I will be traveling in SEA in the beginning/middle of August and I was hoping someone could give me some advice on travel times and ways to get from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai . My friend and I will be spending a short time in Laos before having to make our way to Chiang Rai to take a flight back down to Bkk. Our itinerary as of right now is:
Day one: Arriving in Vientiane in the late-ish afternoon.
Day two: spending the morning in Vientiane and then making our way into Vang Vieng .
Day three: Spending the morning in Vang Vieng and then making our way into Luang Prabang.
Day four: Leaving Luang Prabang and making our way into Chiang Rai. We need to be at the Chiang Rai airport by by 6pm or 7pm.
If anyone has a better idea on how to spend our short vacation or if we should skip any of those places in Laos to make for more time somewhere else, please let me know. I know its a very short time but we are trying to see as much as we can before we have to return home. Thank you!
#1 hmuscente1 has been a member since 3/5/2010. Posts: 6
Hi, this is quite a short one, and you should really make up your mind. It took us 12 hours to get to the Huy xai border by bus from LP, and the ride was NOT comfortable and wasn't able to sit for a day due to terrible seats and bad roads, on the other hand, it was one of the most beautiful ones in my life. If I where you I would fly from LP to BKK, it is quite expensive but a time saver.
I would leave as early as possible from Vientiane to spend more time in Vang Vieng, leaving easy make you able to go tubing in the early afternoon, and leave first thing in te morning to go to LP, very nice place! I would not do more then this.
I hope I have helped a bit...
#2 gijsvanpelt has been a member since 10/6/2008. Posts: 13
I doubt if you can make it from LP to C. Rai in one day as early as you need to. Even if you take the fast boat from LP to Huay Xai , you might not get across the border until 17:00 or so and it'll take a couple hours more to get to C. Rai. They tend to waste an hour and a half for lunch in Pak Beng and you need to change boats there so it's unavoidable. Best bet is an overnight bus from LP to Huay Xai but that's a bad trip now with all the road construction around Oudom Xai and you won't see a thing of the countryside. This whole trip sounds like a nightmare to me, way too far in way too short of time. Gut wrenching anxiety with most time spent arranging and taking transport. The C. Rai airport commitment seems to be the problem.
#3 LaoNow has been a member since 14/5/2010. Posts: 38
total ~72 hours in Laos.
bus journey times:
VTE > VV = 3.5h
VV > LPB = 6.5+h
LPB > Huay Xai (border) = 12.5+h
Chiang Khong (border) > Chiangrai town = 2.5h
total = 25++h
these are dry season timings.
August is wet season.
transfer times to/from bus stations
waiting time for buses to depart
Chiangrai town > Chiangrai airport (not far, ~11km)
time for border crossing (open 8am-6pm)
delays (vehicle breakdowns, landslides)
if you still wish to travel through Laos, scroll down & read on :)
if you are good at sleeping sitting up (& not necessarily on an actual chair) you could try...
day 1: VTE > VV (6pm or 8pm bus to LPB or Xieng Khouang, arrive at night/close to midnight)
day 2: VV tubing (AM); VV > LPB (catch overnight bus coming up from Vientiane, but usually no proper seats left, arrive at dawn)
day 3: LPB (AM); LPB > Huay Xai (7pm overnight bus)
day 4: Huay Xai > Chiang Khong > Chiangrai > CEI airport
need to spend on only 1 night's accommodation (in VV, where cheap accomm is plentiful) :P
as #3 said, speedboat might not get you to the border with enough time left to reach CEI airport for your flight (esp if it rains).
Thank you so much for your quick responses. Wanderingcat, I made a slight error in our plans so here is the revised version if you wouldn't mind giving your suggestions again:
day 1, Aug. 12: taking a plane from Hanoi to Vientiane . We will get to Vientiane by late afternoon. (we could also take the bus to Vientiane but from what I've read on this website, it could take a couple of days.)
day 2, Aug 13: taking the bus (would boat be better?) in the morning to Vang Vieng. (what are the times for the morning buses?)
day 3, aug 14: taking the bus to Luang Prabang (are there buses that run all day or is it only early morning/late at night?)
day 4, aug 15: leaving Luang Prabang and traveling to the border of thailand and Laos. (Is there anything to do at the border in Laos? Are there many places to stay?)
day 5, aug 16: Cross the border and be in Chiang Rai by 5ish (how long does it take to cross the border and get to Chiang Rai? Is it by bus, train or boat?)
When we do this trip, would you recommend we find a travel agent in VIentiane to make all our travel arrangements? Or is it easy enough to do once we get in to each town? Again, thanks to everyone who has already commented. It really helps to get people who have done this trek's advice!
#5 hmuscente1 has been a member since 3/5/2010. Posts: 6
would you recommend we find a travel agent in VIentiane to make all our travel arrangements?
Absolutely not. Use public buses, buy bus tickets at bus station and start early each day. Morning buses often fill way up until the aisle is full of people standing or sitting on stools/floor. Getting an early seat means a more comfortable ride actually sitting in a seat.
Your Vientiane - Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang - Thai border trip in that space of time will be very rushed, hardly time to see the place. Why don't you fly Hanoi-LP and then slow down a bit?
Anyway, the last town in Laos, Huay Xai, has one main riverfront road with quite a few guesthouses, all of which are cheap and fairly basic, and not much to see/do there). Border hours are 8am-6pm and Chiang Khong on the Thai side has a better range of guesthouses, and the border crossing takes about 20 minutes all-up. Buses leave from the CR station next to the 7-Eleven from early morning and take about 2.5 hours to Chiang Rai. Then grab a songthaew out to the airport north of the city.
P.S. If you want to cut the bus time from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai in half, take a morning speed boat. They stop in Pakbeng for lunch then continue to Hauy Xai, all-up about 6-7 hours. And it's not as dangerous as some people may tell you.
if i weren't to take the speed boat, the time from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai is about 12 hours right? Is Huay Xai closer to Luang Prabang or Vientiane? I would love to not travel as much but I'm one of those travlers who wants to see as much as possible no matter how short on time I am. Thanks for your concern though captainbob!
#8 hmuscente1 has been a member since 3/5/2010. Posts: 6
Is Huay Xai closer to Luang Prabang or Vientiane?
See map here...
look at a map as #9 suggested. there is no river connecting Vientiane & Vang Vieng. & there is no railway in Chiangrai.
for bus timings, check details here - Laos transport timetables:
if i weren't to take the speed boat, the time from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai is about 12 hours right?
as said before, no one can guarantee road travel times in Laos, especially during the rainy season. it can be 12h, 12+h, 12++++++h, all depends on your luck that day :)
Thank you for all of your suggestions. my friend and i have made some changes to our itinerary so it looks like we'll only be staying in luang prabang. do any of you know how long it will take overland to get from hanoi to luang prabang? thanks again.
#11 hmuscente1 has been a member since 3/5/2010. Posts: 6
Hanoi to Luang Prabang is probably one of the worst journeys you can do through southeast asia. I would strongly reccomend flying to luang prabang. Not only is it more comfortable, you also save a couple of days to explore Luang Prabang which is great and you will definitely want that extra time. We did the journey by road as we wanted to stop in sapa and had a week to make the journey. It took us 10 hours on a train to saps (suppose to take 8 hours), and then from here to dien bien Phu which is the closest main town to the border took another ten hours by night bus, (could be done by a day bus in slightly less time too, we met some others who did this and they said the scenery was great but seeing the conditions of the roads was quite scary). This part of the road is very windy and bumpy and you will not sleep!
From Here we took a day bus to Oudomaxay. This was again a very windy and uncomfortable ride on a local bus where you have your bag strapped to the roof. If you have a bad back definitely give this a miss! It took around 8 hours on unpaved roads, including the boarder crossing. Try and travel on week days as on weekends boarder control try to charge an extra 3 dollars as a service charge. Then the final leg of the journey was from Oudomaxay to Luang Prabang. This journey said it would take 5 hours, but due to roads being built, man made landslides (no idea why but a JCB was chucking a load of dirt onto the road from a cliff above), and a long lunch break in Pal mong, it took about 8 hours on a very hot bus through the worst road so far.
This journey all in all took us a good week to complete with stop overs. You could do it in 2-3 days if you really tried but you will want a good 3 days recovery at least when you get there. The journey costs about 45 dollars with the train could be done for about 38 with a bus the whole way. If you want to visit Sapa I would advise going back to hanoi and flying if you can afford it. I appreciate that this is answering a post from 2010 but I hope this will help advise others in similar situations in the future.
#12 georgetravels has been a member since 20/5/2014. Posts: 1