Luang Prabang is a small town compared to Chiang Mai, but is a popular option for those wanting to re-set their Thai Visa’s or for those just looking for a quick weekend destination.
Chiang Mai To Luang Prabang Flights, Bus & Slow or Luxury Boat Cost
Other options to get to Luang Prabang include taking a bus, but travellers should note that there are only a couple of limited bus routes, due to ferry crossings and other terrain that cannot be covered by bus. This means that buses going between Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang must make a detour south via Nong Khai / Vientiane or north via Chiang Khong / Huay Xia. Either bus journey will take between 18-22 hours.
A bus to Luang Prabang can be caught from the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station which is located east of the old city, near the superhighway which intersects with Kaeonawarat Road. Make sure to get to the station early, as the bus generally leaves by 9am. The buses are air-conditioned with reclining seats and there are toilets on board. Regular stops are made where you can grab drinks and snacks, but it pays to bring your own as they are often irregular. The bus can also get very, very cold, so make sure to bring a jacket. A VIP ticket costs around 1,500 THB each way.
Alternatively, many travellers opt to take a bus / boat combination. The bus ride will take you on a northern route from Chiang Mai to Chiang Kong (on the Thai side of the border). This section takes around 6 hours and costs betweeen 400-500THB. You can then go through immigration and catch a boat the next morning from Huay Xai (Laos side). This means that you will need to spend the night in one of the border towns, as there are no nighttime boats.
To get from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, you can take a river cruise, speedboat or slowboat. The slowboat is the way that the locals travel and is definitely the cheapest option. It will cost around 1,000 THB and will take 2 days in a cramped (and often overfilled) boat. A river cruise follows the same timetable but is a more relaxed and comfortable journey and includes overnight accommodation, meals and a few sightseeing stops along the way. These more comfortable tours can cost between $300-400 AUD each way. The speedboat gets you to Luang Prabang in 6 hours, however it is loud, wet and can be extremely dangerous. Helmets and life jackets are often provided and accidents are not unheard of. The cost is around 1500 THB per person.