Night Bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Rai, Thailand – Asia Tour 2017

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Sleeping Bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chang Rai, Thailand – the most comprehensive step by step guide, complete with pictures.

Following a short, busy, stay in Luang Prabang (read about it: What to see and do in Luang Prabang), we went to a roadside tour agency to investigate our transportation possibilities to Thailand.  After careful consideration and weighing the pros and cons, we decided we would lose the least time by taking the sleeping bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai. Almost all tour agencies sell the tickets; we paid 270,000 kip per person (USD$32.75). After some intense questioning, and the sales lady getting irritated with us, she presented pictures of a bus with single “bunk beds”, slightly rough looking, but we figured we should be able to sleep.  She frustrated and angrily reconfirmed this was the sleeping bus we would travel on.

Bus Station in Luang Prabang, Laos
Bus Station in Luang Prabang, Laos

The Schedule / How it works:
– Bus leaves to Chang Rai, Thailand Tuesday and Friday
– You are issued a ticket
– You must be at the “mini bus” station by 5:30pm (our tuk tuk cost 15,000 kip per person (USD$1.85))
– Go to counter with your voucher and check in. Here you are issued a real ticket, along with your bus number
– when bus door opens, you are ushered to your seat (💡unbeknownst to us, we received a seat number when we checked in)
– Bus Leaves at 6 pm (6:10 pm in our case)
– a helper hands out a package at the start of the trip; water, cake, crackers and drinking box, plus a garbage bag (for garbage or vomit?)
– a blanket is draped over each seat for your use
– trip is supposed to take 17 hours total – ETA 11 am

‼️Reality Shock:‼️ It was NOT a sleeping bus with beds, rather a bus with reclining seats, however, the seats were big and fairly comfortable - at the beginning, not so much by the end.🙄
The Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai
The Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai

They kept the bus fairly cool, so make sure you have a sweater along.  Luggage is stored underneath the bus, and there is overhead space for a small backpack.  Our bus was full.

There is no wifi.  There are no lights for reading a book.

Our 1st stop was at 8:45 pm for 15 minutes. Everyone stumbled sleepily off the bus, so I guess I am not the only one who had managed to fall asleep. Toilets here were disgustingly dirty and there is never any soap – be sure to have tissues and hand sanitizer along.  We bought 2 apples and some peanut brittle for 19,000 kip (USD$2.30) and crawled through the ditch back onto the bus. I cut my foot open on a bottle in the ditch. Was this a forewarning of bad things to come? Note to self: be careful of the garbage laying around.

Inside of the Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai
Inside of the Night Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai – not what we were promised!

Next stop was at 12:20 am – I briefly woke up and glimpsed out the window; everything was pitch black, so I guess it was a smoke and washroom stretch break. By 12:23 we were on our way again. When the driver stops the bus, lights are turned on, and left on until the bus leaves again.  What I thought originally, to be comfortable seats, quickly became a nightmare; perhaps great for a trip of a few hours, but unpleasant to say the least for a night trip and almost impossible to sleep (nap yes, sleep no).

More stops were made at 1:52 am and 3:00 am (🤔just so males could relieve themselves in the ditch) and finally again at 5:45 am.  By this time I had to pee so bad, but the washrooms were all locked. Finally, after a lot of jumping around a lady came and opened them. We parked and didn’t leave again until 7:34 am, I am going to assume they were waiting for the border to open.

Early Morning Night Bus Arrival at the Border of Thailand and Laos - (Laos Side)
Early Morning Night Bus Arrival at the Border of Thailand and Laos – (Laos Side)
💡Tip: make sure you have mosquito spray along. The door was opened and the bus was turned off leaving us wide open for the dawn mosquito attack!

The border came into view at 7:42 am.  Everybody hopped off the bus and got in line to present our passports to the Laos exit authorities.  You must pay either USD$1 or 10,000 kip to exit, (I think only during off hours or weekends), get your passport exit stamped and re-meet the bus on the other side.

Departure Passport Control, Laos Thai Border on the Night Bus, Laos Side
Departure Passport Control at the Laos Thai Border; Night Bus (Laos Side)
Passport Border Control - Night Bus from Laos to Thailand (Laos Side)
Passport Border Control – Night Bus from Laos to Thailand (Laos Side)

To the left is the shuttle bus counter; at this point, if you need a shuttle you pay for where you want to go. To Chiang Khong (the Thai Border office, because you are not allowed to walk) is 25 baht (USD$0.75) or alternatively to Chiang Rai is 225 baht (USD$6.50).

Shuttle Bus Ticket Sales - Laos Thai Border
Shuttle Bus Ticket Sales – Laos Thai Border

It was included in our ticket, so we hopped back on the bus and within a few minutes it was crossing the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong river to the Thailand border side where we exited the bus once more at to be processed by immigration. Everyone was instructed to take their luggage with them.

Thailand Border - Night Bus from Laos
Thailand Border – Night Bus from Laos

You are given immigration papers to fill out and then you proceed to the Thai customs booth to get entry approval, after which you get your luggage scanned and then you have finally arrived in Thailand.

Humorous Health Sign Inside the Thailand Customs Building
Humorous Health Sign Inside the Thailand Customs Building
Passport Control at the Thailand Border - Arrival by Night Bus from Laos
Passport Control at the Thailand Border – Arrival by Night Bus from Laos
 💡FYI: On the right hand side is an ATM machine so you can easily pick up Thai baht before going any further. Also in a separate building on the right are fairly clean washrooms.

The bus was on the road again by 8:37 AM making the total time to cross the border 56 minutes with a cost of 10,000 kip (USD$1).  For those who are not getting back on the bus / have purchased transport to Chiang Rai, the shuttles are waiting on the right hand side.

Border Shuttle Truck To / From Chiang Rai, Thailand
Border Shuttle Truck To / From Chiang Rai, Thailand

Next stop: Chang Rai, which maps.me says is 2 hours – and so it was, almost to the minute.

Mr. Manat, Our Trusty Tuk Tuk Driver - Chiang Rai
Mr. Manat, Our Trusty Tuk Tuk Driver – Chiang Rai
 Worth saying:🏆our bus driver was amazing. His eyes never left the road and he was constantly scanning and using his mirrors. It felt very safe.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – The ride was boring and uneventful (thank goodness); I can’t even brag about the wonderful countryside scenery as it was too dark to see anything. Simply winding, twisting and bumping along through the dark with an occasional light sleep in between. But let me tell you about the time the pirates… 😜


Links of Possible Interest:
→ Chiang Rai / Photos
.….⇒ Stay: Baan Siri Hotel
…..⇒ Eat: Baan Chivit Mai Bakery & Restaurant
…..⇒ Eat: Lumdee Cafe Restaurant
…..⇒ Eat: Sawaddee Restaurant
…..⇒ Top Things to See and Do in Chiang Rai
…..⇒ Temple Challenge – are you up for it? Fun!

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