The slow boat to Laos from Thailand – Tips for an awesome journey

Curated by BuffaloTripNovember 5, 2015 Viewed: 773

The slow boat to Laos from Thailand might be one of the best ways of crossing borders.

A lot of travellers do “The Loop” while backpacking in Asia. The slow boat to Laos offers a local experience with beautiful scenery and a perfect place to meet fellow travellers to continue your trip with.

The trip will start by bus from either Chiang Mai, Pai or Chiang Rai. The bus will bring you to the bordertown Chiang Khong. Here the driver will leave you, since you are crossing borders from Thailand to Laos here. When I was there it all went pretty smoothly since it was very quiet that day. But I have heard stories about passport scams, so keep your passport on you at all times, except at the immigration.  First you hand in your passport at the first loket, including your 2 pictures, departing card for the country you’re leaving and arrival card for the country you enter. After that you will have to go to the second window where you can collect your passport and pay the 35 USD. For more information about how to get your Laos visa or your Thailand visa, look here. At the immigration you can also change your last Thai Baht to Lao Kip, which is very advisable. They don’t take Thai Baht that quickly on the boat or in Pak Beng, where you will stay the night, and ATM’s are scarce.

Read more: Thailand essential guide.

And now you’re in Laos (or Thailand, if you do it the other way around)! Outside of immigration you will have to wait for a short period of time, after which they will pick you up with another bus to head to the boat landing. A funny man (in our case) gave us a short introduction and informed us there would be no food available on the slow boat to Laos and you had to buy it at his place. This is not entirely true. There’s drinks, noodles and crisps sold on the boat, of course at a more expensive price. Also when you go more down to the boat landing, you will find several shops selling fruits, sandwiches and so on. Do take enough food, you’re going to need it.

It was my plan first to take the speedboat to Laos. It saves a lot of time and is not that much more expensive (500 Baht). However, when I arrived to the starting point of the boat I was told I would be the only one in the speedboat. By that time I had met some nice people so I figured I would join to slow boat to Laos. This was an excellent choice. It didn’t take long before I heard several scary stories about the speedboats, and I noticed it as well going down the river: all the locals wear full face covered motor helmets. And that is not for nothing.

Read more: Laos essential guide.

The slow boat to Laos takes 2 days, 7 hours a day. You will overnight in a village called Pak Beng. Again, at the introduction they will try to convince you to book accommodation with them. This is not necessary and it will save you a lot of money to just search for a place in the village – there are more than enough guesthouses there. The guesthouse can make you a wrapped lunch for the next day on the boat. Order it the night before and you’ll be all set for your second day!

During the second day on the slow boat to Laos you will notice a lot more peace and quiet. Everyone takes more time to enjoy the view instead of getting to know each other. This makes both days completely awesome. I’ve met some seriously amazing people on the first day, whom I ended up traveling together with for weeks and will stay friends for years to come, I’m sure. The second day, enjoying the scenery together, is just perfect.

It is a joyous moment to see the end of the trip come into sight: the ending point of the slow boat to Luang Prabang. The Lonely Planet will tell you the boat landing of the slowboat to Luang Prabang is in the middle of the city centre. This is no longer true. Due to government reasons the boat landing was moved to 10 kilometres out of the city. Here you will have to take a tuk-tuk, which will cost 20.000 kip per person to drop you off in the old city centre or at a guesthouse.

Practical information about the slow boat to Laos

Tickets for the slow boat to Luang Prabang are available at all travel agencies and most guesthouses in either Chiang Mai, Pai or Chiang Rai. The costs are as followed:

  • 1800 Baht from Chiang Mai
  • 1750 Baht from Pai
  • 1150 Baht from Chiang Rai


Written by Emilie Terpstra. This article originally appeared on