and some drivers will even provide motion sickness pills.

How to Get to Pai on a Public Bus

Head over to Arcade Bus station and hop on a public bus for 80 to 120 THB! This is the cheapest way to get to Pai and it’s great as a last-resort option if you forgot to book your minibus. Or…if you were too hungover and missed it! Shit happens.

One thing to note about the public buses is that they won’t depart if there’s too many empty seats, so it’s not always reliable. You might end up in Pai later than you plan but hey – that’s why we say it’s a last-resort option. The public buses run 5 times a day and the schedule varies depending on the season. Ask our reception for details; they can call the bus station and get you an accurate daily schedule!

Driving to Pai by Rental Car

Just like driving to Pai on a rented bike, renting a car gives you the option of being able to stop whenever you want to bask in the beautiful views of the mountains. While most backpackers won’t opt for this route, it’s common among tour groups and families. Personally, I love the drive to Pai with a squad of friends. Nothing like a good old fashioned road trip…in a foreign country! The trip takes around 3 hours by car and it can get quite expensive. Not just with the rental fees either. It’s hard to find parking in Pai, so you’ll have to splurge a bit on a hotel or guesthouse that has parking spots.

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