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How to get from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai in 2023

Nong Khiaw Viewpoint

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You are travelling Laos and wondering how to get from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai in Laos? You would like to know more about the price and how long it takes? As there is barely information online about this journey this is your guide with all you need to know about the trip.

Two ways to get from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai

In general there are two options to get from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai: Mini van & sleeper bus. Both options take around 10 – 12 hours. The mini van leaves Nong Khiaw at 8 am in the morning, arriving at around 8 / 9 pm in Huay Xai. The sleeper bus leaves at 4 pm and arrives around 12 hours later. The travel agencies might say it’s a 10 hour journey, but unfortunately this is just the ‘Laos time’. It took us 14 hours!

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Where to book your tickets

The tickets for this journey can not be booked online. However there are a lot of travel agencies in Nong Khiaw which organize the whole journey for you. The price from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai in April 2023 was 300k LAK per person (around 16 Euros). I booked my tickets with NK Tours. They are super friendly and I also did a one day trip around Nong Khiaw with them.

Tuk Tuk to the bus station in Pak Mong
Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai
Bus station in Pak Mong

About the journey

There is no direct bus available from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai. You will be taken to the bus station in Pak Mong first and then change to a sleeper or mini van there.

Nong Khiaw to Pak Mong

The first leg of the journey, from Nong Khiaw to Pak Mong, takes around one hour. It’s a tuk tuk style little truck – not the most comfortable one but absolutely fine for one hour. If you’re taking the day option you will arrive at the bus station at around 9 am and then have to wait one hour for the mini van. The departure time is 10 am.

Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai
One of the stops on the way to Huay Xai
Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai bus table
Time table & price information in Pak Mong

Pak Mong to Huay Xai

Our mini van wasn’t a touristy one, it was the local bus running from Pak Mong to Huay Xai. You can therefore imagine that this journey was a little bit different and more adventurous compared to the ‘only tourist’ mini vans. All the windows were open as there was no air conditioning in the van. With the natural airflow it was fine while we were driving. When we were standing for a while it was a bit challenging.

All in all we spent around 11 hours on the mini van with toilet and food breaks in between. The van stopped at many points on the journey to pick up new passengers and drop others. Even if you think there is no more space, they will make space for new passengers. We were in the last row which was supposed to be for four people and were five for a long time of the journey. Instead of 16 people there were 25! on the bus. Each row with at least five people. No middle aisle, no moving around.

Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai
The empty mini van
Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai
Slowly filling up

Huay Xai bus station to town

At around 8.30 pm we arrived at the international bus station in Huay Xai. I was very frustrated when I realized that we would have to take another tuk tuk to get into the centre of Huay Xai which was five kilometres away. We paid 100k LAK per person as there was only one tuk tuk available and our negotiation power close to zero. Normally this journey should cost around 30k LAK. 30 minutes later we finally arrived in Huay Xai, checked into the accommodation and were able to get some dinner at Gecko Bar.

Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai
Sharing four seats with five people
Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai
The middle aisle was changed to a seat as well

Things to consider

The journey from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai is a very long one and depending on the amount of people in the mini van and the weather it could be the most challenging one you’ve ever taken. BUT with a positive mindset and my advice below it’s doable!

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Prepare your hand luggage

I recommend to bring your own lunch, snacks and water for this journey. Especially if you are vegetarian or vegan it’s almost impossible to have some proper food during the stops they take. We were really happy having some home made vegetarian sandwiches from Home Coffee in Nong Khiaw with us. It’s a long journey and you really don’t want to be hangry on top of the other challenges.

As they put the luggage on top of the vehicle I also recommend to have your valuables with you in the van. If it rains your luggage could get wet and in general it could get squished by heavier luggage.

Plan your water

There are planned stops every 2-3 hours where you can go to the loo or the bushes. During the first few hours I had too much water and was close to going crazy as I couldn’t go to the toilet and had no idea when the van was going to stop. Drink enough so you don’t get dehydrated but try to plan your water so you don’t have to go through similar pain.

Bring a positive mindset

The lower your expectations towards luxury and comfort the better. We were sitting in the last row with four other people, the music was full on, some got motion sickness, there were heavy road bumps which made it impossible to read or watch something and it felt like we would never arrive. It was a challenging journey but with a positive mindset all these things are ‘fine’.

The good thing is that time will pass, and you will arrive at some point. And in the end arriving safely at the final destination is the most important thing anyway right? Also enjoy this ride because sharing a local bus with only locals is something you can rarely find these days in Laos’ neighbour countries. It’s a genuine experience and it makes Laos special in a way. This is the real travelling where you get beyond your comfort zones, it’s the story you will tell in a few years and never forget.

Check your other options

If you really don’t like to experience this adventure you should check your other options. When asking for the night bus from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai, specifically check if there is AC and what it looks like. Normally the amount of people fitting in a bed is a maximum of two so you don’t have to worry about sharing it with too many others. The other option would be to go back to Luang Prabang and planning your onward travels from there.

Nong Khiaw Viewpoint

All in all the busses I’ve taken in Laos so far were the most challenging and crazy ones I’ve ever experienced! But again, this is what makes travelling an unforgettable adventure. Laos is less developed than its neighbor countries which makes it special in its own way.

I hope you’re safely getting from Nong Khiaw to Huay Xai. If you want to share experience please do so in the comments below!

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2 Responses

  1. Good Blog!
    We are in 2 Months there!
    But we travel from Huay Xai to Nong Khiaw. Do you know, is there also a sleeper Bus to Nong Khiaw? I can’t find any information to get from Huay Xai to Nong Khiaw! Thanks a lot 🥰

    1. Hey Jenny,

      thanks for your comment! 🙂 Unfortunately there are no sleeper busses between Huay Xai and Nong Khiaw.. it’s those horrible mini vans only. Once you arrive in Huay Xai it’s probably very easy to book your transport to Nong Khiaw, but I think you will end up sitting in a minivan. There’s still a slight change that this changed within the last year but I don’t think so.

      If you have a lot of time and want to sit on a boat you could do the slow boat trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang and then take a more comfortable 3h minivan up to Nong Khiaw. But otherwise you will probably have to face a day on a minivan.

      Have a good trip & an amazing time in Laos. 🙂

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