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Travel Guide: Laos Getting Around

12th Oct 2011 2:01am | By Editor

A boat trip along the Mekong River is a great journey.

Getting there

By land

Laos is well and truly entrenched on the south-east Asian backpacker trail. There are numerous routes linking it with Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. You can enter overland from all these countries. There’s also one border crossing to China.
Perhaps the most popular border crossing is at Huay Xai, in northern Laos. Huay Xai is only a few hours by bus to Chiang Mai (in northern Thailand), and is the start/end point for Mekong River cruises to Luang Prabang.

By rail

There is a train from Bangkok (11–14 hours) that runs as far as the Thai-Lao border at Nong Khai. After crossing the border there are regular buses that do the brief 20km journey to Vientiane.

By air

There are international airports in Vientiane, Pakse and Luang Prabang.

Lao Airlines flies to Thailand, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, and also does internal flights.

Other airlines flying to Laos include:

Getting around

Bus

Bus is the ubiquitous way of getting around Laos. They connect most of the bigger cities and on the main routes are not too uncomfortable.

Boat

The boat trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is a brilliant way to get across Laos. Whatever you do, do not take a speedboat on this route. While they might seem a speedy and fun option, they are incredibly dangerous.
Aside from the Huay Xai to Luang Prabang route, there isn’t much in the way of cruising to be had up and down the Mekong. Competition from buses and the ongoing low water levels has made river transport mostly unviable.

Air

Lao Airlines links Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Huay Xai, Savannakhet, Udomxai (Oudomxay), Luang Nam Tha, Muang Khoun (Xieng Khuang).