Taking The Slow Boat To Luang Prabang: BEST Tips 2024

Thinking of taking the slow boat in Laos? Find out absolutely everything you need to know such as costs, where to take it from, what to bring, what to expect, and more important information on your slow boat to Luang Prabang!

Taking the slow boat Laos seems to be a right of passage for many travelers backpacking around Southeast Asia. The 2-day journey takes you from the Laos border town of Huay Xai down to Luang Prabang.

Some people refer it to as the journey from hell. Though trust me it isn’t that bad taking the slow boat Luang Prabang!

I have read numerous horror stories about taking the slow boat Thailand to Laos. Though, obviously not phased enough by the infamous rumors I decided I would take the journey and form my own opinion on the two-day adventure.

The slow boat is no doubt the most popular way for all types of people to travel between Northern Thailand and Luang Prabang, Laos. Though, it is certainly not for everyone.

I have actually taken the slow boat Laos twice. Once on the public slow boat and the second time on a private operator. If you have done any long bus journeys or plane rides it isn’t worse than those. Though there are certainly a few tips and tricks that will make your journey a lot more bearable!

In this guide, I will let you know anything and everything so your slow boat in Laos journey is as stress-free and easy as possible! From departure points, costs, what to expect, and more.

tasha amy rests her hands on the edge of a slow boat to Laos, her hair blowing in the wind as she admires the view of the Mekong River and the approaching Luang Prabang.
enjoying the beautiful scenery on the river from our slow boat to luang prabang
A traveler looks contemplatively at the rushing waters of the Mekong River from the side of a Laos slow boat, en route to Luang Prabang.
appreicatings the views out of the slow boat in laos

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

Why Take The Slow Boat To Luang Prabang

If you have ever traveled into the countryside of any Southeast Asian country you will appreciate the slower lifestyle. No one is in a rush and you can just simply relax and watch the world go by. Well, this is exactly how I would describe the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

It provides the perfect opportunity to slow down and breathe.

With a constant stream of fresh air, you can take In your surroundings. Watch the water buffalos play on the shore, see the locals who live along the river that connects them with the rest of the world, and look at the landscapes changing along the way.

Sometimes, especially when traveling, you forget to appreciate the smaller things in life and this provides the perfect opportunity for this.

The journey is in no way luxurious, even on the private slow boats. Though you will be able to bask in the sunshine, meet other travelers, and reminisce on all the memories you have been able to make on your travels so far.

2 Day Slow Boat Journey To Luang Prabang With Overnight Homestay Experience

Crossing The Thai-Laos Border

The first step in taking the slow boat to Laos is crossing the border from Thailand. We took a tuk-tuk to the border from Chiang Khong which cost us $4.50. Racing through the town the cool morning breeze is a refreshing change from what we are used to.

The roads are busy with vendors selling food at the morning markets. Dust looms in the air from the dry landscape. Soon enough the hustle and bustle disappear behind us and the landscape opens up to a large building in the distance.

Being early morning the border is extremely quiet. We are quickly processed through the Thai side and officially exit the country. To get between the Laos and Thai immigration offices you will need to pay $0.75 for the bus.

The ride lasts about 10 minutes and goes over the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. However, we had to wait about twenty minutes in line with about thirty other people for the first bus to depart. Of course, the bus driver was late, a typical occurrence on this side of the world.

When you jump off the bus on the Lao side it is a mad rush to get your forms filled out to avoid delays. Just make sure you write it out correctly and have a pen with you! The visa fee was $30.00, though this amount changes depending on where you are from.

In case you don’t have USD there is an ATM a few steps away so no need to worry about getting cash beforehand. All up the process probably took about thirty minutes to receive our Lao visas and the majority of this time was spent waiting in line.

Backpackers entering the Chiang Khong immigration checkpoint, starting their journey on the 'Laos slow boat'.
arriving at thai immigration and traveling from chiang khong to huay xai

Types Of Slow Boat Laos Journeys

There are actually a couple of different slow boat options you can choose from. One is a lot cheaper than the other. Though with that comes the crowds. I have done the journey on both the public slow boat and on a private slow boat as part of a tour. The experiences varied greatly.

Though I will get into the positives and negatives of each below.

Public Slow Boat: The Public Slow Boat was what the majority of people taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang do and it was what I did during my first trip to Laos. The boat was full of locals and travelers of all backgrounds.

It is a much cheaper option when it comes to getting to Luang Prabang via the Mekong River. Though as a result these boats are usually filled to the brim.

It is a mad rush to find your seats and I would relate this more to being stuck in a bus or plane where really you just sit down, look out the window, and get up to use the bathroom every so often.

Slow Boat Tour Package: Alternatively you have the tour package. This is a lot more pricey coming to around $150.00 per person. Though it is much more of an experience than just a simple journey. The group sizes are also a lot smaller so you won’t be stuck squished into a seat the whole way.

You will find meals are typically included, as well as a stop at Pak Ou Caves which the public boat doesn’t do. This journey is a lot more relaxing where you can walk around, change spots, and it also has cleaner toilets. You can check out more about this journey in the below video.

Where To Catch The Slow Boat In Huay Xai

Once you have crossed the Thai Laos border you can head to the slow boat pier. This is around a 30-minute walk from the main town. Though with all your luggage I recommend getting a tuk-tuk instead.

You must simply advise the tuk-tuk driver to take you to the slow boat pier. They will know what you mean as that is where 90% of travelers in the area go. This should just cost you a couple of dollars.

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

Slow Boat To Luang Prabang Price

Once to the pier, you will need to buy your tickets for the slow boat Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. The ticket booth is on the top of the hill above the road. The price is $20.70 / 430,000 LAK for the 2-day journey to Luang Prabang.

You will need to bring your passport and cash along with you when you book it. They will give you a ticket and a seat number in exchange.

You can book the slow boat in the town of Huay Xai itself rather than having to go down to the pier. However you will pay a few dollars more for the luxury of a third party organizing it all for you, but it will include a tuk-tuk transfer. The price of this is $21.20 / 440,000 LAK.

If you are on a strict itinerary it will be best to spend 1 night in Huay Xai so you can book tickets for the boat the day prior. Though you can risk it as I did and simply turn up on the day and hope for the best.

Travelers with backpacks approach a fleet of slow boats docked at the riverbank, ready to embark on their slow boat to Laos journey.
arriving at the slow boat pier in huay xai

First Day On The Slow Boat Thailand To Laos

After taking a tuk-tuk from the border to the pier we are quickly directed to the ticketing booth to purchase the slow boat tickets which would take us to Luang Prabang. They took our passport information and we were given allocated seat numbers.

Heading down to the boat we dump our bags at the back and wait patiently at our seats. There are about ten other people on the boat. Though the list at the ticketing office was already quite full. Unfortunately, James and I are not seated together.

Though, we just switch around a couple of pieces of paper with ‘seat numbers’ written on them and chill out. Many other people did this as well. It ended up being the solo travelers sitting together and those coupled up in another group.

At this point, it is still mid-morning and the boat doesn’t depart until 11 a.m. We stock up on snacks from a couple of nearby stores. It is six hours until we would next be off the boat so food is necessary.

As the boat begins to fill up the weight pushes us deeper into the water and the crew starts preparing to depart. The majority of people on the Laos slow boat are tourists. The seats on the boats are surprisingly comfortable.

They are chairs ripped out of old vans. Though, they are not bolted to the ground so it’s a fight for legroom.

We head off not long after we are meant to and begin our journey down the river. The countryside goes by and it quickly becomes the same view for the next six hours. The speed we are traveling provides an extremely enjoyable breeze, a great relief from the hot temperature.

A six-hour boat trip with no books to read and a limited amount of battery left from the previous hours I spent playing Candy Crush has left me with not much left to do. I decide to grab a cup of noodles from the vendor at the back of the boat.

The overpriced $1.20 cup keeps me entertained for the next thirty minutes as I stare at our location on Google Maps slowly getting closer to Pakbeng.

Travelers smiling inside a Laos slow boat, capturing the essence of a leisurely journey with a blurred river view through the window.
ready and waiting to hit the water on our slow boat
View from a slow boat to Laos at the huay xai pier, showcasing a traditional Lao riverside building with orange roofs and balconies overlooking the water
waiting at the pier in huay xai ready to depart
Hazy atmosphere over the Mekong River with a 'slow boat to Laos' in the distance, reflecting a serene travel experience.
an empty slow boat floating down the mekong river
A Laos slow boat cruises by a lush riverbank with traditional Lao architecture in a village called Pakbeng, including the Happy Bar nestled among tropical foliage.
first sights of the township of pakbeng

Staying In Pakbeng

Arriving in Pakbeng was a great relief, I could not wait to get out and start stretching my legs. We arrived an hour earlier than expected and this is in the dry season when the water levels are low.

There is a mad panic with everyone grabbing their bags quickly. Ours is at the bottom since we were one of the first to arrive that morning, so we chill out and wait for the crowds to disperse a bit.

Departing the boat numerous people are standing around the river’s edge holding signs up with available rooms. Pick-up trucks wait on the road to take people to their guesthouse. Pakbeng is quite a hilly area so the cars are much appreciated.

We booked at the Phomephithak Guesthouse for $14.00 total. We were one of those stupid people who booked via the guys who came onto the boat at the start.

Arriving at our guesthouse in all honesty it was not that organized. People were directed to rooms that were already full and not having enough available, even though it was all pre-booked. We ended up in a room with a double bed, private bathroom, and air-con.

At night we head down the road to find somewhere for dinner. My advice is to find somewhere with a good view of the river. We ended up at a restaurant just up from the Happy Bar. The food was reasonably good and by the time our meals came out the place was full.

I just ate a sandwich for $3.90.We also order our lunch for the next morning as well before heading off to bed at our Guesthouse.

The following day we get up to a slight chill in the air and the sound of roosters. Back down at the same restaurant as the previous night we grab breakfast and watch the elephants across the river have their morning bath.

The breakfast and packed lunch cost $5.40. Afterward, we grab our bags and head down to the slow boat pier.

The golden hour illuminates the serene Mekong River beside a sandy bank, captured from a slow boat ending its day's journey to Laos.
sunset from the shores of the mekong river
A slow boat to Luang Prabang, Laos, floats gently on the Mekong River, with a backdrop of colorful houses and the lush greenery of the Laotian hillside.
slow boats lined up at pakbeng
boat transporting goods to pakbeng in laos A quiet riverside village with traditional Lao houses and a dirt road, viewed from a 'slow boat to Luang Prabang' on the Mekong River.
boat transporting goods to pakbeng

Second Day On The Slow Boat To Luang Prabang

Heading down to the slow boat the crowds are already lining up on the river’s edge. We get worried it’s too late to get a decent seat. Luckily as we line up they start filling up a second boat and we manage to snag a couple of seats near the front.

Continuing down the river for our last day on the journey we are all a little over it. I quickly fall asleep to the rocking motion and hearing the river rush by. I wake up to a wee bit of a commotion as the boat makes its regular stops along the river to drop off locals to their village.

A tourist’s backpack and been taken off by someone thinking it is one of the locals. The Laotian people don’t understand why this foreigner is freaking out and we tourists don’t know how to say to the locals to stop driving away.

Luckily a young local woman can translate and they pull back into the river’s edge to collect the bag. The young backpacker’s life is restored and we all cheer in relief.

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Continuing down the river, still equally as bored as the previous day it is time for noodles round two. I am vegetarian and I have no idea what type of noodles are which, especially as the lady behind the counter makes them.

I basically check which one appears less meaty, pick up any lumps of meat-looking substance. The overpriced noodles of $1.20 have kept me sane a little longer.

The last couple hours away from Luang Prabang the scenery on the river finally begins to change. It becomes a lot more mountainous with limestone karst jutting up out of the ground.

Personally, I think this is the most picturesque part of the journey and certainly gets you excited for the adventures to come in this amazing new country.

Passengers seated inside a spacious slow boat to Luang Prabang, Laos, with large windows offering a view of the Mekong River.
the car style seats on the slow boats
Rustic riverside dwellings dotting the hillside, a serene sight on the journey aboard a slow boat to Luang Prabang.
looking across the mekong river up to a small village
A floating market by the Mekong River, seen from a slow boat to Laos, with locals on boats engaging in daily trade.
a house boat floating along the mekong river in laos this is just some of the views you will see from your slow boat

Arriving In Luang Prabang

One of the main things you will read online about the Laos slow boat journey is being dropped off in the middle of nowhere and having to pay ridiculous prices to get into the center of Luang Prabang. This is ALL old information.

Docking up at the port everyone forms a human chain to help get the bags off in a timely fashion. The late afternoon heat is intense and the sun is blaring down. Once we receive our bags it is a short but steep climb up the river bank. At the top is a formal tuk-tuk stand.

Here we gave our details, paid $2.40 per person, and then jumped on the next tuk-tuk leaving. In all honesty, it is extremely organized and no one was demanding ridiculous prices.

As we are leaving a few people walk along the dirt road to flag down a tuk-tuk. It is known that you will get a cheaper rate. Though, I could not imagine lugging my bag down there in this heat.

Several Laos slow boats moored at the river's edge, with passengers preparing to disembark in Luang Prabang.
disembarking our slow boat in luang prabang
Passengers ascend the steps from the Mekong River towards the Port of Luang Prabang, after a scenic journey on a Laos slow boat.
the ridiculous staircase you need to climb after you arrive in luang prabang with all your bags

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

Additional Tips For The Slow Boat

  • The toilets on these boats are not great. In all honesty, the toilet itself was not too bad, but lord did it flood. Try to go relatively early on in the trip and then hold on until you arrive in Pakbeng. I am going to assume it’s water from the bucket that is used to flush the toilet, and fingers crossed no other kind of liquid!
  • Do not book your accommodation in Pakbeng in advance unless you are wanting to stay somewhere super-duper fancy! Even in saying this no place in Pakbeng is truly fancy and certainly not worth the prices you see online!
  • Do not listen to the man who will come onto the slow boat at the beginning of the journey and start selling accommodation. These beds are overpriced and it is a scam.
  • At Huay Xai buy some baguettes to bring onboard. Peanut butter and bananas were a favorite of mine. You can also preorder if you are staying in town to pick it up the next day. No one should live off cup noodles.
  • It’s well known that the Laos slow boat seats in the back are the worst as the motors on the boat are literally deafening. This is no joke, they are crazy loud! Arrive early to get yourself a seat up the front half. You won’t regret it.
  • Your Thailand SIM card will work for the majority of the journey! Yes, even though we are not in Thailand we are so close to the border that Thailand SIMs work and Laos ones do not. You can buy a Laos SIM card in Huay Xai. However, you will only be able to use it for a small portion of the journey on the first day.
A 'slow boat to Luang Prabang' elegantly glides along the Mekong River, surrounded by dense tropical forest
slow boat to luang prabang laos along the mekong river

What To Pack For The Slow Boat In Laos

While onboard the slow boat Huay Xai to Luang Prabang your main bag will be at the back of the boat and be basically unreachable until you get to Pakbeng, then the following day until Luang Prabang. As a result, you will want to bring a day pack with all of your necessities to ensure you have a smooth trip.

Jacket: The mornings on the Mekong River can be foggy and cold. Until the sun really starts shining you may find yourself a bit cold. Bring along a hoodie or jacket you can easily take off. This can also double as a pillow for ultimate comfort levels.

Sunblock: If the boat is facing a certain direction you may find yourself stuck under the sun. Definitely bring sunblock to prevent yourself from getting burned. You are basically stuck in those seats for the journey so there is no way to move.

Sunglasses: It’ll definitely be worth bringing sunglasses along with you. The sun shining off the Mekong can be super bright so protect your eyes by bringing along a pair of sunglasses.

Toilet Paper: The toilets on the boat are not the best and trust me just bring toilet paper or wet wipes. This is something you should always carry in your day pack from Southeast Asia anyway as you never know when you could get stuck.

Snacks: Feel free to live on overpriced cup noodles. Though instead I highly recommend bringing your own snacks on board. I mean you don’t go on a road trip without snacks, so don’t do the slow boat without them either! There are shops down at the slow boat pier which sell a variety of nibbles.

Entertainment: Now I don’t know what you do for fun, but I presume it’s not taking a 2-day slow boat in Laos. Anyway best to take some sort of entertainment. Whether that is a battery pack to charge your phone, or some paper to write your adventures down in.

Unfortunately, there are no tables so I wouldn’t bother with cards, etc.

tasha amy with flowing red hair gazes out from the shelter of a slow boat to Luang Prabang, contemplating the wide Mekong River.
enjoying a bit of sunshine after a foggy morning on the slow boat to luang prabang

Where To Stay In Luang Prabang?

There are plenty of choices when it comes to choosing accommodation in Luang Prabang. From the impressive 5* resort, historic hotels, simple hostels, and locally owned guesthouses, you will find something to fit your budget and needs.

During our recent visit, we stayed on a quaint little side street minutes from the center and Mekong River. I fell in love with this little spot. There are a few budget guesthouses and nicer hotel-style accommodations available down this street.

Check out Mylaohome Hotel & Spa for comfortable rooms, an awesome spa, and a delicious cafe onsite from $23.00 per night. There is also Villa Pumalin which has an indoor pool and beautiful wooden rooms starting at $30.00 per night.

La Casa Hostel

La Casa Hostel

A chill hostel with friendly staff. Dorms start from $6.50 per night inclyding breakfast.

Barn Laos Luangprabang Hostel

Barn Laos Luangprabang Hostel

More of a luxe hostel with great facilities. Dorms start from $10.00 per night including breakfast.

Villa Vieng Sa Vanh Hotel

Villa Vieng Sa Vanh Hotel

A great location and with rooms starting from $45.00 per night including breakfast.

Villa Pumalin

Villa Pumalin

A walk from the city attractions, starting from $26.00 per night with breakfast.


FAQs About Taking The Laos Slow Boat

Where do you get the slow boat from to Laos?

The slow boat starts in the border town of Huay Xai in North Laos. You can catch the boat to Luang Prabang from the slow boat pier.

How long is the slow boat from Thailand to Laos?

You will spend 2 days on the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang with an overnight stop in Pakbeng. How long you spend on the boat depends on the water levels, though you can expect to spend 6 to 7 hours each day onboard.

How much does the slow boat to Laos cost?

The price is $20.70 / 430,000 LAK for the 2-day journey to Luang Prabang.

Does the slow boat to Laos run every day?

Yes, the slow boat to Laos runs every day. In the high season, you may find there are multiple morning departures.

What time is the slow boat to Laos?

The slow boat leaves for Luang Prabang at 10.30 am from Huay Xai. If you already have tickets then I recommend arriving 30 minutes prior. However, if you don’t already have tickets you will want to arrive as early as possible to try to book a spare seat.

Where do you get the slow boat from to Laos?

The slow boat starts in the border town of Huay Xai in North Laos. You can easily catch the boat to Luang Prabang from the slow boat pier a short drive out of the town center.

Other Things To Do In Luang Prabang

There are plenty of awesome things to do, so much I recommend spending at least three days in Luang Prabang. It’s an awesome city with gorgeous landscapes, some of Laos best waterfalls, and delicious food.

Ready For The Slow Boat To Luang Prabang

Now you have read absolutely everything you need to know about taking the slow boat to Laos you should be able to do this 2 day journey with ease!

Don’t fall for the scams, snag yourself a comfortable seat and bring some snacks and your journey from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang will fly by.


Thinking of taking the slow boat in Laos? Find out absolutely everything you need to know such as costs, where to take it from, what to bring, what to expect, and more important information on your slow boat to Luang Prabang!

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.

Photo credit: “Chiang Khong, Thailand 22” (CC BY 2.0) by JamesAntrobus .The slow boat up the Mekong River in Laos” (CC BY 2.0) by DanSearle

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53 thoughts on “Taking The Slow Boat To Luang Prabang: BEST Tips 2024

  1. Avatar for 깨몽
    깨몽 says:

    Hi, Tasha.
    Reading your post made me feel good because it reminded me of an old experience.
    According to the latest information, the slow boat stop has been moved to the south of Huay Xai.
    Your MyMaps map still seems to show the old stop. I hope you can take another look at it.
    (Of course, people will probably take a tuktuk or some other form of transportation anyway, so the chances of them making a mistake are small…)

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey! The speed boat pier is to the south of the township, however the slow boat pier is where listed. A year ago or so a location popped up online called “new slow boat pier” near the speed boat pier, however this was a scam run by a local travel agency trying to get people to book with them.

      • Avatar for 깨몽
        깨몽 says:

        Oh, my God!
        Sometime after the new bridge was built between Chiang Kong, Thailand and Huay Xai, Laos, I started to get information that the slowboat stop had been moved, and now a few sources were pointing to where I said it was.
        I don’t plan on traveling that way anytime soon, but I could have easily spread misinformation.
        (Even OpenStreetMap – which I trust because the local information is often quite accurate, you can check it out on Maps.me, etc. – has misinformation on it.)
        Thanks to you for correcting my mistake.
        (It was a good thing I asked you the question).

  2. Avatar for APKDIRECT
    APKDIRECT says:

    I loved the tips on navigating the markets and transportation in Luang Prabang! I was worried about getting scammed with all the tuk-tuks and taxi drivers, but your post set me at ease.

  3. Avatar for Peter
    Peter says:

    Hi Tasha, thank you for your narrative for this journey. Wife and I will be doing the trip this coming February and was wondering who the company you used for the trip. Looks comfortable and sparse in the number of people on board. You mentioned $150 p/p. Assuming that was the cost when you traveled. Thank you again

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Unfortunately the company is no longer operating post covid. If you are wanting to book something in advance Luxury Cruise Mekong or Luang Say Cruise booked through Mekong Cruise have options. For cheaper prices you may need to wait until you are in Chiang Rai / Chiang Khong / Huay Xai to shop around for a deal and be flexible with dates.

  4. Avatar for Andy
    Andy says:

    Just took this journey end of july 2023 after reading this guide many times.

    Firstly, the price from the docks was ~430,000lak and from the hostel in huay xai including a tuktuk to the dock (which left ridiculously early and we ended up sitting on the boat for about 2 hours, welcome to lao time) cost 440,000lak. Found this out only because we hadnt found anything recent on the internet regarding prices and couldnt tell if we were getting ripped off.

    We had beautiful weather and the journey involved meeting all sorts of foreigners, locals and kids who just jumped on at unmarked stops. Highly recommend buying a cooler and filling it with beerlao at one of the convenience stores in huay xai.

    Pakbeng is a very charming town, with ~200 families who all know each other. Upon arrival we found a guesthouse with about 9 rooms available that were ~200,000 lak per night for 2 people. Cheaper than the 9-beds-to-a-room hostel on booking.com (it did not get great reviews from our boat buddies). There’s definitely more options in town than the apps suggest, so dont be too worried about booking in advance. The happy bar is open late and is THE bar in town. Worth a look and a few drinks over a game of pool.

    The second day’s boat was more comfortable and less crowded, and knowing what to do, what to bring and how it all worked after the confusion of day one was nice. There scenery is good but just keep in mind the mekong is an incredibly polluted river. It is brown and full of plastic, and once you reach luang prabang you can see the difference between the small tributaries (with no plastic) and the mekong.

    Speaking of luang prabang, yes, the boat drops you off ~45minutes from the city by tuktuk. The tuktuks do set pricing per person, so singles have to find a group (usually min. 4 people) or wait for the tuktuk to fill.

    Luang prabang itself was beautiful, one of the most picturesque cities ive seen in asia.

    Some people we met took the bus which was 18 hours straight of bumpy roads and they shared sleeper beds with strangers on the bus, so I’m not sure i would recommend this route. On the other hand, some people taking the boat a few days after us got drenched in non stop rain for two days and had a very different opinion of the boat journey, so your milage may vary.

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Andy!

      Thanks for the comment! I have updated the prices in the article to reflect your recent experience for future travelers who may read this post.
      You have listed some good tips so thank you for taking the time to write this.

      Enjoy your travels!

    • Avatar for Cynthia
      Cynthia says:

      As Of April 11, 2023, Thai=Lao Friendship Bridge IV does NOT accept e-visas for US passport holders. However, it is fast and easy to get a visa on arrival. I recommend having you visa photos in hand to expedite the process.

    • Avatar for Axel
      Axel says:

      Slow boat departs at 9.30h every morning (the ticket staff said its been like this for a year). We (and several other tourists) lost ours today thinking it was at 11.30h.

      It is now impossible to get the first bus at Chiang Rai and arrive in time for the slow boat, so now this tiring journey will waste 3 of your beautiful days.

  5. Avatar for suzanne costello
    suzanne costello says:

    thank ypu for all the information. I have 2 questions. Firstly want to get the slow boat from luang prabang to huay xai in july but can only find out about the tour package ones and unfortunately they only run on a Wednesday and sunday. I can’t do either of those days. I cannot get information on the public boats what days they run? anyone know?
    Also I know it is rain season but how rain is that??

  6. Avatar for John E
    John E says:

    Took the journey today. Boats now seem to be running every day of the week. I saw multiple other boats packed with tourists. Mine was 95 percent full. Departed Huay Xei at 11 am. So its quite possible to stay in chiang rai the night before and get picked up between 6 and 7 am and still have plenty of time. Border crossing now quite straighforward. 40 dollars for the visa for most nationalites.
    The package i bought in CR was 1690 baht and included boat ticket and all transfers
    Good to book ahead for accommodation in Pak Beng i think. The hotels include transfers. I opted for mekhong guesthouse. Only 12 usd or so on agoda. Nice room with a view and decent food offerings for em dinner and breakfast.
    The first day voyage is from 11 am to 5 pm and the 2nd day 9am to 5 pm. For some reason the boat travels slower (10 knots) on the 2nd day for the latter half of the trip, instead of the average 15 knots otherwise.
    Lao sim cards work well most of the way. Thai sim cards have coverage if you’re roaming. Lao sim the better way to go. 5 days unlimited data for 200 baht.
    Noodles, snacks and beer on board, not much more expensive than on land. I wouldn’t mess with an ice box) . Large ice cold beers at the bar for 25000 kip certainly made a long slow journey more bearable.
    A pleasant journey all in all even for non backpacker types like myself in my sixties.
    Certainly a novel and cheap way of getting from Northern Thailand to Laos.

  7. Avatar for Colin
    Colin says:

    The very fast speedboat is way better. An absolute thrill and only takes 5 or so hours, with a stop in the middle for lunch at a restaurant on stilts in the middle of the river. You also change boats for the second part of the journey. I watched the slow boat people arrive while I was sipping a drink at a bar in Luang Prabang, it was the second night after we arrived having last seen them in Huay Xai. Probably best not to do this in the rainy season though as it’s more dangerous.

    • Avatar for Julie
      Julie says:

      Hi Colin, Were you able to book the speedboat in advance from Chaing Rai or can you just turn up and find one. i am going in November and want to have the certainty of booking as only have a few days there. thanks. Julie

  8. Avatar for GL
    GL says:

    Thanks for this intersting article!
    Regarding the public slow boat, do you know where we can find more detail on the hours of departure. I will sleep in chang rai the day before and I want to know if i have to rush to laos in the morning or if there are afternoon departures . Also do you recomend to book in advance.

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey! Departures are usually between 9am to 10am in the morning, the amount of travelers affects how many boats there are, but they usually head off around the same time. I would recommend staying in Chiang Khong or Huay Xai the night before, but not Chiang Rai. As far as I am aware there are no afternoon departures.
      I have stayed in both Huay Xai on the Laos side and Chiang Khong on the Thai side. On the Thai side we left at around 8am to catch the first bus across the Friendship bridge at the border, and ended up with about an hour spare before the slow boat departed.

      • Avatar for Kate
        Kate says:

        Oh one more thing. I booked ahead for Pakbeng and we were all met and taken to our accommodation for free. Same deal in the morning, back to boat, no charge.

    • Avatar for Kate
      Kate says:

      I completed the journey yesterday. The slow boat only runs Monday and Thursday at the moment. No private boats at all. There is a tour company in Chiang Rai called Kochaporn Tour who were fantastic.
      For 1690 THB you are picked up at your accomodation (6 to 6.30am) driven to the border, go through Thai border, tour guide meets you and gives a ticket for short bus ride. You are handed the Visa form plus entry/exit card for Laos. You then go through the various booths to be processed (all up, perhaps 1/2 hour) get on the tour transport to the boat. Easy……suggest you weigh up the cost but I think this option is pretty good value for money.

      • Avatar for Honor
        Honor says:

        Hi Kate, thank you for this really helpful info from a recent experience! I will be doing something similar in October. Did this price include the fare for the slow boat journey, or do you pay for the boat on arrival at the dock? And did you pre-book any accommodation in Pakbeng or arrange that on arrival? Sorry for all the questions, any advice is hugely appreciated! Thanks!

      • Avatar for AJ
        AJ says:

        For those buying your own slow boat ticket it’s currently 300000 kip per person and 80000 kip for a bicycle. As of 22nd Sept the boat only leaves on Monday and Thursday at 11.30 am.

  9. Avatar for G
    G says:

    Ahhh I’m convinced! It sounds looooong but great. Just to clarify, the journey you describe and picture above, is this the public boat?

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey! It is a long day, but if you have done long bus trips it is no different, actually, it is better because the views here are awesome. Yup that is the public boat in the pics, though the majority of people on it do need up being travelers, with only a handful of locals who disembark at their villages along the river.

  10. Avatar for Hopeful Traveller
    Hopeful Traveller says:

    Thanks for the good article. Do you have any recommendation for a private tour operator? Apparently, all the ones we contacted are shut down since the pandemic.

    Thanks in advance!

  11. Avatar for Caitlin Evans
    Caitlin Evans says:

    Wow, these pictures are so cool. Just awesome. I also plan to go on a trip and I want to take a slow boat. This article helps me. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

  12. Avatar for Chloe
    Chloe says:

    What month did you do this journey in? I’m looking to do it in September and wasn’t sure whether the fact that it is rainy season would affect my ability to do son?

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Chloe! I did this journey in February. Though as far as I am aware the boats run regularly throughout the year. I have heard that the boat trip is actually faster (and more bearable) during the wet season and after the wet season as the water currents are stronger, so in my opinion September would be a perfect time to do it. Maybe just spend a night before in Huay Xai to ensure you get onto a boat as its likely they do less trips per day in the wet season.

  13. Avatar for Christina
    Christina says:

    I will be taking the slow boat in a few days and feeling a bit nervous! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I loved how well you described exactly how it went which is easing my nervousness. I am looking forward to the experience!

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Christina! I am glad you found this helpful! The slow boat is often made out as a horrible journey, though it truly is not! The ride is not as long as they claim (we always arrived at least one hour earlier than what the crew advised) and make sure you dont get ripped off by prebooking accommodation, you can get the same room once you arrive in Pakbeng for half the price! Let me know how it goes :)

  14. Avatar for Justyn Gourdin
    Justyn Gourdin says:

    I always love reading your blog posts and this one is no different! You have AMAZING photos like usual! And I will be planning my entire trip to Asia based on your trip. So I will be following in your foot steps. Looking forward to it! Hahaha. Perfect info, thanks!

  15. Avatar for A Travellers Footsteps
    A Travellers Footsteps says:

    Wow I never thought about taking the slow boat, looks like a cool and cheap way to get around. Cant wait to visit this area!

  16. Avatar for Clare Frances Walton
    Clare Frances Walton says:

    What an amazing adventure. i love that you took a risk and tried something very different and it paid off! The boat trip sounds so worth it and like it would create amazing memories. I also really appreciate all the links you embedded into your post. Happy exploring!

  17. Avatar for WanderingRedHead
    WanderingRedHead says:

    Was interested to read this because I considered doing it but really didn’t have the time so I flew from Chiang Mai to LP instead. I would like to do this sometime (even though it sounds like a mission with crazy Asia BS…as I fondly call it after being there 3 months). It looks like a memorable experience and so very SE asian. I LOVED Luang Prabang and hope you did too!

  18. Avatar for Enikő Krix
    Enikő Krix says:

    Wow, this sounds like a great journey! Thanks for the reccommodation! Saving it for my South East Asia trip next year

    • Avatar for Mike
      Mike says:

      Thanks for your guide Tasha, I’m in Luang Prabang now and was thinking of doing the slow boat trip but after reading your article I’ve decided not to. I’m a 61 year old man who’s been backpacking since I was 18 so I’ve done plenty of hard travelling and know when I’ve had enough of it. It’s refreshing when someone is honest when writing about the downsides of a particular journey. I’ve no need to go to Huay Xai so after going from here to Nong Khiaw and maybe further north I’ll head down to Vientiane and Nong Khai in Thailand which I visited in 1988 before you could go to Laos.

  19. Avatar for Anisa Alhilali
    Anisa Alhilali says:

    Very interesting. Doesn’t sound too bad to me except for the toilets – I am not sure if I would be able to handle that. I also can’t believe how cheap everything is in that area!

  20. Avatar for Ellie Cleary
    Ellie Cleary says:

    This looks so much more enjoyable than taking the bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai (20+ hours, what I did!!) I agree the scenery on the river close to LP is incredible – with a good book to read and plenty of food (and not too much to drink!) this journey looks incredible! And definitely better than the bus ;-).

  21. Avatar for Sarah Shumate
    Sarah Shumate says:

    I didn’t even know this was a way you could travel from Thailand to Laos. Very cool! Although, I do think I’d probably be pretty stir-crazy by the second day. Sitting isn’t really my thing. :) Still, great way to travel, see pretty scenery, and do it all on a budget!

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Yeah there are not too many overland options to travel between Laos and Thailand, though this is definitely the best way! It honestly isnt too bad, its just like taking a bus two days in a row!

  22. Avatar for Sheree Strange
    Sheree Strange says:

    Oh my word! What an experience! I love Thailand, but I had never thought about catching the slow boat to Laos… until now! You’ve convinced me :) (And, being a broke millennial scraping by in Sydney, your price breakdown of food and accommodation day-to-day is making me drool.)

    Thank you so much for sharing!

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