We just returned from 6 days and 5 nights on the roads of northern Thailand and the least we can say is that we came back completely gaga from the region. So it is still with a slight residual buttock pain that we write this article, but promised with this you will have all the information you need to go and do the Mae Hong Son Loop on a Motorbike from Chiang Mai.
This article is 100% practical and with the idea of helping you to get organized before you leave! Promised as soon as the buttache is over (and the photos sorted) we will prepare a more detailed article on the different steps and things to discover during this motorbike loop! Update: the article is here
Renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai: Where to rent and what to look out for
There are many scooter rental companies in and around the old town, prices are generally quite similar and depend on the rental period as well as the power of your small motorbike.
Roughly speaking, you can find motorbikes from 130 Bahts per day, but at this price it will probably be 110cm3 (or less).
Know that the Mae Hong Son Loop is also known because it will take you on mountain roads with 1864 bends just between Mae Hong Son and Pai! The total ascent of the road? Well not far from 12’000m of climb (and just as much descent!).
In short, you will have understood it, with a 50cc motorbike it will REALLY not do it!
If you travel alone then a 110cc should be enough, but if you travel with someone else on a single scooter with an extra backpack, then we strongly recommend you to take a 125cc!
The 125 motorbike can be rented between 150 Bahts and 250 Bahts per day (for weekly rental).
Ours was a 125cc and almost new (only 800km on the counter when we took it) and we paid 200 Baths a day. We rented it from a landlord in our neighborhood that belongs to a hotel (The Core on Huay Kaew Road).
Our advice to rent a scooter in Thailand:
- Try to get a motorbike that’s not too old. The newer the scooter is, the better the brakes and the overall comfort will be.
- Ask to have good helmets! In the city, rental companies tend to give away small walnut shells as a helmet. Frankly, to do 800km we really recommend that you have a good helmet. It is rather unlikely that you will be offered a full helmet (understand totally closed), but the minimum would be a helmet that covers the whole head well and comes back a little on the face.
- NEVER leave your passport as a guarantee! It’s a practice that’s quite common around here and it’s totally illegal. With your passport in their hands as a guarantee, the landlords have almost unlimited power. Take a photocopy with you, let him take a picture of your passport if he wants or deposit a deposit in cash, but do not give your passport!
- Before leaving, check that everything works: tyre pressure, brakes, headlights, horn and that you have the vehicle registration card in the box.
Make sure you have the right driver license!
- Check that you are allowed to ride a motorbike in Thailand. On your international permit you must have the mention A1 ticked. The B endorsement (car driving licence) is not recognized. It is very likely that you will be amended in the event of an inspection. Well, the fine is 500 Baths and comes with a receipt that allows you to drive for 7 days without being amendable again. But still!
- And in any case, before you take the road, make sure that your travel insurance covers you for driving 2 wheels! Be careful, if you don’t have a motorcycle licence (see above), your insurance may refuse to cover you!
Last recommendations for the road
Once on the road it is relatively easy to find petrol, either in large stations near major cities/villages or otherwise in small villages.
On the other hand, in small villages where large stations are not located, they are generally small pumps and the price per litre is almost double that of large stations.
To give you an idea, the price of a litre of petrol in large stations is roughly 25 to 27 Bahts per litre. In small stations it is around 35 to 40 Bahts per liter.
So a tip would be to remember to fill up every morning when you leave and use the small stations only to complete a little during the day.
Are you ready to rent a scooter???
If you don’t feel like driving so many kilometres, it’s quite possible to take the loop by public transport! The idea here would be to use buses to connect the villages where you sleep and then rent a motorbike on site to tour around a few km.
Then we don’t hide the fact that this alternative will probably cost you a little more and also that you won’t be able to stop wherever you want on the way, but if you don’t feel it, seriously don’t insist and take the bus!
Note: We have had several feedback from readers (mostly families) who have told us that they did it by car and that they loved the experience. In terms of budget, a car rental is obviously a little more expensive, but if you are several people and especially if you don’t feel like driving a motorbike (or you don’t have a license), it’s a very good option!
How many days to do The Mae Hong Son Loop?
In itself, many options are possible… We will tell you more about it below in the itinerary section! But roughly speaking, the loop itself is about 600km long. But we easily tend to do 800 if we wander around a little around the villages on the way.
In short, 600km in itself is doable in 2 or 3 days, but honestly we don’t see much point in starting this loop if it’s not to enjoy the landscapes a little.
For our part we did 6 days and 5 nights and honestly we thought it was great! As much as we could probably have done a few more days of visits, as much we admit that we clearly had spent enough time on this scooter. My ass will still remember a hell of a time from that trip!
In which season should we embark on the adventure?
From now on! Understand this, from the end of November until about the end of February!
Of course it is possible to do the loop all year round, but the winter months are the ones that will optimize your chances of good weather, no rain, no fog due to crop burns. From March to May you are unlikely to encounter rain, but temperatures are soaring, which can make having your buttocks screwed on a scooter and a helmet on your head a little less pleasant.
Between May and October it is the rainy season…. So know that it doesn’t rain every day, and that sometimes the rain is limited to a small half hour during the day. But statistically you have a much better chance of getting rinsed off.
Itinerary: Prepare your Mae Hong Son loop from Chiang Mai
As its name suggests, this route is a loop, and can therefore be done from any direction. For our part, we decided to opt for an anti-clockwise turn, but frankly it doesn’t make any difference!
Here is a small map where you can get a better idea of the loop. We have also placed the little detours we have made, even if we will detail all this in our next article.
Use the interactive map above to find your way around: we have put all our main stops and our accommodation with names and prices.
There are of course alternatives! For example, for the last stop we decided to go through Mae Chaem, but note that it is also possible to return to Chiang Mai via Mae Sariang.
Road safety in Thailand
Personally, it was my big haunting before I left for that scooter loop! In Chiang Mai, being a pedestrian is already sometimes borderline, so driving here… Fortunately I didn’t have to take the wheel and I was able to rely on my dear little husband who mastered it like a pro!
So the observation is clear: Driving in Thailand is dangerous, but despite all this it probably remains one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia!
Let me explain:
- The roads are fine! The main roads linking the towns and villages of the loop are all paved (we remember in particular our scooter loops in Laos where this was by far not the case as in Bolavens or Thakeak in Laos).
- Thai people drive fast and often give the impression that driving is a joyful mess. But in the end, they’re pretty chill…. Or let’s just say that they know how to avoid the obstacle well enough (even if sometimes it’s at the last second)
- Mountain roads are relatively unused.
In fact, in my opinion, the biggest danger is the surroundings of Chiang Mai. At the time of leaving the city as well as to return we must pass by the highway, which with a hell of traffic is a real challenge for the nerves (I almost left mine there on the way back…)
My advice would be to avoid peak hours. To leave Chiang Mai, get up early and leave around 7:30am-8am. Most shops only open around 9am, so at 8am the traffic is even quieter.
For the return we arrived in the middle of rush hour… Honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I think I’d rather go home in the evening!
Leave well equipped: Clothes to bring!
Then our only advice would be: “Plan Layers!”
When the weather is fine, the temperature rises easily above 30 degrees, even in winter…. On the other hand, as soon as the sun goes away, or worse if the rain gets involved, it can be quite chilly, especially on the scooter! The evenings are generally cool, but we can handle very well just with a sweater and possibly a rain jacket depending on the weather…
In short, plan a good fleece and a Rain Jacket just in case!
For the scooter, I know we’re going to sound like big hasbeens by saying that, but we really recommend that you have the right outfit to take the road.
Certainly living with your hair in the wind, with a Chang T-Shirt, shorts and flip flops is very Coooool, but it is also very risky in case of an accident. So of course, accidents always only happen to others, but believe us, it’s better to be careful. And when we see all the people walking around with burns on all the legs and arms in Pai, I swear to you that we don’t want that to happen to us!
In short, for scooter rides, exit beachwear and put on jeans, closed shoes and a jacket! The helmet is of course also required!
Don’t do in Thailand what you wouldn’t do on European roads!
Anyway, this is the end of the section “we play the game killers but promised it’s for the good cause” 🙂
Video of our Mae Hong Son Loop
Budget Mae Hong Son loop in northern Thailand
Mae Hong Son’s Loop is really affordable for almost everyone! To give you an idea we will open our accounts for you.
Here is what we spent in 6 days and 5 nights on the Mae Hong Son loop:
This amounts to a total of 8184 Baths for 2 people which corresponds roughly to 216€ for 6 days and 5 nights, or if you prefer, a budget of about 18€ per day and per person.
The budget is divided into 4 categories:
- Accommodation: Includes 5 nights hotel accommodation on the loop. For the accommodations we made the choice not to book anything in advance. We had no problems finding rooms in our prices. However, if you wish to book in advance we advise you to compare prices on Hotelscombined. You will find the names of the hotels where we slept (when we remembered them) on the interactive map above.
- Transport: Includes scooter rental for 7 days and fuel (scooter: 1400 Baths, fuel: 308 Baths)
- Food and Beverage: Includes absolutely all costs of food, coffee, water, etc.
- Visits : The various entry fees we have paid.
At this price we travelled comfortably sleeping in guesthouses with private bathrooms and hot water. (between 400 and 500 Baths per night).
If these last two points are not essential for you, you can easily find accommodation from 200 Bahts (especially in Pai and Mae Hong Son).
Want to know more about our budget in Chiang Mai? Have a look here!
That’s it, you know everything if you want to prepare your little road trip in the northwest of Thailand! We promise, we will prepare an article for you soon where we will detail a little more our different stages, our accommodations and the visits not to be missed on the way! Until then, take care and see you soon on the roads 😉
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