Pai is a hidden gem nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand, and has long been a favorite destination with backpackers and budget travelers seeking a slice of tranquility and natural beauty. Because I’m both, I fell in love with the small hamlet quickly and effortlessly. With rolling green hills, hot springs, waterfalls, and hearty food, the small town offers an experience that captivates the soul. In this blog post, we detail all the information you need to reach Pai, with details updated for 2023.
First things first. The only way to reach Pai is by road. The fastest route by road is from Chiang Mai. If you’re not in Chiang Mai already, I’ve written a whole separate story detailing the options available for that journey here.
Once you’re in Chiang Mai,here’s how you can get to Pai:
I. Take the shuttle van:
Taking the shuttle van is a convenient and affordable choice. You can buy your shuttle ticket at Chiang Mai Arcade 2, which is just across the street if you come into Chiang Mai by bus. We recommend reliable bus companies such as Aya and Prem Pracha, which have shuttles departing every 90 minutes or so. The ticket costs 150 THB if you buy them at the station.
If you have a tight schedule, you can also choose to pre-book your ticket online to pick your time preference. One of the best sites to do that is 12 Go Asia.
II. Rent a car and drive up:
If you’re the type of person who savors the journey just as much as the destination, driving to Pai is a great choice. Car rentals are easily available in Chiang Mai, but can be expensive unless the agency has a drop-off option in Pai. With plenty of hairpin bends and traffic, the ride uphill is no simple undertaking and should be only undertaken if you’re comfortable behind the wheel.
Having autonomy on the road is such fun because you get to stop at all the temples, waterfalls and other landmarks en-route. There is so much to see on the way up! We recommend visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep because it’s an iconic and historical structure, and Wat Phra Lat because it’s beautiful and serene. There are many more attractions like Pai Canyon and Montha Than Waterfall which fall on the same road.
III. Rent a bike and ride up:
If you like the freedom of having your own wheels, but are looking for a budget-friendly option, you can rent a bike or scooter from Chiang Mai and rent it for the duration of your time in Pai, and then ride back downhill to the city to return it. When I was staying at Slumber Party Chiang Mai, I found multiple bike rental services nearby. The hostel managers made this an easy task with a couple of quick calls. Lastly, make sure to helmet up and go slow on the bends!
Pai, with its natural wonders and slow, old-world charm, is the perfect destination to rest, relax and recover. In this guide, we’ve covered various transportation options to help you reach Pai in 2023. Whether you choose the convenience of a shuttle, the freedom of driving, or the thrill of a motorbike, you’re sure to find a cozy vacation home at the end of this highway.
And for the last few words from the wise – if you’re prone to carsickness, make sure to stop at buy a strip of Cephadol at the pharmacy. Or, at the very least, keep an extra plastic bag handy while you travel. Bon voyage!