Getting Around Laos

  • Luang Namtha bus station, ready for the off!!
    Luang Namtha bus station, ready for the...
    by pfsmalo
  • Bathroom halt.
    Bathroom halt.
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  • Unscheduled puncture stop.
    Unscheduled puncture stop.
    by pfsmalo

Most Viewed Transportation in Laos

  • traveling Laos in 1week from BKK

    by seagypsy Written Jan 27, 2009

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    When are you travelling to Laos?

    First off, as above, both Lao Airlines and THAI Airways operate flights between VTE and Bangkok. Both Lao Airlines and BANGKOK Airways operate flights between Bangkok and Luang Prabang. Lao Airlines is almost always cheaper than their foreign airline rivals for international and of course domestic flights. They give small discounts for RT flights and even more discounts for multi segment flights.

    However, if your'e on a tight budget, you might consider flying budget airlines Thai Air Asia or Nok Air to Udon Thani (about 1 hour from Nong Khai, the town across the Mekong River from Vientiane) from where you can take a bus or minivan to Nong Khai or the border. Another good and cheap option is to take the overnight slepper train to Nong Khai (9am arrival, usually arrives a little to sometimes an hour or so late). There is also the VIP bus option that goes all the way Vientiane and Vang Vieng (including time at the border to get your Lao visa upon arrival).

    Since you're posted 3 questions/threads on Laos:
    1. While the Mekong journey is scenic at some points, since you've only got a week for your travels in Laos I would NOT recommend taking the 2 day slowboat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. It's scenic but it's not worth 2 days of your travels. As above, you can take the boat while in Luang prabang to some of the tourists sights. And I don't recommend the speedboats because they're dangerous, uncomfortable, and bad for the environment.
    2. For a 1 week trip, you've only got time for Luang Prabang (2-3 days)
    Vang Vieng (1-2days)
    Vientiane (maximum 1 full day)
    3. It takes 10 hours by VIP bus between Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
    It takes 5-6 hours by VIP bus or shared minivan between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.
    It takes 3-5 hours by bus or shared minivan between Vientiane and Vang Vieng.
    4. YOu can take an overnight VIP bus from Vientiane to Bangkok and there are several bus companies that offer this route. Cost is approx. U$20 or 750bahts.
    5. Another option for a quick return from Luang Prabang to Bangkok is to fly Luang Prabang to Udon Thani on Fridays and Sundays ONLY and connect with budget airlines Thai Air Asia or Nok Air to Bangkok. At present Lao Airlines chargesU$95 for the oneway flight. However, Lao Airlines have cancelled their flight due to lack of passengers in which case, they've flown their passenger to Vientiane and provided a free van transfer to Udon Thani.
    6. And of course you could also take the VIP bus or night sleeper train from Udon Thani to Bangkok. The VIP busfare from Udon Thani to Bangkok's Mochit Bus Station is 400baht's or approximately U$11-12.

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    Bus from Kunming (China) to Laos

    by chengdu Updated Jan 25, 2009

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    There is a direct sleeper bus from Kunming to Vientiane each day. Go to Nanyao Bus Station which is near the railway Station in Kunming, China to take the bus. When I got to the bus station on Sept.30, 2007, the tickets of the direct bus had been sold out. Therefore, I decided to take the other bus to Mengla (China). After 14 hours, I reached Mengla (China). Then, I changed a bus to Muang Xai (Udomxay, Laos). After I reached Muang Xai, I changed a minivan to Luang Prabang.

    Bus fare in Sept.2007:
    Direct Bus from Kunming (China) to Luang Prabang (Laos): RMB280 (28 ~ 30 hours)
    Direct Bus from Kunming (China) to Vientiane (Laos): RMB380 (around 40 hours)

    Bus from Kunming (China) to Mengla (China): RMB184 (around 14 hours)
    Bus from Mengla (China) to Muang Xai (Laos): RMB32 (around 5~6 hours)
    Bus from Muang Xai (Laos) to Luang Prabang: 45,000KIP (around 6 hours)

    Inside the bus

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  • Cockleshell's Profile Photo

    By Boat

    by Cockleshell Written Jan 24, 2009

    You need to have plenty of time to travel in Laos. When they say the next boat leaves at 3pm you must check which day! But what's the hurry? It's a great way to travel and taking a boat is often the only way of reaching some villages. I can't wait to do it again.

    Beats the M6 anyday
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Backpacking

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  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    River transport in Laos.

    by cachaseiro Written Dec 11, 2008

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    The mekong river still plays a very important role in Laos for transportation.
    There is still lot's of cargo and person transport on the river and eventhough rpad building is coming rapidly to Laos, the river is still a crucial part of the infrastructure in the country.

    travelling by boat in Laos. car ferry on the Mekong river.
    Related to:
    • Sailing and Boating

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  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    cycling in laos.

    by cachaseiro Updated Dec 11, 2008

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    i cycled around laos and found it an almost ideal country for that.
    the roads are ok, it's safe and you can almost always find small guesthouses.

    the roads are not always paved, but as long as you have a mountainbike then the place is fantastic biking terretory as you have little traffic once you are out of the main towns.

    girls on the way to school by bicycle in laos.
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    • Cycling
    • Road Trip

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  • Cheap flights to Vientiane via NE Thailand

    by amcintyre Written Dec 8, 2008

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    Your best and cheapest way to get to Vientiane (the capital) from BKK is via Udon Thani. It is cheaper as it is an internal thai flight - with many aircraft flying there. It's then a simple matter to hire a mini bus or taxi car - for about 10USD to the border at NongKai - and cross teh friendship bridge by foot - over the border and then about 4USD into town.

    If you fly direct to Vientiane - or even to the culrually significant Luang Prabang - it is more expensive - due to being an international desitantion with associated taxes and charges.

    The Udon Thani way is what a lot of expats use to get up there fast and easy.

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    Speed Boat from North Thailand to Luang Prabang

    by prazlin Updated Dec 1, 2008

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    The speed boat is the fastest way to get to Luang Prabang even if its not the most comfortable but i would recommend this transportation to get there, it takes approx. 6 hours ! Try to catch the front seats where you can lay your feets over the baggage since the space is quite cramped on the boat.

    Related to:
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    • Backpacking
    • Sailing and Boating

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  • getting from LP to L. Namtha

    by seagypsy Written Nov 10, 2008

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    I've also had to overnight in Oudomxai and didn't find that town all that interesting except for visiting the temple/vat on the hill. There are quite a number of Chinese hotels but most weren't very clean and wreeked of cigarette smoke.
    I'd recommend travelling from Luang Prabang to L. Namtha in one long trip BUT it's faster to do this in two steps. First, take the early morning shared minivans from LP's North Bus Station to Oudomxai/Muang Xai (arrive early to rreserve your seat by putting something down to indicate the seat is 'taken'. YOu arrive at Oudom's bus station and transfer to a bus to Namtha and you'll arrive in Oudom early enough to catch the last bus for Namtha which departs at 3pm (but there are earlier departures). This two-step transport method is faster than the dedicated LP bus for Namtha which is a local bus and takes much longer.

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    Moving around by bus

    by magor65 Updated Aug 5, 2008

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    We moved around Laos using bus transport. It turned out to be adventurous, tiring and providing a whole scope of impressions.
    There are bus connections between all major tourist destinations in Laos. In some cases it is possible to choose between a VIP bus and ordinary one. A VIP bus is newer, more comfortable and has air-conditioning. It usually costs 1.5 of a normal bus fare. You can either buy your ticket at one of travel agencies (the other option is buying it through you hotel) or directly at the bus station. The latter one will save you a couple of dollars but remember that you will have to get to the station, which is usually in the outskirts, on your own. The first solution means you will be transported to the station by tuk-tuk from your hotel without any extra charge. You must know that whatever you choose you are likely to end up in the same bus available both for locals and tourists and departing from the bus station.

    BE PATIENT! The time of journey stated in the tourist-office hardly ever proves to be right. Be prepared for delays, stops for minor repairs, stops for a cigarette and so on. Add a couple of hours to the expected time. Don't be misled by what is a short distance by western standards. Here a distance of 200 km may be covered in more than 10 hours. Most of the country (70%) is mountainous, which means a bus must wind its way up and down all the time. The views are breathtaking, but a journey is scary.
    VIP buses have 'entertainment' included in the price. Throughout your jorney you will have to watch karaoke with sweet sentimental Lao tunes. Perhaps they are supposed to have a soothing effect on your nerves. But believe me, after a few hours you have enough.

    in the middle of nowhere another stop view from the bus window

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  • Vientiane to Vietnam by bus

    by Emile0867 Written Jun 15, 2008

    The best and fastest in from Vientiane to Lak Xao (in Savannaket Province). Road in good condition.
    There are my buses to Vinh, Danang, Hue, Hanoi, HCMC... departure from Vientiane going by this way.
    If you like futher information about time, price etc... you can contact my friend "Mee" at she is a ticketing agent from Vientiane, she will help you.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Backpacking
    • Road Trip

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  • LakeFever's Profile Photo

    Luang Prabang to Vieng Vang

    by LakeFever Updated May 9, 2008

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    Leaving LP. Buy you ticket from an agent. We paid $100000 kip each (10 usd) and went on our way in a taxi to the mini bus station and the on to VV via 6 people sorted in the van and a driver intent on both following the rules and pushing the time limits. There were 2 stops along the way for food, smoke, walk or washroom (note:always costs twenty cents or so.). All in all 3 hrs or so and youre in V V pretty much in the heart of guest houses, lodges, restaurants, and the river. Walking for a place to stay is quite easy but they can book up a bit. Cross your fingers during the high season. I figured there were even better places out of town, although I cant imagine a much better place to stay that the 3rd floor of the V V Orchid. 3 Nights turned into 4 and then 5 was a way to widdle away the afternoons with amazing views, interesting coming and going and staying of people, and of course tubing.

    Thin roads...steep OR cattle...mostly steep though Stop for chow. Sandwiches $1.50. This for 2 hrs +......road/driver sketchy.
    Related to:
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  • LakeFever's Profile Photo

    From Thailand to Luang Prabang, along the Mekong

    by LakeFever Written May 7, 2008

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    The slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang is an interesting one. We had heard different reviews on the 2 day journey in our previous weeks and while in Chaing Rai we booked the journey - via tour operator - for about 1100Baht ea.
    The journey involved a mini van from Rai to the border....customs, small boat across the river to Laos, taxi down river about 5 miuntes and then the upsell.
    Upon arrival, with prebooked tickets in hand, we were greeted by a gentleman who was in charge of departing on the river. Was a bit of a formality where they take your passport and run it, try and sell you pop and drinks (cheaper than on the boat) and the upgrade on a speed boat or private slowboat up river to save time. We were told the boat was packed and it was going to be uncomfortable. Long story short, we went with our prepaid ticket. Well the boat was packed and difficult to adjust to. There were cold drinks, beer, and munchies on board....of course you can bring whatever you want as well. Semi frequent stops were made(for differnet reasons), but you did have more opportunities to buy, of all things, pringles and oreos.
    The trip involves and over night in Pak Beng - which is not incl in the price of the trip - but was cheap enough and plentiful enough to make it easy. You do get in late the first evening and you really have to move to make it out for dinner and relax. Curfew at 11pm of course.
    Moral of the story, its a long ride....7 hrs the first day and 8 the second.....with that said, it was a highlight for me to meet a ton of people and enjoy the views. Drinking a couple cold beer Laos, and taking one of the last remaining rides available on the Mekong in Laos. A highlight for me!
    Note: we think it is possible to do cheap by not booking in advance with an operator. Local transit to the boat/border and buy slow boat ticket there....much more choices in boats. Youd have to be flexible but it is do-able and cheaper.....possibly faster and more comfortable to.

    Big outside, not so big inside. Complete with a rainbow. hanging out back for more room. Riverside vendors along the way. Waiting to depart on the second day.
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    • Backpacking

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  • zeke7's Profile Photo

    Vientiane-Siem Reap by land/boat

    by zeke7 Written Mar 16, 2008

    [Note: overly restrictive menu options means this tip is woefully miscategorized!]

    Since there is no train between the two points [Vientiane & Siem Reap) (except if crossing temporarily into Thailand), I'd have to guess the bus is a better option :-). Assuming time is not an issue for you? If busing all the way down to the Lao-Cambo border at Si Phan Don, I think there's now bus connections running from the Cambodia border all the way (as opposed to the former jetboat-only option from the border to Stung Treng, + other optional boats to Kampong Chnaang for the cutoff to Siem Reap). Get your Cambo visa while in Vientiane, and let us know how much they ask for it (supposed to be US$20, but many border stations and their Bangkok embassy itself ask for 1000 baht).

    Try reading the travel connections pages on and for up-to-date details on these connections. The Aranyapathet crossing from Thailand is indeed rife with ripoff pitfalls as the previous replier noted; good info on how to avoid those on the Tales of Asia website. My Google Earth presentation has the Vientiane-S.R. land/river route via the Laos-Cambodia plotted out, and some photos in my web albums (see my home and travel pages here for links).

    If cutting into Thailand, you could work in an easy side trip to Preah Vihear, a reportedly stunning temple setting just inside Cambodia on the north Cambodia-Thai border, visitable from Thailand on a day-trip only (there's a very rough Cambodian road from below the temple going south to Siem Reap, but afaik no official entry in to Cambodia is allowed there. You leave your passport at the Thai border if visiting the temple from there; you'd then have to continue on to Aranyapathet or another open Thai-Cambo border crossing and connect to Siem Reap.

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  • boasnovas's Profile Photo

    van or vip bus?

    by boasnovas Updated Jan 15, 2008

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    When deciding whether to travel in between Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane by van (which are more expensive) or vip bus, choose the last one which is way more confortable than the vanĀ“s sardine cans.

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    • Study Abroad

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  • glasstech's Profile Photo

    Slow Boat down the Mekong

    by glasstech Written Dec 29, 2007

    June 26th '06 we transfered to Chiang Khong on the Thai/Laos border where we crossed over to Laos on a small shuttle boat. We met our guide Sham-poo who expedited our passport control then took us down to our own slow boat. We had no idea what to expect but were very surprised to see our boat. The lady owner with her daughter, her mother, the captain, boat boy and the three of us. Looking at the other slow boats that were moored along side, they were packed with local traffic, back packers galore and more. Our covered slow boat had comfy chairs;airline style; tables and chairs for meals, beer and water coolers, and a bathroom. Our hotel had provided us with a great picnic for the 1st day of smoked salmon, garlic breads, tempura, breads, juices, water and fresh chocolate brownies.

    To Pakbeng we glided down the Mekong through mountain scenery with several stops at local villages with markets. Our first stop was at Pakbeng Lodge - Pakbeng.

    Mekong River Slow boat Plastic covers down during a brief rain storm Lunch Pakbeng Lodge - Pakbeng
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