10 BEST Slow Boat to Luang Prabang Tips

A backpackers rite of passage, the 2 day slow boat to Luang Prabang is a bucket list item for some, and a long dreaded day of travel for others.

I had the opportunity to take the famous slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang and loved the journey! It was fun, exciting, and a unique way to get around. However, I could not find  much information when I researched it in advance. 

The goal of this post is to give you my BEST tips for the slow boat to Luang Prabang. After experiencing it myself, these are the 10 things I wish I knew before embarking on the epic slow boat to Luang Prabang.

slow boat to luang prabang view on water 

Table of Contents

10 Slow Boat to Luang Prabang Tips You’ll Need To Know Before Your Trip

What is the Slow Boat to Luang Prabang?

The slow boat to Luang Prabang is, what feels like, a backpackers rite of passage. Everyday, tourists flock to Huay Xai to catch the infamous 2-day slow boat to Luang Prabang.

The boat is famous for being a great place to make travel friends and relax among the beautiful views of Laos.

However, the slow boat to Luang Prabang is a form of transportation at the end of the day, which means it is a long travel day. Each day is between 6-8 hours of floating on a crowded boat with no internet.

So, there are many things you can do to prepare to make your journey much more enjoyable.

Slow boat in Huay Xai parked on the river bank
Slow Boat in Huay Xai

Sleep in Huay Xai Before the Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

One of the best tips I can give for the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is to sleep in Huay Xai the night before your slow boat to Luang Prabang.

Many travelers do a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and finish the day in Chiang Khlong. Chiang Khlong is the town in Thailand closest to the dock of the slow boat. However, if you stay in Chiang Khlong you will need to wake up early and go through Laos immigration in the morning.

This is not ideal, as you will probably be very tired from an early morning and also one of the last on the slow boat to Luang Prabang. You will want to be early on the boat to choose your seats!

So, I highly recommend sleeping in Huay Xai before your slow boat to Luang Prabang so you can relax in the morning, and prepare for your big adventure.

sunset over the mekong river in Huay Xai
Sunset in Huay Xai over the Mekong River

Pack 2 Liters of Water

The slow boat can get hot, very hot. Actually, I met two girls who got heat stroke on the boat because they were underprepared and also had seats in the back of the boat near the engine.

You don’t want this to happen to you. Pack at least 2 liters of water so you don’t have to worry about rationing it.

On the boat there is a small concession stand with water and snacks, however they are extremely overpriced. 

Organize Your Meals Ahead of Time

Before boarding the slow boat to Luang Prabang you will want to organize your meals ahead of time. If not, you’ll end up with an overpriced cup of sub-par noodles.

However, there is no need to stress in advance about this. In Huay Xai, there are many different shops that sell take-away sandwiches in preparation for the boat. You can even order it the night before and it will be ready for you to pick up in the morning! This will give you peace of mind.

I stayed in Over the Moon hostel in Huay Xai and they offered take-away fried rice or noodles that you can pre-order too! I pre-ordered the fried rice and loved that I was able to have a nice meal on the slow boat to Luang Prabang too.

On your overnight stop in Pak Bang you can do the same thing. The evening before you can pre-order a sandwich or meal and then pick it up in the morning so you are ready to go!

It’s a really convenient system, and they are expecting the business.

Also, remember it is a long boat ride, so you’ll probably want a few snacks too. So, pack a few snacks along with a sandwich. It will significantly enhance your trip! 

slow boat to luang prabang views from the boat on the water with mountains


One of the most important things you can pack in your travel bag is sunscreen! The sun on the slow boat to Luang Prabang is no joke, and although the boat is shaded there are times you may be in the sun for extended periods of time.

Sunscreen is easy to find in Thailand and the last thing you are going to want is a slow boat burn.

Bring Entertainment

The ultimate cure of boredom, bring entertainment! Although the slow boat to Luang Prabang is notorious for making friends and being social, it’s a long 2 days traveling. Many travelers choose to take a break from socializing to relax on their own.

You will want to download podcasts, movies, music, etc. before your slow boat, because once you are on it you will not have a phone signal until you reach Pak Bang, where you will sleep at night.

Be sure to have plenty of entertainment downloaded for your “me” time.

Another good thing to pack is a deck of cards. A deck of cards is a classic for backpackers, and this is no exception! Many travelers will play cards on their seats (there are no tables). This is a great way to pass time on the slow boat to Luang Prabang and make friends along the way.

view of a mountain and beach from the slow boat on the water

Arrive Early Before Your Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

ARRIVE EARLY! I cannot stress this one enough. The slow boat to Luang Prabang crowds are unpredictable, and many days it is crowded – very crowded. You’ll want to arrive early to get the best seats, and to be able to set with friends.

How the slow boat to Luang Prabang seating works is on the first day when you board you will be assigned a seat. Most everyone will follow these instructions. However, almost immediately people start to move around to sit with friends, partners, change seats.

So, your seat assignment does not matter too much, however it’s good to follow it in advance. I think this takes away the urgent need to arrive early. However, arriving early gives you peace of mind to settle into the boat, instead of running around and being stressed. 

seating on the slow boat
Slow Boat Interior

Bring Your Own Toilet Paper

This one is mostly for the girls, but you will need to bring toilet paper. On the slow boat to Luang Prabang, there is no toilet paper provided. If you want toilet paper, you will need to bring it yourself. 

Depending on the boat you get, the toilet’s may be nicer with a proper seat, or they could just be holes in the ground. They often can get a bit smelly too. However, at least there is one for the long journey.


Bring your own beer – or other beverages if you plan to drink alcohol. The boat sells some BeerLaos on board, however it is also wildly overpriced. I’d recommend buying some in town before you board the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

Although I did not drink while on the slow boat, many others chose to. So, to save money you might want to pack some of your own.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

When thinking about what to wear on the slow boat to Luang Prabang, it’s important you wear comfortable clothes. Wear clothes you won’t mind sitting in for 6-7 hours and getting sweaty in.

The slow boat can be hot and sweaty at certain times of the year. I’d recommend wearing something breathable and light-weight on your journey.

slow boat to luang prabang where i am looking out of the window with a mounain in the background

Book Pak Bang Accommodation when you arrive – it will be cheaper than online

One of the big questions when taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang is about Pak Bang. Should you book accommodation in advance? Book when you arrive?

Many travelers will book their accommodations in advance, online. This is a good approach if you need the peace of mind, knowing where you are sleeping at night. However, the prices will be cheaper if you book upon arrival.

Especially if you are a backpacker, you can follow the other backpackers to the hostel and they should have a few extra beds they are waiting to sell you.

Pak Bang won’t sell out of rooms. There are plenty of hotel rooms here to accommodate the many travelers. However, if you don’t book in advance you may be left with a bad selection of places if you aren’t quick about where you are staying.

When you arrive in Pak Bang, be quick with where you want to stay to avoid getting the least desirable rooms.

However, it did work out well for me when I booked my room upon arrival.

Pak Bang View in the morning with misty fog and a river
Pak Bang View in the Morning

Final Thoughts on the Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

The slow boat to Luang Prabang is an exciting part of any Southeast Asia backpacking trip. It’s a unique way to travel from one place to the next and make close friends along the way. I mean, what else are you going to do for 2 days straight on a boat!

However, when planning your trip, there are many things you can do in advance to make it a more enjoyable and relaxing experience! I sincerely hope these tips helped you prepare for your journey. And by reading this post you are already one step ahead and ready for your next adventure!

I’m Danika! A travel obsessed, Disney adult, with a knack for budgeting.

In 2020 I was furlough from my “dream” job at Disney and have pursued my first love of travel ever since. I have traveled to 33 states and 28 countries spanning 5 continents.

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