When traveling to Bangkok from Chiang Khong you have a number of options including direct bus ride and connecting bus & train and bus & flight trips. Depending on the means of transport or their combination you choose, the distance between Chiang Khong and Bangkok will vary from 850 km to 1000 km. Although Chiang Khong does not have its own airport, flying is the most direct and quickest option, which will allow you to travel from the Lao border to Bangkok with very little fuss.
Flights from Chiang Khong to Bangkok
Fly-n-ride from Chiang Khong to Bangkok with Nok Air
Nok Air offers a ‘fly and ride’ service from Chiang Khong to Bangkok. They collect travellers in a Nok Air minivan at the border and take them directly to Chiang Rai Airport to connect with thier flight to Bangkok. This is part of the Nok Air ‘fly and ride’ scheme that is offered at a number of destinations including Chiang Khong. This service comes highly recommended by travellers as it is a hassle-free and convenient option though coming at a slightly higher price than some of the others available for this route .
Collection time from Chiang Khong is at 11.30am – so do plan accordingly and cross the border early. You’ll reach the Chiang Rai Airport by 1.00pm with enough time to have a short break before you 3.00pm flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok, arriving to the capital at 4.20pm. Tickets start at THB1,100 and already include transfer from the border.
During the high season from 30th October to 25th March, there is one additional flight each day. Pick up from Chiang Khong is at 10.30am, arriving to Chiang Rai Airport by 12.00 noon. The flight to Bangkok departs at 13.05pm, and arrives to Bangkok at 2.25pm.
Note Be forewarned about a common scam in Chiang Khong. As soon as you cross the border from Huay Xai, touts and taxi drivers meeting you at the Thai side of the border will tell you that all the minivans of the day have already left or are downright cancelled this very day. This is unfortunately their way of making a little money on travellers. If you have your ‘fly-n-ride’ ticket, take no notice of them as it is a well-organized service operated by the airline and no cancellations without a prior notice are possible.
From Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai by bus and flights from Chiang Rai to Bangkok
It is also possible to travel to Chiang Rai independently and probably make a stop in the city to enjoy the atmosphere of the Thai North before flying to Bangkok.
Getting to Chiang Rai from Chiang Khong yois possible by bus or van. Buses depart from the old market in Chiang Khong. From the border, you can walk or take a tuk-tuk there. The market is about 1.5km from the border and a tuk-tuk ride will cost between THB50 and THB100.
At the market, look for the old red buses. These buses do not have AC, but they do have fans on the ceiling. The bus journey from Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai takes approximately 2 hours. Buses depart every 30 minutes from 4.30am to 3.30pm. Buses will take you to the central bus station in Chiang Rai. The fare is THB65.
Over two dozen flights connect daily Chiang Rai and Bangkok with tickets prices starting from as low as THB885. Normally there is no problem to grab a ticket even on the day of the flight and even in the high season – but do not expect to have the best price, though. Flying time is 1 hour 15 minutes. To get to Chiang Rai airport from the centre of Chiang Rai, you can take a taxi or tuk-tuk. The cost is between THB100 and THB150.
From Chiang Khong to Bangkok by bus
There is direct bus service from Chiang Khong to Bangkok offered by Bangkok Busline. It departs rather inconveniently at 3.30pm and takes over 14 hours to reach Bangkok. On the bright side is that it is a VIP24 service meaning that you will travel with all possible comfort. Tickets cost THB1000 and it is advisable to book them in advance as they sell quickly.
If you miss the direct service or need a cheaper alternative, then from Chiang Khong head to Chiang Rai using the cheap local bus as described above. From Chiang Rai there is a variety of daily bus departures to Bangkok. Buses depart from the central bus station terminal 2 and arrive to Bangkok Morchit Bus Terminal. Some of the operators serving the route are Bangkok Busline, Sombat Tours, Nakhon Chai Air and the Government 999 service. They offer both VIP and standard seats with various departures through out the day. Tickets can be booked online. The journey time is approximately 12–13 hours.
Another option is to travel from Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai first (3½ hours; THB220-THB350). From Chiang Khong, you will find buses departing from the old market. Tickets can be booked in advance with Green Bus. Buses depart Chiang Khong at 7.30am, 9.45am, and 10.30am. Tickets cost THB350 for an express service and THB500 for a VIP with the whole trip taking up to 6 hours due to rather a serpentine road between the two. In Chiang Mai you will arrive to Arcade Bus Station where you can get a songthaew or tuk-tuk to the old town for THB150 or immediately hop to a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.
From Chiang Mai you can also fly to Bangkok –there are numerous daily flights to both airports in Bangkok with prices starting from about THB800.
Rail travel buffs, you can also travel from Chiang Mai to Bangkok by train. It is the most popular route in the country and arguably in the whole region. Trains depart daily at 5.45am, 8.50am, 4.00pm, 5.00pm, 5.30pm and 9.00pm. The journey time is between 12 and 14 hours. Air-conditioned sleeper berth tickets will cost you between THB1000 and THB1200. First class tickets are available starting at THB1,300. Trains arrive at Hua Lamphong Train Station located in the centre of Bangkok with MRT links to many other destinations in the city.
Crossing the border between Laos and Thailand
When you cross the border from Huay Xai to Chiang Khong you will need to be stamped out at Laos immigration. The process is easy and straightforward. If you are traveling this route in the hope to cross from Laos to Thailand by boat – alas! – you will be disappointed. The border crossing has now changed. A new Friendship Bridge is now the only option for foreign travellers to move between the two countries as the old boat across the Mekong has been discontinued.
After being stamped out of Laos you now have to take a bus across the Friendship Bridge, the cost is LAK1000 or THB20, both currencies are accepted. At the Thai side of the border fill in the arrival-departure card and have your passport stamped in. The majority of the nationalities now get a 30-days free stamp to Thailand even when entering over land, but it always pays to check in advance. If you plan to stay in Thailand longer than that, secure your Thai visa in advance – it can be easily done at the Royal Thai Consulate in Vientiane.
Once you have gone through immigration formalities, take a tuk-tuk to Chiang Khong. It is only a 10-minute ride from the border. The tuk-tuk drivers know no shame and you are most likely will be quoted anything up to THB300. Do not argue, be polite and start walking away. You are guaranteed to find a tuk-tuk driver a little up the road who will be happy to give you a lift for between THB100 and THB150.
If you need to make a break after the epic slow boat journey on the other side of the border from Luang Prabang, there are reasonably priced rooms available in both Huay Xai and Chiang Khong but we would recommend the Thai side as to our taste dining options are more attractive here. Anyway, both towns are quite safe.