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.

To travel the 720km from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai, you have 3 options: you can take a flight for just 1.5 hours, board a bus for 21 hours, or you can be extra adventurous and take a ferry ride that spans 3 days. Buses & ferries cost about $50 and flight prices start at $68.

3 ways to get from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

Transport modeDurationCostsAvailability
Flight1.5 hours2,050 THB ($58)Check Flights
Bus21 hours1,500 THB ($42.50)Check Bus Tickets
Ferry3 days1,550 THB ($44)

Read article for more info

Taking a flight is the fastest way to travel from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. However, it is the priciest option at $68 and can get more expensive if you don’t book in advance.

The bus takes at least 21 hours from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai, but it’s a good option if you’re on a budget.

The ferry or “slow boat” is for those seeking a more authentic way to explore the two countries. This ferry ride takes 3 days, with two stopovers in small villages in Laos and Thailand.

Note: When travelling by bus or ferry you will have to go through border immigration in order 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 the border immigration is open from 06:00 to 22:00.

Itinerary from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by Flight

Duration: 1hr 10min
Cost: 2,050 THB ($58)
Duration: 1hr 10min
Cost: 2,050 THB ($58)

Booking a flight from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai is the quickest option and takes just 1hr 10min. Be sure to book your flight in advance as there are not many direct flights for this route.

Flights with Lao Airlines start at 2,050 THB ($58).

In case direct flights are sold out, you can also book an indirect flight, which makes a stopover in Bangkok. This takes around 5.5 hours and ticket prices start at 3,450 THB ($98).

Flights depart from Luang Prabang Airport (LPQ) and land at Chiang Mai Airport (CNX). Click on the button below to check the cheapest flights.

Check Flights on Skyscanner

Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by Bus

Duration: 21 hours
Cost: 1,500 THB ($42.50)
Duration: 21 hours
Cost: 1,500 THB ($42.50)

Travelling by bus takes almost a full day, but it’s at least $18 cheaper compared to flying. That’s apart from the one night you can save on accommodation. Bus travel will also give you an opportunity to take in the sights along the way.

Below we provide you with schedules of the reputable buses from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. Tickets for both bus operators cost 1,500 THB ($42.50).

Bus Schedule from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai

Ferry OperatorScheduleCosts
Naluang17:30-14:301,500 THB ($42.50)
Buy Your Bus Tickets
Laos Group Tour
+ free pick-up
18:00-18:001,500 THB ($42.50)
Buy Your Bus Tickets


Buses depart from the Southern Bus Terminal, which is located in the city centre of Luang Prabang. The bus will drop passengers off at the Bus Terminal 3 in Chiang Mai, located east of the city centre. To go to the city centre, you can take a songthaew for about 60 THB ($1.70) per person.

Laos Group Tour

Laos Group Tour offers a free pick-up service from your hotel, which is included in the cost of the bus ride. The bus will take you straight to Chiang Mai Bus Station 2, also known as the Arcade Bus Terminal, located about 3km east of the city centre.

Buses operating from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai stop at Huay Xai border. You will need to get off the bus and go through immigration on the Laotian side to record your exit of 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 immigration in Chiang Khong, on 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 the country.

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
Cost: 1,550 THB ($44)
Duration: 3 days
Cost: 1,550 THB ($44)

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. This option is truly unique and offers amazing sights that would be missed if you chose to travel by flight or bus.

Keep in mind that 3 days on a boat can feel like a very 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 Pakbeng Tuktuk + Ferry

Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 760 THB ($21.50)
Duration: 9 hours
Cost: 760 THB ($21.50)

Your best option is to take a tuk-tuk from the city centre to the slow boat pier. This takes about 25 minutes and the cost for 2 persons can be negotiated at about 230 THB ($6.50).

You can purchase your tickets directly at the pier. Ticket booths open at 08:00 and the cost is about 390 THB ($11) per person. This ferry only takes you to Pakbeng so don’t be surprised if you have to spend one night here.

When you reach Pakbeng many locals will offer accommodation, prices are negotiable so be sure to ask for a discount. Don’t expect too much of the local accommodations, just know that most are clean and good for one night’s sleep.

Step 2: Pakbeng to Huay Xai/Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai by Ferry + Tuk-tuk + Bus

Duration: 8 hours
Cost: 760 THB ($21.50)
Duration: 8 hours
Cost: 760 THB ($21.50)

The ferry from Pakbeng to Huay Xai departs at 08:30. Be sure to arrive at the pier by at least 08:00 when the ticketing booth opens to guarantee your spot on the boat.

The slow boat takes you to the pier in Huay Xai. From here, you can take a tuk-tuk for 40 THB ($1.10) to immigration on the Laotian side of the border to exit the country.

Once complete, cross over the bridge to the Thai border. There is a shuttle bus that charges 25 THB ($0.70) per person or you can take a tuk-tuk.

Present your documents to the Chiang Khong immigration in Thailand to get your visa and have your passport stamped.

From Chiang Khong, you have to take the bus for the remainder of the journey to Chiang Mai. Buses depart early in the morning so you may have to spend 1 night in Chiang Khong.

We suggest booking your hotel in advance. Be sure to ask if they have a free pick up service so you do not have to arrange for a transfer.

We suggest booking with Green Bus through to continue your trip to Chiang Mai. They offer daily trips departing at 07:30, 09:45 and 10:30 from the local bus station in Chiang Khong, north of the border crossing. Bus prices range from 300 THB ($8.50) to 510 THB ($14.50).

You can ask your hotel for assistance in getting to the bus station.

More routes to Chiang Mai

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Chiang Mai Airport

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