The VIP bus from Vang Viang to Luang Prabang through Highway 13 costs 55,000Kips(US6), but the bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Viang cost 65,000Kips.
Every bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang will stop at Vang Viang. Wait at the counter and they will call you when the bus arrives.
Leaving Vang Viang, there are a lot of minivan from different agents and GHs offering the ride for US7 per trip. These vans are always pack and uncomfortable. So it is advise to take the VIP bus.
A great way to get about Luang Prabang and the surrounding countryside is to hire a scooter, the all-purpose vehicle of Southeast Asia. Having ridden bikes as a young man, I am quite comfortable with scooters although I would suggest if you have limited or no experience, this region is maybe not the place to learn. In town, the traffic is the usual chaos with people apparently going where they want and road signs ignored totally. Out of town, apart from Highway 13, the roads can be a little tricky, especially if you cross to the far bank of the Mekong. If you are confident though, you can save yourself some money on the tours to the likes of Pak Ou caves, and the two main waterfalls.
I rented a bike from Pinekham Services as it was near my guesthouse. It was the standard 100cc Wave with 71,000 km on the clock and Heaven knows how many more not. It had brakes as soggy as an Irish February and had obviously seen much better days. However, it sufficed for my needs.
It cost 100,000 kip per day and, as is usual, you had to deposit your passport with them. You are required to leave the machine back full and there is a convenient Caltex filling station just along at the other end of Visounarath Road.
It is located on the (only) roundabout on Kisarth Settathirat Road, at the junction with Visounarath Road.
Luang Prabang is a small town and can easily be discovered by foot. All of the temples are within walking distance of the town centre. If you need to get from A to B a little bit faster, consider renting a bike for a day. Every hotel rents bikes. For trips into the surrounding area, such as Khuangxi Waterfall, rent a jumbo or tuk-tuk. As the waterfall is quite far away, prices are relatively high from a Laotian point of view. Sharing the tuk-tuk with others makes it cheaper!
With the aim of keeping our itinerary flexible, we had no reservations for leaving Luang Prabang during our recent holiday. However, this resulted in a somewhat longer visit, due to limitations in transport. The increased number of tourists and the cessation of the fastboat service meant that the pressure was on airlines, slowboats and buses to get people to and from Luang Prabang.
We took a first class bus to Vientiane - which took a day's wait to get a booking. This bus cost about $1.50 more than the ordinary air conditioned bus, and included lunch.
The trip was very mountainous, slow and arduous and the airconditioning hardly rated, at least on the top - nor did lunch. So, message is, don't delay a day, and pay the big bucks! for the first class bus! Be aware if you are tall, that a front or aisle seat is highly desirable. The seating is allocated when you buy tickets.
Another small mentionable, was on the first stop into the trip, we noticed a plain clothed man with an AK47 amonst the passengers. There were soldiers placed periodically along the road as well. Apparently, there had been some shootings aimed at tourist buses over the past few months. We had no problems, nor felt threatened during our trip.
You don't need transport in Luang Prabang. It is such a small compact place that you are never really far from where you want to go.
If you plan your day effectively you won't have to walk long distances between your accommodation and anywhere.
If you are hot or tired stop at a cafe or restaurant for a rest and a drink before going on your way.
Walk slowly, nobody rushes here.
Chances are you are coming to Luang Prabang via Vientiane.
Sure, this is not the only way to LP, but is the most common one.
Some, however, do come by boat from the South West side. For this there are 2 options: fast boat (where you wear helmets, it's a scary ride), & the slow boat (very chilled & slow, though totally relaxing).
Anyway, if you are coming from Vientiane, you must stop for a while (minimum 1/2 a day) at Vang Vieng. This breaks the otherwise 7 hour journey. From VV it's another 4 hours of a gruelling uphill & meandering route.
Vang Vieng is compact & beautiful. Caving, tubing along the shallow river with some fun mini-rapids, stops along he river for beer/soft drinks, are amongst the activities to be enjoyed.
Fares from VV to LP are 5 USD. from VTE to VV it's 4 USD.
There are no direct flights.
From Singapore, make your way to Bangkok. There are 2 airlines flying into Luang Prabang directly from Bangkok: The more expensive Bangkok Airways and the more economical Lao Airlines.
Journey is 2 hours each way. Airplane used is the ATR-72, with propellers and with 2 stewardesses on board.
Meals are simple, and served efficiently. Don't expect any form of entertainment except for the inflight magazine....and there is no duty-free shopping.
Curiously enough, on both flights, me and my mate are the only Asians!
You can buy Lao Airlines tickets in Singapore via their agent, Maple Aviation:
MAPLE AVIATION PTE,LTD
133 NEW BRIDGE ROAD
#14-04/105 CHINA TOWN POINT, SINGAPORE 059413
TEL: ( 65 ) 65386860
FAX : (65 ) 65383138
E-mail : email@example.com
AS OF FEBRUARY, THIS MODE OF TRANSPORT TO AND AWAY FROM LUANG PRABAND HAS BEEN CANCELLED. This has caused a large amount of congestion in other services, and planes were booked out for several days.
We did not use this method of transport to or from Luang Prabang! We flew in from Bangkok - and decided to leave by slow boat - which I will address in another loooong post! The fast boats are absolutely deafening to those around, and can be hear coming from a long way off - and then as they depart. I can only imagine what it must be like for the passengers - none of whom looked enthralled.
I also can't imagine that they actually see anything. Every time I saw riverkill in the water, I just imagined the whole spectacle and smellacle of hitting one in one of the fast boats! We subsequently saw debri from these boats in the water, and wrecked ones in villages we entered - enough to convince us that the stories of weekly crashes are true.
The best way to get around Luang Prabang is by tuk tuk. The tuk tuk has various incarnations throughout Asia. In Laos, it's usually a motorbike with a welded wheeled, covered flatbed with parallel benches in it.
Rather than sitting on a bench in the flatbed, with your knees by your chin, it's recommended to stand on the flatbed bumper, grip a metal bar and surf the tuk tuk. This was my friend Devin's idea and a brilliant one at that as it turns an uncomfortable tour of Luang Prabang into a thrilling breeze catching ride.
Tuk tuk rides are very cheap in Luang Prabang - it shouldn't cost more than two dollars to travel between the city's two furthest points. Travel insurance to cover any resulting injuries from surfing the tuk tuk is inexpensive as well.
The airport isn't very big and looked rather old....none of the luxuries of the big International Airports.
You embark and disembark right on the tarmac and walk right into custom clearance. Folks needing visa-on-arrival will have to purchase 1 there and then. There is only 1 luggage belt in Arrival. Wait patiently for your luggage before you exit the Arrival Gate. An officer will tear away your luggage identification tags before you could exit (I suppose it's some security thing) and they are quite particular about it. Thereafter, you'll exit the Arrival Gate and walk right into a carpark with a money exchanger on your right.
The Departure Hall is just next to the Arrival Hall but it's bigger with 1 small cafe and 1 very small shop. Remember to pay your Airport Tax and grab a receipt to show for it before entering customs.
The airport is generally served by 2 airlines: Lao Airlines and Bangkok Airways.
It is about half an hour from the Town centre via Tuk Tuk (US$5).
Seeing so many Jumbo in Luang Prabang really put lots of smile on my face because I keep reminded of Visa** Card Advertisement by Pierce Brosnan & Zhang Ziyi.
If you want to feel like "Bond", you can catch one of this Jumbo and you need not to pay by Visa credit card unless you actually cause major damage to Jumbo by going into really off the beaten track.
The Jumbo is a cross between a motorbike and a pickup end.
Extra note about the Ads (extracted from the Net)
The Visa advertisement was filmed in Bangkok, Thailand. More than 200 crew, 100 actors, and 100 vehicles were present on location.
The plot involves Mr. Bond (being driven), trying to get to an appointment with Ms. Zhang Ziyi. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in a traffic jam and decides to take the 007 route by jumping into a confused local's scooter car. Honking all the way, Bond eventually ends up wrecking the car. He uses his Visa card to pay for the damage.
Coming from the south (vientian and vang vieng basically) the cheapest way to get to Luang prabang is by bus. I heard it's definitely not comfortable: buses are overcrowded, slow, and the road is twisting and turning - when it's not washed away. Having heard many horror stories, through a travel agent I managed to organize a group and rent a mini-van - making the trip a lot more bearable. Still we had our rough patrches, like trying to navigate a river of mud while avoiding to fall down the ravine where the road had just vanished.
If you insist on taking the bus - buy your ticket in advance: buses are often full and there are only a handful of them a day
I have to cut short my Laos trip due to some stupid crash with one unplanned business trip to Beijing. Instead of tour the whole Laos, I only managed to do the easy half.
Since my trip is cutting short, my mode of transport also changed from inexpensive road/river transport to flying into Luang Prabang. Of course the flight schedule also bothering me the most.
How do I move my fat ass from Kuala Lumpur & finally arrived at Luang Prabang?
1) Kuala Lumpur - Bangkok (AirAsia)
2) Bangkok - Chiang Mai (Thai Air - Executive Class, transit at Chiang Mai) Sh!t man, economy class ran out
3) Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang (Thai Air) - see pic
If you're visiting Pak Ao Cave by tuk-tuk or Jumbo to Ban Pak Ao village. I cannot remember how much I paid for a return trip, but quite low price.
While you're taking the boat across the river, please do not stand up right or you may risk losing your balance and bring everyone else (if not your own belonging + cameras) into the river.
LUANGPRABANG Whenever I can when travelling I always, if possible ,travel by train as I beleive it is the best and most comfortable way to travel...unfortunately there are no more trains in Laos so the next best cheapest thing is a bus..The busses are generally I found to be in good condition very modern,fast,and clean, for long distance services ..ie: Luangprabang-Vang Vieng-Vientienne..also they are very reasonably priced and usually full.so book a day or so prior to your journey..