Everything you need to know about riding a motorbike on the Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand.
Northern Thailand is the kind of place that lingers in your heart long after you leave.
Offering a stark contrast to the southern beaches and islands the cooler, mountainous region offers all sorts of activities including trekking, volunteering with elephants, incredible temples and one of the country’s most famous motorcycle trips, the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Starting from the gorgeous city of Chiang Mai, the Mae Hong Son Loop is a 600km journey that takes you through the Mae Hong Son province.
The main towns that you visit will be Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son and Pai, and you can tackle the loop in either direction.
For those who wish to explore authentic Thai towns, cascading waterfalls, limestone caves and rugged wilderness this is the adventure for you!
The Mae Hong Son Loop is best undertaken on a semi-automatic scooter or larger motorcycle rented from Chiang Mai.
The road is notoriously difficult for inexperienced riders, with the stretch between Chiang Mai and Pai alone boasting 762 hilly curves.
For this reason we recommend doing the loop in a clockwise direction, heading through Mae Sariang first.
The road is not too busy for South-East Asian standards and is quite flat and simple – a good way to build your confidence up before you start heading into the mountains.
We recommend doing the trip in at least four days, longer if you want to enjoy some time in any of the towns (Pai especially).
We rented our scooters from the company Mr Mechanic in Chiang Mai. They offer decent bikes from your typical 100cc automatics right up to large 600cc road bikes.
Alesha and I rented 110cc semi-automatics and this was perfect for tackling the Mae Hong Son Loop. The semi-automatics are better on fuel and allow more control over mountain climbs.
Don’t be put off about the gears; They are easy to use! It will only take an hour or so if you are inexperienced to pick up the skills need to ride smoothly and it will make a world of difference on the road.
Mr Mechanic also has the option of taking out added insurance so if something goes wrong with the bike they will reimburse you for any repairs needed along the way or will deliver a new bike to any part of the loop. It doesn’t cost that much more, so may as well do it!
Would you rather grab a big bike and join a small-group tour with a bunch of other riders? Check out this cool 3-day trip around the Mae Hong Son Loop on a BMW.
Table of Contents
- Travel Insurance for the Mae Hong Son Loop
- Our Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary
- Day 1 – Chiang Mai To Mae Sariang (190km)
- Day 2 – Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son (140km)
- Day 3 – Mae Hong Son to Pai (110km)
- Day 4 – Pai to Chiang Mai (130km)
Travel Insurance for the Mae Hong Son Loop
While Mr Mechanic does offer insurance for their motorbikes, they do not offer health or medical emergency insurance.
If you are thinking about riding a motorbike on the Mae Hong Son Loop, we highly recommend you buy travel insurance.
Unfortunately accidents do happen, and even though 95% of people who ride this magnificent stretch of Northern Thailand do so without incident, it is good to be covered in case of emergency.
Medical care in Thailand is surprisingly expensive (but that’s because the quality is so good).
If you are sitting on the fence about it, read our Do I Need Travel Insurance page and decide for yourself.
We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance.
Our Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary
Here we detail for you the exact route and itinerary we followed for the Mae Hong Son Loop.
We have helped hundreds of people over the years plan their motorcycle trip, and have had nothing but great feedback. We hope you enjoy it too!
Day 1 – Chiang Mai To Mae Sariang (190km)
It is pretty straight-forward leaving Chiang Mai to start the Mae Hong Son Loop. From the old city, exit out the South Gate and then take Thipanet Rd (towards the airport). Follow signs to Mae Hong Son.
You cruise along Route 108 for 90km or so to the town of Hot. This drive is long, straight and very simple.
Not too much traffic to worry about. Turn right at the roundabout, continuing to follow Route 108 (signs to Mae Sariang/Mae Hong Son).
From here, the scenery drastically improves. You will be following a meandering river surrounded by lush vegetation.
A few bends and curves in the road, but nothing that will get your heart pumping. Very few elevation changes.
The town of Mae Sariang is quite pleasant, with some nice temples to check out.
Mae Sariang is a lovely town, and even though we only spent one night there during our Mae Hong Son Loop, if you had some extra days you could easily fill them up with great things to do in the surrounding countryside.
Accommodation In Mae Sariang
We stayed at the Mitaree Resort in Mae Sariang. Note that this is a budget place, and “resort” isn’t really the right word. Still, it was comfortable and adequate for us.
- Mitaree Resort
Address: 34/1 Waingmai Rd. Mae Sarieng
Telephone: +66 (0) 53-68 1109
Web: Book Mitaree Hotel On Agoda
Pricing: 200- 800 Baht
If you are looking for something a bit higher end in Mae Sariang, Agoda has the best selection of options.
Have something booked before you arrive so you don’t spend hours riding around trying to find somewhere to rest your head.
Bonus 10% discount for NOMADasaurus readers – Use the Agoda link above and put it the code ‘AGODANMD10’ on check out to get 10% off your accommodation.
Things To Do In Mae Sariang
Don’t miss out on some of these fun things to do in Mae Sariang.
There are markets on daily, but now and then if you are lucky there is a special event for some kind of celebration. When we were there there was an event about teaching farmers to grow other types of produce to discourage the cultivation of poppies for opium.It was very interesting looking at the displays of sustainable living, plantations, military installations, etc. There were performances on the stage with cultural music and dancing. The costumes were amazing. The standard night markets were full of all sorts of things to buy from meat to toiletries to vegetables to electronics.
- Wat Chomchaeng
This temple has a nice view of the town. There are about 40 stairs to get up there but it is a peaceful place. Remember- you are in a Buddhist temple, please be respectful and cover up. No singlets and short shorts.
Doi InthanonThe highest mountain in Thailand, this is a worthwhile detour if you are making good time on the way to Mae Sariang. You can ride to the top and will be afforded amazing views over the surrounding countryside. If you’re planning on travelling on a Doi Inthanon day trip, check out our guide to learn everything you need to know about the place.
Day 2 – Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son (140km)
The road out of Mae Sariang begins much the same as it was coming in. Trees and few bends. But this soon changes with some nice banked curves and elevation gains.
The seemingly endless forest starts to change to gorgeous green farmland. The level of traffic drops away to be almost non-existent and there are quite a few little villages you can stop off at for a refreshing drink and a quick bite to eat.
Don’t forget to stop off at the cafe 17km from Mae Hong Son to enjoy a fresh coffee with a spectacular view. A perfect break along the Mae Hong Son Loop!
Arriving in Mae Hong Son you may be surprised at how large the town actually is. It has every kind of amenity you could possibly need and a decent selection of guesthouses.
Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son is a very large town, and you can expect to find all the amenities you would need in other big towns in Thailand. It also has a great cultural feel.
Accommodation In Mae Hong Son
We stayed at the Mae Hong Son Hotel in town and really liked it.
- Mae Hong Son Hotel
Address: Sorry, we could not find this address online. It is off the main road, Khunlum Praphat, on a side road. If you ask a local they would be happy to help.
Pricing: 300- 350 Baht per night
Book other accommodation in Mae Hong Son on Agoda
It is a two-storey white building with 8 rooms. The rooms are extremely large, with their own private bathroom (hot water and towel), TV and fridge.
The lady running it is very friendly and lives behind the reception area. Each room has a sitting area.
This place is hidden off the main road and down a side street. We came across it by chance and were glad we did. The lady was super friendly and very welcoming.
Things To Do In Mae Hong Son:
- Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (top of the hill)
- Temple at the bottom of the hill
- Wat Chong Kham (near the lake)
- Lake Jong Kum
Day 3 – Mae Hong Son to Pai (110km)
The road is windy, but it is scenic and beautiful. You need to be very careful on this leg of the journey due to the bends and steep hills you will encounter.
Is very picturesque and the ride will probably take longer than expected as you stop for numerous photo opportunities and to check out the huge number of attractions to see.
The final 50km on this section of the Mae Hong Son Loop sees you ride to the top of a mountain pass and then descend into the valley with spectacular vistas and fun curves to take at speed if you are feeling ready!
Ahh yes, everybody’s favourite hippie-not-so-hippie-amazing-slightly-touristy village in Thailand!
While most backpackers end up loving it, you’ll want to set aside a few nights to judge the place for yourself.
No matter what you feel, you can’t deny its stunning beauty.
Accommodation in Pai
We have stayed at a bunch of different places in Pai over the years, but Country Huts is now our favourite.
- Country Huts
Address: Over the bamboo bridge, directly in front of you when you cross over.
Pricing: 200 Baht in low season, 300 Baht in high season.
Web: Book Country Huts on Agoda
This place is located on the other side of the river, but downtown. You have to walk over a bamboo broken bridge and it will be just to your left as you hop off.
The woman and her family that run the place are extremely friendly and will do anything to help make your stay in Pai absolutely perfect.
The bungalows are very nice with a large double bed, private bathroom and of course a hammock on the balcony to laze about it.
It was very relaxing and nice just to chill in the hammock, read a book and people watch. Of all the places we’ve stayed in Pai over the years, this is our new favourite.
- Spicy Pai
Address: 291 Moo 1, Mae Hee. From town head up past the swimming pool and the road to the circus school.
Pricing: 150 Baht per person for Dorm, 450 Baht for Private Bungalow.
Web: Book Spicy Pai on Hostel World
Spicy Pai is one of the funnest hostels you will come across in all of Thailand. It is very rustic with basic facilities, but the vibe is great.
Located amongst rice fields with spectacular views of the mountains surrounding town, Spicy Pai attracts chilled backpackers, hippies and those looking to spend their days smoking and exploring and their nights drinking and partying.
The kind of place you go for a night and spend the next two years laying in a hammock contemplating how awesome your life is.
If you want something a bit less backpacker-orientated, Pai has tonnes of other great accommodation options. Check out the choices on Agoda and Booking.com
Things To Do In Pai
- Check out our 10 things to do in Pai post.
Things To Do On The Ride
- Pha Sua Waterfall
This waterfall is on the Route 1095 to Pai. It is well signed so don’t worry about missing the turn off. It is a beautiful and large waterfall and you ride through some very pleasant villages to get there. It is definitely worth a stop
Day 4 – Pai to Chiang Mai (130km)
The most popular section of the Mae Hong Son Loop is this one, with minibuses and other tourists plying the route at all times of the day.
Directly out of Pai you start to climb another steep hill and the 762 bends come at you hard and fast.
The nature changes with the altitude gain and you are eventually riding through the sweet aroma wafting from pine trees.
You stay at height for a while and then begin to descend, offering more sensational views and tight corners.
Plenty of villages provide ample rest opportunities. Eventually, you reach the highway for the anti-climatic end to your ride to Chiang Mai.
There’s a reason Chiang Mai is known as the cultural capital of Thailand, and the moment you explore its historic old town you’ll begin to feel the beautiful power of the Buddhist temples and shrines.
It’s also the starting and ending point of 99% of riders on the Mae Hong Son Loop, so you’ll end up spending quite a bit of time here. Enjoy!
Accommodation In Chiang Mai
- CM Blue House
Address: 30-1 Moonmuang Rd. Soi 6, Chiang Mai
Pricing: 300 Baht Fan/ 450 Baht A/C (Low Season), 350 Baht Fan/ 500 Baht A/C (High Season)It is a two story light blue building located in the old city. The rooms are large with their own private bathrooms (with hot water and towels). You can choose from fan or air conditioning.They have a garden area on the side for you to sit in and enjoy some outdoor time. They have refreshments available on an honesty system and when you check out you fix up that side also.We have stayed in Chiang Mai a couple of times now and wish we found this little gem earlier.
Check out the other great accommodation options in Chiang Mai on Agoda and Booking.com
Things To Do In Chiang Mai
We would love to tell you what we loved but everyone is different and has their own ideas of things worth exploring. Make sure check out our post on “Things to do in Chiang Mai” as this is a magical city. Our favourite attractions were:
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Located at the top of Doi Suthep mountain this is one of the most picturesque temples in all of the Chiang Mai region. The ride to the top is beautiful with lots of great places to stop off and see along the way.
Check out Lesh’s Vipassana Meditation Retreat post here.
- Sunday night walking street or Saturday night markets
Always a fun place to pick up a gift or be adventurous with some different foods. Both markets are large, but the Sunday walking market is huge. This one was our favourite and it vines off into many side streets also. While you are enjoying your evening, you will be entertained by all kinds of different music from the street performers.
[box] Thanks so much for reading our Mae Hong Son Loop travel guide! We hope you found it helpful. If you did please leave a comment below! Ride safe.[/box]
Disclaimer: This post has a few affiliate links in them. This means that if you buy travel insurance, or book accommodation, through the links that we have provided we will make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep writing about awesome adventures around the world, and we would love you forever if you used them.
95 thoughts on “Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop – Motorbike Travel Guide”
thank you for the article
Great Blog !
Do you think it is necessary to book the accommodations ahead of time or can we just show up and sleep ?
Hye, thanks for the blog.
Did you do the golden triangle loop? I am trying to choose between the two
Hi Lee, No we didn’t sorry. It is a hard one. If you have time, you can do both. 🙂
Rather surprised you say of the first leg to Mae Sariang ” Very few elevation changes.”
I’ve just checked it out using a contour map and you climb from about 300 metres to over 1100. It also drops to 800 and back to 1100. To me, these are fairly serious elevation changes.
Yes you are correct, That is the Pai way. There are 2 ways to travel the Mae Hong Son Loop. We started at the less elevated end and ended up high. Pai was our last destination.
great blog and very inspiring. I’m going to be in Chiang Mai in October for 6 days and I booked 2 night in a hostel already, because it’s my first stop in SE Asia coming from Europe and I didn’t want the hassle to look around for rooms on my first couple of days. Anyway is it possible to do the loop in less than 4 days or is that to many km to do in that short time?
Hi Mel, unfortunately there is not. Our suggestion is to hire a scooter and ride to Pai. You can rent from Mr Mechanic (as in article) in Chiang Mai and leave your bags with them. If you have any trouble you can call them also. They are a very reliable company. Both Chiang Mai and Pai are gorgeous places. If you do rent a bike, ride carefully and go slow on those corners to Pai. They are crazy. 🙂
For those of you who might be interested, once you do the Mae Hong Son Loop, you can get your Certificate of Conquest from MHS Chamber of commerce. It costs 60 baht. The Certificate centre is located at a coffee shop called Cafe Station. Opposite the post Office in town. It’s a must have item. Grab yours.
Definitely pick it up if you would like a little souvenir. 🙂
Hello i just have a question about renting the bike , you can rent eny bike you want , wore thoes that have to do with youre divers license , i dont now if iam explaining it rihgt , im my country you can olny drive depending on the cc , that is writen in you drivers license.
sorry fot eh bad english.
In most south east asia countries you can drive a scooter on your driver’s license. You need to carry this on you incase a police officer stops you. If you do not have a motorbike license and you have an accident, your insurance company most likely will not cover you. A lot of travellers take that risk and rent a scooter anyway. Let me know if this is not what you are looking for. 🙂
Hey Alesha and Jerryd,
my boyfriend and I have only one day in Mae Hong Son. We will arrive at 8.45 am. So we asked us if it is possible to rent a motorbike in Mae Hong Son and drive to Pai and give it back over there? We don’t want to drive back to Mae Hong Son. Do you know it anybody offering one way rentals?
Thanks for your help!
Julia & Philipp
Sorry but we don’t know of any bike rental places in Mae Hong Son. You can definitely do one-way bike rentals between Pai and Chiang Mai, but don’t know about any other places. Let us know if you find anything though. 🙂
Hi there, great article!
Just wondering if you booked with Mr Mechanic in advance or once you got there? Is it necessary to book in advance? Cheers 🙂
Hi Reddy. We just showed up and booked straight away, but probably worth giving them a call first to make sure they have some bikes if you’re heading there in the middle of the busy season. Ride safe! 🙂
Hello, how much this loop would cost (rent and fuel only)?
Hi Vincent, Sorry mate it was in 2014 so we can’t remember the price. It wasn’t that expensive. It doesn’t cost much to fill up a scooter as the tanks are small. As for the renting price, the longer you rent it the cheaper it is. All the best
Great blog guys, not sure if it has been mentioned, but the twisty road between Chiang Mai & Pai has all been completley re-surfaced (late Feb 2016), making the trip one of the most enjoyable rides ever. I have done this trip 4 times now & never enjoyed it so much.
I have travelled almost 10,000 klms in the last 5 years in Thailand & every year the roads seem to get better & better, or I’m just getting used to them !!!
That’s awesome. Thank you for the update Shaun. That road was a dodgy one and a lot of people would loose control on those bends. Wow 10,000km. It is definitely a great way to see a country. All the best with your future riding.
So now is it doable if you are not really experience or you wouldn’t advise it
Wanted to say again many thanks for your blog and your suggestions & answers. Finally, we decided to rent a bike. Honda PCX (150 cc) it was enough for two persons and one backpack. It would be a big mistake to rent a car, because of narrow and spin roads. It is much harder and less flexible for maneuver.
We made 1400 km extended Mae Hong Son Loop, and it was great, despite on accident, happened with us. To those, who are thinking to do or not do the Loop, we suggest don’t miss this opportunity and don’t scary, but be very careful, do not think, that after some time you become an experienced rider 🙂
If you or somebody are interested, can look our detailed description of route with our adventures (link is below).
We are glad we could help Victor. That’s awesome you and your friend did it. It really is ride not to miss in Thailand. Thanks for reading.
Hoping you get this, been awhile. How was it 2-up on the bike? Going in March 2019 with the wife and she has no bike experience and doesn’t think she would want to be on her own bike.
Anyone else with 2-up experience on the loop, would appreciate your input.
I ve done the loop with 2 up on a 150cc last Feb and was fine but of course it depends on your combined weight..ours was approx 135 kg of bodies and about another15kg of “stuff”. It was fine ..great ride..actually riding to Pai tomorrow.
I hopes this helps.
Is it recommend to do this Mae Hong Son loop alone? After reading the blogs on the MHS loop, I’m surely excited over it. How dangerous is it, if i were to ride it alone?
Apart from that, is there any local bus from Chiang Rai to Pai? Right now I’m in a decision on weather to go straight to Chiang Mai to ride the MHS loop OR just venture out Pai. Any good recommendation?
I think the only real danger would be if you got into an accident and were alone. I don’t think there is any worry about personal safety. There is both a bus and minivan from Chiang Mai to Pai. The bus takes an extra hour, but the drivers aren’t as insane! The minivans fly around those turns at breakneck speeds.
Hi Sop, we agree with Leslie’s comment. A great way to find people is to ask at the hostels or visit Mr Mechanic shop. The lady there was extremely helpful and may know of others that want to go with more people. We felt very safe riding the loop. We took our time and drove at the appropriate speeds for the conditions of the roads. Like Leslie said, maybe if you had an accident that might be the only time another rider would be nice to have there. Hope you got to do the loop. It really was a highlight for us in Thailand.
Hi could you recommend any good hikes on mountais on the way of the loop that you should check out?
Hi Andreas, sorry we are not to sure. We didn’t do any hiking ourselves. We did pass some national parks so I think there would be. Good luck
Super excited to do this. I was wanting to spend a decent amount of time in Pai to do some trekking so I am wondering whether there are any options to rent a bike in Chiang Mai and drop it off in Pai, and then do the same again from Pai to Chiang Mai when I am ready to leave? Otherwise, I could keep the bike with me in Pai while I trek but is the daily rate to hire bikes expensive? I am assuming its like the rest of Thailand/SE Asia and is only $5-10 per day?
Hi Amanda! I believe Aya Service does one-way rentals between Chiang Mai and Pai. Best to check with them. Should be between $5-10 a day, depending on what kind of scooter you would like. Ride safely 🙂
Hello, thank you for this blog. Is this easy to do WITHOUT a gps or google map? I will do the loop with a paper map only.
Yes very easy Alex. We never used a GPS or google maps. Just follow the signs 🙂
Hey guys, nice blog!
Me and my wife want to discover this loop in the end of December. I’ve driven a scooter only in Vietnam and it was only automatic, my wife never had experience. Therefore, there are two options. Car and scooter.
First is quite expensive: 140 euros for five days (I wont include full insurance), so we consider ONE scooter.
But I have some doubts. Firstly, I am afraid two passengers is two much. I remember we could not pull a hill not far from Da Nang once. Second, the lack of experience on mountain roads (again, with scooter, car – many times).
I would like to ask what you think is best option? Or may be I can suggest something? Thank you in advance!
PS. We also consider the option using buses and renting scooters in place. But there are many questions. So while this option is third in our list
Hey Victor, I would say for these roads do not put your wife on the back of a scooter with you. If you rent a larger bike than it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. If renting a car is out of your budget, and your wife definitely doesn’t want to ride a scooter, than taking a bus might be your best bet. You can rent scooters in Pai no problem, and perhaps in Mae Hong Son as well. Although I will admit that road from Chiang Mai to Pai in a minivan would suck. Let us know what you end up deciding, and happy travels 🙂
Guys, thank you very much for the useful and so fast reply!
You exclude one of my wrong decision, I was very close for. You said about minivan, as I understood the road is narrow or because of curves. We want to rent small car “economy” class. Do you think is suitable?
Thanks again! And happy travels for you too
Victor I think a small economy class car will be fine, but be aware of just how loose the “road rules” are in Thailand. If you think you will be comfortable driving a car in the traffic there, go for it. The Mae Hong Son Loop is nowhere near as busy as what you may experience in the rest of Thailand, or other parts of SE Asia, so if you are confident, I think it will be a great way to go!
Thanks, for the reply. Yes, car has also own drawbacks.
One family, how make trips with a kid, advised us to rent scooter Honda PCX 150, which is quite powerful for two people, and has automatic gear.
We found in Chiang Mai some companies and.thinking to rent frame for luggage, as we go together on one bike. It will avoid extra load on the back and increase stability.
We are planning to test it one day in the city, and then slowly we move to the path 😉
Thanks again for the reply and your site! I need to study Myanmar destination 😉
Vitya and Nastya
Now you can get a resort with swimming pool with ac for 300 baht monsoon covid price . Before 1000 baht a single and up. We are not dead here even though the walking street is basically gone we are a non tourist destination now lol. Like 1995. Welcome to the new chill with less hipsters and flakey yoga gurus and plastic organic new agers. The lack of 2000 people visiting everyday will be felt in the air burning tons of plastic was terrible here. Due to covid we check temp and were you come from but keep up with changes. Its awesome now here and saturday there is a small market open at wednesday market on the soi at the playground 9 to 12 good chai and food at dacha house too. Peds pizza are the best pizza now also nearby and the morning and evening markets are full of fresh food and hilltribe vegetables and chicken pork fish.
really enjoyed reading it…my boyfriend has booked everything for us to do the loop on Wednesday. However, my insurance point blank states that it does not cover moped/motorbike accidents so I am really nervous! Does Mr Mechanic offer any type of health insurance/ what type of insurance did you take? All of the UK ones that I have seen state that you must have a moped licence in the UK to be covered.
Hey Lesh and Jazza! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this post together! We consulted your post before we did the loop this past week (mid October 2015) and are so grateful. Just wanted to share an update with folks thinking of doing it soon and looking to your post for advice. There is a lot of construction on the road between Pai and Chiang Mai. This may slow you down a bit (this may not be such a bad thing). It took us five hours to get from Chiang Mai to Pai with lunch and stretch breaks. Also, with the construction there are areas of the road that are just hard packed dirt instead of asphalt. Be safe, take your time and have fun everyone!
What a great article, I’ve been traveling the world too for the last 6 months and my last few months I’m spending in South East Asia, I have read a few articles about the The Mae Hong Son Loop, and it sounds like such a great trip, I’m pretty convinced that I’m going to do it! Having being brought up on a farm around bikes my whole life the riding should’nt be an issue.
I did have some questions though, how big were your backpacks and were they a hassle carrying them on the bike with you, or did you leave them behind somwhwre and take smaller bags? Second question is what clothing did you wear? Did you hire a riding jacket? Thanks for the good read;
Great tips guys, we have been in Pai and we really enjoyed the view. Now we are thinking to visit Mae Hong Son too 🙂 Thank you for sharing!
Sri & Kian
Glad you enjoyed Pai. Happy travels Sri and Kian 🙂
Not sure if you answered this somewhere in the thread. My boyfriend and I are considering this sometime the first week of Sept (6-12). Is this dangerous with the rainy season or should be consider a car rental? I really appreciate the guidance!!!!
Not too dangerous Alex as long as you have some experience riding. Just keep in mind that you will probably get wet, so wrap your bags in a heavy plastic and wear wet weather gear. Also ride really slow and take it easy on corners. We rode all around South East Asia in the rainy season. Not ideal, but still perfectly fine 🙂
Great description. I will do exactly this route, starting in two days. Thanks for all the information!
BTW: are you really in Mongolia? I have been with a nomad family there for 2 months. If you have questions or want a great guide, please let me know. All the best!
We sure are in Mongolia. Hanging out in the North right now, then cruising out to the West. Where did you spend your two months with a nomad family? That sounds incredible!
Ohhh and I forgot also to ask, budget wise around how much did the whole loop cost, including accommodations food etc for around 8 days
Very cool step by step guide for the loop.. I’m starting tomorrow… Just came out of a bad motorbike accident in koh tao so will definitely drive carefully.. anyways, how many hours did it take daily in the bike? What time do you recommend , traffic wise etc to start each day traveling? Should I definitely get someone to do it with me or Solo is alright?
Thanks and again very cool blog
Hey Enrique, it was a while ago now so we can’t remember exact times/costs/etc. But I think we rode for about an average of 5-6 hours a day? Including breaks and lots of stops to take photos. You can do it by yourself, and the roads aren’t that busy. It just depends on how confident you feel. And like you said, ride carefully 🙂
I love this article. Thanks for the info. Heading to Thailand in a few months and plan to do this trip. I have a question about the scooters. Do the seat storage areas lock? Thanks.
99% of the time, the seat storage areas do lock. You need your ignition key to open them.
First I must warn that the insurance of Mr. Mechanic does not cover third-party losses. Is this not why you want an insurance in the first place?
I rented a motorbike with them and after only 10 minutes on the road (and with everything legally Ok) I had to pay the police a bribe of 400THB. Police corruption at daylight in front of a big fancy hotel. Also my Thai girlfriend was shocked, more so when we brought back the motorbike after a few hours use to Mr. Mechanic and got this comment from them: just pay the fine (bribe) as everyone does. No thanks! My holiday in Chiang Mai got shorter, from 7 days to 1 day. Think twice when you rent a motorbike in Thailand, that is my advice.
You just have to do it like my friend. He told the Officers, that he first had to get money from the atm. They let him go and he never came back….:-)
Imaging you need the police, after an traffic accident, for a balanced evaluation of the event. Sorry, but I do not trust corrupt police. I think Thailand is looking out for the wrong tourists: the one who do not come (any longer) to their country. This police corruption will cost them dearly in the long run. What a pity, Thailand is such a beautiful country.
It really is a beautiful country. Try not to let one or two bad eggs ruin the mix.
Well, my first journey to Thailand is now around 15 years ago and it was always like that…
And if you have an accident, be shure that you are blamed just because you are a foreigner. It’s always the same. I don’t expect that this will change…. But I still love Thailand because for me the good things still outweigh the bad side.
It is unfortunate that happens. As long as everyone is aware of the risks, that is the most important thing.
That’s one way to do it. Or just don’t stop 😀
You can hardly blame Mr Mechanic for you getting a fine Rudi. I don’t know any rental company in the world that will reimburse you for being fined by the police. Corruption unfortunately occurs in Southeast Asia, but 99% of the people are amazing. Try not to let it ruin your holiday. 🙂
My Thai GF and I think different about it. If they find police corruption normal at Mr. Mechanic they should at least warn people about it and they should also not brag with big photos of the local police boss at their office. My advice to people, be warned and remember that there are other means of transport to visit this beautiful region of Thailand. I will have family of my GF doing the trip with us next year… in a car and a driver from Thailand. Good luck to everyone and remember to enjoy the trip, sanook!
Thanks for the comment Rudi. The Mae Hong Son Loop definitely doesn’t have to be enjoyed on a motorbike if anyone is uncomfortable with it. We’ve got friends who did the Loop by bus and still loved it (and slim chance of encountering police corruption).
Hey there! What a great blog ! And so useful!!
After reading this me and my boyfriend really want to to The Loop!
But we almost dont have experience riding motorbike , last week we rent an automatic scooter to go to tha khao yai national park and we ride about 60 km without problems but this was our first time and we have never use a semiautomatic
Do you think its possible to do The loop in just one automático scooter for both of us??
Its too dangerous/difficult The road??
Do you think its better for us to do it by bus???
Hey there! What an awesome blog!! We are in chiang mai now and after reading this we really want to do The loop!!
But we have almost no experience riding bikes ( we rent an automatic bike in kho chang to go to The khao yai national park 40 km away and have no problem though!)
Do you think its possible for us to go on bike ir its tío dangerous/difficult The road??
The road is not difficult at all. Good condition, low traffic outside of Chiang Mai. The only thing you need to be aware of is that the road is very bendy and slightly technical. Just ride slow and you should be fine. Happy travels 🙂
You con buy a perfect map from”gt-rider” in Chiang Mai. Just have a look on their website. There is a lot of information!
Thanks for the tip, Anja 🙂
Your trip is really cool!! I wanna do that too but is it safe? and did you lost your way during the trip? Is Google map able to tract the route?
Yep, it is as ‘safe’ as riding a motorbike in South East Asia can possibly be. And Google Maps will be able to track your route 🙂
Just read your blog, which I found very imformative. I am planning a road trip in Jan from Krabi upto Chiang Rai including the loop, then back down via Sukothai, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi etc etc. i will be taking my Kawasaki Ninja 300 and will travel alone, which I was a little nervous about until I read your article. Really looking forward to it. Keep up the good work.
Hey Bob, that trip on a 300 would be awesome! You’ll have a killer time on some of those corners! Ride safe, and happy travels my friend.
Good post, lots of useful info. You mention Mae Hong Son being big – I was last there in 2002 and was a very pretty little town which we really enjoyed. Thought of going back one day but your comment worrying me. What were your impressions?
I still wouldn’t call Mae Hong Son big compared to Chiang Mai. Although I do imagine it has grown substantially since 2002. It definitely didn’t feel like a touristy town and was still relatively “authentic”. We quite liked it.
I’ve read this post about 5 times since a friend suggested I do this on my New Year’s break from work and, though I might do it a little differently (CM – Mae Rim – Pai – Mae Hong Son – CM) I have to say what you’ve written has been really helpful for getting me off my ass to plan.
Now for my dumb dumb question: for a semi-experienced biker (Bangkok back sois and a couple of times around Kohs Chang and Samui), do you have any advice on backpack size/weight/packing for such a long journey? On a Honda Wave, for example, did you find your control or stability affected when riding with your large rucksacks?
Keep up the good work! This one led me to the rest of the blog, some great stuff!
Hey Michael, thanks for the comment. Sounds like you have an awesome itinerary planned. Glad we could help.
As for the question (not dumb at all), having a backpack should not be an issue. We have been travelling for 7 months on our bikes, with our backpacks (about 14kg) strapped onto the luggage racks and you get used to it very quickly. I would recommend NOT wearing your backpack as it will put added pressure on your back and be more likely to throw you off balance-wise. Most Honda Waves will come with adequate space to strap a bag to the back, and you should be able to get some tie-downs included with your rental price. Stability will not be an issue, and in fact will be easier than riding with a passenger on the back.
Happy we could inspire. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Have a great journey, Michael 😀
I plan to do the loop on my next holiday in Thailand too.I thought over the luggage-problem as well. So my suggestion is to pack what you need for 5 or 6 days in a small bag or backpacker and leave the rest in Chiang Mai. Many guesthouses offer luggage storage, often for free.
You will love the loop, Anja. Definitely only take a few things with you on the journey. We left our backpacks with the place we rented our scooters from. Thanks for reading 😀
Just in time! I head to northern Thailand in less than a week to do just this–the Mae Hong Son loop. I have about 8 days in the north but wasn’t sure if that would be enough to do the loop properly–would you say it’s enough? We won’t be renting motorbikes, but taking buses instead. Will come back to this post as my plan progresses.
8 days would be a good amount of time to do the loop. Unless you want to do some trekking, you only need one night in Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son. Pai deserves a couple of days at least. Taking the bus will be interesting. Take some motion sickness tablets with you and you will be fine. So beautiful. Enjoy!
Just came back from doing the loop and now nursing travel blues. What an experience–loved every bit of it, especially the Mae Sariang area and the lovely trails out of Soppong.
Thanks for this post–it really helped with the logistics 🙂
So glad to hear our post helped out on your adventure. Stoked you had such an amazing time doing the loop. Cheers for reading 😀
Wow, this looks like the ultimate Northern Thailand trip! We have been to Thailand lots of times, it is like a home away from home for us, but have not been up north yet, a bit embarrassing 🙂 . Should really check it out next time! Your photos are stunning!
Would love to rent or buy motorbikes and do this trip, but neither of us have motorbike license and have very little experience in driving a motorbike (did it one day in Koh Lanta). So we should probably head back to Europe and do the training and get the license first. Do you have motorbike license from Australia?
Thanks for the comment, Maria. Make sure you spend some time in the North. A completely different place to the gorgeous beaches of the South (and cheaper). Lesh has her motorcycle license from back home, but I do not. Many people who ride scooters in SE Asia have zero experience. As long as you use common sense and don’t get over-confident, you should be fine. Koh Lanta is a great place to learn to ride!
Thanks for posting this! I met some travelers in Laos who were biking it, and I just thought it would be an amazing experience. I’d come from Northern Thailand and down through Laos on a bus, and seeing that gorgeous scenery from my window I imagined it would be so much better “up close and personal” on a motor bike. So I put it on the “bucket list” but haven’t revisited the idea because I thought the whole learning to ride a bike and licensing thing might take a while. But you’ve demystified that for me, so I might dust off that ol’ idea and make some plans 😉
Hey Amanda. We bought our motorbikes in Luang Prabang and so far have ridden four months and over 6’000 kilometres in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The freedom that having our own bikes gives us is incredible. Thailand is by far the strictest of the countries when it comes to licensing (and Cambodia is the most corrupt) but there is nothing to worry about. We have not had a single issue and have met hundreds of travellers who have had the same experience. I suggest just jump in and enjoy it!
We are heading over to SE Asia in the coming year and have been seriously considering buying bikes in Malaysia and heading around. Did you have any dramas taking the bikes into/out of Vietnam? I’ve heard that can be a pain.
Any drawbacks to buying/having your own bikes??
Buying bikes in Malaysia would be awesome! Just be aware that you cannot bring a bike into Thailand unless it is 100% in your own name. You also need a special permit to import form, although it shouldn’t be too hard to organise from KL. We had no problems taking a Vietnamese plated bike into and out of Vietnam, but we always went to small border crossings. Main drawbacks would be not being able to have an exact time or date you will be anywhere, and never knowing if your bike will make the distance. You can always never rely on road conditions here in SE Asia. Plus there is always the chance of being involved in an accident, as road rules are rarely followed in some countries. But, that is all part of the adventure, and we don’t regret buying our bikes at all! Happy travels, Kolbie. Do let us know if you end up buying a motorbike 😀
Also be aware if you import a bike you may be liable to 200% Excise duty in Thailand. Crossing borders in Asia is not like the EU, every country is very different on regulations.
If you haven’t ridden before I don’t suggest learning inThailand. The road quality is generally poor as are vehicle standards and other drivers (cars and bikes) abilities due to very lax regulations. E.g.no license required just cash!
But if you can and do – certainly one of the experiences of a lifetime.
Thanks for reading mate! Yea that import tax is a killer for sure. With a Vietnamese-plated bike, it is pretty easy to cross between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but not so much Laos. Many people do learn in Thailand, and I don’t really see it as a problem as long as people maintain a high level of common sense. Unfortunately some think that renting a scooter is no less dangerous than walking down the street. I would say about 95% of foreign accidents on scooters is due to rider error.
But yes, if you do ride around Southeast Asia, there is no better experience 😀
Would the motorcycle rentals such as mr mechanics, give a comprehensive map and also give ideas of were is good to stop? or is it worth coming reasonably prepared of what to do and were to go
This looks like a pretty cool experience. We liked the idea whilst we were in Thailand but didn’t do it because we don’t really drive motorbikes and didn’t want to learn on such roads. Shame really!
Great tips guys! I would just have one question. Is there any special motorbike driving license needed for renting the bike? I have car driving license, I hope that is going to be enough. I am heading to Thailand for 3 weeks at the beginning of October and I am putting together an itinerary. I am still considering whether I should head to the north. I don’t want to rush it. We are flying into Bangkok and flying out of Phuket so we might just stick to the Island but I still want to rent the motorcycle! 🙂
No you don’t need to show any licence when you rent a scooter. They will want to either keep your passport (I don’t recommend that) or you can leave a cash deposit and a photocopy instead. Mr Mechanic are happy for people to do that. If you are starting in Bangkok and heading to Phuket I wouldn’t recommend checking out the North. Instead spend some good time on a few of the islands and beach towns like Koh Tao, Koh Lanta, Railay or Ton Sai, etc. Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Lanta are good places to rent motorcycles. Koh Tao is a lot of gravel and sand on the roads, so make sure you are a competent rider before tackling it there. Have fun!