How to Get from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang

Chiang Rai (Thailand) and Luang Prabang (Laos) are always regarded as two beloved destinations of tourists when traveling to the South East Asia. Despite having interesting visits to different attractions, you, like many other travelers, may be concerned about how to get to Luang Prabang (Laos) from Chiang Rai (Thailand). To help you have a perfect tour, these following are means of transport linking these two places.

1. Slow Boat

First, you will have to catch a bus from Chiang Rai to Chieng Khong. The journey lasts in 2 hours so you can take the earliest bus departing at 6 am to be in time to take the slow boat. Once in Chiang Khong, you need to take a tuk-tuk to get to the border from the bus station. 

At the Thai immigration, your departure card will be collected and your passport will be branded with stamp. After exiting the Thai control point, there will be a bus waiting to take you across the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. At Hoay Xai border, you will be given two forms to fill out; one must be completed with one passport size picture. Next, you have to hand them with the passport and fee and wait until your visa are ready. 

After reaching the pier by tuk-tuk from Huay Xai border, you can buy the slow boat ticket at the ticket office, which costs around 250,000 Kip (US $31) per person (for children, it is 120,000 Kip or US $15). The boat departs at 11 am. In case you reach Huay Xai in the afternoon, you can stay overnight here to choose another boat which leaves the harbor at 9 o’clock the next morning. 

The journey by boat lasts in around 14 hours and you will have to stop at Pakbeng and stay overnight here before continuing your journey to Luang Prabang the next day. 

In spite of many steps, each one is quite easy. If you are not tight on time, you can choose this option. A great advantage this way offers you is that you will have chance to see beautiful sceneries along the river bank. Besides, during the journey along the Mekong River, you can make friends with other travelers or even the local people.


  • You can book slow boat to Laos at many agencies or at your hotel.
  • You can choose public boat or a Mekong Cruise River.
  • You can do all steps on your own but it is not as flow as an organised booking.

2. Airplane

There is no direct flight from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang so you have to catch a bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai and then a flight to Luang Prabang.

The earliest bus and the latest one departure from Chiang Rai at 6 am and 5:30 pm (even 7:30 pm on Friday and Sunday) and it takes 3 hours to reach Chiang Mai. The ticket fee will range from 130 Baht to 260 Baht (US $4.5 - $9).

Flights from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang are operated by Lao Airlines, Thai Air Asia, and Thai Smile. The average fare for one-way flight is $180 and the flight time is about 1- 2 hours. The ticket can be booked online.

To get the visa on arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport, you have to submit the completed the visa application form, your original passport (with at least 6 months of remaining validity and a blank page for a visa sticker), two recent photographs and fee ($30 - $45).

3. Bus

To save money and have opportunity to contemplate the sceneries during the journey, traveling by bus is not a bad choice. After obtaining visa at Hoay Xai border, the tuk-tuk will take you straight to Bokeo bus station, where there are buses to Luang Prabang. The earliest bus leaves at 10 am and the later at 4 pm. The fare is 130,000 Kip (US $16). Nevertheless, it will take you 10 – 12 hours and the roads are sometimes bumpy.

To wrap up, you should consider factors like your budget or your traveling style to decide which transport is suitable with you.


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Brian Vu

Working for a travel company is a big chance for me to feel love with travel. Specially, leisure is not my style, riding motorbike to discover everywhere is really great for my trips. On each miles I reach, I get opportunity to learn more about the local culture, to see ... [View Details...]