Visas and border crossings forum

Booking a bus and slow boat from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang from Ch.M - any suggestions?

  • MissBanana

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd January, 2013
    Posts: 8

    I'm in Chiang Mai and I've seen a few places on the internet and in tour offices here offering to book a bus to the boarder, accommodation on the Thai side and then a 2 day slow boat down to Luang Prabang (where I'd have to book my own accommodation in Pak Beng).

    Anyone done this? Any advice as to a good company to book it with? Any warnings? Any advice really, would be much appreciated!


    #1 Posted: 11/2/2013 - 07:54

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  • freiburger

    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2012
    Posts: 124

    You posted in the wrong sections. Have a look at the Laos chapter, there is a sticky thread only to this topic.

    Take the green bus and go to Chiang Khong. There you find yourself a guesthouse and next morning you cross the boarder to Laos and get yourself a boatticket, as easy. No company required.

    #2 Posted: 11/2/2013 - 09:27

  • Captain_Bob

    Click here to learn more about Captain_Bob
    Joined Travelfish
    27th May, 2006
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1787

    Hi, I live in Chiang Mai and have done this trip several times. The standard slow boat package deal you see all over town is pretty much the same wherever you book it and how much you pay. For around 1600-1700 baht you get picked up by an aircon minivan and drive to Chiang Khong about 6 hours, stay at a guesthouse and get buffet dinner, breakfast and a small box of fried rice or sandwich to take with on the boat. Wake up around 8am, go deal with border crossing and get Laos visa on arrival and some Laos kip (money). Then hearded onto the next available slow boat and depart around 11am, arriving in Pakbeng around 5pm. Many touts wait for the boat every day to lead you to their guesthouse. It's a tiny town with one road left and one road right and many guesthouse rooms for around 100-400 baht (most things in Pakbeng are priced in Thai baht). Then similar day again 6 hours to Luang Prabang with more "friends" waiting there to help you find a room.

    You can also do the trip independently without the package deal which just makes it more convenient at a comparable cost. Get a bus to Chiang Khong, grab a cheap room and make your way over to Laos. Visa on arrival, then walk to the slow boat ramp about 1km upriver and buy a ticket for around 220,000 kip (about 900 baht). Touts on the way will of course try to sell it to you for their extra cut.

    A few simple guidelines - don't worry about changing currency until you're on the Laos side where there is an exchange window with good rates and two ATMs at the top of the ramp. Just don't come to Laos cashless, at least bring a couple thousand baht or some US dollars, GBP, EUR, etc. in the rare case the ATMs are down. Exchange for Laos Kip as much as you need for a few days and spend it before you leave Laos (useless then). Ignore touts before or during the slow boat trip urging you to pre-book a room in Pakbeng or LP (at inflated prices). Regardless of their "warnings" there are always enough rooms available. Also ignore horror stories that the boat will sink so please "upgrade to my bus which is faster and safer" for an extra 500 baht, etc. That's bullshit. Oh and don't leave valuables in your room in Pakbeng. Theft of wallets, cameras, etc. is not uncommon, just use good sense, a locked door is no guarantee of security. Many slow boats have cushioned seats these days, but it's still random chance which boat you will get, so at least have a soft jacket or something sit on or curl up with those river breezes. Remove your watch, bring a good book or sit next to someone interesting and/or good-looking, and extra food&drink doesn't hurt either. Vendors directly where the boats leave have plenty of this to take away. Try also to sit near the front of the boat for less engine nose/fumes. It's a nice peaceful journey if you just sink into the vibe and make the most of it.

    #3 Posted: 11/2/2013 - 09:40

  • MissBanana

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd January, 2013
    Posts: 8

    I'm sorry - I didn't think to look in the Laos section - just the borders and crossings! [img]smileys/irritated.gif[/img]

    Thanks for the info - great help. I just thought of booking it through Chiang Mai because I'm travelling on my own and thought this way would be a little easier and sort of a "safety net" to go through a travel agent.

    Thank you so much for replying. I'll have a look at other posts in the Laos forum now.

    Thank you
    Miss Banana

    #4 Posted: 12/2/2013 - 04:49

  • pbzvariety

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2013
    Location United States
    Posts: 7

    Thanks Banana and Bob,

    I'm gonna do something similar to this, I think, with the goal of seeing some of Laos as I travel to Cambodia.

    I'll post again for suggestions on a route to do that, but you can answer here too: How would you go from Pai to Phenom Phen, if you had 5 days to slowly make your way through Laos? I want to actually see Laos, and am happy to avoid tubing and other white-people interactions; I get enough white people at home, and every time I look into the mirror.


    #5 Posted: 12/2/2013 - 05:12

  • Chimango

    Joined Travelfish
    24th February, 2013
    Posts: 1

    Great Info Captn Bob!!!!

    I'm traveling SEA starting March 29 in Saigon.
    My trip is to Bokeo; thinking to stop in Chiang Khong for 2-3 days before I cross over to Laos.
    How is the weather the 1st week in April? is it wet?
    I was looking in weather sites but doesn't tell me much.
    Any information will be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you !

    #6 Posted: 24/2/2013 - 16:42

  • Captain_Bob

    Click here to learn more about Captain_Bob
    Joined Travelfish
    27th May, 2006
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1787

    "How is the weather the 1st week in April? is it wet?"
    I'm not a fortune teller, but early April is usually very hot with little chance of rain. But this has been a weird weather year, with several big rains in February (very unusual) so who knows? The April heat might get turned down with some lucky showers. After a few days sweating bullets those run-for-cover thunderstorms can be a treat.

    #7 Posted: 25/2/2013 - 00:24

  • mariajames

    Joined Travelfish
    29th September, 2012
    Posts: 58

    Well you acquisition yourself a guesthouse and next morning you cantankerous the boarder to Laos and get yourself a boatticket, as easy.
    cheap city breaks holidays

    #8 Posted: 12/3/2013 - 11:02

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