Welcome to my digital nomad’s guide to Pai, Thailand!
Pai is a charming small town located in the northern part of Thailand, surrounded by lush green mountains, waterfalls, and hot springs. On a general level, it is a very small town with a laid-back atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for digital nomads seeking a peaceful escape. The landscape is breathtaking, and the town is full of greenery, making it perfect for those who enjoy being close to nature.
Usually, one of the main concerns for digital nomads is internet connectivity, but in Pai, you won’t have to worry about that. The internet is excellent, with speeds reaching 100 megabytes or more easily. This makes it an ideal location for remote work, allowing digital nomads to work without any interruptions.
Apart from work, there are plenty of activities to do in Pai, both organized and independent. If you know to drive a motorcycle, you can explore the surrounding areas and take in the breathtaking views. There are also many organized trips that you can take to explore the region, including hiking, trekking, spiritual retreats, and more.
A note before we start:
This guide is specifically written for digital nomads, with all the information relevant to your needs. To help you navigate the article with ease, I recommend using the table of contents, which is included in this guide. It will save you time and help you find the specific details that are important to you.
Best places to work from
First of all, thanks to Pai nomads for building a list of places to work from. I found this list to be incredibly helpful, but I also want to include some additional places that I’ve personally visited and believe are worth considering.
Here is my list of the best places to work in Pai:
Please note that the list is ordered from the best to the least good. And to make it easier for you to access this information in the future, I highly recommend saving the page. This way, you can refer back to it whenever you need to find more places to work from.
- Vieng Cafe: This cafe offers comfortable chairs and excellent internet, making it an ideal spot for working. The food menu is also varied, and there are coffee options available. However, it is a bit of a walk from the city center.
- Lemon Thyme Backyard: This cozy cafe is a peaceful spot with a lovely backyard. The internet connection is reliable and suitable for work. The menu mainly offers breakfast and coffee, perfect for a morning work session. (The place is not on the nomad list).
- Carrot On The Moon: This cute cafe has a great outdoor setting with few people around, making it perfect for getting work done. The internet is good, and there are some power outlets available. The food is decent, but the cafe closes at 4:30 pm.
- Mos Cafe and Eatery: Surrounded by trees and nature, Mos Cafe offers comfortable chairs and good internet for calls. However, the food menu is not very extensive.
- Sunset View Pai: This cafe offers stunning sunset views and good food options. There are also several charging outlets available, but it gets crowded during sunset hours, and there are only four sunset tables.
- Bom Bowls: This super cute place offers tasty stamp bowls and excellent internet. There is a wooden balcony upstairs with sitting areas on the floor and plenty of power outlets. However, it closes at 4:30 pm.
- Time Cafe&Bistro: This cafe is open until 11 pm, making it a great option for those who work late. The internet is good, but the food options are limited.
- Sugar Cane: This cafe is usually not crowded, making it a great place to spend a lot of hours a day. There are four great positions that are quite isolated, and conversations can be held there relatively quietly. The internet is good, but there can be some noise from the restaurant/bar next door in the evenings.
- Tham Ma Daa Cafe: This cute cafe is a bit further from the center but offers four fun positions in front of a large pool and beautiful nature views. The food is delicious, the internet is good, and relatively quiet calls can be made here. However, it closes at 9 pm.
- Om Garden Cafe: This outdoor cafe with vegetation around offers a good breakfast and four bad positions for pretty isolated work. However, the internet can be a bit slow, and it can get crowded and noisy at times.
- Ganita Cafe: The food here is delicious, but the cafe is not very big and quite crowded, making it difficult to find a seat sometimes. The internet is good, but it can be a bit stressful for Zoom calls.
- The Link Food Farmacy: This cafe is relatively quiet, with decent food and internet. However, there aren’t many power outlets available.
- The Pedlar: This modern cafe is like a “mini co-work compound” with a great food menu. However, the tables can be noisy, and they may not be the best place for calls.
- Blue Ox: This restaurant offers a great menu and a beautiful fish pond setting with three cute positions for working. However, there aren’t many comfortable positions, and the internet is not so great.
Pai Facebook & Whatsapp groups to join
To get the most up-to-date information about what’s happening in Pai, I highly recommend joining the following Facebook groups:
- Our Pai Family – This is the most active group I found in Pai. You can find information about activities, meetings, and events, ask questions, and more.
- Pai Digital Nomads – Although this group aims to be a Facebook group for digital nomads in Pai, I didn’t find it as active. However, sometimes things related to digital nomads, such as meetings and job offers, come up there.
Digital Nomads Pai: This group is highly active and a great way to meet other digital nomads in Pai. You can find information about local events, activities, and opportunities to socialize.
Fitness/Hiking/Sports: If you’re interested in staying active during your stay in Pai, this group is a great resource for hiking, sports, and other fitness-related activities.
Entrepreneurs: If you’re an entrepreneur or interested in starting your own business, this group could be a great place to connect with other like-minded individuals in Pai.
Note that there may be other groups available in Pai, but these are the ones that we found to be most helpful and active during our stay.
Internet speed and reliability
In general, in my experience, the vast majority of restaurants and cafes in Pai offer good enough internet speed and reliability. However, some places can be more than a bit slow, so it is important to check beforehand.
To ensure that you have the ability to work from any location within the town, it is recommended that you purchase a SIM card. These SIM cards provide exceptional 5G internet speed and offer unlimited data.
Cost of living of Pai.
Pai is considered to be an affordable digital nomad destination compared to other popular destinations in Thailand, such as Bangkok or Phuket. While the cost of living in Pai may be slightly higher than in other small towns in Thailand, it’s still significantly lower than in the major cities.
- Food: The average cost of food in Pai is relatively inexpensive, with a meal at a local restaurant costing around 50-100 baht (1.5-3 USD).
- Transportation: Transportation costs are also relatively low, with motorbike rentals available for 200-350 baht (6-10 USD) per day.
- Accommodation: Accommodation costs vary depending on the type of accommodation and location, but a basic room in a guesthouse can be found for as low as 200 baht (6 USD) per night.
- Entertainment: Entertainment costs can vary, with some activities, such as hiking or visiting waterfalls being free, while others, such as spa treatments or cooking classes, can range from 500-2000 baht (15-60 USD) depending on the activity and the provider.
Save money in Pai
Here are some tips for saving money as a digital nomad or a backpacker in Pai:
- Withdraw money from the bank. When you withdraw money from the bank, you can save the ATM withdrawal fee (which is usually around 220 baht). It’s simple to do – go to the bank during its opening hours with your passport and request a withdrawal. Bangkok Bank is one of the banks that allows you to withdraw money.
- Look for accommodation outside of the main tourist areas, as prices can be significantly higher in those areas. (you might even discover a hidden gem that the tourists haven’t ruined yet).
- Politely haggle for a discount before booking a place to stay.
- Think twice before renting a motorcycle/scooter. Unless you’re auditioning for the next Fast and Furious movie, a bike will do just fine. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly – you’ll be saving the planet and some baht.
Top 3 things to do in Pai
Now, when it comes to things to do in Pai, I’ve got my top 3 picks for you. But, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore more, no worries! Just keep in mind that this guide is specifically tailored to digital nomads, so for more in-depth information about things to do in Pai, be sure to check out other sources:
- 17 EPIC Things to Do in Pai, Thailand [2023 Guide] – By Nomadasaurus.
- THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Pai – By Tripadvisor.
- 21 Best Things To Do in Pai, Thailand – By Goats on the road.
My Top 3 things to do in Pai:
Visit the Pai Canyon:
This stunning canyon offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. You can hike along the trails, explore the various viewpoints, and take some amazing pictures.
Relax in the hot springs:
Pai is home to some amazing hot springs, where you can soak in the warm water and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a long day of work or exploring.
Explore the night market:
The Pai night market is a vibrant and bustling place, filled with local vendors selling everything from street food to handmade crafts. It’s a great place to try some new foods, shop for souvenirs, and soak up the local culture.
The smoky season in Pai
The smoking season in Pai is a period that typically occurs between February and April, depending on when the farmers decide to burn their plots.
During this time, the air quality in Pai can become a concern due to the heavy smoke and haze that blankets the town. While the burning of the plots is a traditional agricultural practice that helps prepare the land for the next growing season, it can lead to respiratory issues and other health problems for residents and visitors alike.
To combat the effects of the smoke, many businesses and residents invest in air purifiers, and some even choose to leave Pai temporarily until the season passes.
Despite the challenges that the smoking season presents, the community in Pai remains resilient and continues to find ways to enjoy the town’s natural beauty and cultural offerings.
How to know if the Burning Season has started?
One way to know if the smoking season has started in Pai is to check the air quality index (IQAIR) regularly.
Local news sources and weather apps often provide up-to-date information on the AQI, which can help you determine if it’s safe to be outside. Additionally, you may notice a strong smell of smoke in the air and a hazy quality in the sky.
Another helpful way to stay informed about the smoking season in Pai is by joining Pai’s Facebook communities. These groups provide a space for residents and visitors to share information and updates about the smoke situation in the area. Members often post real-time updates on the AQI.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are no exact dates for the start or end of the smoking season, as it depends on when the plots are burned.
However, staying informed about the air quality and taking necessary precautions, such as wearing a mask when outdoors, can help minimize the impact of the smoking season on your health.
For more information about Southeast Asia’s Burning Season, click here.
Getting to Pai
There are several convenient options for getting to Pai, including minivans and shared buses, as well as private cars or motorbikes.
The most popular option is often a shared minivan service, which typically costs 240 baht (7 USD) per person. Travel time is usually two to three hours, depending on the traffic conditions and the number of stops.
To book a minivan, you can purchase it online from 12go.asia.
Another convenient way to get to Pai is by taking a shared bus from Chiang Mai. With up to 24 daily departures, you have plenty of options to choose from. The earliest bus leaves Pai at 06:30 and arrives in Chiang Mai at 10:25, while the latest bus departs at 17:00 and arrives at 20:55 on the same day.
A one-way adult ticket typically costs $6, making it an affordable option for those on a budget. Keep in mind that travel time can vary depending on traffic conditions and the number of stops, so it’s best to plan ahead and allow enough time for your journey.
To book a bus ticket, you can purchase it online from Getbybus.
If you’re looking for an adventure, you can also rent a motorbike or scooter and make the journey to Pai. The ride takes around two to three hours, depending on traffic conditions and your experience level.
Note: The road to Pai is dangerous and not recommended for inexperienced riders, so it’s best to stick with a minivan or bus.
The cost of renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai is typically 150-200 baht (4.5-6 USD) per day.
The quickest and most comfortable way to get to Pai is by taking a taxi. Most taxis offer a flat rate of 900 baht (27 USD) for four people, which includes pick-up from your hotel in Chiang Mai and drop-off at your hotel in Pai.
The journey takes around two hours, depending on traffic conditions. Note that these prices may vary depending on your taxi operator, so it’s best to confirm the price before booking.
To book a taxi for your trip, you can purchase it online from Bolt or Grab.
In Pai Facebook groups, you can find people who are driving to Pai and offering a ride, usually at a discounted rate. This is an affordable option for those on a budget.
Note: Be sure to confirm the driver’s credentials before booking, as it’s important to ensure your safety.
Here are some of the most popular choices:
For those on a budget, there are plenty of affordable guesthouses and hostels in Pai. Prices typically start at 300 baht (9 USD) per night for a basic room.
If you are planning to stay in a hostel. Check out my short and sweet guide on choosing the perfect hostel for your needs.
If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable, there are plenty of mid-range hotels and Airbnb apartments in Pai, ranging from 800-1500 baht (24-45 USD) per night. Most offer amenities such as air conditioning, WiFi, and satellite TV.
Related: Take a look at my guide on choosing between hostels and Airbnb for expert insights on finding the ideal accommodation that suits your budget and preferences.
For those looking for a luxurious experience, there are several 5-star resorts in Pai. Prices typically start at around 3000 baht (90 USD) per night and include amenities such as pools, spas, restaurants, and bars.
Brick House Hostel: My Pai Home
During my time in Pai, I chose to stay at the Brick House Hostel Pai. This affordable hostel not only provided breakfast but also gave me the opportunity to work remotely while still enjoying a social atmosphere. After a thorough evaluation of the hostel, I decided to make it my home for the entirety of my stay in Pai. The on-site price for the hostel was 350 baht, but they were willing to provide a discount of 300 baht for stays lasting over a week. Overall, my experience at the Brick House Hostel Pai was excellent, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable, comfortable, and social accommodation option in Pai.
How to extend your visa in Pai
If you’re planning to extend your visa in Pai, I recommend arriving in the morning to avoid queues. For the extension process, you’ll need to bring the following documents to the immigration office:
- Original passport
- Passport photo not older than 6 months (4x6cm)
- Copy of the main page of your passport
- Copy of the entry stamp (plus TM.6 departure card, if applicable)
- Address of your current guesthouse or hostel
- 1,900 Baht in cash
You can get the photocopies and passport photos either in a copy shop in Pai. I did it in Fuji Printing Shop.
Once you arrive at the immigration office, you’ll need to fill out a form with your personal data, the reason for the extension, and the place of stay.
After submitting your form and documents, an officer will review everything and charge you 1,900 THB. Then, you’ll receive a new stamp on your passport and another 30 days in Thailand.
To obtain official information, please refer to the website of the Thai Immigration Bureau.
Health and Safety in Pai: Precautions, Tips, and Emergency Contacts
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is based on my personal experience and research. I am not a doctor or a consultant, and this information should not be taken as professional medical or legal advice.
The Dangers of Driving in Pai
First, Let me share a short story with you. When I was in the army, we had lectures about safe driving and the dangers on the roads. To make the lectures more effective, they would show us live accidents and injuries, which were really shocking. While I won’t post any pictures of injuries here, I do recommend that you join Pai’s Facebook group and search for the keyword “accident” to get an idea of the risks on the roads.
In Pai, roads can be narrow and winding, and some drivers may not follow traffic rules. Additionally, many tourists rent scooters or motorbikes without having enough experience or a proper license, which can increase the risk of accidents. Therefore, if you’re not an experienced rider, it’s advisable to avoid driving in Pai or to take a safety course before you do.
If you do decide to drive, always wear a helmet and protective gear, and follow traffic rules strictly. Be especially careful on steep hills, as they can be tricky to navigate. If you’re unsure about a particular road or route, ask locals or other travelers for advice. And finally, in case of an emergency, make sure you have the contact information of the nearest hospital or clinic handy.
Health Precautions to Take While in Pai
Street Food: Pai is known for its street food, but be careful when eating it. Make sure to choose food stalls that are clean and have a high turnover to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
I personally got a stomach upset that knocked me out of bed for a few days.
Drinking Water: Do not drink tap water in Pai, as it is not safe for consumption. Always opt for bottled or boiled water.
Mosquitoes: Pai is in a tropical climate, so mosquitoes are common. Use mosquito repellent, wear long-sleeved clothing, and sleep under mosquito nets.
Sunscreen: Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and light clothing. The sun can be intense in Pai, and you don’t want to ruin your trip with a nasty sunburn.
Emergency Contacts and Medical Facilities
The Pai Hospital is open 24/7.
If you need to visit at night, it’s better to call them beforehand and let them know you’re coming, as they may be sleeping, and you may find yourself wandering around an empty hospital like you’re in a scene from the Walking Dead.
- Pai Hospital location here.
- Hospital Phone number: 053 699 031
The Pai Police are open 24/7.
- Pai Police location here.
- Police Phone number: 053 699 217.
My experience in Pai
After spending a month in Da Nang, Vietnam, I was drawn to Pai for its natural beauty and peaceful surroundings. Pai intrigued me, and I wanted to be close to nature and explore the simplicity of life in this small town.
During my stay in Pai, I had the opportunity to experience various activities. I spent time with a good friend who happened to be in Pai at the same time, and we explored the hill tribes, hiked to the waterfalls, and visited the local markets. I also participated in a breathing workshop and trained in Muay Thai.
I had the opportunity to learn about the local culture and the way of life of the people there. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the simplicity of life that the locals lived.
When I took solo trips outside the city, I noticed how the farmers and locals lived a simple life, free from the distractions that we have in the western world. They seemed content with their way of life and were not overly concerned with material possessions or social media. This was a valuable lesson for me as it reminded me to think about the things that are really important in life and reevaluate my priorities.
Balancing work and life was quite easy for me in Pai. I stayed in a hostel close to convenient restaurants for remote work. Not only that, but I was also able to keep part of my morning routine. I would start my day with breakfast at the hostel and then head to the restaurant to work. In the evenings, I would explore the town or go for walks in nature to unwind. The peaceful and inspiring environment of Pai allowed me to maintain my work productivity while also enjoying the natural beauty and simplicity of life in the town.
Moreover, Pai was also an excellent place for me to read books because there are many quiet places, such as cafes, parks, and riverside spots, where I could relax and enjoy my favorite books.
However, towards the end of my stay in Pai, I felt the need for more privacy and space. So I decided to rent an apartment in Chiang Mai, my next destination after Pai.
Meeting people in Pai was effortless due to the small size of the town. I made friends with fellow travelers in the hostel and met other digital nomads through Facebook and WhatsApp groups. I highly recommend joining these groups to stay connected and ask questions.
Related: Creative Ways To Avoid Boring Small Talk While Traveling.
In conclusion, my digital nomad experience in Pai was one of a kind. The simplicity of life, the natural beauty, and the sense of togetherness made it a memorable destination. Although I may not visit Pai in the near future due to other plans, I highly recommend it to other digital nomads who seek a peaceful and inspiring environment.
Is Pai a good place for digital nomads?
Yes, Pai is a great place for digital nomads. It has a vibrant community of remote workers, entrepreneurs, and creatives who enjoy its laid-back lifestyle, natural beauty, and affordable cost of living.
When is the best time to visit Pai?
The best time to visit Pai is from November to February when the weather is cool and dry and the landscape is lush and green.
Is Pai cheap to live in?
Yes, Pai is relatively cheap to live in compared to other tourist destinations in Thailand and Southeast Asia. You can find affordable accommodation and food options in Pai. A basic studio apartment can cost around 5,000 to 10,000 baht per month, while a meal at a local restaurant can cost around 40 to 100 baht. However, prices can vary depending on your lifestyle and preferences.
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