Slow Boat to Laos from Chiang Mai

I took the slow boat into Laos from Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. The journey takes 3 days total and goes along the Mekong River. The first day is the only one not on water where you go up to the border by bus.

On the way to the border the bus stops at the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I was completely templed out by this point and had no interest in seeing another temple but the White Temple is absolutely amazing. Even though I have a whole other post just on the White Temple I’m going to put another gratuitous shot below because it is so fricken cool. Just look at that thing.

Anyway the bus stops there on the way to the river to get the slow boat therefore if you’re going to take this route into Laos there’s no need to do a separate trip to the White Temple in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand at any point.

You’ll spend one night in a hotel near the border between Thailand and Laos which should be covered in the cost of you ticket for the journey. The hotel we stayed at was actually pretty nice and had a pool. You even get your own room, which feels like such a special treat if you’ve been travelling round staying in dorms in hostels for a while. In the evening at the hotel we all paid the fee for the visa to get into Laos and gave them our passports so they could sort out the visas for the morning to make the entrance into Laos quicker.

Once you’re in Laos the bus will take you to where you’ll get the slow boat from. There was a lot of sitting around and waiting in this part of the journey, being moved from one mode of transport to another but we made it to the boat in the end.

The boats are fun. The people we were doing the journey with had gotten us the “good” seats near the front of the boat which had padded seats and were organized and reserved per person. The back half of the boat was a free for all on wooden benches and that basically turned into the party section of the boat (they sell beer on board).

The comfier section at the front of the boat
The back section of the boat, which turned into the party half on one of the days

The boat stops in a town called Pakbeng at the end of the second day of the journey. That night’s accommodation won’t be included in the price of ticket but you can easily find accommodation on arrival in the town.

The nice thing about the 3-day slow boat trip into Laos is there will be a big group of you doing the journey together, so we all negotiated a group discount for a hotel for all of us to stay there for the night.

Crammed into the back of a truck to be taken to the accommodation

Almost every restaurant in the town gives out free whisky for some bizarre reason so the 10 or so of us from our group all went for dinner and were fed free shots of whisky throughout it!

Since you do literally spend the whole day on the boat, for the second day of the trip we all decided to make use of the fact we were in a town and buy take out pizza to take with us for lunch. It was a really wise decision.

When you arrive in Luang Prabang you'll have to get a short ride in the back of a truck into town so make sure you have some cash on you. Since it had been so many days in advance all of us had also forgotten to look up where our accomodation was in Luang Prabang before leaving Chaing Mai and ended up having to search round the city for wi-fi before we could all go off to our hostels. You might want to plan that one a bit better than we did!

Where next?

Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng

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