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Laos forum

Boat logistics from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw.

Posted by DSawyer on 9/1/2013 at 21:09

Hello All!!!
My first post here on Travelfish...I am officially a refugee on TT forums(my gain)
I am visiting a host of countries in this coming May but a leg of my trip has my adventures going through Laos.Luang Prabag being the center of my travel there.I have heard much about the boat trips up the Ou river to Nong Khiaw in terms of beauty.But I can't really seem to get a great break down of the logistics.I looking for someone to let me know what they can about hiring a boat for that trip,where to do that and what would be considered a reasonable rate for the trip.What I have heard is that boat Captains wait until there are enough passengers to make the run...If I had to,for how much could I get a boat to take me solo?If I have to make a splash I don't mind but I'd rather go with a few good travelers...Anyway...any help would be very appreciated

Douglas Sawyer

#1 DSawyer has been a member since 9/1/2013. Posts: 48

Posted by mooball on 10/1/2013 at 03:38 TF writer

Hi. I was there recently and the price was 110,000 per person or 1,500,000 per boat. Travel time about 7 hours, but is dependent on river levels and speed etc.

There are generally quite a few people doing this trip so go with the expectation that you won't need to charter the whole thing. But if it's quite, also be prepared to stump up a bit of cash.

#2 mooball has been a member since 19/6/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 439

Posted by busylizzy on 10/1/2013 at 03:49

It's a longer trip from LP to NK then the reverse. Another alternative is to get a minivan to NK (70,000 pp) which takes about 3.5 - 4 hours roughly, then take the boat back (5 hours or so). That allows you to enjoy the inland scenery on the way up and the river scenery on the way back.

I was there in September 2011 ( on the cusp of low/high peak season) and had no problems getting on the mini-van or boat. I actually carried on upriver to Muang Ngoi (worth doing!) and again found no problems with the boats. They actually had a few boats leaving at the same time. Boat from NK to MN was 25,000 (1 hr) each way.

#3 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by Nokka on 10/1/2013 at 03:56

I did this trip in late 2009. It took a bit of asking around to find out when a boat was going - they didn't seem to go every day unless you chartered the whole thing. In the end my wife and I paid 150,000 each - there was only one other couple on the boat. I guess inflation may make that figure meaningless.

I think we booked via one of the numerous travel agents in town in the end. We did some asking around down where the boats go from with little luck. Definitely a worthwhile trip, even if the boat does break down a couple of times.

#4 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by DSawyer on 10/1/2013 at 09:18

Thanks for the quick replies everyone

#5 DSawyer has been a member since 9/1/2013. Posts: 48

Posted by billytheliar on 10/1/2013 at 10:08

I did the trip Nov.2012. It was 110,000 kip (10-12 people on board), 7-8 hours. The boat landing is behind the school.
The seats were very uncomfortable (kindergarden chairs) - no toilet (1stop after 3 or 4 hours) - bring some water and snacks, as you won't have a chance to buy anything. I don't think you are going to need a travel agent.
Next time I'm going to do it the way busylizzy suggested - take the boat the way back.

#6 billytheliar has been a member since 3/4/2012. Posts: 48

Posted by travelmeze on 9/1/2014 at 08:58

I am in luang prabang at the.moment and have been making enquries with tour operators today. two said that it is no longer possible to go from lp to nk via the river because of dam works. my guest house owner confirmed. so if anyone has made this.trip in jan 2014 or dec 2013 let me know but i am assuming info is correct and especially when reading about controversial meekong dam projects

#7 travelmeze has been a member since 9/1/2014. Posts: 3

Posted by busylizzy on 9/1/2014 at 09:16

This is big news if that is the case. If you can confirm it, it would be worth creating a new thread to bring it to people's attention.

#8 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by DSawyer on 9/1/2014 at 09:18

@Travelmaze...I just made that run last June...I seriously doubt they no longer run boats up to NK ...keep asking around

#9 DSawyer has been a member since 9/1/2013. Posts: 48

Posted by DSawyer on 9/1/2014 at 09:31

Uhhhh check that...looks like they have wiped out one of Laos greatest visual journeys...http://wikitravel.org/en/Nong_Khiaw

#10 DSawyer has been a member since 9/1/2013. Posts: 48

Posted by Geer1 on 9/1/2014 at 09:57

Well that sucks. I only did the trip from Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi and vice versa but thought the ride down to Luang Prabang would be really nice. The boats weren't overly comfortable but I enjoyed that ride a lot more then the slow boat tourist barges down the Mekong.

#11 Geer1 has been a member since 14/9/2012. Posts: 540

Posted by busylizzy on 9/1/2014 at 18:34

This has really surprised me so I googled to find out more - and discovered wanderingcat posted an article about this here on TF back in November.


IT's such a pity - I really enjoyed the trip from NK back to LP.

#12 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by somtam2000 on 9/1/2014 at 18:53 admin

Ok, I missed StrayCat's earlier post - have messaged who I hope to be a new writer based in Luang Prabang for an update on this.


#13 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by somtam2000 on 9/1/2014 at 19:41 admin

OK just heard back:

"Sadly, the LP-Nong Kiaw boat trip via the Nam Ou is no longer possible due to dam construction.

The journey on the Nam Ou is spectacular and highly recommended. Those looking to travel by boat on the Nam Ou can still go from Muang Khua to Nong Kiaw. There is no way to know how long this route will still be opened, as there are 6 additional dams planned for the Nam Ou. So people should do it soon!


For orientation: you can get to Muang Khua from Luang Namtha or Luang Prabang, changing buses in Oudomxay. From Oudomxay, it is around 3 - 3.5 hours to Muang Khua.

Or travellers can make their way to Nong Kiaw and experience the river by doing day trips, like kayaking or going one-hour upriver to Muang Ngoi, or a bit further to visit a small weaving village Ban Sopjam. "

Now excuse me while I wander off to update the relevant parts of the site :-(

#14 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by busylizzy on 9/1/2014 at 22:00


#15 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by travelmeze on 10/1/2014 at 02:58

Just seen all the replies. anything you want me to ask while i am here in lp so you can update the site? Loads of travel agents here have not changed adverts outside on street so it is not until you ask specific questions that you find out about river closures. i was told.today you can no longer even go to kouang si waterfall and you have to go by tuk tuk

#16 travelmeze has been a member since 9/1/2014. Posts: 3

Posted by wanderingcat on 10/1/2014 at 14:39

as of late Nov 2013 after the 'river closing ceremony' - see 2nd photo: http://hobomaps.com/TravelNongKiew.html

#17 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730

Posted by wanderingcat on 10/1/2014 at 15:18

just saw this from a TF member in my inbox, sent in late December 2013:

"...we met a couple of Swiss, who tried to take teh boat from Nong Khiaw to LPB. However, as they are building the dam, you have to take a minivan after 3 hrs. of boating, and then get into another one to continue. They found it a bit to much, and frove the way."

#18 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730

Posted by boleslav on 5/2/2014 at 08:28

here's my experience from end of Nov. 2013 :
We stayed in Nong Kiaw in November right during the time when the boat between Non Kiaw and Luang Prabang stopped running due to the construction of the dam on Nam Ou.

You would think that since this scenic boat was so popular with the tourists, the travel agencies would jump at the opportunity and organize an alternative. We talked to Green Discovery several times and always got a different answer, different "rules", that in the end we were just disappointed by their inefficiency or lack of respect for the customers.

At first they told us that they can organize a boat trip from Nong Kiaw to the dam, which takes 2,5 hours and then 2 hours in the minivan. The cost was 1 800 000 for the boat and minivan but it would have to be treated as a private trip, ie we had to be the ones finding the other passengers to share the cost.

We walked around Nong Kiaw and were able to talk to several people who were interested.

When we talked to Green Discovery the next day informing them that we will have many people interested to join, and therefore the price would be reasonable per person, suddenly they told us that the maximum of the passengers is 6, no more as it is a maximum they can take. Just for a comparison, the boat is the same as a public boat used to run between LP and NK, where you would pay 110 000 pp, and there can be up to 16 passengers, so suddenly we would pay 260 000 per person, limit 6 people and the trip on the river was only 2 hours now not 2.5.

We asked if they can organize two boats, one from NK to the dam and the other from the dam to LP, the answer was yes, the price would be the same. At this point we were seriously interested and were told to come back in the evening to pay for this trip.

When we wanted to confirm and pay for this boat trip in the evening, there was another employee there who did not know anything about the two boats combination, she contacted the man who promised us the trip. After some phone calls the result was that they can not organize two boats, so the trip is back to 2 hours boat and 2 hours minivan BUT suddenly and miraculously, they would allow more then 6 people on the trip.

So at this point we were disgusted by their games and just walked away.

#19 boleslav has been a member since 30/8/2009. Posts: 88

Posted by somsai on 5/2/2014 at 11:12

I'm not sure exactly where the "cascade" of 6 dams on the Nam Ou was supposed to go. Above Luang Prabang would be only one, I'd have to assume the other five would stair step on up the river to Ou Tai.

The Ou above Hat Sa hadn't been cut for logging and the trees came down to the river, one of the few river systems of it's size left without major human caused changes in SEAsia. Maybe it will be renamed the Ou Reservoir.

There were eighty or ninety major hydro projects planned for Laos. As far as I can tell they are still going to be made, just a question of when. The dam on the Nam Fa is getting built and no one has heard of that.

Laos is getting cut and dammed very quickly, if you wish to see it go look now.

#20 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566

Posted by fairysafar on 18/3/2014 at 09:39

We were in Nong Khiaw at the beginning of March 2014 and we enquired about the possibility of going down by boat from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang . The only travel agency which was helpful was Jewel Travel Laos (opposite Chennai restaurant). They told us that they can organize a boat for 8 passengers maximum. There were two options :
1) take a boat up to the dam (which is in construction) and then a minivan to Luang Prabang (for about 1h30 mn). The price would be 240 $ to be divided among the passengers.
2) take a boat up to the dam, then a tuk-tuk and then another boat to Luang Prabang. This would cost 320 $ to be divided among the passengers.
Unfortunately, as much as we tried, we couldn't find other passengers to share the boat with us. Jewel Travel also posted a board outside their office saying that they were looking for more passengers, but they didn't find any (at least for the day when we wanted to leave ; if we had had more time, we might have found other people).
It seems that if you want to go upstream, Jewel Travel in Luang Prabang can also organize the trip (provided they find enough passengers).

#21 fairysafar has been a member since 30/1/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by arodin on 18/1/2015 at 20:03

My wife and I were in Nong Khiaw in December 2014 and were traveling to Prabang. We were told that taking a boat to Prabang is amazing, so we had our hearts set on that, but read a lot of recent posts across the internet about how this became difficult/impossible as a result of a newly built dam. The dam IS there, and it does complicate things, so here are the options as of Dec 2014 to get from Nong Khiaw to Prabang:

-Public bus which runs until 1pm (as of Dec 2014)

You can also pay to charter one of the following (via a tour company in town or via Nong Khiaw Riverside hotel):
-Boat to the dam (3 hours), then tuktuk across the dam, then boat to Prabang (another 3 hour boat, total ~6hours)
-Boat to the dam (3 hours), then 1hour taxi to Prabang (4 hours total)
-Taxi to the dam (1 hour), then 3 hour boat to Prabang (4 hours total)
-Taxi direct from Nong Khiaw to Prabang (~3 hours)

If you're trying to decide if it's worth it to do one of the chartered boat/tuktuk/boat options to Prabang just as a way to experience the river, I'd instead strongly recommend what my wife and I did: 1) charter a boat (or join a small tour) for a day trip up-river from Khiaw to visit other villages along the river, hike to some other waterfalls, and see some caves. It's a fabulous way to see the landscape of the area and to experience the river and the locals who live off of it (people fishing etc). 2) Then just take a van from Nong Khiaw to Prabang (~3 hours for $80-$100) at 3 or 4pm and you'll be in Prabang by dinner time. It worked great.

#22 arodin has been a member since 18/1/2015. Posts: 3

Posted by alisonrd on 4/8/2015 at 22:03

Hi All! Does anyone have any updates on the boat from Luang Prabang to Nong Kiaow as of August 2015? Are there more dams going in upriver between Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi? I'll be going in December (still a way's away) and am researching my itinerary. Thanks! This thread has been so helpful so far.

#23 alisonrd has been a member since 20/7/2015. Posts: 7

Posted by SoManyMiles on 14/8/2015 at 00:10 TF writer

Muang Ngoi is only an hour up river from Nong Kiaow. No dams in between the two.

#24 SoManyMiles has been a member since 7/2/2014. Posts: 147

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