Ok, hopefully you can learn from this to make your buying and boarding process faster. You are now in LAOS maybe you came over in the morning, or you spent the previous night in Laos for this it really doesn’t matter as long as you are here now and want to buy your ticket. For me it was an experience in itself.
From the top of the street where customs is where you will need to take a left and start you walk or grab a taxi. It’s about two kilometers up the road so grab a Songthaew/taxi. I had time, so I walked. For time purposes spend some extra cash, hire a Songthaew alone or with other travelers. Most likely a few are going to the Mekong slow boat dock to purchase tickets anyway.
Once dropped off at the main intersection you will pass by many shops cooking up some delicious Laotian noodles, sticky rice meals, cheap instant coffee, packaged snacks and lots of BeerLao. Remember it’s a border down and the prices flex with the supply and demand. Keep walking down. Buy your Mekong River Slow Boat ticket first because the seats are numbered. You’ll want to get your seat as close to the front as you can, that would mean as far away from the loud motor in the back. It is possible to b sitting in the motor room on packed boats.
Where is the ticket office? Do they still have tickets? I heard they are sold out!
The ticket office is some what hidden with no direct signs, as of when I last checked. Confused and looking around you will be spotted by men trying to sell you tickets from their store front or back pocket, but stick to the plan, the office will have tickets for you at cost price. Keep walking, down the main road, literally down to where you see the panorama of the Mekong River.
Then you will see the last restaurant on your right and the boat ticket office on the left. Head up the stairs to the building.
Ask for the “Slow Boat to Luang Prabang” depending on the time of the year and who is running the show, tickets may vary slightly. But you’ll be looking at 800-900 Thai Baht, or 150,000 Laos Kip around 25-27 US dollars. In Laos you may use Lao kip, US Dollars and Thai baht. Your choice.
Yes you have your ticket!! Now what?
Go find your seat. Head down the hill, find out on the ticket which boat is yours. There will be a line of boats docked, Depending on the season the number varies. I was boat number 003 Seat 1, the first in line and the fist on the boat.
If you are not the first and you are among the hordes of travelers relax, you have made it this far, walk your way down docking ground, walk up the narrow 3 meter plank watch your head and step onto the wooden floors of the Mekong River’s finest of travel boats.
Find your seat. Easy, they are numbered, the numbers are in accordance to your ticket stub. From the front of the boat Rule of thumb is the seats start in the rows facing forward from 1,2 split by the isle then 3,4. The next row 5,6 with an isle, 7,8 and so on all the way back to the mini snack bar, toilet and motor in the back.
However the seats that are 71-90 are in the front, but face inward to give you a view of the persons face sitting across from you. From my experience the worst seats were not seats at all, a group of European guys had to sit on some luggage in the engine room behind the toilet. It was awfully hot and loud and exhausting- pun intended.
Alone or with friends, either way you’ll meet interesting people so where ever you sit, be open to having a conversation to help pass the time.
Once on board get comfortable, or at least try. You will be on for 6-10 hours until you arrive in PakeBeng where you will all have to get out, happily for an overnight stay.