When traveling from Chiang Mai to Laos it is quite easy to go into a travel agency and they arrange everything for you. However, if you are on a budget this is not the cheapest option. There are basically two common packages the agencies offer.
Bus to Chiang Khong
Semi individual travelers can choose just to take the bus from Chiang Mai to the border city, Chiang Khong. From there you have to make your own way to the Laos border and into Laos. Travel agencies offer this trip with a minivan for 1.350 Baht.
The cheap alternative is to take the local Green Bus from the Arcade Bus stop to Chiang Khong and then cross the Laos border. The most economical seat on the bus cost 225 baht. And don’t worry they are normal buses that even offer you water and some chocolate. It took us a while to find an agency that sold the Green Bus tickets. We finally found “Top Thailand Adventure Tour” just across Wat Phra Singh.
Bus to Chiang Khong and Slowboat to Luang Prabang
This is the more popular route. The tour takes you from Chiang Mai to the border of Laos. Then you make your way by slow boat to Luang Prapang. The tour includes one night in Huay Xai and 5 meals on the boat. The total cost for the tour is 1.800 Baht.
To organize everything yourself you have to count on following expenses per person:
Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong: 225 Baht
TukTuk to the border: 50 Baht
Bus you from the Thai Border to the Laos Immigration: 25 Baht
Transport from Border to Huay Xai Neua: 50 Baht
Slowboat ticket: 820 Baht
3 meals: 200 Baht
One night accommodation: 160 Baht
Pro individual tour:
The total cost of the self organized trip is 1.530 Baht which saves you 270 Baht compared to the organized tour. This equals a saving of 8 USD per person which does not sound a lot but in Asia you can get two good meals for this amount of money.
Pro organized tour:
The big pro for the organized tour is comfort. From the moment you get picked up from the hotel you don’t need to worry about anything.