If you’re planning to travel to Laos, you might be wondering how to get around this beautiful but landlocked country. Laos has a variety of transport options for travellers, ranging from buses and minivans to boats and tuk-tuks and since 2021 a new high speed train. Here are some tips on how to choose the best mode of transport for your trip.
Buses and minivans are the most common and affordable way to travel between cities and towns in Laos. They are usually comfortable and air-conditioned, but they can also be crowded and slow. Buses and minivans often depart from different stations depending on the destination, so make sure you check the location and schedule before you book your ticket. You can buy tickets from travel agencies, guesthouses or directly at the bus station.
Boats are another popular option for travelling along the Mekong River and its tributaries. Boats offer a scenic and relaxing way to enjoy the natural beauty of Laos, but they can also be noisy and bumpy. Boats vary in size and quality, from slow boats that take two days to reach Luang Prabang from Huay Xai, to speedboats that can cover the same distance in six hours. You can also rent a private boat or join a cruise for a more luxurious experience (Shompoo Cruise).
Tuk-tuks are the most convenient and fun way to get around within cities and towns in Laos. Tuk-tuks are motorized rickshaws that can carry up to four passengers. They are easy to find and cheap to hire, but you should always negotiate the fare before you hop on. Tuk-tuks can also take you to nearby attractions or villages that are not accessible by public transport.
Other modes of transport in Laos include bicycles, motorcycles, taxis and cars. Bicycles are a great way to explore the countryside and rural areas at your own pace, but be prepared for some rough roads and hills. Motorcycles are faster and more flexible, but they also require more skill and caution. You can rent bicycles or motorcycles from many guesthouses or shops, but make sure you have a valid license and insurance. Taxis and cars are more expensive and less common than other modes of transport in Laos, but they can also provide more comfort and safety. You can book taxis or cars through your hotel or a reputable company.
The Laos-China Railway is a high-speed rail project that connects Laos and China. It is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a global development strategy proposed by China. Completed in 2021 it has cut the travel time between Vientiane and Kunming from three days to three hours. You can travel from Vientiane to Luang Prabang in 1h45m. For full information, timetable and fares see our post about the Laos-China Railway.
Transport in Laos can be an adventure in itself, but it can also be challenging and unpredictable. Be prepared for delays, breakdowns, detours and changes of plans. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the journey and discovering the amazing sights and culture of Laos.