How to Get Around Laos

How to Get Around Laos

Laos Transportation Guide serves you detailed transport information and introduces fights to Laos, Laos high-speed trains, Laos trains, Laos Cycling, Laos bus, Laos taxis and ways of getting in and around Laos.

Despite being so close to Thailand, Laos is a whole different animal when it comes to getting around. For a start, there are no trains in Laos, the roads are very often just dirt paths and most buses are rickety, old and crammed with locals, luggage and livestock.

Best Ways of Traveling Around Laos


There are two Lao airlines operating in Laos — the larger national carrier, Lao Airlines and a smaller carrier Lao Skyway (previously Lao Air). The former flies both international and domestic routes, the latter domestic only.

The Lao Airlines fleet has improved significantly in recent years and their safety record compares favorably with other regional airlines, as well as with the safety risks associated with other means of travel in Laos. Most recently a flight from Vientiane to Pakse crashed in October 2013, killing all 49 people on board; prior to that, the most recent incident was 2002. They used to fly mostly Chinese-built turboprops, then added a few French-built ATR-72s that were considered safer and used on international routes, and then in 2011 took on two Airbus A320 jets.

Local buses and minibuses

Buses in Laos are slow — very slow. They’re slow for a number of reasons. They’re slow because they’re old, because the roads are narrow, because they stop very frequently to pick up passengers and because they stop all the time to let people pee. They are cheap though, so the adage that you get what you pay for certainly holds true here.

Minibuses also ply the more popular tourist legs, such as Vientiane to Vang Vieng and onwards to Luang Prabang, but the majority of routes are served by the larger, slower buses.

Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Udomxai, Savannakhet and Pakse are all transport hubs and in many cases the city will have more then one bus station, with different stations serving different destinations.


Private car hire, generally with driver, can be arranged through any travel agent in Vientiane or Luang Prabang. Unless you have very specialized needs (or are traveling with your family in tow) private car hire is not a cheap way to explore Laos.


Larger enduro-style dirt bikes can be hired long-term from some travel agents. Prices are reasonable but be sure to carefully check the bike, and whatever you do, do not use the chain and padlock provided by the shop to lock up the bike at night — use your own.


Given how hilly Laos is, it is surprising just how popular the place is with cyclists. Most nearly every town in Laos will have some lodgings, so you shouldn’t struggle for a room. Things to pack include a good supply of inner tubes and patch kits, and of course, your bike — you will need to bring your own.


As the road network has steadily improved, boat services have dropped off drastically as it is far cheaper to transport cargo, including people, by road. As it stands, the only boat routes still operating are those popular with tourists. The Huay Xai – Pak Beng – Luang Prabang trip, the Nong Khiaw – Muang Ngoi – Muang Khua – Hat Sa route are the most popular. Less so is the Huay Xai – Xieng Kok route.

General Laos Travel Tips

Following these tips can make traveling around the country a little bit easier:

  • Get to the station early to bag tickets for local buses which go on sale about an hour before the bus leaves.
  • If you book your tickets through a tour agency or your guesthouse they’ll provide you with a tuk-tuk to the bus station.
  • If you don’t book through an agent, you’ll have to make your own way to the bus station. Expect to pay about 10,000 LAK (£0.80) per person if you share a tuk-tuk.
  • There’s no seat reservation on local buses so as soon as you arrive at the station and have bought your ticket, grab yourself a decent seat.
  • On the local buses there are aisle seats which fold down from the sides and are incredibly uncomfortable, try to avoid ending up in one by getting to the station early.
  • There aren’t many ‘proper’ toilet stops on Laos bus journeys, often you’ll be expected to just go by the side of the road in the bushes, men and women alike.
  • Expect your bus to break down. Luckily, we only experienced one break down while we were in Laos but we did see plenty of broken buses by the side of the road as we journeyed through the country.
  • Even if your bus doesn’t break down, you can expect delays. We often arrived at least an hour or two later than expected, so make sure you bring something with you to pass the time.
  • Finally, Laos people do tend to suffer from motion sickness so get used to hearing them throw up. In fact, if you get a car sick yourself bring some travel sickness pills as the roads in Laos are extremely windy.
  • Enjoy your trip!

Visit Laos with Trans Asia Discovery

Traveling around Laos can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time there. But fear not, we’ve got all the info you need to know. The country is not exactly known for its modernized roads and transport, but isn’t that half of the fun of traveling? Laos is a real adventure, so just dive right in, but to explore further afield you’ll need to suss out buses, boats, automobiles and more.

Regardless of how you choose to get around, knowing which methods are safer and which should be avoided will help you to plan your trip accordingly, and we will get you where you need to go without any issues.

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Edited by Lynette Fu/Fu Yunrui