Pai, Thailand: A Complete Guide

Man with Bali Bintang t-shirt at Pai Canyon, Thailand


Pai is the traveler’s hub of North Thailand, receiving over a million visitors every year! There’s no question that this place is pretty much always packed with tourists, and it’s becoming more and more popular every year, but why? 


Pai has a lot more to offer than just its busy cafes and bars. Surrounded by incredible waterfalls, hot springs, and cultural villages, there’s enough to do and see to keep you there for days, weeks, and even months! 


After visiting Pai a few times, I’m here to share with you everything you can do to get the most out of your trip. Hopefully, you will fall in love with this place just like I did!


Contents

Pai Bamboo Bridge staircase


Where to Stay in Pai

Pai has no shortage of hostels, hotels, and guesthouses, all for different kinds of visitors. 

 

If you’re a young traveler and want to meet people, you want to get booked in at a social hostel. The best way to check where everyone is going is through HostelWorld, look out for the number under ‘see who’s going’. At the time of my most recent visit in 2023, the best hostels were Revolution and Pai Circus. 

 

Revolution is the final destination of the tipsy tubing trips and also hosts regular social events and drinking games. Pai Circus has some unique accommodation, with the option to stay in a teepee! It also has a great social scene with a pool and regular events. 

 

If you want private accommodations, there are plenty of options in Pai, and for cheap prices. One I would recommend is B2 Pai Premier Resort, just around the corner from Pai Walking Street!

 

How Long to Stay in Pai

On my first visit to Pai I had booked everything in advance, and stayed for 3 days. Was this enough? Absolutely not! There is so much to do in Pai, and I regretted leaving so soon. On my second visit, I stayed for over 2 weeks!

 

 

If you’re on a tight schedule, you could probably see and do the majority of the things on this list in a few days. But, if you have more time I really would recommend sticking around, and hopefully, the rest of this list will tell you why…

 

Renting Bikes

Semi-automatic motorbike South-East Asia

I’d highly recommend renting a bike in Pai. However, due to how busy Pai is these days, it can be a challenge to actually find one. From my own experience, I’ve had to get up before 8 am to get a bike, or even waited around at a rental shop for someone to hand their bike in! 

 

So, my advice is to get up and start looking as early as you can. If you can do this before 8 am then you’ll probably have some success. 

 

There are also some semi-automatic bikes out there if you’re comfortable using the gears. Most people avoid them and just want an automatic, so they can be more available. They’re actually pretty easy once you get the hang of the gears, and they’re much faster to accelerate than the automatics! (And much more fun in my opinion).

 

Pai Walking Street

Located in the middle of the village, Pai Walking Street is the life and soul of Pai. Over 500 metres of clothing stalls, aromatic street food, and lively bars. By day it’s fairly quiet, and you can stroll along the street looking for breakfast or lunch at one of its many cafes.


At night, it becomes full of life. You can grab yourself a Pad Thai and a chocolate roti, or even mango and rice! (Yes, this is a real meal and some people love it!) 


Once you’re done eating you can try out any of the bars along the street and round the corner. A decent one to start with is Why Not Bar – good music, cheap drinks, and plenty of travelers to meet.


Jungle Parties

On Saturday nights there’s usually a jungle party/rave going on. There are people on The Walking Street who sell the tickets for around 300 TBH. They usually sell out in high-season, so make sure you get your ticket early enough. Revolution Hostel will usually have transport from the hostel straight to the party. 

 

When you get there, there’s a selection of bars, food, and of course a DJ and dance floor. Some of these even have a fire show as well!


Tipsy Tubing

What on earth is tipsy tubing? Well, essentially it’s a bunch of drunk people floating down a river on rubber rings. Tipsy tubing is one of Pai’s most popular activities and will sometimes have over 300 people in one group! 

 

They usually run twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You can book this through most hostels. A big truck will come round and pick you up from your hostel and take you to an area by the riverbank. If you want to drink alcohol, remember to bring something that’ll last you a few hours!

Some people will bring speakers, which sounds silly for a water-based activity right? Well, I actually brought my non-waterproof speaker on board and managed to keep it more or less dry. But, it is easy to get it wet, so you have been warned! One thing I will say is if you want to take the risk, being the speaker guy/girl will definitely make you popular! 

 

At the halfway point you’ll stop for a break. Well, not really a break – as you get out of your ring you’ll notice the riverside dance floor and DJ as you head for a mini half-time party. You can also get face and body paint, play beer pong, and even volleyball.  

 

Another hour down the river will take you to the finish line. The endpoint is usually Revolution Hostel.


Sai Ngam Hot Spring

Sai Ngam Hot Spring

There are several hot springs around Pai, but if you only have time for one, I’d go for Sai Ngam. It has a large area to sit (or swim) in, and the temperature is not too hot (like some of them), but not too cold at about 34 degrees Celsius. 


It’s about 20km from the main village, if you’re biking there it’ll take you around 40 minutes – mostly on the main road but the last bit is a bit rocky. You will have to pay a 20 TBH fee to the forestry commission in a little wooden hut when you turn off the main road. Then, when you finally get to the hot spring you’ll be paying a 200 TBH entrance fee.


For details on how to get there, check out Thailand Magazine’s blog on Sai Ngam here.


Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon at sunset

The top sunset spot in Pai, and perhaps the whole of North Thailand! Pai Canyon is a fantastic view, best caught from around 5 pm when the sun is about to set. You can get to it by bike, just a 10-minute drive from the main village. 

 

A short walk up the steps from the car park will take you to the top of the canyon where you can sit down and enjoy the vibrant colours of the sky. You can even climb across to the outer parts of the canyon to get some space away from the crowd. Just be careful to watch your step!


Tham Nam Lod Cave Tour

A kayaking trip along a river tunnel filled with thousands of bats and birds! You’ll stop off in the cave to do some exploring on foot, and if you want to you can choose to go looking for some prehistoric wooden coffins. 

 

You can get the full tour with a guide for somewhere between 650 and 1,200 TBH. For more info check out the Cavelodge blog here.


More Things to Do in Pai

Bamboo Bridge in Pai, Thailand


If you want even more from Pai you can check out these too:


Bamboo Bridge (aka Boon Ko Ku So)

A scenic walk, a relaxing sit-down view, and a cool swing wheel thing (not sure what this is called but check out the photo below.)

Pam Bok Waterfall

A stunning waterfall which you can swim in. Take a dip in the (cold) water and take some cool photos.

White Buddha Temple

A brief walk up the stairs will give you a nice view of the temple and the surrounding area!


Asian swing wheel, Pam-Bok Waterfall and White Buddha, Thailand

 

 

Heading to an island after Pai? Check out the best island in Thailand here!

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