Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

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How to get from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand. It is well known for its authentic Thai culture and local foods. The city has one of the country’s best night markets offering local shopping, food, and souvenirs.

Chiang Mai is filled with history, culture, and countless temples to explore. The area is also famous for the numerous ethical elephant sanctuaries and local tribes that live in the nearby hills.

3 ways to get from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

The distance from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai is 630 km (390 miles). In this post, we compare the 3 options to travel from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai: by flight (1-5.5 hours), by bus (21-24 hours), or by ferry (3 days). Ticket prices range from 505 THB ($14) to 3,000 THB ($83).

Transport modeDurationCostsAvailability
Flight1-5.5 hours3,000 THB ($83)Check Flights
Bus*21-24 hours1,500 THB ($41.50)Check Bus Tickets
Ferry3 days200,000 LAK ($11.50) + 385 THB ($10.50)

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*COVID-19 UPDATE: The last time we checked (October 2022), the cross-border buses from Laos to Thailand have not yet resumed trips since the pandemic. Please check the provided link to see if anything has changed.

Taking a flight is the fastest way to travel from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. However, it is the priciest option at 3,000 THB ($83) and can get more expensive if you book short in advance.

TIP: If you decide to travel by plane, please consider including a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment.

The bus used to take 21-24 hours from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. It was a good option for travellers on a budget with fares around 1,500 THB ($41.50) before the pandemic. The last time we checked (October 2022), the buses on this route are unavailable.

If you’re seeking a more authentic way to explore the two countries, then the ferry or “slow boat” is the best option for you. This ferry ride takes 3 days, including two stopovers and overnight stays in small villages in Laos and Thailand. Transfer fares start at 200,000 LAK ($11.50) + 385 THB ($10.50).

Important note: When travelling by bus or ferry, you will have to go through border immigration to get to Chiang Mai. For those that require a visa to enter Thailand, be sure that you’ve secured your visa in advance or have the appropriate documents required for a visa on arrival. It’s also important to know that border immigration is open only from 06:00 to 22:00.

Itinerary from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by Flight

Duration: 1.5-5 hours
Cost: 3,000 THB ($83)
Duration: 1.5-5 hours
Cost: 3,000 THB ($83)

Booking a flight from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai is the quickest option and takes just a little over an hour. A direct flight with Lao Airlines starts from 3,000 THB ($83), but it’s normally more expensive.

In case these direct flights are sold out, you can also book an indirect flight, which makes a stopover in Bangkok. These flights take around 4.5-5.5 hours, with airfares starting from 3,575 THB ($99).

Be sure to book your flight in advance and early as there are not many direct flights for this route.

Check Flights on Skyscanner

Flights depart from Luang Prabang Airport (LPQ), which you can reach in 15 minutes by taxi or tuk-tuk from the city centre.

All flights land at Chiang Mai Airport (CNX). From the airport, you can take a bus, taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to go to the centre of Chiang Mai. Depending on the traffic, it is usually a 20-minute trip from the airport.

Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by Bus

Duration: 21-24 hours
Cost: 1,500 THB ($41.50)
Duration: 21-24 hours
Cost: 1,500 THB ($41.50)

*COVID-19 UPDATE: The last time we checked (October 2022), the cross-border buses from Laos to Thailand have not yet resumed trips since the pandemic. We suggest taking a flight or a slow ferry for the Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai route.

Travelling by bus used to take almost a full day, but it was cheaper compared to flying. That’s apart from the one night you can save on accommodation. A bus ride also gave you an opportunity to take in the sights along the way.

Naluang Travel and Laos Group Tour were the two bus companies operating on the Luang Prabang to Chaing Mai route. Tickets used to be around 1,500 THB ($41.50).

Departure and arrival station

The Naluang buses depart from the Southern Bus Terminal which is located within a 5-minute drive from the city centre of Luang Prabang. On the other hand, Laos Group Tour offers a free pick-up service from your hotel so you won’t have to worry about the transfer.

Naluang bus drops passengers off at Bus Terminal 3 in Chiang Mai, while Laos Group Tour bus takes you straight to Chiang Mai Bus Station 2. Both stations are located east of the city centre. To go to the city centre, you can take a songthaew for about 60 THB ($1.65) for the 15-minute ride.

Below we provide you with schedules of the reputable buses from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai.

Bus schedule from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai*

Ferry OperatorScheduleCosts
Naluang17:30-14:301,500 THB ($41.50)
Check Bus Tickets
Laos Group Tour
+ free pick-up
18:00-17:591,810 THB ($50)
Check Bus Tickets
*COVID-19 UPDATE: The last time we checked (October 2022), the cross-border buses from Laos to Thailand have not yet resumed trips since the pandemic. Please check the provided link to see if anything has changed.

Customs & Immigrations

Buses operating from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai stop at Huay Xai border. You will need to get off the bus and go through Laos Border Control and Immigration Office to record your exit leaving the country. When completed, you will board your bus again and head to Thailand immigration.

The bus will then drive you across the bridge to Thailand Border Immigration Office in Chiang Khong, the Thailand side of the border. Here, you will need to present your travel documents to Thai immigration and receive your passport stamp to enter Thailand.

Once completed, you will board the bus again, which will then take you straight to Chiang Mai.

Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by Ferry

Duration: 3 days incl. waiting time
Cost: 200,000 LAK ($11.50) + 385 THB ($10.50)
Duration: 3 days incl. waiting time
Cost: 200,000 LAK ($11.50) + 385 THB ($10.50)

If you’re looking for adventure and a more authentic experience, then we suggest travelling by ferry or “slow boat” from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai.

Travelling by slow boat along the Mekong River is one of the most scenic and cheapest ways to travel on this route. This option is truly unique and offers amazing sights that you will miss if you take a flight or a bus instead.

Keep in mind that three days on a boat can feel like a long time and there is not much to do besides taking in the scenery along the river. We suggest bringing a book or a deck of cards to keep yourself entertained throughout this journey.

Step 1: Luang Prabang to Pak Beng by Slow Boat + Tuk-tuk

Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 160,000 LAK ($9)
Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 160,000 LAK ($9)

The first part of the journey is travelling from Luang Prabang to Pak Beng by ferry.

To get to the slow boat terminal in Luang Prabang, you need to take a tuk-tuk from the city centre. This trip takes about 15 minutes and costs 50,000 LAK ($2.90) per person.

For the long ferry ride, you can buy your tickets directly at the slow boat pier. Note that ticket booths open at 08:00 and a ticket costs 110,000 LAK ($6) per person.

The boat departs at 08:30 and the ride takes 9 hours. You’ll arrive at Pak Beng at around 17:30, so don’t be surprised if you have to spend one night in this village.

Note that many locals at Pak Beng will offer accommodation. Prices are negotiable, so make sure to ask for a discount. Don’t expect too much of the local accommodations, though. Most of them are clean and good for a night’s sleep.

Step 2: Pak Beng to Huay Xai/Chiang Khong by Slow Boat

Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 140,000 LAK ($8)
Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 140,000 LAK ($8)

The ferry from Pak Beng to Huay Xai departs at 08:30. To guarantee your spot on the boat, make sure to arrive at the pier before 08:00, which is when the ticketing booth opens.

Fare starts at 110,000 LAK ($6) for the 9-hour journey to the pier in Huay Xai.

Upon arriving at the pier, you can take a tuk-tuk for 20,000 LAK ($1.15) to the Laos Border Control and Immigration Office to exit the country. This trip takes about 20 minutes.

Once complete, cross over the bridge to the Thai border. The next step is to take a shuttle bus to the immigration office in Chiang Khong, which costs 10,000 LAK ($0.55) per person. Tuk-tuks are also available near the bridge.

At the immigration office, present your documents to get your visa and have your passport stamped.

Step 3: Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai by Bus

Duration: 7 hours
Cost: 385 THB ($10.50)
Duration: 7 hours
Cost: 385 THB ($10.50)

After all the immigration steps, you need to look for a hotel to spend a night in Chiang Khong, as the buses to Chiang Mai depart early in the morning.

We suggest booking your hotel in advance. Try to book a hotel with a free pick-up service so that you won’t have to arrange for a transfer.

Green Bus is the only bus company on the Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai route. They offer one daily trip departing at 09:30 from Chiang Khong District (Chaing Khong Market), north of the border crossing. Bus tickets start at 385 THB ($10.50) for the 7-hour bus ride.

Bus schedule from Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai

Ferry OperatorScheduleCosts
Green Bus09:30-16:35385 THB ($10.50)
Check Bus Tickets

The bus arrives at Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3, which is just a 15-minute ride from the centre of Chiang Mai. You can book your tickets in advance through 12GoAsia.

Fast Boat from Luang Prabang

If you want a quicker way to travel by water, you also have the option of taking a fast boat from Luang Prabang. A fast boat to Pak Beng costs 175,000 LAK ($10), while a fast boat all to way to Huay Xai costs 290,000 LAK ($16.50).

We do not recommend this option because it is known to be risky and can result in accidents. It’s basically a long-tail boat with a strong engine in the back. Not only will it be noisy, but it will also be more dangerous compared to the more stable slow boats.

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