Chiangrai to Laos slow boat. A two-day cruise. Your complete guide
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Chiangrai to Laos slow boat- A two-day cruise

Is Laos part of your trip? Have you considered taking the slow boat from Chiangrai to Laos? Well, to give you a hint, it’s a two-day cruise along the Mekong river. We have done it in 2018 during our 4-weeks South East Asian trip, and we absolutely loved this adventure. If you’re planning to visit Laos, why don’t you try the slow-boat? Here’s my review and experience from Chiangrai to Laos slow-boat adventure.

Chiangrai to Laos slow boat – where and how to get started

We took the sleeper train to Chiang  Mai from Bangkok. If you’re coming from Bangkok, the sleeper train, which takes 13 hours, is the best option. To know more about the sleeper train, you can click on my blog post about it here. We arrived in Chiang Mai at around 8 a.m, took the tuk-tuk and headed to the bus station for our trip to Chiangrai.

The travel time from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by bus took 3 to 3.5 hours. The bus fare costs around 100 to 300 baht ($4 to $10).

We stayed in Chiang Rai for one night. Now, since you have only one night, you can probably go to the night market and have some delicious Thai food before heading for another cuisine!

Where to buy the ticket for slow boat to Laos?

In Chiangrai, there are tons of travel agencies that sell slow boat ticket cruises. You can choose any of them.   

Slow boat two-day cruise price

The ticket price is 1,550 Baht ($44.84) per person.We were picked up by the free car service of the agency early in the morning at around 6:30 and headed to the immigration border in Chiang Khong. Please note that you must pass through immigration, so don’t forget your passport and departure card. One of the travel agency staff will assist you with everything that you need to know, like filling out a form, up until you depart.

A bus will wait for you at the border. It only takes a 10-minute bus ride to reach the immigration clearance point in Laos.

Getting your visa before taking the Chiangrai to Laos Slow boat

For Philippine passport holders like me, it’s visa-free, so no payment is required. European nationals, on the other hand, like my husband, who holds a German passport, have to pay $30 for a visa, which is good for a 30-day stay. It’s easy to obtain a visa on arrival, just prepare the necessary requirements like the visa application form, which you can get at the window, two recent passport photos and the visa fee.

The visa fee and everything else you need to know are displayed on the window.

We waited for probably around one hour to get everybody collected and rode a small vehicle to a certain place where we were oriented on how to ride and what to expect on a slow boat. Moreover, we also bought some snacks to bring with us for the two-day-long journey. Ultimately, we were also offered overnight accommodation that costs around $10.

Finally, we’re taken to the pier where the slow boat traversed. 

Can you bring alcoholic drinks on the slow boat to Laos?

The answer is absolutely YES! If, however, you forgot to bring yours, don’t worry, they sell in on board. So, they’ve got you covered!

What to do on the slow boat?

Basically, you can’t do much while on a moving slow boat except of course for some idle activities like playing cards, reading a book, watching a downloaded movie or, even better, sleeping or taking tons of postcard-ready pictures! 

We met a British couple and played some cards with them! Yep, bring your card games as well, depends on your preference, of course!

Don’t worry; there’s also a free toilet and some snacks and drinks inside the slow boat cruise, so if you run out of food/ drinks, and you can buy some! After the 7-hour slow boat ride, you’ll reach your first destination, Huay Xai, Pakbeng Town. 

Arriving in Huay Xai ( Pakbeng Town)- What to do 

Once we reached our first stop, Huay Xai, Pakbeng town, we were offered an overnight stay which was pretty much the same as the one we got offered before. Whether or not you already have an overnight booking, no worries because accommodations abound.

The accommodation we booked also had our free transportation to the hostel covered. It was actually just a 10-minute ride.

Well, since you only have a night to spare, you can just stroll around the area, withdraw some cash if necessary (yes, there are available ATMs), have some Laos food for dinner, hit a few bars, and probably head back to your room. The slow boat schedule the next day is quite early, so you might wanna hit the sack not to be left behind by the boat. 


The next day is going to Luang Prabang, Laos. Again, make sure to get up early to secure a good and comfortable seat on the slow boat cruise. And pay attention that you board the correct boat. Chris and I boarded the wrong boat, we gladly realized that it was not the boat going to Luang Prabang, so we hopped off right away!

Then another seven-hour journey began. You can take pictures as as you want!  ?⚓️

Somewhere along the way, there were some stops as some locals were also on the same boat and got off in their houses. While during the stop, some local kids come by and start to sell their handmade products such as bracelets.

? Once you reach Luang Prabang, I hope you have booked your accommodation right away. There is pretty much a lot of them!  And at night, we strolled around the night market!

Friendly tips

  • You can buy a ticket from any agency since all passengers take the same boat, and one big boat can contain around 150 to 200 people on board.
  • Moreover, get onboard quickly to secure a good and comfortable seat. Remember, it’s a 7-hour ride along the Mekong River, the world’s 12th longest river and the 7th longest in Asia.
  • Bring a jacket or wear something thick. In Pakbeng town, sometimes the temperature drops down.

Why take the slow boat to Laos? 

Well, there are also other options to get to Laos; however, taking the slow boat gives you a unique experience of seeing nature from a different perspective. Through the slow boat, you’ll be able to watch the magnificent sceneries that the usual mode of transportation doesn’t award you. 


Welcome to Laos!

Have I missed anything? Got any questions about the slow boat cruise to Laos? Ask me in the comments section below! 

Born, raised, and forever loyal to the Philippines. Catherine is a teacher and a BA in Mass Communication graduate who loves anything child-friendly. She loves writing in her diary every day and is in love with beaches, books, Safari, and Tokyo. Her ultimate dream destinations are Madagascar, Mongolia, and Hawaii. Check out her van camping adventures in Europe at


  • Shreya Saha

    I have always wanted to take the slow boat to Laos, but somehow due to time-crunch I did the bus journey and crossed borders. Thanks for such a detailed description of the whole travel from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang. I will try to do it, someday.

  • Cat Lin

    That was indeed a slow boat and a long ride too…I hope there’s enough legroom in the seats. It would be tiring to seat for about 7 long hours. The slow boat ride though sounds an interesting way to travel to Laos. It’s like a tour in itself already.

  • Ma. Clarice Lao

    This is interesting. A few friends shared that they tried the slow boat to Laos and we’re actually considering it during our next visit but had no idea where to start.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Very helpful.

  • The travellers

    I must admit I have never thought of this journey but reading this post makes me want to do the slow boat trip but would prefer to do this solo and not with kids. The journey seems a bit hectic starting from Bangkok but one which shows you a lot of the not so common Thailand seen by tourists. The boast looks basic yet does the job and the night stopover looks interesting . The Cuisine all along this region is one of my favourites and with that fresh seas food just top of the line. Keeping in mind the length of the journey the fares are reasonable. Thanks for sharing the details. Amar Singh

  • Parnashree Devi

    This is completely new for me. I didn’t know that one can opt for slow boat ride from Chiang Mai to Laos. Wow…I love sliw travel and this is exactly how I want to travel. Thanks for this post. Loved reading about it.

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