The best way to travel by slow boat in Laos.
A popular route into Laos from Northern Thailand is to travel first by bus from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai to Huay Xai, before boarding the slow boat in Laos for onward travel to Luang Prabang; depending on where you begin your travel, this journey typically takes two or three days.
First you will catch a bus from either of those destinations which will take you to the boarder. You will pass through the customs of Thailand. Then you will go back on the bus where it will take you to the Laos border control. You hand over your passport and pay a fee for a Visa. You will then pass through the Laos immigration and the bus will take you over to Huay Xai and drop you off at the bus terminal. Once you arrive at the bus terminal you will need to get into the centre of Huay Xai by Tuk-Tuk.
After spending some time in Huay Xai you can go to Luang Prabang using the popular 2 day slow boat.
The slow boat in Laos will depart from Huay Xai to Pakbeng,
The pier is 1 kilometer from the center of town, you can walk North or catch a Tuk Tuk costing 10,000 kip per person. Arriving at the pier you will need to check in, they will take your bags and store it. Make sure you have all your belongings which you would like access to while on the boat in a different bag. At the pier it is recommended to buy a packed lunch and snacks for this journey. The boat will depart will at 11 am during low season and around 12 pm during peak season. There will be 1 boat running during low season and 2 boats during peak season per day. The departure time varies as it takes time for people to check in and they may wait until the boat is full. Make sure you arrive at the boat at 10 am to ensure you wont miss the boat. Now sit back and enjoy the journey to Pakbeng.
You will arrive at Pakbeng around 5 to 6 pm to rest for the night. Here you will need to find accommodation for the night, have dinner, and prepare for tomorrows journey.
The next morning you should organize a packed lunch and hop back on the boat to continue your journey to Luang Prabang. Make sure you arrive at the pier about 8.30 – 9 am.
When you get to Luang Prabang pier at about 5 pm, it is 10 Kilometers south from the center of Luang Prabang. Everyone will need to take a Tuk Tuk to go there, the Tuk Tuk will cost you 20,000 kip each person, they may drop you off at your guesthouse if you request, but if they don’t know your where your guesthouse is, they will drop you off in the center of city (night market).
It is easy to find a guesthouse in Luang Prabang, with many guesthouses and hotels to choose from.
included: Slow boat ticket to Luang Prabang, Tuk Tuk transfer from Huay Xai office to the slow boat pier
not included: Lunch on board, drinks, guesthouse in Pakbeng and transfer from Luang Prabang pier to the city
The other option from Thailand to Luang Prabang.
It’s to use a premier alternative boat service called Mekong Smile Cruise. This will also take 2 days with 1 night in Pakbeng, the boat will arrive in Luang Prabang in the evening. This cruise includes transfers from hotel to the pier at Huay Xai, accommodation in Pakbeng and transfer to your guesthouse or Luang Prabang city center (night market). You will have lunch provided on the boat, and opportunities to visit local Laos hill tribes also included in the journey. As this cruise has everything included, expect a higher price in comparison to the normal slow boat. Happy journeys!