Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Travel from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang or Hongsa

This post gives a bit of a guide to the 3-4 days of travel one must go through to get from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang (or Hongsa).  I wanted people to be able to search for this info. while also trying to make it somewhat entertaining.

The route is actually from Chiang Rai to the border of Thailand–crossing over the Mekong River at Chiang Khong. 

The bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong took about 2.5 hours and was pretty cheap. Guess which bus is ours? 

 Guess which bus is ours?

Once you get to Chiang Khong the crossing is really quick.  Don’t forget to get your exit stamp from the Thailand side because they will check for it in Laos.  After getting that done walk down to the river and pay 40 Baht per person to get ferried across the Mekong to Huay Xai.

Welcome to Indochina

Huay Xai: 

  • After getting your Lao visa turn around and you will see an enclosed room called “lao development bank”.  This is the only real bank we saw in Huay Xai. Change a significant amount of money here.  You will save on exchange rates elsewhere.  At the time of our crossing the rate was 270 Kip to 1 Baht.
  • The slow boat leaving for Luang Prabang is actually a 2 day journey with a stop in Pak Beng.  People will tell you it leaves at 10:30am but it actually will leave closer to noon from a separate pier (they want you to stay the night).  If you arrive between 10:30am-11am get a ticket quickly and grab a tuk tuk to the pier and you might be able to get out that day and not waste a night in Huay Xai.  The price should be about 95000 Kip (9.5 USD).  Or you can get in later and take a scary speed boat.  You must negotiate this at the boats.  LP recommends against the speed boats.
  • If you have timed this badly, like we did, you get to stay the night in Huay Xai.  Not the worst thing ever but you should still purchase the boat ticket on the street where the immigration office is-your hotel will want to charge you around 450 baht for each leg of the trip.  They can’t issue tickets so in the end they will get a tuk tuk for you, give you a stapled pack of 95ooo kip (or two stacks of this if you go all the way to Luang Prabang) which you will later hand to the boat ticket office to get a ticket.  The guest house will gladly pocket that extra 100 baht or so.
  • The hotel will most likely make you be ready at 9am.  They do this to get you out of their place early so they can clean.  The only thing you really gain by leaving early is a choice of the seat on the boat. 
  • Our boat didnt leave until noon.  Be prepared to sit on very uncomfortable chairs the entire way.  Boreville. 
  • If you are going to Hongsa/Tha Suang the boat service will only sell you a ticket to Pak Beng.  Don’t worry–on day 2 you can buy the other ticket on the boat.

We are going to need a better boat

At the end of day one you will arrive in Pak Beng.  It will be dusk and hard to see.  There is a huge rock ridge that they will toss your big bags onto.  It is likely that a little kid will pick it up and will then try and ‘find’ you so that he can carry it for you to the guesthouse of your choice.  We talked them down to 50 baht per person.  Sometimes you will have to search for the boy with your bag because they may sit and wait for you in the dark.  A flashlight is very handy at this point

This is the ridge you will have to climb up and find your bags on.  Welcome to Pak Beng.


The boat people will tell you to be back at the boat at 8:30am to finish the journey to Luang Prabang.  Be advised that:

  • The boat will actually leave around 10am.
  • If you don’t have a ticket from day 1 you can buy it on the boat.
  • If you are going to Hongsa you want to buy a prorated ticket (about 100 baht per person) and tell them you want to get off at Tha Suang (about 1.2 hours down the trip).  Make SURE to remind them that you want to get off at Tha Suang because at least one person we ran into in Hongsa told us that the boat captain forgot and they had already passed Tha Suang before they realized their mistake.  He ended up in Luang Prabang and had to backtrack.  It is not an automatic stop. sucky sucky.
  • You definitely want to bring food for day 2 because it really is about 8 hours long.

When you get to Luang Prabang it will be late so have your guest houses picked out already and take a tuk tuk to beat the crowd. 

If you are going to Hongsa and get off at Tha Suang you will walk up the hill to get the truck to Hongsa.  This will be packed and is about an hour long.  When leaving Hongsa to get to Luang Prabang you will take a truck back to Tha Suang and buy a ticket on the beach for about 70000 kip and will flag down the slow boat as it passes.  We also had the offer from two speed boats to go up/down the river. 


March 14, 2007 - Posted by | Laos, SE Asia, Thailand, Travel


  1. I just have to say, I LOVE this blog!! I love being able to keep track of you guys and travel vicariously. It is so awesome.
    – susan

    Comment by jolifanta | March 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. I am so glad you’re digging it susan. greg and i are having a lot of fun writing stuff up and seeing people’s comments. Makes us feel like we are a little less than half a world away from friends & family!

    Comment by francie | March 15, 2007 | Reply

  3. Ray, Jack and Pam have been here a few days so they really enjoyed viewing all these photos together. It was easy to
    follow on my atlas. Everyone says Hi!

    Comment by Cynthia | March 15, 2007 | Reply

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