Traveling Laos

How to get here
Most travelers to Laos arrive from Bangkok Airport and make their way north into Laos through Vientiane, Houay Xai, Pakse. All border crossings allow travelers to enter with visas on arrival. Visas generally cost between $30 and $50, depending on your nationality, and must be paid for in cash at the border.

There are night buses, airplanes, and train connections between Lao PDR and some of the major cities of South East Asia, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nong Khai, or Ubon Ratchanthani. From Bangkok, it takes about 12-15 hours to reach the Lao-Thai border at Nong Khai overland.

From Bangkok you can fly to Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Pakse. Cheaper flights may be booked if you fly with low-cost airlines into places near the border. It may also be cheaper to fly from Bangkok to the nearest Lao border and then cross overland.

There are also direct flights to Lao PDR from Singapore, Hoh Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Kunming, China.

Entering Laos from Cambodia
There is currently only one Lao-Cambodia border crossing open, near the country’s southernmost point, where you can cross from Dong Kralor in Cambodia to Veung Kham in Lao PDR. You can get to Dong Kralor by bus from Phnom Pehn, the capital. (The boat crossing from Stung Treng to Veun Kham is currently closed.

Entering Laos from Vietnam
Entering Laos from Vietnam is relatively easy and there are many available border crossings. Bus connections can be arranged from most major cities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An, and Hue. Visas can often be arranged by bus companies; otherwise, you can get one on arrival.

Entering Laos from Thailand
There are also seven border crossings to choose from when crossing from Thailand into Laos. Many of these are river crossings, as the Mekong forms a long border between these two countries. Again, arranging bus and visa services from major cities is simple.

Flying to Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang Airport is linked with major cities from neighboring countries as well as other domestic airports. Some major destinations are:
Luang Prabang – Chiang Mai, Thailand (daily)
Luang Prabang – Bangkok, Thailand (several flights a day)
Luang Prabang – Vientiane, Lao PDR (up to four flights a day)
Luang Prabang – Hanoi, Vietnam (daily)
Luang Prabang – Siem Reap, Cambodia (a few times per week)

Please note that flight schedules change according to the season and may also change unexpectedly.

Airlines serving Lao airports
Lao Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
China Southern
Thai Airways
Bangkok Airways

For cheap onward air travel from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Vientiane, and Kuala Lumpur from Vientiane see also

Overland travel to Luang Prabang – from the south
Vientiane: There are daily buses from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. There are also air-conditioned night buses, if you want to save one night in a guesthouse. The ride is scenic, though the quality of busses varies. The trip takes anywhere from 9 to 13 hours.

Pakse-Vientiane-Luang Prabang: There are night buses with sleeping areas that run between Pakse and Vientiane for about 20 USD. The trip takes about 8-9 hours; then you can stay in Vientiane or continue to Luang Prabang.

Vang Vieng: There are several daily mini buses between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. The trip is about 6 hours and costs a few dollars.

Bangkok: Buses and trains, day and night, leave Bangkok several times daily for the border at Nong Khai. The trip takes between 12 and 15 hours. From Nong Khai, you can take a tuk-tuk to the border and a tuk-tuk or a taxi on the other side to reach Vientiane.

River travel to Luang Prabang – from the north of Laos and Thailand
Northern Thailand: Buses leave frequently from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and other northern cities for the border town at Chiang Khong (on the Thai side) From here you cross the Mekong River to the Lao town of Houay Xai (visas are available at the border). From Houay Xai there are slow boats that can take you downstream to Pakbeng and further to Luang Prabang. The trip to Luang Prabang takes two days (two trips of eight hours each, with a stop).

Luxury Travel on the Mekong river with the Mekong Sun cruise ship

There are also speedboats available, which make the Houay Xai-Luang Prabang trip in one day. Some people consider the trip fun; some find it dangerous and uncomfortable. It will certainly save you time, but please note that there are speedboat accidents yearly.

Northern Lao PDR: There are daily buses to Luang Prabang from all cities in Northern Lao PDR.