Huay Xai is a border town in Laos. It is a popular entry point from Thailand into Laos and the starting point of the two-day slow boat trip to Luang Prabang. Otherwise it is a sleepy town, easy to navigate with several guesthouses, shops and food places catering for tourists. There is nothing that really hold visitors here – unless they are interested in the nearby Gibbon Experience. However, it is a good place to spend a night prior to the boat trip to enjoy the low key atmosphere, and avoiding rushing to the boat the next morning.
There are a few banks in Huay Xai to exchange money if you didn’t use the one at the border. However, they are not open in the morning when heading to the boat. Something to consider.
Arrival / Departure
There are three arrival / departure points. The first one is crossing the border from Thailand. After passing immigration Tuk Tuks will wait to get you into town for 20.000 Kip. Sometimes you have to wait until the Tuk Tuk is filled. The ride into Huay Xai takes around 15 minutes. If you need to get to the bus station let the driver know – he will stop at the bus station first.
5 – 10 minutes from town is the little bus station. Here you can get a bus to Luang Namtha, Odoum Xai and Luang Prabang.
Buses to Luang Namtha take around 4 hours, to Oudomxai 6-7 hoursnd to Luang Prabang between 13-14 hours (there is a night bus to Luang Prabang as well).
Finally there is the pier where the slow boats to Luang Prabang depart and arrive. It is a 5 minute ride by Tuk Tuk from the centre – it costs around 20.000 Kip.
I only stayed at the Saibaidee Guesthouse, located on the main street.
There are quite a few other guesthouses along the street. Cannot say though how they compare to the Saibaidee Guesthouse.
Food & Drinks
Along the main street in Huay Xai are quite a few places to eat. In addition to little food places and restaurants there ar also some little food stalls along the Mekong, where you can get some cheap but tasty food.
The restaurant opposite of the Saibaidee guest house was busy, even a few locals where there for some drinks. It is worth it to head there to check out the collection of Lao Whiskey flavours they offer. The sweet ones are highly recommended.
The breakfast service at BAP guesthouse is not very organised – though the owner is a lovely older woman. However, if you want some baguette for breakfast I would rather head one of the food stalls along the street. You can even pre-order your baguette the night before in some places.
What to do
In addition of being an entry point into Laos visitors head to Huay Xai to visit the Gibbon experience – where you spend your day(s) in top of trees, and even sleep there. They are based near Huay Xai – but I haven’t visited yet.
In Huay Xai there is not a lot to do, though I would recommend to head down to the old border crossing at the Mekong with a beer, and enjoying the lovely sun set.
And in Huay Xai starts the 2-day boat trip to Luang Prabang. Information about the trip can be found here.