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How To Get From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang

If you’re travelling around South East Asia then chances are you may be visiting Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang. 

This guide will detail how to get from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang. There are a few different ways to travel between the two places and each vary in time, cost and comfort.

This guide includes all the information you’ll need including prices and important information.

Contents: How To Get From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang

How To Get From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang – Overview

You can travel from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang by air, bus or boat. The quickest option would be to take a flight however this is also the most expensive option. Taking a bus or a boat are significantly slower but will definitely save you some money. 

Below is a brief overview of each option, the rest of this post will go into more detail about each option.

Bus~$37~20 hoursCheapest option, great for people on a budget
Slow Boat~$472 – 3 daysThe most scenic option
Luxury Cruise$166-$3712 – 3 daysThe most scenic option, more comfortable
Plane$80-$1801 hour 10 mins Fastest option, good for people with little time

Travelling By Bus

This is one of the most popular ways to travel from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang. It is also the cheapest option so tends to be popular with budget travellers.

How Much Does The Bus From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang Cost?

Overall the cost will be around $37.

How Long Does The Bus Take From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang?

There is no direct route so you’ll need to take 2 buses. The first bus will take around 6.5 hours and the second will be around 12 hours.

How To Get To Luang Prabang From Chiang Mai By Bus

Firstly, you will need to take a bus from Chiang Mai to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong. This will take around 6.5 hours. 

The Express bus, which you can book here, costs $12.

You can also opt for a minivan. Most hotels/hostels will offer to book this for you or you can book with one of the travel agencies in Chiang Mai. This tends to get you there a bit quicker than the bus but will cost more.

Visiting Chiang Rai

White Temple In Chiang Rai

An alternate option would be to get the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and then get a bus to Chiang Khong from here.

This gives the added benefit of being able to see the town of Chiang Rai which is home to the famous White Temple. Many travellers opt for this route to see more of Thailand.

You can purchase this ticket online here or at the bus station. The ticket to Chiang Rai costs $8 and takes 3 hours 30 minutes. You’ll have to book the second bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong in person. This will be another 2 – 3 hours of travel and will only cost around $2

Please note buses only leave from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong from early morning until mid-afternoon so ensure you leave early enough to make the bus or you’ll have to stay overnight. 

Once you arrive in Chiang Khong, you may want to stay the night, depending on what time you arrive. There are plenty of hotels and hostels in this area to choose from. 

Crossing The Border

Once you arrive in Chiang Khong, next you need to cross the border into Laos. You need to cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge which will take you into the Lao town of Huay Xai. 

Make sure you have everything you need to cross the border including cash if you need to pay a visa fee. Check out my Laos visa guide for information on if you need a visa and how to get one if you do need one. 

You can cross the bridge by bus or tuk tuk. 

If you choose to get a tuk tuk to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, this will cost around $4.50. If you can, try to arrive early to avoid queues at the border crossing.

You will have to go through the processing on the Thai side, then board a bus which will take you across the bridge for more processing on the Lao side. You do have to pay 20 baht for the bus which is around $0.60. You can then take a tuk tuk from the bridge to Huay Xai for around $4.50.

Once in Huay Xai, you now can take a bus to Luang Prabang. The buses will depart from the Keo Champa bus terminal in Huay Xai. The bus to Luang Prabang leaves twice a day at 10am and 4pm and the ticket costs $15. This bus takes around 12 hours to reach Luang Prabang. It can take a little longer if the driver decides to stop often.  

Travelling By Boat

If you’re wanting to try an alternative way of travel, why not take a boat down the Mekong River! This can be a more enjoyable option as you’ll get a fantastic view of Laos whilst cruising down the river. You’ll see rural villages and lots of nature too.

Unfortunately you can’t take a boat all the way from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang but you can take a boat part of the way. 

You will need to get the bus from Chiang Mai to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (as detailed above). Once you’ve crossed the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge into Huay Xai, you can get on a boat.

How Much Does The Boat From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang Cost?

The slow boat option costs around $46.60 overall (including the bus fare to Huay Xai and tuk tuks across the border crossing). For a luxury cruise, you’ll pay between $166 and $371.

How Long Does It Take To Travel From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang By Boat?

You need to take a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong which takes around 6.5 hours. From here, you can take a slow boat which will take 2 days. 

The boat is a 2-day journey and you’ll usually stay overnight in Pakbeng which is a small town about half way between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. 

You can choose to take either a slow boat or a luxury cruise. For budget travellers, you should definitely opt for the slow boat however if you’re wanting to splash the cash a bit then why not book a luxury cruise. 

Slow Boat

The boat leaves Huay Xai at 11am. You should head to the boat landing in Huay Xai before this to purchase your ticket. One ticket will cost around $25 and the best place to buy it is at the ticket office itself. You may find people approaching you offering tickets but these can often be a scam so always purchase from the ticket office.

You’ll get great views whilst on the boat and they are fairly comfortable. Each person is assigned a seat and there is also a toilet and food stall onboard. 

Luxury Cruise

Prices vary for the luxury cruise but tend to start at around $145 and can be up to $350. You can book these online and they usually include guided tours, meals and overnight accommodation. If you’re looking for more comfort then a luxury cruise would be a better option than the slow boat. You’ll have much more space onboard. 

Speed Boat

Please note, there is also a speed boat option which would get you from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang in just 6 hours (compared with 2-days on the slow boat or cruise). Whilst this is tempting, this option is not recommended as it is very dangerous. 

Overnight Stay In Pakbeng

Both boat options will usually stop in Pakbeng overnight. Luxury cruises will arrange accommodation for you but it is best to ask when you purchase your ticket. If you’re going by slow boat, you will usually have to arrange this yourself. You don’t need to book in advance, when you arrive in Pakbeng there are plenty of hotels/hostels that you can book upon arrival for a good price (~$10).

When you arrive in Luang Prabang on the second day, please note that the boat doesn’t drop you off directly in Luang Prabang town centre so you will have to get another tuk tuk to the main town. There are plenty of tuk tuks hanging around when you get off the boat and this should only cost around $2.50 per person.

Travelling By Air

By far the quickest way to travel from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang is by airplane.

How Long Is The Flight From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang?

The direct flight from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes. Some flights do stop in Bangkok, if you opt for this flight it will take around 5 hours including the stopover. 

How Much Does It Cost To Fly From Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang?

The flight from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang costs between $80 and $180. The cost will vary depending on the airline you book with, how far in advance you book and the season you travel in. You can check for prices on Skyscanner for your chosen dates.

Air Asia offers the most affordable prices, however, they don’t offer a direct flight so you would need to change flights in Bangkok which will add time to your journey. This could be a good opportunity to see the sites of Bangkok! 

Lao Airlines offers just 1 direct flight per day that departs at 3.15pm.

Thanks for reading this guide on how to get from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang. I hope you found it helpful. 

Looking for things to do in Laos? Check out my ultimate Laos bucket list which includes over 50 awesome things to do!

Happy Travels!