So I was in Chiang Mai and noticed that the tours and packages to get to Luang Prabang was pretty expensive. I miss the days where I crossed borders on my own, so I did a bit of research and set on own to cross the border into Laos.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
I opted to get the bus from CM to CR, I know you can go straight to Chiang Khong but I decided to take separate buses. I just rocked up to the Arcade bus station, went up to Green bus counter and bought a ticket to the next available bus. Get there early, I managed to get the last seat for 9:30am. This bus ride is comfortable and it should cost you 129 baht, the journey takes up to 3-4 hours.
Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong
Once you hop off your bus at CR, there will be a man yelling ‘Chiang Khong’ next to a red bus. This bus will take you closet to the border for 65 baht.
Chiang Khong into Laos
The red bus driver will assume you want to go to Laos, or he’ll ask you anyway as like me I was the last one on the bus. He’ll drop you off with the tuk tuks and they will drop you off at the border, it’s 4km so pretty far to walk on your own. It’s 60 baht, but I am sure you can barter it lower. Once you go through Thai immigration you get a bus on the other side for 20 baht and it will take you to the border of Laos. Again it’s too far to walk, so better to take this shuttle.
Getting to Luang Prabang from the border
Going through customs is relatively easy, if you arrive after 4pm as I did there is a $1 fee if you’re doing your visa on arrival. It was pretty simple, you just have to fill out some forms, make sure you have a passport photo and they’ll do the rest. It cost me 1240 baht for the visa. Go through customs as usual and then you’ll be greeted by an overpriced tuk tuk. We had to pay 100 baht each, but I am sure you could go lower if you wanted to. I asked to get dropped off at the bus station in Huay Xai, if you want to get the slow boat asked to be dropped off in the centre. When you’re at the bus stop you can ask for a bus that is leaving that night, unfortunately it was booked out for me so I had to get the bus the following morning. It cost me 682 baht. I ended up spending a night in the centre which was pretty beautiful and it breaks up the trip a bit. The bus the following morning was a mini-van and it took 12 hours to get to LP.
Slow boat to Luand Prabang
If you want to book a slow boat, my advice would be to stay a night in the centre and book it from there.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai – 129 Baht
Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong – 65 Baht
Tuk tuk to border – 60 Baht
Shuttle to Laos border – 20 Baht
Tuk tuk to bus station – 100 Baht
Bus to Luang Prabang – 682 Baht
Total = 1056 Baht