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Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Edinburgh, United...
Level Contributor
19 posts
61 reviews
Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Before I took this boat, I was reading different things on lots of different websites so I thought I would write a very clear account of my trip with up to date prices on here as quite a lot of people use this. Hopefully this will get rid of any worrying thoughts you might have.

If coming from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and staying for a night, the second class green bus is perfectly fine. Nice seats and air con. 144 baht. 3 hours and one 15 minute stop.

So, we start in Chiang Rai bus station at about 11am. You jump on one of the red buses which is clearly marked Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong. No need to buy a ticket before, you pay on the bus when the journey is underway. Costs 65 baht and takes 2.5-3 hours.

You get dropped off in a side street next to a 7/11 and a bunch of tuk tuks. Grab some snacks, drinks or money from the ATM from the 7/11 and then get in a tuk tuk in your own time. You will be taken down to the pier where the passport control office is as well as the long tail boats over to Huay Xai. Tuk tuk ride is 30 baht each.

Once you've got your exit stamp in your passport which will take seconds as the only other people there will be the foreigners that were on your bus from Chiang Rai. Head down the ramp, buy a long tail boat ticket from the lady at the table on the right. Board the boat and 5 minutes later you are in Laos.

Go through passport control, get your visa and head up the slight hill to the T junction. On the hill there are a couple of agencies selling slow boat tickets and that's where I bought mine from. 240,000 Kip which includes free tuk tuk to the slow boat pier. A ticket at the pier costs 220,000 Kip but you then have to pay the tuk tuk yourself which will be 10,000 Kip. If you do go with the agency, when arriving at the slow boat pier, the tuk tuk driver will go into the ticket office with your passport and get the boat tickets and do the formalities for you while you get a drink or snacks. Very handy.

Obviously if you missed the slow boat that day then you'll have to stay in Hauy Xai. There are a few guesthouses but I recommend Sabaydee. To get there, when you reach the T junction St the top of the hill, turn left. The guesthouse will be on your left about 150m down the road.

When you are at the slow boat pier and have your ticket, it will say on it your number. Basically, everyone who is there when you are there will be on the same boat. The boat will be the one which is connected to the pier via a little wooden walkway. Its all very simple.

The boat is supposed to leave at around 11am but we left at 12. If you get a really early bus from Chiang Rai, youll be able to make the boat on the same day.

The boat journey. First tip. Get there early. The boat "leaves" at 11am. Get there at 10.00am-10.15am. You can buy sandwiches and snacks all over Huay Xai so dont worry about that. Don't sit right at the front, it might look good but just before the boat leaves they will probably rearrange things which might mean you getting a crappy seat at the back because its almost full. Instead, get one of the seats facing forwards, the first row if possible, more leg room. The seats aren't bolted down either so get ready for people pushing seats into your knees just so they can have a more comfortable journey. Once everyone settles down and the journey begins its very pleasant. The toilet on board is western but take toilet roll. As the boat moves, certain liquids end up everywhere as you can imagine.

Pakbeng! They say it takes 8 hours to Pakbeng. It took us 5.5 hours. It might be longer other days, I'm not sure. Pakbeng is a really nice, one road town/village. Pick a guesthouse but not the one the boatman offers you at the beginning. There are plenty to choose from and the same goes for restaurants. Just chill out in the evening, have a nice meal and a couple of beers.

Arrive early the next day as well. Maybe even get the same seats you had in the first leg or grab seats that you wished you'd had the previous day. You set sail again. This time, its supposed to be 8-9 hours. We did it in 7 hours. You may have read this bit already but the boat stops 10km outside of Lung Prabang at a "New Pier" which is made of really wet mud and old pieces of wood that make questionable steps. I was aware of this before the trip but most people on the boat weren't and were therefore very unhappy. We had a sit down protest for 30 minutes and would not let them take the bags off. We surrended when a driver from a hotel who was picking two girls up entered the boat and assured us this was official and its the way it is done now. After leaving the boat with your bag, you need to take a tuk tuk into town. On this occasion, you have to pay 20,000 Kip at a table where you get a ticket. You then give the ticket to one of the drivers and off you go. I'm guessing this ticket system is to stop you from just jumping from the tuk tuk when in the city and not paying. One couple told me they walked from the pier for a couple 100 meters and got a tuk tuk for 5000 Kip each. Worth noting!

So overall it is a very simple journey to take and very cheap considering how long you are on the move for. Do not worry about any aspect of it as it is a very well trodden route and you will be with many other travellers at all times throughout the trip (sometimes this bit is the worst)

Anyway, if you have any questions or concerns then please just reply.

Happy Travels!

160 replies to this topic
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
1,803 posts
237 reviews
1. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Hi there,

What a great report! Thanks for sharing. I'm sure this will help many other travelers planning to do the same trip!

- K

Bury St Edmunds
Level Contributor
10 posts
25 reviews
2. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Great report. I have just done it the other way from Luang to Chiang, the time quoted must be an average as day one for us took nearly 10 hours and day two too 11 hours. We were heading up stream against the current all the way where as I guess you'd be surfing the other way. Happy travels

London, United...
Level Contributor
23 posts
39 reviews
3. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Great report- we have also just returned from doing the slow boat

We found out the ferry pier in town ( luang parbang) closed a month ago,only reason we can see for this is to make money ( there was know desk to buy a tuk tuk ticket three weeks ago)

We were not amused at the 20.000 kip each for the tuk tuk into town so we organised a protest everyone started walking- within 5-10 min the price came down to 10.000 kip

Please let everyone on the boat your intenions STAY TOGETHER AND DON'T PAY THEM 20.000kip each

if they try to tell you it's the official price it's not

After geting off the boat at the top of the wooden stairs turn right towards town they will tell you town is to the left its not

It would be great to here how this pans out

If you any questions I will happily try and answer them

I hasten to add 20.000kip to us is nothing £2 but look at it this way do you really think lao people

Sydney Australia
Level Contributor
75 posts
10 reviews
4. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Lao people are poor and work very hard. I see little difference in quibbling (or staging an organised strike) over 20,000 versus 10,000 kip. Maybe with the money you save you could make a contribution to one of the local orphanages, or buy some books at The Library or Big Brother Mouse for Lao children.

Ho Chi Minh City...
Destination Expert
for Cologne, Laos
Level Contributor
9,156 posts
49 reviews
5. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

I am sometimes very surprised about the reactions of tourists.

It is probably not a good thing that the boat landing in LP is closed, but a price of 20k Kips per person to town by Tuk Tuk sounds like a similar price you pay when arriving at a bus station and want to head into town anywhere in Laos. I paid similar prices (more if it was only one or two heading into town). Considering the costs for petrol etc I find it a fair price. I am sure the Tuk Tuk driver won't be happy if they bring less money home. I wouldn't be surprised if they have left you walking all the way to LP, before making a trip that might cost them money...

When I was in LP I joined a group of 6 other travellers to head to the Kuang Si waterfall, and fir our second Tuk Tuk (the first one was a misunderstanding), they wanted to walk away from the Tuk Tuk because of 5k Kips. After I pointed out that this was around $0.5, and they wasted their time for such amount, they realised that it was a bit silly, and we had a good time afterwards.

Sometimes it is worthwhile to take a step back and realise how much 10k Kips are, and if it is worthwhile to spend 10 or 15 minutes to save such an amount. If it is an obvious scam, of course do not follow it. But not everything is a scam...

London, United...
Level Contributor
23 posts
39 reviews
6. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

It seems the Majority of the new tourist traveller does not barter! Why? that's what you do in Asia

We have more tourist traveling that don't have the skill or cant be bothered to barter all this is doing is pushing prices up.

With regards to one of the other posts, we always donate in some way. but not to the mafia

If you think Laos is poor!! Cross the border into Cambodia then you will see poor they really do need our help

As a comparison for those who have yet to travelled to Cambodia tuk tuk for 5hrs $10 or $1-2 for a short journey (if you barter)

If we thought paying 20.000 kip was going to directly help that Tuk tuk driver I wouldn't have a problem,but the mafia are the only winners there

The ferry use to stop in town,can anyone tell me why its now stopping at the speed boat jetty? my thought are its coming close to peak season

On a closing note,I would rather pay 10.000 kip tuk tuk ride into town and a 10,000 kip cold lao beer

One small bag of crisps are 8000 kip not 16,000

Maybe that's the difference between a Tourist and traveller

Edinburgh, United...
Level Contributor
19 posts
61 reviews
7. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

I haven't got a problem paying 20,000 Kip for a tuk tuk ride and probably wouldn't even try to negotiate as it is so little. What I don't like is the way they sell you a ticket from Hauy Xai to Luang Prabang but get dropped 10km out of LUang Prabang and then you have no option but to take the tuk tuk. This is a scam. I don't like being scammed, no one does. I know its very little money, its just the principle of getting scammed.

I've been traveling for 5 years now. I do not consider myself a tourist and I am not a new traveler. I give money where it is deserved, not to people who are taking advantage of you because they think you have lots of money because you are white. Its happens all over SEA and its getting worse. I visited Angkor Wat 4 years ago and it was very nice, relaxed, a few people trying to sell you things. I visited again yesterday and it was so different. Constantly saying no to children trying to sell fridge magnets, no to women selling scarfs among many other products. You cannot enjoy one of the wonders of the world because of harassment. I understand they are poor and the government is corrupt, but it does not give them the right to just demand money from you, which some literally do.

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
2,726 posts
186 reviews
8. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

I guess these poor people are only trying to make a living and we are talking $2 which is nothing.

For example if you fly into Heathrow you don't get free transport to the CBD or your accomodation. Even if I use the local train service from Melbourne to albury I still have to pay my taxi fare to my destination. All very expensive and never once seen a group stage a protest for the prices to be reduced.

Think about that extra 1 dollar and what impact it will have on the local families.

Start enjoying your travel and stop quibbling over $1 lousy dollar. If you think it deserves a protest then let me know where your 1 dollar will get you when travelling in your home country

Edited: 24 November 2013, 04:21
Oraison, France
Level Contributor
542 posts
128 reviews
9. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

yes it's very little money and it's not the point I think, not having the choice and being scammed by a kind of mafia can be the problem ... nethertheless we will appreciate our stay and so much for that ....

Hong Kong
Level Contributor
15 posts
39 reviews
10. Re: Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on the two day slow boat.

Hello, can anyone comment on HOW cold it gets on the slow boat in the mornings and for how long? I am planning a visit at the end of December and am trying to figure out how many layers to bring. Is it glove weather? Thanks!

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