Travel to Laos
Flying to Laos
The national airline of Laos is Lao Airlines (www.laoairlines.com). There are no direct flights from the USA or Europe; flights are mainly via Bangkok, China, Vietnam or Cambodia. Popular airlines flying into Laos include Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com), Thai Airways (www.thaiair.com) and Vietnam Airlines (www.vietnamairlines.com).
During festivals it can be hard to find a free seat on the national carrier, Lao Airlines, which serves both regional centres and neighbouring countries. Unlike other countries it is vital in Laos to reconfirm your flight the day before, otherwise you may be bumped off.
Many international flights arrive late at night. For a smooth arrival have your hotel arrange a collection from the airport.
Vientiane International Airport (Wattay)Code
Vientiane International Airport is located 3km (1.8 miles) from Vientiane city, Laos.
+856 20 55 608 955Address
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From London - 16 hours (including stopover); New York - 20 hours (including stopover).
The Discovery Airpass (www2.bangkokair.com/en/plan-your-trip/discovery-airpass/discovery-airpass.php) is a flight coupon deal offered by Bangkok Airways and Lao Airlines, covering numerous destinations in South-East Asia.
Usually included in the ticket price.
Travelling to Laos by Rail
A passenger services connects Bangkok and Vientiane. The train travels over across the Friendship Bridge from Nong Kai in Thailand to the international rail terminal at Thanaleng, around 15km (9 miles) from central Vientiane. It’s easy to connect with a local tuk-tuk to get you into town.
The train between Bangkok to Thanaleng is clean and safe. For peace of mind bring a padlock and secure your baggage – there is space under the seats. Fresh sheets are supplied during ‘turn down’ when your bed is made up.
Driving to Laos
Laos has over a dozen border-crossing possibilities. Travellers can enter by road from Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam – the exception is Myanmar.
30-day visas are available at most of the land crossings, but check for up-to-date information. If you arrive at the border by road, bear in mind that you’ll definitely have to change transport, as it’s unlikely a driver from one of the surrounding countries will be willing or able to cross over with you. If you’re arriving with your own car or motorbike be prepared for plenty of form-filling and fees. You can import the vehicle for the duration of your visa.
Getting to Laos by boat
It is possible to travel from the Thai border to Luang Prabang by speedboat, slow boat or by a deluxe one-day boat. The slow boat takes about two days and usually involves an overnight stay in Pak Beng. Alternatively there are ‘luxury’ cruises which also take two days but have much better facilities than the ordinary slow boats. These are charged at an accordingly higher premium. The speedboat goes from Houaixay on the Laos border to Luang Prabang in around six hours.
The Navigation Office at the main landing point (Tha Heua Meh) at the end of Th Chao Phanya Kang has signs, usually not in English, that announce long-distance boat departures.
Boat charters are possible up and down the Mekong, but there are no cruise ships per se in and out of Laos.
It may also possible to travel the Cambodian part of the Laos-Cambodia crossing by slow boat or speed boat, instead of by bus or taxi. Visitors should be aware that accidents can and do happen when travelling at high speeds along the unpredictable Mekong River.