Since more then two years the border crossing from Thailand to Laos in Huay Kon in Nan has been openend for international crossing; Many travellers that come to visit our guest house in Nan (http://www.nanguesthouse.net/home/
) are unknown with this option to travel to Loas or are not sure how to go about.
We did the trip last week to gether the latest info and hope this post will help you and our guest on their trip on this very interesting and less travelled route to and from Nan. I've added a few of the towns mentioned below in the hobo map of Laos to give a better overview, please check the hobomaps website http://hobomaps.com/LaosHwyMap.html
for the original and more very nice maps (thanks Hobomaps);
Here is the section from our information book:
Thai Laos Border crossing Huay Kon
Opening hours: 9u00 to 12u00 and 13u00 to 17u00; Laos Visa on Arrival (30 days), requirements (as per February 2013):
Your original passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity and a blank page for a visa stamp;
A Visa application form, filled and signed by the applicant (available at visa booth);
Two (2) recent passport-type photographs;
Visa fee (depending on Nationality): 30-45 USD (or 1000-1500 THB)
IMPORTANT: Information might have changed, check the latest requirements online!
Note: At the moment it's not allowed to cross the border from Thailand to Laos with a motorbike. You can check the forums on www.rideasia.net on the latest experiences.
Please note that paying in Thai Baht will often cost you more then USD. If you don’t have USD you can exchange at most larger banks in Nan; Expect to pay additional “stamp duties” (app 20-40THB) and if you cross during the weekend a “overtime fee” (app 100THB) on the Laos side of the border;
The national currency of Laos in Kip. In the Laos border town of Muang Ngeun you can safely exchange baht or dollars to kip or use the ATM at one of the banks next to the bus station; In most of western Laos you can pay with Baht as well but most shops use a fixed exchange rate of 1Baht to 250Kip, so if the exchange rate is higher it’s cheaper to pay in kip.
Transport and routes Thailand (Nan) - Laos (Sayaboury/Luang Prabang)
There are minibuses in the morning (4.45; 7u:00 and 11:00) from Nan Bus station to Huay Kon, the Thai-Laos border crossing. These take app. 3-4 hours. You can’t make a reservation, so we advise you to be early to guarantee a seat.
To cross the border from the Thai to the Laos side you can walk (app. 2km down and uphill) or take a motorbike taxi (if available, 20 THB) at the bus stop;
On the Laos side you will need to take the Song teaw (20-40THB/pp) to the Laos border town Muang Ngeun. You might have to spend the night here (there are a couple of guest houses) if you want some of the connections that leave early morning.
From Muang Ngeun you can continue your journey by Song Taew/Jumbo/Minivan to:
Pak Beng (app 60km bumpy road, 35,000kip), departs at 9am from the bus station (near the market). Here you can connect to:
Boats downstream to Tha Suang and Luang Prabang or upstream to Huay Xai;
Bus to the North of Laos (Oudomxay)
Hong Sa /Tha Suang (app. 45km, good road, 25.000kip), here you can connect to:
Tha Suang: Boats downstream to Luang Prabang or upstream to Pak Beng and Huay Xai; !Please note that this is the boat coming from Pak Beng and might already be full and the only seat left will be on the floor.
Hongsa: Daily Minivan to Sayaboury (70,000kip, 3hr good road with nice views), here you can connect to busses to Luang Prabang or Vientianne;
Planned: Hongsa-Luang Prabang direct bus (when road works are finished, app. 100.000kip)
Daily minivan to Sayabouly (90,000kip, 4hr good road with nice views) , here you can connect to busses to Luang Prabang or Vientianne;
NOTE: Bus schedules and availability in Laos is flexible, especially during low season. Busses can and will leave when full before or after scheduled departure! So be early, wait and it might mean you will miss your connection and are forced to stay overnight at any of the connections points, so allow time for this in your schedule. (Alternatively you might be able to get a ride with locals for the same (or less) as you would pay for the bus ticket).
The slow boat to Luang Prabang from Pak Beng departs every morning (at app 8am), stops 1.5 hour later at Tha Suang and will take in total app. 8 hours (440THB/110.000kip, tickets sold on the boat). There is also a speedboat that takes app. 3 hours (1500 THB), but this is a bumpy and noisy ride. The slow boat is the same boat as starts in Huay Xai at the northern border crossing to Chiang Rai and might have had a full load of tourists brought into Pak Beng the previous day, however the system is based on first served, so it helps to be early to get good seats for the leg to Luang Prabang.
So to summarize, if you like to go from Nan to Luang Prabang (or visa versa) you have three main options:
1. Cross the border to Muang Ngeun early and take the songtaew/Jumbo to Pak Beng (2hr, 35.000kip) and stay one night. If the bus has left already you can try to hitch a ride or stay one night in Muang Ngeun. In Pak Beng take the slow boat (7-8hr., depart 9.am, 110.000kip) to Luang Prabang.
2. Cross the border to Muang Ngeun, take the Song teaw/Jumbo to Hongsa and stay overnight. The next morning take the Song Teaw/Jumbo to Tha Suang (about 1.30 hr. 25.000kip). From Tha Suang you can take the slow boat (6-7hr., depart 10am, 110.000kip) to Luang Prabang.
3. Cross the border (early) to Muang Ngeun, take the minivan to Sayaboury (70.000kip). If you’re in time for the 2pm bus you can continue the same day to Luang Prabang (60,000kip, reservation required), else there is an 8am bus the next morning.
Hongsa, Bus station:
Hongsa Power station, Route Muang Ngeun-Hongsa:
Pak Beng, Boat Landing:
Tha Suang, Stop for slowboat from/to Luang Prabang:
Luang Prabang, Boat landing to/from Pak Beng (in front of Royal Palace Museum, boat back to Pak beng departs at 8u30):
Luang Prabang, Southern Bus Station:
Bus Luang Prabang-Sayaboury:
Bus route Luang Prabang-Sayaboury:
Sayaboury, Bus Station:
Minibus Muang Ngeun-Hongsa-Sayaboury:
Bus route Sayaboury-Hongsa:
Hope it helps (a bit), have a great trip and maybe we can welcome you at the Nan Guest House one day to hear all about it!
Ratha & Tom