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.