In Chiang Rai you catch the bus from the bus station just behind where the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is located in the centre of the city.
Look for the RED bug that has Chiang Rai-Chiang Khong written on it. The locals will point you in the right direction as they will expect that your headed towards Laos. The bus takes about 2 hours, costs 65 Baht as of July 2016 and eventually drops you on the side of the road 5km from the boarder/frontier.
For more information of activities in Chiang Rai see my other post. What To Do In Chiang Rai.
Form where the red bus drops you its 5km to the Thailand Immigration. If you have time you can walk or catch a Tuk tuk. They ask 50 Baht per person but with 2 other people we bargained down to 130 Baht for 3 people.
At the Thai border control they are very friendly and after exiting you buy a ticket for the shuttle to the Laos boarder control for 20 Baht. The officer said something to me about not being able to return to Thailand on the same day. Not sure what that was about.
On the right hand side of the building there is a window where you have to fill out your arrivals card and then pay for you VISA ON ARRIVAL. It cost me $30USD as a New Zealand Passport holder but most EU passports are $35USD and some other passports are $40. Carry the cash with you in USD if you can and check in advance how much it is for your passport. That way you know if they try to rip you off. From my experience they were honest however I’ve herd other stories.
All this took me about 15 minutes but it took my friend one hour on a busier day.
The Tuk Tuks wanted to charge us 100 Baht per person to get to the Huay Xai Bus Station (Location) which is a rip off as its only 4km. We waited and tryed to talk them down to 50 Baht per person. Eventually we started walking towards the road to hitchhike and one of them came over and agreed on 50 Baht each. My advice with haggling/bargaining is be patient and you will get the best price.
This post has more about the 2 day Slow Boat To Luang Prabang. I didn’t really look into it myself so im not sure where to catch it. However it leaves at about 11am so if you want to catch it on the same day you have to be on the first bus out of Chiang Rai at 6am to give yourself plenty of time. Read on Trip Advisor for my information about the slow boat.
Here there is busses to destinations all across the top of Laos and even as far as China, Vietnam or back to Thailand.
The picture below shows the destinations and price that all seemed to be accurate as of July 2016.
The overnight sleeper bus that I wanted to take to Luang Prabang that leaves at 6pm was full. After some confused talking in basic English I worked out I could sit on the floor to the first stop, Luang Namtha 5 hours away. When someone left the bus I could then take one of the beds. Eventually I decided that I would just get off in Luang Namtha as it sounded like a small town completely off the tourist track. It turned out the floor of the bus was very soft and you could easily just lie down and sleep.
My bus dropped me in Luang Namtha at 11pm and as I feared it left me 6km outside the town. The bus station was completely empty and not a Tuk Tuk in sight. Me being me decided to walk the 6km into town. After 1km it started to bucket with rain as I took shelter at 12am on someones door step. I resigned my self to the fact this is where I would probably sleep the night. Eventually the rain stopped just long enough to wave down a car of Chinese people who gave me a ride the remaining 5km into town. Luang Namtha at 1am in the morning is about as quiet as you could get. There lights but no people, no shops, no 7 11. Nothing. What do I do now??
By a stroke of luck there is a free WIFI signal and I got a message from my friend Graceie telling me she had booked a home stay for me.
After 10 minutes in light rain I found Taidam Guesthouse but there was no one to be seen anywhere. I waited about 20 minutes and again resigned myself to sleeping in a chair outside in the mosquitoes. By another stroke of luck 2 young people arrived for what looked to be a drug deal and they found the owner and woke him up!!
I was one very grateful person as he showed me to my room!
Check Booking.com to find a place to stay