Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai by bus

Trip Start Feb 07, 2014
Trip End Jun 19, 2014

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

There are 3 ways to get from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai – by boat, by plane and by bus. At the beginning we were considering taking the boat but the longer we thought about it the 2 days on a slow boat sounded less and less appealing and we decided to save time and we took the bus. On a backpacker budget the fastest option by plane was out of the question and fast boat even if fast and relatively cheap but I decided against it. Another factor was the fact that we wanted to spend as much time as it is possible in Luang Prabang even if I knew that we would miss probably lot of nice scenery.

When we walked around the city and visited lot of tour operators and they told us that the journey will take only 15 hours. This sounded fantastic so we decided to go ahead with this option even the bus was leaving at 6 pm, however receptionist in our guest house told us that it is not realistic and the journey would take 24-26 hours, less if we were lucky.

We bought tickets for 350,000 kip each (with allocated seats) plus 10,000 drop off to the south bus station. Our tuk tuk driver was on time and we smoothly checked-in at the station terminal. If you want to save some money you can buy the tickets at the station for 310K.

The bus left on time and the journey started very well but as typical for Asia we did few unplanned stops to take local people along the way. First part of the journey was very good, the road was smooth and after 4 hours we did a 30 minutes stop and we continue our journey. After that the road was very bumpy and we could not sleep very much, lot of curves and bumps so sometimes we had to hold on not to fall of our seats. This took around 6 hours. So I do recommend not eat. Another problem was the aircon and it was very cold during the journey. The aircon was awful and everybody was complaining but the driver did not seem to be bothered and told us that it was set to default and was not able to change it. So please do take a hat, hoody, trousers and warm socks, when you decide to go by bus.

We were able to get some sleep after 4 am toilet break and when we woke up at 7am we knew we would be not on time in Chiag Mai. At 8.40 am were only at the Lao border. We got off from the bus for the passport control and we went back on our bus. There is a recently opened Friendship bridge so we went straight to the Thai border instead of getting a small boat to cross the river. Again we went off from the bus, passed the passport control and again bus was waiting and we continued journey on the same bus with same drivers. We found different scenarios with changing buses or minivans so we were happy that at least something went according to plan. Around 11am we arrived to Chiang Rain where most of the people got off and only a few   were continuing journey. It was 4 pm when we finally arrived to the Chiang Mai station.

If you have the time take rather the boat as you will at least be able to overnight on land and get some decent sleep in a hotel or if you have the money take the plane because the bus ride is probably the worst option of all the means of transportation.
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