If you are looking to do something truly unique and unforgettable in Asia, this 2-day cruise along the Mekong River is the perfect add-on to your travel itinerary! Taking the cruise is not only the most beautiful way to travel from Laos to Thailand (or vice-versa), you will also cruise through remote landscapes, pass charming villages and enjoy breathtaking views that change every second. We did the 2-day Luang Say Cruise with Mekong Cruises, where you spend one night in a beautiful luxury lodge and visited some hidden gems you would never visit alone. Such a unique experience we will never forget! If you like joining such a cruise by yourself, definitely check out all our tips below.
Cruise options and routes
There are several ways to cruise along the Mekong River from Laos to Thailand or the other way. There is a public slow boat, which is the cheapest option. (cost around $30 per person one way). Another option is by speedboat, which we do not recommend because you won’t have the time to experience all the beauty and it’s told to be dangerous too. (cost around $40 per person one way) And then you’ll have the luxury cruises of Mekong Cruises. This is the most relaxed and unique way to cruise along the Mekong River and reach your next destination in Thailand or Laos. The boats have a capacity for 40 people, you will be seated in super comfortable chairs and there is always an English-speaking guide that will point out the many interesting spots along the way for you.
Mekong Cruises are offering cruises downstream and upstream and several cruise lengths. We took the two-day cruise from Luang Prabang in Laos to Huay Xai, near the border with Northern Thailand, and stayed one night in a luxury lodge in Pakbeng, which was included.
Note: taking the cruise in the opposite direction is also possible, depending on your travel route and what you like the most. Check here for availability and prices.
Day 1: from Luang Prabang (Laos) to Pakbeng (Laos)
On day 1, we were picked up at our hotel in Luang Prabang where we embarked the Luang Say Cruise around 7 am. From here the trip started and took us to Thailand in 2 days. When we left the pier, we got some small breakfast and after a couple of hours cruising and having amazing views of the misty Mekong River, we stopped for a first visit. Our first stop was at the Pak Ou caves where thousands of Buddha images are housed. When we got back on board, there was a delicious buffet lunch waiting for us.
Secondly, we visited a traditional village where we met the warmest and beautiful people ever. Unforgettable! After those two stops, we had enough free time to enjoy the landscapes of the mighty Mekong River and to observe the daily life of the villages we crossed along the way, which made the whole cruise so special.
Just before sunset, we arrived in Pakbeng, where we had dinner on the terrace of the beautiful Luang Say Lodge overlooking the river and enjoyed a traditional Laotian dance. We didn’t spend the night on-board, but in a luxury wooden bungalow with stunning views over the Mekong. Heaven!
Day 2: from Pakbeng to Huay Xai (Thailand Border)
Rise and shine! On day 2, we first had a great breakfast and con afterward our final route to Huay Xai. Along the way, we visited another traditional village to observe some rural life. We had lunch onboard after the stop, which was again so delicious. We finally arrived in Huay Xai around 5.30 PM, where we continued our trip by minivan to Chiang Rai. Just opposite Huay Xai, there is Chiang Khong where you can stop to stay one night, but continuing your trip to Chiang Rai the same evening is also perfectly possible.
Best time to cruise along the Mekong River, schedule + route map
The best time to cruise along the Mekong River is somewhere between November and February. Between these months, you’ll avoid the humid weather and you’re sure that the river is still high enough to pass.
The cruises of Mekong Cruises from Laos to Thailand are departing every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. And every Monday, Thursday, and Friday from Thailand to Laos. (only between 1 October – 31 March)
Note: there are no cruises in June.
Some extra useful tips
- From October to February the temperatures on the river can be cool in the morning. So better bring a jacket or sweater with you.
- Bring a small daypack with clothes for one day. This way, you can leave your luggage on the boat when you spend the night in Pakbeng.
- When you arrive in Huay Xai, you’ll need to pay the bus to Chiang Kong by yourself. (10.000 Kip per person)
- Alcoholic drinks, visa costs, and tips are not including in the cruises of Mekong Cruises.
Read also: Laos: Everything you need to know
More information and prices
Mekong Cruises offers two unique cruises on the Mekong River in Laos. You have the Luang Say Cruise, which cruises along the Northern Mekong River (the one we did). And secondly, you have the Vat Phou Cruise which cruises along the Southern Mekong River. (still on our bucket list) For more information about these two cruises, you can best check the website of Mekong Cruises here.
If you would like to join a cruise yourself and check availability or prices, you can find more information here.
Want to see more? Check out the little movie we made for Mekong Cruises below.
Now you’ve read the must do: cruise along the Mekong River from Laos to Thailand, you might be ready to go. Following websites can help you plan the perfect trip: