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Adventures Around the World

Bus, Minibus, and Van Options From Chiang Mai to Pai and Mae Hong Son

While there are plenty of various options available to get to Pai or Mae Hong Son from Chiang Mai’s Arcade bus station, tickets may not be available at the last minute, so you should stop by and get them in advance if possible (contrary to what the girls at our hostel told us).

Summary of Van/Bus/Minibus Options

Since there is no official website for the bus company or the bus station, I found some conflicting information regarding the schedule before getting to the bus station. So, for anyone looking for the same info, here is the summary of options available:

From Chang Mai to...PaiMae Hong Son
PriceDurationPriceDuration
Van150 baht3 hours250 baht6 hours
Minibus???3.5 hoursnot availablenot available
Bus72 baht4 hours390 baht8.5 hours

Note: You can see the detailed schedules at the end of this post.

Arcade Bus Station

Located in the north east corner of Chiang Mai, the bus station is about 15-20 minute tuk tuk ride from Tae Pae Gate. We paid 60 baht for the two of us (plus large backpacks). There are two terminals – Terminal 3 looked new and modern, while Terminal 2 looked just as you would expect a bus station look in south east Asia. We did not see Terminal 1 so I am not sure if there is one.

The ticket office for vans/minibuses/buses to Pai and Mae Hong Son is located on the north side of Terminal 2, near platforms 11, 12, and 13 where the buses and minivans leave from. Inside the terminal, there is a free (donations-based) dirty restroom with toilet paper sold outside. There were also some vendor stalls inside, but I did not pay much attention to them.

Bus vs Minibus vs Van

In general, vans will get you there faster, but buses may or may not be more comfortable. To give you an idea, here are the representative pictures of each:

bus from chiang mai to pai and mae hong son from arcade bus station

Bus departing from Chiang Mai to Pai from Arcade bus station (could be with or without aircon)

minibus from chiang mai to pai and mae hong son from arcade bus station

Minibus from Pai to Chiang Mai at Pai bus station

minivan from chiang mai to pai and mae hong son from arcade bus station

Minivan departing from Chiang Mai to Pai from Arcade bus station

Van Layout

They do practice assigned seating for minivans (not sure if the same is true for buses). Each van holds 15 people with two next to the driver up front, a row of three seats behind them, then 1+2 configuration for two rows, and finally four seats at the back. Tall people – go for seat 1, 6, or 13. Those have the most leg room while 3, 4, and 5 appeared to be the next best choice.

inside minivan from chiang mai to pai and mae hong son from arcade bus stationminivan from chiang mai to pai and mae hong son from arcade bus station

Tight squeeze inside the minivan

Van Ride From Chiang Mai To Pai

Surprisingly, we left just five minutes past our departure time, which is essentially ahead of time in Asian time. Our van was full and of course I got stuck in a seat with no legroom with my kneecaps literally pushing into the seat in front of me. We covered the majority of distance in the first half of the ride and stopped at a break point/food station right after an hour and 30 minutes. There were a number of different options for food – from coffee stand to fresh fruit to traditional Thai cuisine. The restroms were big, free (also donation-based) and fairly clean.

After the 15 minute stop, we jumped back in the van for the more exciting part of the trip. Soon we were in the mountains going up and down, left and right with steep drop offs all over the place. I sure felt good about my decision to not get any food at the rest stop. While there were a couple times when the driver jerked the van a bit to hard into a turn, it was not too bad of a ride overall and we arrived to Pai bus station (really just a dirt lot big enough just to fit half a dozen vans).

For returning from Pai, see Bus Options From Pai to Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son

For returning from Mae Hong Son, see Bus Options From Mae Hong Son to Pai and Chiang Mai

Van Schedule (Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son via Pai)

Leaving Chiang Maiarriving Paiarriving Pang Mapaarriving Mae Hong Son
6:309:3010:3012:30
7:3010:3011:3013:30
8:3011:3012:3014:30
9:3012:3013:3015:30
10:3013:3014:3016:30
11:3014:3015:3017:30
12:3015:3016:3018:30
13:3016:3017:3019:30
14:3017:3018:3020:30
15:3018:30------
16:3019:30------
17:3020:30------

Minibus Schedule (Chiang Mai to Pai)

Leaving Chiang Maiarriving Pai
7:0010:30
8:0011:30
9:0012:30
1013:30

Van Schedule (Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son via Mae Sariang)

Leaving Chiang Maiarriving Mae Hong Son
6:3015:00
8:0016:30
11:0019:30
13:3020:00
15:0021:30
20:004:30
21:005:30

Bus Schedule (Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son via Pai)

Leaving Chiang Maiarriving Paiarriving Pang Mapaarriving Mae Hong Son
7:0010:3012:3014:30
10:3014:00------
12:3016:0018:0020:00

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16 Comments

  1. Hi! I’m a travel agent in Singapore and have a customer who is travelling from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son. I suggested domestic flights but she wanted to travel by road. Just when I was wrecking my head on how to work out the options, came across this post of yours! And all the information that I need are literally listed out point to point! Thank you saviour!! 🙂

  2. very good info and directions and details at the arcade bus station . you saved me a lot of time time. got my ticket and seat well in advance. good job THANKS

    • Thanks Bill, glad it was useful for you. I certainly remember how archaic the information was (everyone was telling me different things and I couldn’t find anything online). If you get a chance, I would appreciate if you could snap some pictures of the current schedules posted next time you are at the bus station so I could make sure that everything is still up to date. They used to have just pieces of paper posted on the window of the ticket booth by platforms 11/12.

  3. GREAT information, just what I needed to know. Thanks for the details, Anneke

  4. Do you know if a bus from Pai to Mae Hong Son is possible? In other words…can one
    pick up the bus from Chiang Mai via Pai to Mae Hong Son at Pai to go to Mae Hong Son?

  5. Thank you! How about from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Rai?

  6. Hi,
    Could you pick us up to get from Chiang Mai to Pai today?
    Do you pick customers up to the accomodation or do we have to go the some point?
    How much is per person?
    We would like to take the bus around 2-3pm
    Thanks

  7. Mis-info

    Tuk Tuk from thae pae to arcade will be a lot more than 60 that. Maybe you were talking about a red songthaew and paid 30 that each

    • Thanks Bob, that was the price three years ago when I wrote this. Songthaew were 5-10 baht to go almost anywhere in town. We took tuk tuk to Tiger Kingdom for 70 return, which is a lot farther from the old city.

      • Very helpful, thank you!

        I am living in Chiang Mai now and prices are definitely more for in city transport.
        Songtaews are usually 20-40thb depending on where you come from. I took one from my condo on Canal Rd near Huay Kaew and I had to fork out a whopping 180! A tuk tuk would have been very similar.

  8. What is the different between minivan and minibus from Chiangmai to Pai

  9. This was very helpful

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