Chiang Khong To Huay Xai: Border Crossing Tips (2024)

Come find out absolutely everything you need to know about crossing the Chiang Khong border from Thailand to Laos. Learn about what to do, each step in the border crossing process from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai, where to stay, how to get around, and more!

If you are traveling Southeast Asia overland you will need to know how to cross the border from Thailand to Laos. This route from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai is super popular with travelers with the slow boat to Luang Prabang taking them the rest of the way.

However, no doubt with every border crossing comes a ton of questions. For sure you want to make sure you are prepared and don’t get turned away. What about the visa process? And how do you even get from the Thailand side to the Laos side?

Well lucky enough I am the perfect person to ask as this crossing is one I have done multiple times during my travels throughout Southeast Asia. I have also stayed overnight at both Chiang Khong and Huay Xai and explored some of the best things to do in these towns.

So let’s actually get into these details and find out everything you know for a super smooth journey traveling from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai.

arriving at Thai immigration in Chiang Khong in our minivan
arriving at Thai immigration in Chiang Khong in our minivan

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand & Laos: 12Go Asia

How To Get From Chiang Mai To Chiang Khong

Chiang Khong is relatively easy to get. The majority of travelers will get there from Chiang Mai as this is the largest city nearby and a major stop on many Thailand itineraries.

You can easily book a minivan from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong at one of the travel agencies or your guesthouse. Alternatively, there is also the option of taking the bus. The bus is a lot roomier than the minivan, though the journey itself will be a bit longer.

The minivan will also likely stop at the White Temple in Chiang Rai, so if this amazing temple is on your bucket list best go with the minivan option.

If you want to book a bus you can do so over on 12Go.Asia.

What To Do In Chiang Khong

Chiang Khong isn’t the largest town to start with. Though, there is enough to keep you entertained for a night or two. This is especially so if you are just looking for somewhere to relax for a couple of days and chill out.

We found a great restaurant called PadThai Baan Yim Restaurant. Everything in the photo below costs $5.20 including the drinks!

Apart from taking a casual stroll along the riverbanks we basically spent our time enjoying the pool at the cheapest resort I have ever stayed at.

lunch in chiang khong thailand
lunch in chiang khong thailand – all this cost just over $5.00!
a man at a small restaurant in thailand with a coke on the table
hanging out at our favorite restaurant in chiang khong

Where To Stay In Chiang Khong

We stayed at Namkhong Guesthouse and Resort for two nights while in Chiang Khong. The price was only $7.00 per night for a twin room (That’s $3.50 per person!).

There’s a pool to use, it’s located in the lush tropical garden, a seven-eleven is a two-minute walk away. I get there is no air conditioning but for the price its such good value for money!

Namkhong Guesthouse and Resort

Namkhong Guesthouse and Resort

The perfect budget stay, and my #1 choice. Rooms here start from $7.00 per night.


Fortune Riverview Hotel Chiang Khong

A great option for more of a luxe stay. Rooms here start from $45.00 per night.


Preparing For Chiang Khong Border Crossing & Traveling Chiang Khong To Laos

For the Thai Laos border crossing you will require certain things to have on you for immigration. This allows you a straightforward experience with no complications.

Apart from bringing yourself and your baggage, the most important thing is obviously your passport.

Make sure you check what type of visa you will need to advance. Many countries can receive a 30 days visa on arrival. However, it is best to double check this for your country prior to arriving at the border.

If you are entering Laos with a visa on arrival, there are some things you will need to bring with you. The Laos visa on arrival is available for many nations and definitely the most popular option when entering Laos.

It is relatively straightforward just remember to bring a passport-sized photo, your passport, USD for the fee, and a pen to fill in the paperwork.

The amount you will need to pay depends on the country of your passport and it is cheaper to pay in USD rather than Thai baht or Laos LAK.

Country Of PassportVisa On Arrival Price USD
United Kingdom$35.00
Crossing The Border From Thailand To Laos (Chiang Mai to Huay Xai)
driving to the thailand border in chiang khong
driving to the thailand border in chiang khong

Chiang Khong To The Thai Border

The easiest way to travel from Chiang Khong to the Thai border is definitely by tuk-tuk.

You don’t need to organize this in advance as there will be plenty available along the streets.

The cost should be approximately 150 baht. This is what I paid in Thailand and what other travelers generally pay from what I have researched, yay for not getting absolutely ripped off.

The ride itself to the border is pretty uneventful. You will be taken slightly away from the touristy area of Chiang Khong where the hotels and located, past the local areas with the early morning markets, and eventually up a road that ends at the Thai Immigration building.

The drive itself takes around 20 minutes to arrive at the Chiang Khong border.

Getting Through Thai Passport Control At The Chiang Khong Border Crossing

It is a pretty straightforward process passing through Thai Passport control. Generally, immigration here is pretty quiet in my experience and only a couple of the lines are usually open.

I passed through in both the early morning and within the last hour of the border closing and both times were relatively quiet with things being processed super fast.

arriving at thai immigration and traveling from chiang khong to huay xai
arriving at thai immigration and traveling from chiang khong to huay xai

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand & Laos: 12Go Asia

Crossing The Thai Laos Friendship Bridge

After passing through Thai Immigration you will be greeted by a booth selling the bus tickets to cross the Thai Laos Friendship Bridge. The ticket cost starts at 20 baht, though it can increase if it is a weekend or a public holiday.

Nevertheless, it is still extremely cheap and just has to be budgeted in as an extra cost of crossing the border.

The bus only leaves when it is pretty full. Therefore if you are planning to arrive early at the border to catch a slow boat, be aware the bus won’t go until all seats are filled.

This is what I did on my first trip from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and we ended up having to wait an extra 30 minutes for more people to arrive.

When there are enough people the driver will start getting people to load their bags underneath the bus and at that stage, you will be allowed to get on board.

It is an easy 5 minute or so drive across the bridge and it’s a pretty quiet journey. There are barely any other vehicles around, at least you don’t have to worry about traffic!

Now I have read of travelers refusing to pay this charge and deciding to walk the bridge. Now PLEASE don’t be this person! The Thai Laos Friendship Bridge is a sort of no man’s land between the two countries.

There is no real footpath to follow and it is actually quite a fair distance to walk under the hot sun. Just pay the dollar to take the bus.

taking the bus across the thai laos friendship bridge on the thailand laos border crossing
taking the bus across the thai laos friendship bridge

Withdrawing Laos LAK

If you require LAK (the local currency in Laos) there is an ATM as soon as you get off the bus at Laos immigration.

The rates here won’t be as good as the center of Huay Xai or Luang Prabang, though sometimes you don’t have any other option.

This is especially so if you are planning to head straight down to the slow boat pier. There is only one ATM there at the pier and you will need money to pay for the ride down there so you may need to get LAK out beforehand.

Also, be aware it is quite common to be able to pay with Thai Baht in Huay Xai so if you have a bit extra you can use it here.

If you don’t have any USD on you then you will need to get some Laos LAK. This is so you can pay the visa on arrival fee when you’re at the Laos border.

The amount depends on the country you have come from, though generally is somewhere between $30.00-$45.00. For the exact LAK conversion, you will need to ask the immigration officers on the day.

Laos Immigration & Getting A Laos Visa On Arrival

Once you have jumped off the bus and crossed the Thai Laos Friendship Bridge you will have arrived at Laos immigration. Here is where you need to get a Laos visa on arrival.

On the tables, you should find the visa on arrival application forms as well as the arrival/departure cards. Be aware you will need to have your own pen or borrow one from another traveler.

Be sure you know your ‘intended address in Laos’, which you can simply put down as the address of your hostel or guesthouse in Huay Xai, Pakbeng, or even perhaps Luang Prabang.

Ideally, it is the next place you will spend the night, though that’s not an official rule.

Once you have filled out your forms you will need to head over to the big window under the visa on arrival sign. You will need to hand to the officers you’re filled-out visa on arrival form, a passport, your passport photo, and the amount the visa fee is for your passport country.

Again you are best to pay this fee in USD. Though, THB and LAK are accepted.

If you do not have a passport photo with you, they can take one of you there for $1.00.

Once your visa has been processed you will collect it to the window to the left. If you have successfully received your Laos visa on arrival you can then head through to the immigration officer at his booth.

He will inspect the visa, confirm the details are correct, and stamp you into your next country of Laos!

entering laos immigration after traveling from chiang khong to huay xai
entering laos immigration

How To Get From The Huay Xai Border Crossing To The Town Of Huay Xai

Of course, the Laos border is in Huay Xai, though it’s about a fifteen-minute ride into the center of town. After passing through passport control you will be greeted with the typical Laos tuk-tuks.

The drivers will approach you and that is when you can start haggling for a fare. Try for a rate of approximately $1.20 / 25,000 LAK per person.

Be aware if you are arriving early in Laos and were one of the first people to cross the border, there might be quite a wait until the driver finds enough people to fill up the tuk-tuk.

This happened our first time arriving in Laos and we were in a rush to catch the slow boat. We ended up finding a driver who would take just us to the slow boat pier for $4.80 / 100,000 LAK.

Things To Do In Huay Xai

Huay Xai is a relatively sleepy town in Northern Laos. It certainly won’t be the main stopping point on your Laos itinerary.

Though, if you are looking to get away from the crowds for a couple of days there is no better option than Huay Xai.

No doubt the most popular thing to do in Huay Xai is the Gibbon Experience. Imagine sleeping high in the treetops, ziplining around, and being surrounded by the amazing Laotian jungle.

Well, that is exactly the Gibbon Experience. It’s pricey, but I have heard nothing but great things about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The main reason people stay overnight in Huay Xai is to catch the 2-day slow boat to Luang Prabang the following morning.

Huay Xai seems to just be catering to these travelers partaking on this long journey. The guesthouses here are simple and no-frills. Just an FYI if you are going on the slow boat be sure to organize a packed lunch.

This needs to be done the previous night because it is IMPOSSIBLE to do it that morning. The restaurants will be too busy preparing food for other travelers.

For a chill evening in Huay Xai, I highly recommend climbing up the 100+ steps to the impressive Wat Chomkao Manylath.

There is a great view from here where you can watch the sunset over the Mekong River. Be sure to cover your shoulders and knees so you can go for a walk around the temple as well.

huay xai by sunset in laos after crossing the border from thailand to laos
huay xai by sunset in laos after crossing the border from thailand to laos

Where To Stay In Huay Xai

The township of Huay Xai is relatively small so you should have no issues finding somewhere on the main street.

There are some great guesthouses here that will provide you with your first experience of Laos hospitality.

You can even find some hostels that are perfect for budget travelers or those traveling solo. No doubt you will make some friends who also want to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

Over the Moon hostel

Over the Moon hostel

A perfect budget friendly stay in the center. Dorms start from $7.00 per night.

Fortune Riverview Hotel Chiang Khong

Little Hostel

An affordable and social option for budget travelers. Dorms start from $7.00 per night.


🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand & Laos: 12Go Asia

FAQs About Crossing The Border From Chiang Khong To Huay Xai

Can I cross the border from Thailand to Laos?

Yes, you can cross the border from Thailand to Laos by land or by air. There are several border crossing points between the two countries, but the most popular ones are Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge border crossing and the Vangtao-Chong Mek border crossing.

Is the border between Laos and Thailand open?

Yes, the borders between Laos and Thailand are open. This includes the popular Chiang Khong to Huay Xai border crossing in the north of the two countries.

Crossing The Chiang Khong Huay Xai Border: Wrap Up

Crossing from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai is a popular and affordable way to get between Thailand and Laos, a route many backpackers and travelers find themselves on.

However, before you go, make sure you have all the necessary documents, visa on arrival information, and cash to avoid any hassle or delay at the border.

Also, it’s best to be aware of the common scams in Laos, fees, and exchange rates so you can have a smooth and enjoyable Chiang Khong border crossing from Thailand to Laos.


Absolutely everything you need to know about the Thailand Laos Border Crossing and getting from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai, the two main border towns. Learn about what to do, each step in the border crossing process, where to stay, how to get around and more important information

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

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12 thoughts on “Chiang Khong To Huay Xai: Border Crossing Tips (2024)

  1. Avatar for Deborah
    Deborah says:

    Someone has already asked about the passport photo but have had no reply. Could you please tell me if I need a passport photo? Thanks.

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Deborah, Yes you do need to bring one passport photo, otherwise, they can do one for you at the border for $1.00, though this process can take a while as you will be arriving with plenty of others from the bus. I recommend just bringing one along with you.

  2. Avatar for Pato
    Pato says:

    Hello, thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. May I ask, when have you crossed this border? I have read somewhere that visa upon arrival will at some point not be available anymore… And I am trying to check if it is still possible and also I am trying to know how does it cost, so that I can take enough dollars with me. Does someone know where can I find this info?

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Pato, I have crossed this border twice, in 2018 and 2020. As far as I am aware the visa on arrival is still valid, and readers are very good at commenting with updates on this post or my Slow Boat post.

  3. Avatar for Andy
    Andy says:

    Hi, thanks …. would be more complete if opening and closing times for crossing the bridge both into laos and from laos into Thailand were provided (which is actually the info I stupidly forgot to ask last time I was there and am now looking for :) Also, it should be noted that USD etc should be in excellent condition, otherwise it’s likely they will not accept.

    • Avatar for B seaton
      B seaton says:

      Heads up on the fact that USD’s have to be in good condition. I would like to know the time schedules for everything, like ” Are they open on weekend?” In Chiang Mai immigration is not open on weekends.

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Andy
      The problem is the border times vary differently from the bus times, which if you don’t have a private vehicle you will need to take. From my experience, they seem to start around 8.30am to 6pm, though this is Thailand and nothing is ever exact. You are 100% right about condition of USD, and that is the same all over Laos, so make sure to double check if you are receiving USD in change or exchanging it

  4. Avatar for Kristian
    Kristian says:

    Hi. Any idea when the busses crossing the bridge stop going? I’ve read that the border is open to 9 or 10pm, but the busses stop at 6pm (makes no sense haha). Do you know if that’s true? If yes, is there any other options to cross without the official busses?

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Kristian
      I would say it is true, basically, this allows people with vehicles to continue to cross, but the rest of us not to be able to :( I did have to wait about 30 minutes in the morning for the buses to resume, though I was able to exit Thailand fine, I was stuck in no man’s land for quite a while.

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