A great guide for cruising along Mekong River Laos

The cruise trip between Huay Xai (Thailand) and Luang Prabang (Laos) is regarded as one of the most attractive and scenic ways to enjoy the beauty of the Mekong River Laos. Let’s explore how travelers experience this means of transportation instead of buses or speedboats.

Mekong River Laos
The cruise trip to enjoy the beauty of the Mekong River Laos

How far is it from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang in Laos is 475 km away from Huay Xai – the border of Thailand so it normally takes 13-15 hours by road.

Choosing the slow boat option, the trip is expected to last for two days and one night with a variety of activities at the stops while cruising.

To save cost, there is only one slow boat operating daily down the Mekong from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. Boats are scheduled to depart at 11:00 am every day, but it is better to arrive half an hour early to reserve a good seat near the front. This public slow boat can accommodate from 100 to 150 passengers. This will never refuse to have more guests so you may buy the tickets on arrival at the boat if you could not book a seat in advance.

The public slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang
The public slow boat operating daily down the Mekong from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang

If you are concerned about how to get from Bangkok/ Chiang Mai to Huay Xai, you may find it much easier to follow the below routes:

  • Take a bus/ overnight train/ short flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, stay in Chiang Mai
  • Catch a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai for 4 hours, stay in Chiang Rai
  • Catch another bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong, one night stay Chiang Khong
  • Then cross the border from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai to board the boat to Laos

For other deluxe Mekong cruises operating the same itinerary, they can only transfer 40-50 guests for a ride to ensure their certain levels of services for a smaller boat. These serviced boats are long with open-air, having a Lao style with comfortable seating and the Western toilets. You will then have all the services arranged from two lunches onboard, snacks, some drinks as well as the accommodation at Pakbeng.

What are reliable companies for cruising from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang

Apart from the better comfort of choosing the serviced boats with fewer tourists than the public ones, you may have a chance to visit the local people and famous sites at several stops on the way such as Pak Ou Caves with thousands of Buddha images. It is certain that the service includes a tour guide, sightseeing fees, and some pick-up and drop-off services.

You may feel free to find the all-inclusive package tours operated by Luang Say Cruise, Shompoo Cruise or Le Grand Cruise. If the tour packages exclude the accommodation at Pakbeng for one night, you may feel free to add it later when making a booking with them.

>>> See Shompoo Cruise itinerary and availability now!

Luang Say Cruise
Luang Say Cruise

One-night cruise itinerary for your slow boat tour

Day 1: Depart from Chiang Khong to Pakbeng

At 07:30 in the morning, a representative on the Thai side will pick you up at your hotel, then take you to the Thai border (the friendship bridge No.4). He will help you to cross the border by giving you a Lao visa form and immigration form. You have to checkout from Thailand, then taking the shuttle bus to the Lao side with the cost of 20 Baht. The toilet is on both sides Thai and Lao.

When you are on the Lao side, what to bring?

  • Cash for the visa
  • One photo. If you don’t have one, they will charge 40 Baht
  • For the accept USD, Lao Visa cost US$30 – US$42 each depending on your country
  • Two banks and two ATMs are available at the border
  • When you pass, the police will double-check for your passport

Then transfer from the border to the pier, slow boat will departure when you are there. The boat will take 6 hours to Pakbeng.

Thai side and Lao side for the first hour, in this area the fishermen can catch the grand catch fish. They catch them by the big and long net on the Mekong River. They often catch in the dry season, in March and April.

On the way, we will stop to visit the hill tribe people. They live on both sides on the Mekong River. Most of the locals here are working in agriculture. There are school in the village, the kids go to school and learn the Lao language.

Then we are back to the boat we offer lunch on board, we can cook vegetarian for you. We continue cruising to Pakbeng which is a small town, and also a checkpoint. It is halfway between the journey from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, and set in a hill mountain. The accommodation in Pakbeng is not various to choose for the tourist.

Pakbeng is halfway between the journey from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, and set in a hill mountain

Day 2: We start in the morning at 8 am

If you are lucky, you will see the elephants on another side on the river (elephant camp). When the boat journey down the river will takes 7-8 hours to Luang Prabang. This area is narrow and more adventure beautiful rocks and local people live on both sides of the river. One the way we will stop to visit the local village to learn about their culture. The last one stop to visit the Buddha caves, there are two caves nearby, the first one they call “lower cave” and the second one call “upper cave”.

Pak Ou Caves
Visit Pak Ou Caves in Laos before heading to Luang Prabang

After getting out of the cave, we have a minivan to pick you up at the pier to drop off at your hotel in Luang Prabang. Trip ends.

Suggested Mekong river cruise

Linh Chu – Travel Specialist

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