Planning to take the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang boat in Laos? Here’s all you need to know about the two day cruise along the Mekong river.

Inside the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai, with passengers sitting on their chairs.

Inside the slow boat.

What is a slow boat?

The Houayxay (Huay Xai) to Luang Prabang boats are called slow boats. As the name implies, a slow boat is a boat that goes slowly. 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 Mekong river slow boats have new toilet seats. There might even be toilet paper!

Slow boats waiting at the harbour of Huay Xai, Laos.

Slow boats waiting at the harbour of Huay Xai.

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 on the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang boat?

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.

The slow boat ride from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai goes more quickly if you talk to other passengers.

The slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is full of Western tourists.

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 cruise from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang 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.

Slow boat to Luang Prabang stopping on a sandy shore with only one man visible on the coast.

The boat stopping in the middle of nowhere.

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.

A steep hill on the coast of Mekong river. The boat ride to Luang Prabang offers some spectacular views along the Mekong river.

The ride offers some spectacular views!

And how much does the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang boat 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. The prices might have changed a little, as I did my journey some years ago during my 2-year trip around the world.

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.

And although I’m only talking about the Mekong river cruise from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang here, it’s also possible to take the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai.

The bus from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is faster. Is the slow boat cruise along the Mekong river worth it?

It’s quite alright!

Thank you! You are awesome!

You’re welcome!

A tuk tuk rider in a green shirt driving to Luang Prabang in Laos.

The slow boat cruise on Mekong river ends a few kilometers away from Luang Prabang, so you need to pay for a tuk tuk to reach the town. Of course.