There are many articles giving advice on how to travel from Thailand to Laos by slow boat but very few cover going the other way so I decided to write this short piece to help those who, like me, chose to do things backwards!
If the idea of paying over £100 for a flight, or sitting in a small sleeper bus designed for Asian-sized people for 16+ hours, doesn’t appeal then there is a cheaper, more comfortable and hopefully more enjoyable way to travel between Luang Prabang and northern Thailand, particularly Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.
Every day a small fleet of boats travel along the Mekong River shuttling tourists and locals between towns and countries, and it is easier than you think to hop on board and relax as you float along the river passing between mountains and jungles whilst seeing a small part of local Laos life.
The trip involves two days on a slow boat, with an overnight stop on land on Day 1, before arriving at the Thai/Laos border in the evening of Day 2..
Once you’ve crossed the border you can either carry on by private transport (more on this later) or spend the night and catch a bus in the morning to your final stop.
The boats cost 110,000KIP each day and you can either book ahead with your hostel or tour company for a little extra, typical costs between 275-300,000 KIP (around £25 or $33 at time of writing) including hostel tuktuk pickup and transfer to the pier on the first day, or make your own way to the slow boat pier which is 5km out the city and get your ticket on the day.
In high season, or for those who like an easier life, I’d advise to book with someone before hand. It only adds 50-70,000 KIP (about £5) to the price and you get the guarantee of someone picking you and your luggage up from the hostel, taking you to the right place, tickets for the boats on both days and instructions on which boat to get on.
A private tuktuk will set you back around this anyway but you can save a few KIP if you’re on an extreme budget!
I am told that the pier used to be in the city centre but it was moved away to allow tuktuk drivers to make more money, I don’t know how true that is but it wouldn’t surprise me!
I stayed at the Chitlatda Central Bila House in Luang Prabang and they offered the slow boat ticket, including transfer, for 275,000 which was the cheapest price I saw.
Note you’ll see it advertised as slow boat to Huay Xai, this is the Laos border town which the boats will take you to. You then need to arrange your own onward transfer to your Thai destination but this is covered later in the article.Continue reading