Slow Boat to Luang Prabang - Travel for Your Life
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Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

I took the slow boat to Luang Prabang in Laos from Chiang Mai in NorthernThailand.

The journey takes 3 days total and goes along the Mekong River.

Day 1: Slow Boat to Luang Prabang 

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 it 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.

What to do in Chiang Rai

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.

You’ll then spend one night in a hotel near the Chiang Khong/Huay Xai border between Thailand and Laos which should be covered in the cost of your 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.

Day 2: Slow Boat to Luang Prabang 

You leave early the next day for the bus to take you to the Chiang Khong/Huay Xai border. At the border you’ll all get off the bus and queue to be stamped out of Thailand.

Then you get back on the bus and are driven across the bridge to where you have to get off the bus again to go through immigration into Laos.

There was a lot of sitting around and waiting in this part of the journey, being moved from one mode of transport to another. We had some new people join our group down by where the slow boat goes from and stocked up on snacks and drinks.

Slow Boat To Laos

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).

Slow Boat To Luang Prabang

The comfier section at the front of the boat

Slow Boat To Luang Prabang Laos

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.

Slow Boat To Luang Prabang Pakbeng

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.

Most places accept both Thai Bhat and Lao Kip  in town since it’s not like there are many options for people to have gotten the local currency before arriving.

Day 3: Slow Boat to Luang Prabang 

You spend about half of the day on the boat on day 3 and then are dropped just outside of Luang Prabang. Since so many foreigners are dropped off there everyday they have a lovely system to get you into the center of town.

You have to queue and then pay for an overpriced taxi ticket and then you can go and get in the back of one of the many trucks waiting there for you. This ain’t no normal taxi though, they’re just going to drop people in the rough areas of their hostels so make sure you know where yours is. That may sound obvious but since it had been so many days since we left Chiang Mai most of us made the rookie travel error of not having where our accommodation was saved as a picture on the map.

Once we got dropped off we therefore had to scour the city for free wifi to find out exactly where we were staying.

So this post doesn’t get too ridiculously long I’ve separated all the info on what to do in Luang Prabang from this post on the slow boat, so just click below to check out all the info on the town itself.


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Hey I'm Chantell

I quit my job to travel in 2014 and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. I know first hand how hard it can be to get everything in place in order to be able to travel, to know what to pack and where to go, let alone how best to go about your travels once on the road. Here I share everything I've learnt so far so you don't have to learn through as much "trial and error" as I did...Read more

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