Undoubtedly, the most adventurous way to travel from Thailand to Laos is by slow boat. For two days, you’ll be at the mercy of the mighty Mekong River, which meanders through Laos. There will be chaos, there will be no embarrassment and it will definitely not be quick. But the spectacular scenery and social atmosphere on the ship make it all the more worthwhile. If you’re looking for adventure, there’s no better way to cross the border than by slow boat.
- Practical information
- border crossing
- The slow boat to Luang Prabang
something to drink
In addition to your normal luggage, you will need a portrait photo for your Laos visa, your Thailand exit card and a warm vest/jacket for the morning of the second day. Make sure you have it with you when you get on the boat. I forgot to take mine out of my large backpack (which is stowed in the hull of the boat) and had to curl up on my bench like a baby. Shivering under my sheer sarong, my fellow passengers, who, of course, had not forgotten to put on a jacket, cheerfully teased me and made themselves comfortable and comfortable.
The entire trip costs around 1,600 baht if booked in advance, slightly less if booked individually. Add 30/35 USD for your VISA + 50-100,000 kip for a night in a guesthouse in Pak Beng. They all suck, but hey, the classic Asian bathroom with a shower just above the toilet is an experience you have to try for yourself. Bring a few extra dollars/baht for random nonsensical charges like “overtime fee” or “excess baggage fee” at the border.
You can get the USD needed for your Laos visa from major banks in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Alternatively, you can simply exchange your Thai money at the border (at various places). Watch out for a 200-300 baht fee for the exchange (they don’t tell you it’s a fee, they just give you a crappy exchange rate).
Length of time
Two days, depending on the starting point. The bus that leaves at 6:00 am. M. in Chiang Rai you can reach Luang Prabang around 16:00. M
If you are departing from Chiang Mai, some operators offer to get up very early, stop at the White Temple in Chiang Rai and continue to Luang Prabang by slow boat the same day. Most tour operators split the journey from Chiang Mai into 3 days, with the first night in the border town of Chiang Khong.
If you are traveling from Pai, first take the bus to (outskirts of) Chiang Mai before heading to Chiang Rai. From Chiang Mai you can also go to Chiang Rai. The prices below apply to independent border crossings without a package.
(Video) 48h Mekong River Cruise – THAILAND to LAOS 🇱🇦
Chiang Rai-Chiang Khong:2-3 hours(Bus – 70 Baht)
Chiang Khong (Tailandia) – Huay Yai (Laos):10 mins(Bus across the bridge – 20 baht)
Huay Yai Border – Slow Boat Pier:30 minutes(Tuk-Tuk – ca. 50,000 Kips)
Pier Huay Yai – The Best Of Pier Huay Yai:6 hours(Slow Boat – 1000 baht at the pier/1300 baht at the border)
Pak Beng – Muelle de Luang Prabang:7 hours(slow boat)
Luang Prabang Pier – Downtown Luang Prabang:10 mins(Tuk-Tuk – 20,000 Kipnot included in a package deal)
Think twice before deciding to cross the border and take the slow boat independently. It will hardly save you any money, it is much more complicated and will most likely cost you another day. That’s because getting to the pier at 11:45 will be a challenge. when the daily slow boat goes to Pak Beng. If you are traveling with something fragile or valuable, keep it in your hand luggage or pack it well in your large bag. Your backpack will wobble a lot in the next few days in a way that is not too sensitive.
If you have booked a package, you will be picked up from your accommodation in Chiang Rai in a last-minute minibus. As I only slept about 5 hours I was looking forward to getting some sleep on the bus to the border but alas! Not only was the vehicle crowded and the seats were Asian-sized, but the chairs lacked headrests, meaning I couldn’t sleep.
You will arrive at the border in around 2 or 3 hours depending on traffic (I didn’t experience any delays). Here you will get off the bus and go through customs and leave Thailand. Make sure you have your exit card! Once through customs there is no real control, you have to take a shuttle to cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. Crossing the river means crossing the border. Hooray! Now you are in Laos! After a short drive you will reach customs where you will receive your visa. You will need to fill out a form and go to office #1 where you will drop off your form, photo and the dollars for the VISA which will be given to you at office #2. With your visa in hand you will board a tuk tuk to the pier. Make sure your tuk-tuk actually goes to the pier and not the bus station. I had to change tuk tuk a few times because there was some confusion before we left.
(Video) INCREDIBLE MEKONG RIVER CRUISE to Luang Prabang, Laos | (we took the 2 day slow boat)
Twenty or maybe thirty minutes later you will be dropped off at a shop near the pier where your “guide” is located (this was the first and last time I actually saw my guide, I didn’t know and wasn’t expecting it) . that there would even be one) tells him to stock up on supplies and book accommodation for Pak Beng. He will tell you that the boat will be delayed in Pak Beng and that you really should book now. Please refuse to buy groceries and book accommodation – you will get a much better deal when you arrive at Pak Beng. Food and drinks can also be purchased at the pier. Beer and snacks are also available on the ship, albeit at inflated prices. However the prices on the boat are similar to the office store so I really see no reason why you should stock up there. I fell for this little scam, of course.I bought some beers and the most disappointing sandwich in Laos and drank my lukewarm canned beer for the same price as fresh cold bottled beer bought from the same ship.
When you arrive at the pier you will see the ship docked and most likely it is already full. I jumped up thinking I had the last seats but then another bus came. And other. and a few more. And some minibuses. And a couple of tuk tuks. Although the boat was already full, they brought more and more people on board. Chaos began to break out in some families. Sweating parents, crying children. The look on the faces of people queuing to board an already packed boat is priceless. The look on the boat workers’ faces assured me that this is the norm. So don’t stress and just enjoy the show.
Make sure you are not among the last 30-50 people to get on the boat. The last seats are in the engine room and your journey will be terrible. The sound of the engine will turn your head for days and the gasoline fumes will make you nauseous and probably unhealthy.
(Video) 2 Day Slow Boat Thailand to Laos (Sep’22)
If the ship departs immediately, the whole journey will be more pleasant. All seats on the boat are loose bus seats only, which can be rotated to form small gatherings. People play cards, chat with each other and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Around 17:30 M. arrive at Pak Beng where you can immediately arrange accommodation at the pier. Expect crappy fan rooms with geckos on the walls and roaches in the bathroom. If you want something more luxurious, go for the ecological one.die Shrine Pak Beng Lodgewith nice and clean rooms and a spectacular view of the Mekong from its restaurant.
After dinner, all travelers looking for social interaction meet at one of thehappy barÖdie Hive-Bar, where drinks are served and tunes are played well past midnight.
The next morning, the boat to Luang Prabang departs at around 09:00. Most people, especially those who have spent their first day in the engine room, will arrive early and the ship will most likely be full before 08:30. Fortunately, this time all are divided into 3 more comfortable and spacious boats. I have no idea why these boats are not used for the first loop but I can imagine that the shallower water doesn’t allow the big boat to go to Luang Prabang. Obviously, smaller and more comfortable boats are more expensive for operators. Either way, this part of the journey is more relaxed and enjoyable. In my experience, people are also a little less sociable, probably because they are no longer crammed into 10 people per square metre.
(Video) SLOW BOAT – THAILAND TO LAOS (Travel Guide) – WATCH THIS before you GO!
Around 4:00 PM you will arrive at the tourist pier in Luang Prabang where you will need to disembark and take a tuk-tuk to town. Here everyone lines up to buy a ticket (20,000 kip) to go into town.
If you gather a large enough group, you don’t need to buy a ticket and can arrange a tuk-tuk to take you straight to your accommodation, saving you time, hassle and, if you’re good, haggling, probably some money too.