In a nutshell
Located in the Northeast of Thailand 500 km from Bangkok, Loei is a quiet and rural province with a lot of hidden treasures that are still out of the radar of the mass Western tourism.
Why go to Loei
Bordering with Laos from which it is separated by the Mekong River, Loei has been historically contended for centuries with Ayutthaya and Lan Xiang Kingdoms before definitively becoming a Thai province in 1907. The language, the culture and the food still show a strong Lao influence, partly because of the history and partly because of the neighbouring Isaan provinces.
Somewhat lacking sightseeing opportunities, Loei compensates it with natural attractions – mountains, rivers, forests and cold weather is what you should expect when exploring the province and its spectacular national parks. Some of the highest peaks in the country are found here and are famous for being the only places in Thailand where the temperature in December and January can drop down below zero.
The picturesque riverside town of Chiang Khan bordering Laos is a popular weekend destination for the Thais. Step by step, though, it is losing its original charm and character becoming more of a tourist trap so visit it now to have a glimpse of Loei of the times gone.
Despite there is not actually much to see and to do, Loei town is a nice and small provincial capital and it’s a relaxed place to spend a few nights while exploring the rest of the province. Most of the major destinations within the province can be done as a day trip from here.
When to go to Loei
A quite short and not excessively strong rainy season runs from May to July and shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle for visiting Loei](/en/thailand/weather). The only inconvenience is that Phu Kradueng National Park will be closed for the whole season. Despite the province boasts the lowest temperature in Thailand, the cold season is the best time to visit Loei.
If visiting in April and May though, don’t expect to find any relief from the heat; like everywhere else in the country, the temperature in Loei town can easily reach scorching 40 degrees.
In June or July (dates are different every year), in the village of Dan Sai, the extraordinary Phi Ta Khon festival takes place; if you’re around at the right time of the year, make sure you don’t miss it.
Where to stay in Loei
Even if there’s not a big choice of guesthouses and hotels in Loei, the tourists who visit the town are normally never fill even those which are on offer, so it will never be a problem to find a room that will satisfy everyone’s needs for a few nights.
Some cheap guesthouses are located right in city centre while the bigger hotels can be found in proximity of the main road on the west side of town, still within walking distance from downtown. There is one luxury hotel in town catering for those who are willing to spend a bit more. All the natural parks have some accommodation options within their territory and a bigger choice just outside the gates, while in Chiang Khan there are hotels, homestays and resorts to suit any budget.
Where to eat in Loei
Thai food in general and Isaan food in particular is widely available in every restaurant in Loei.
A vibrant and quite large night market and more street stalls will give you a real taste of the local cuisine at the lowest prices. Some more upscale restaurants with an English menu and a nicer setting are available downtown. Alas, there are not many options if you’re craving for western food other than a great burger place where we had one of the best cheeseburger in Thailand.
How to get around Loei
Loei is a small and compact town with all the attractions grouped together close to the river a few hundred meters away from the clock tower roundabout that marks the city centre. For this reason walking around is the most convenient option. In case you need a lift, motorbike taxies and tuk-tuks are available and a short ride shouldn’t cost you more than THB50. If you want to explore more of the city, bicycles can be rented at Sugar Guesthouse for THB50 and for longer trips motorbikes are available for rent in many shops around town (THB250).
How to get to and from Loei
A small airport is located 6 km south of town. Daily flights are available only to/from Bangkok Don Mueang with Nok Air and Air Asia. Fares can be quite low (THB1000) when booked in advance. Tuk-tuks are always waiting outside the airport to bring you to town.
The bus station is located 3 km south of town on the way to the airport. A tuk-tuk to anywhere in town from the bus station in Loei shouldn’t cost you more than THB60.
From Bangkok Morchit Bus Terminal buses to Loei depart all day long from 6.00am to 9.00am. The trip takes between 8 and 9 hours and tickets start at around THB450. The more comfortable overnight VIP buses cost THB700.
Daily departures are available to reach all the major destinations in Isaan provinces; Khon Kaen (THB150, 3 hours), Nakhon Ratchasima (THB300, 6 hours), Udon Thani (THB100, 2 hours) and Nong Khai (THB120, 6 hours) among the others.
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are served by daily multiple departures; the trip takes roughly 9 hours and tickets start at THB600.
For a 1-hour trip to the town of Chiang Khan, north of Loei, there are 4 departures every day and tickets cost THB40. A more frequent but less comfortable songthaews leave the bus station every hour for THB30.
The smaller border town of Tha Li can be reached by a songthaew departing every hour; this is a good place for a quick border run if you need a new visa but if you’re planning to keep travelling in Laos keep in mind that public transportation on the other side of the border is almost non-existent.
A direct international bus from Loei to Luang Prabang departs daily at 8.00am for THB700; if you don’t have a visa for Laos yet, before you purchase the ticket make sure the bus will wait for you at the boarder while you’re getting your visa on arrival.
Is Loei a safe place to travel?
Loei town is a safe place to visit even if it can be a bit challenging for Western tourists because of the lack of English speakers. When visiting the mountains don’t underestimate the possibility that it could be really cold at night; always keep warm clothes in your backpack. Be careful with slippery terrains during your treks and hikes especially in the rainy season.
There is a reliable hospital in town in case of emergency.
Loei station guide
Loei - Bus
Nestling some 520kms from Bangkok between the banks of the mighty Mekong River and the Petchaburi mountains, the northeastern province of Loei and its main town of the same name are ecotourism centres for their unspoiled natural beauty. Standard and air-conditioned buses run from the capital’s Northern Bus Terminal, MoChit 2, with the journey taking some 10 hours. It’s also possible to travel by bus from Phitsanulok, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani.
Loei town is known as the ‘Mae Hong Son of the northeast’ for its charm and border position with Laos as designated by the river itself. Its typical provincial bus station is found on Mallwan Road, close by a number of guest houses and bed and breakfast lodgings, and local songthaews run routes through the countryside as well as around the small town. If you’re planning a bus trip from Bangkok, it’s best to book your ticket online in advance.
Arrival by train or air is via Udon Thani’s rail station and airport, both of which are connected by bus to Loei town. Pu Kraduan National Park, 75kms from town, is accessed by taking a Bangkok bus to Pha Mok Khao and transferring to a songthaew or minibus to the park entry point.
Chiang Khan - Bus
The small town of Chiang Khan sits along the Mekong River in northeast Thailand, around 470kms from Bangkok, with air-conditioned buses arriving from Bangkok’s Mochit station five times daily. Two of these buses run in the morning and others offer overnight journeys. The bus ride takes anywhere from seven to nine hours.
There is an airport in nearby Loei that makes it easy to fly to the town and local buses run regularly throughout the day from Loei to Chiang Khan. It is also possible to take a train from Bangkok Hua Lamphong to Nong Khai and take a local bus from there to the town.
Chiang Khan does not have a bus station, instead long-distance buses arrive and depart from its main intersection (routes 201 and 211). There are three ATMs within a stone’s throw of the bus stop and there is a 7-Eleven across the street on route 201. Chiang Khan is a popular destination, with buses from Bangkok often getting fully booked, so it’s best to reserve a seat in advance.
There are quite a few places of interest in Chiang Khan, including Wat Si Khun Mueang, the lovely pedestriansed Chai Khong Road and Phu Tok Mountain. Many visitors also take a boat trip along the Mekong and visit the Kaeng Khut Khu rapids. There are also plenty of places to stay, such as Plearn Plearn Lodge, Bann Rim Khong and Dai Heng Boutique Hotel, among others.
Wang Saphung - Bus
Wang Saphung is set in the central part of Isaan’s Loei province, around 540kms northeast of Bangkok. The town is quite small and does not have a proper bus station, though there a few buses, both air-con and non-air-con, that depart Bangkok Mochit daily going to Loei via Wang Saphung, a distance of 540kms.
Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary is the main attraction here and is located just west of the town. Other attractions in the area include Huay Krating Mountain Lake and Monkey Mountain, and the town also has a lively Saturday night market. There are a few great accommodation options in town, including Sirila Farm Tent Camp Resort, Suanlamyai Resort and Khunphan Resort.
Phu Luang - Bus
The small town of Phu Luang sits in Loei province in northeast Thailand, an area which is also known as Isaan. The town is 500kms north of Bangkok, with route 2016 being its main entry point. There is no regular bus service to the town, which is situated along the Phu Luang mountain plateau. Bus services travel to Loei from Bangkok’s Mochit Terminal, a 10-hour journey, and local songthaews link to Phu Luang.
The main attraction in Phu Luang is the mountain and its protected wildlife sanctuary, which can be reached by shuttle bus from the city of Loei or from Wang Saphung. The town is also the gateway to Huai Lao Waterfall and houses a few good accommodation options, including Phuluang Hotel and Phu Luang Hills Resort.
Phu Kradueng - Bus
Located in the south of the northeastern province of Loei, Phu Kradueng is a district best known for the surrounding national park of the same name. The national park is well worth a visit, and Phu Kradueng Mountain boasts some spectacular views from the top. There are also a number of other scenic trails for hiking.
The district also borders the provinces of Phetchabun and Khon Kaen to the south. Local second-class buses run within Loei province throughout the day, while it is also possible to take the bus from Khon Kaen to Pha Nok Kao and then a songthaew or tuk-tuk to Phu Kradueng. Khon Kaen is connected to Bangkok by frequent services from Mochit terminal.
Dan Sai - Bus
Dan Sai is located in Loei province in northeast Thailand, some 460kms north of Bangkok. Although Dan Sai has a bus station, there are no direct buses between the town and Bangkok. Instead, visitors are required to take a bus from Bangkok’s Mochit terminal to Loei and from there get a local bus to Dan Sai.
An airport in Loei makes arriving to the area by plane easy, with local buses and taxis then connecting Dan Sai to the airport. It is also possible to take a train from Bangkok to the district via Phitsanulok and then get a taxi or tuk-tuk to the bus station and a Loei bound bus to Dan Sai.
The bus station in Dan Sai is located just off of Highway 2114 close to the Dan Sai District Police Station. It is more of a bus stop than an actual station, so it is best to buy snacks at the nearby 7-Eleven. In order to guarantee transport, it is best to reserve a set online ahead of time.
There are a number of attractions in Dan Sai, such as Kaeng Song Khon Waterfall, the Dan Sai Folk Museum and Phra That Si Songrak. Places to stay in the town include SB Resort and Dansai Resort Hotel.