After an adventure through Thailand, the next place you can go overland is Laos. You can enter Laos from the north, via the Thai-Lao friendship bridge at Houay Xai.
There’s a direct bus going to Luang Namtha and Luang Prabang from Chiang Rai, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
From Bus Terminal 2 in Chiang Rai, the bus leaves at 12:30PM. You will reach Chiang Khong (the Thai border town) around two hours after departure – there, you will need to check through Thai immigration. The bus will wait for you on the otherside – so there is no need to take your bags off the bus.
A few kilometres further down the road, the bus will stop at the Lao border and there you can purchase the Lao visa for US$30 (Australians) and US$35 (Americans). The process is very short and simple – again, the bus will wait for you on the otherside to continue the journey into Lao.
On the Lao side, the bus will change sides and will drive on the right-hand. This is a mountainous region and the road can be extremely windy, with ups and downs – if you experience nausea, I recommend taking a travel sickness pill and sit closer to the front of the vehicle.
You will reach Luang Namtha about four hours from the border – this is the first big city that I do recommend spending some time in. This place is known for its eco-tourism, jungle treks and white water rafting are popular activities here. Most of the money will go back into the village and communities for sustainable development!
From Luang Namtha, the bus does continue its journey onto Luang Prabang – another 12+ hours of travel ahead.
Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 2 | AC bus (sitting)
7-8 hours to Luang Namtha
Lao visa can be purchased at the border, on arrival US$30 for Australian passport holders