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Laos > Getting there and getting around > How to get to Laos


Getting to Laos 


From Inside Asia 

There is no viable rail service at present, so you only have a few choices once you’re inside Asia. You can take a bus or mini-bus from several adjacent countries, you can fly, or you can enter via river or ferry boat. In theory you could hike or bike in, but the trip would be long, the terrain quite rugged, and the risks from wildlife and unexploded ordnance unacceptable to most travelers. 


By Air 

I highly recommend flying to almost all destinations in Laos since the roads are generally poor. Lao Airlines is the primary carrier for internal flights and many flights to adjacent countries. Lao Airlines flies into Laos from Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand, Kunming in China, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam. The service from Vietnam has been alternating with Vietnam Airlines, but schedules and servicing airlines change frequently. Thai Air  flies into Vientiane from Bangkok.


Your best bet is to consult a travel agent in Laos or an adjacent country to arrange your travel. This will also almost always be far less expensive than intra-Southeast Asian travel arranged in your home country.  


If you want to look for the cheapest details, some online booking agents are worth checking out. 


Schedule of Lao Airlines is subject to revision without notice, so you are advised to reconfirm your flight(s) the day before and a few hours before your scheduled departure time. Prices also change without notice. The cost for a one-way flight is almost always half the cost of a round-trip, and many times you can deplane at intermediate stops for little or no extra cost, continuing your journey a few days later. That feature makes flying in Indochina an incredible bargain. 


Lao Airlines is continually working out arrangements with the national carriers of adjacent countries to have “code-sharing” type arrangements, greatly increasing the frequency of flights and convenience of connections.  The costs should be virtually identical. 




Five of the seven Laotian border crossings are via land-based transportation. With the exception of the Nong Khai/Friendship Bridge crossing, you must have your visa in advance. One way to see if this rule has changed is to contact a Laotian embassy or consulate very shortly before your planned arrival in Laos.   


Most people enter Laos from adjacent countries by bus or mini-bus. Be advised the trips can be very long and the roads often leave something to be desired. For example, the trip from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang can easily top 24 hours.  Holes the size of Volkswagen Beetles are not unusual. Still, you can’t beat ground transportation for seeing the country up close!   


The long-distance buses are reasonably comfortable, even for tall people, and they make a reasonable number of food and facility breaks. You may, however, find the entertainment consists of overly loud Asian videos. These long-haul bus trips vary in price. 


For shorter trips across borders you may want to take a mini-bus or share-taxi. You may or may not have to change vehicles at the border. I would assume you will have to change vehicles because of the border crossing formalities, and that can add an hour or two to your planned travel time.   


By Boat 

Two of the Laotian border crossings use a ferry. You may already be on a “cruise” down the river, or you may come to the crossing by bus or other public transportation. No matter how you get there, you need a visa to cross into Laos unless you arrive from the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge. Returning to Thailand, most nationalities get a visa on the spot. 


On Foot or by Bicycle 

You can actually take a bus, taxi, shared taxi, or mini-bus to the Thai/Laotian border at Nong Khai and walk or bike across the “Friendship Bridge.” Of course, it’s a long way to Vientiane, so this walk between countries is merely a formality. However, this is one of the few places you can get a visa upon arrival, so it can be a very productive walk. Note most nationalities don’t need to pay a fee to get a Thai visa going the other way. 



      See also  

Getting to Luang Prabang

Overview and suggested itineraries in Laos

Main places of interest , Top sights and activities in Laos 

History of Laos 

Climate of Laos 

How to get around Laos 

Travel guide to Vientiane 

Bokeo, Plain of Jars, Savannakhet, and Vang Vieng 

Travel guide to Champasak 

Travel guide to Pakse 

Travel guide to Luang Prabang 

Adventures in Northern Laos 


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Travel guide to Laos : How to get to Laos - getting to Laos