Planning to take the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang in Laos? Here’s all you ever wanted to know about the two day journey along the Mekong river.
What is a slow boat?
A slow boat is a boat that is slow. Or it’s not actually super slow, but it’s slower than a speed boat, hence the name.
That didn’t tell me much.
Okay, imagine a comfortable bus or a train carriage that moves on water. The seats are very similar, although they are not bolted on the floor, so you might accidentally knock one over when you try to lean on it.
Is there a toilet in the slow boat?
Yes, there are one or two toilets at the back of the boat, just behind the bar.
They are squat toilets, aren’t they?
No, they’re not! Most of the slow boats have new toilet seats. There might even be toilet paper!
Okay. And what’s this bar that you mentioned?
Most of the slow boats have a small counter on the back, where you can buy beer, water and other drinks.
What about food?
The boats I rode didn’t offer proper meals, but you could buy potato chips and noodles if you wanted. I recommend packing your own food, though.
What else should I pack?
If you end up sitting in the back, the boat engine can be quite loud, so you might consider taking ear plugs with you. Otherwise, just take whatever you need to pass time: a book, camera, music on your phone… Or you can simply spend the whole journey talking to other passengers on board.
How long does the boat ride take?
On the first day, our boat left at 11 am and arrived after 5 pm at Pak Beng. The next day, we left at 9 am and arrived in Luang Prabang at around 4 pm. So, it’s about 6-7 hours per day.
Where did you say the boat stops?
The slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang stops overnight at Pak Beng, a small village with plenty of accommodation options and not much else. The boat also makes other stops along the way, picking up and dropping off locals in strangely remote locations.
Should I book my accommodation in Pak Beng in advance?
It’s not necessary. If you don’t book a hotel in advance, you can easily get one when you arrive. There are plenty of hotel workers waiting at the harbour to pick tourists up.
How much is the accommodation in Pak Beng?
I booked my hotel room in advance and paid about 180.000 Lao Kip (22 US$) for one night. However, I heard that two other backpackers managed to get a room for 50.000 Kip (6 US$).
Can I pay with other currencies besides Lao Kip?
Yes, you can use US dollars and Thai Baht if you want.
And how much does the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang cost?
I paid 240.000 Kip (29 US$) for my ticket, including the hotel commission. If you buy the ticket directly from the boat company, it’s about 2 US$ cheaper.
Any other tips?
Your backpack might be stored in an inaccessible location, so pack all your food and other supplies in your day bag. If loud noises disturb you, sit in the front. Besides the loud engine, the travelers who buy drinks at the bar usually gather in the back, making the area even louder.
The bus from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is faster. Is the slow boat ride along the Mekong river worth it?
It’s quite alright!
Thank you! You are awesome!