Overland to Vientiane & Luang Prabang...

  Train route map for Singapore, Malaysia & S E Asia - click to enlarge

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I recommend finding hotels in Laos & comparing prices at:

This page explains the options for overland travel to, from & around Laos.  You can now travel between Bangkok & Vientiane by train, as a new rail link opened in March 2009 across the Friendship Bridge from Nong Kai in Thailand to a new international rail terminal at Thanaleng, about 13km short of central Vientiane. The first railway in Laos!  You can travel between Vientiane & the amazing city of Luang Prabang either by bus or river boat, and buses link Vientiane with Vietnam.  Feedback from travellers to help add to this page would be much appreciated.

Information on this page...

  Europe to Laos overland by Trans-Siberian Railway

  Hanoi - Vientiane by bus

  Bangkok - Vientiane by train

  Vientiane - Luang Prabang

  Hotels & accommodation in Laos

Information on other pages...

  Train travel in Thailand

  Train travel in Vietnam

  Train travel in Singapore & Malaysia

Sponsored links...

 


Useful country information

Train operator in Laos:

State Railways of Thailand run trains across the Friendship Bridge to Thanaleng in Laos, near Vientiane.

 

 

Time zone:

GMT+7 all year.

Dialling code:

 

+856

Currency:

£1 = 12,998 New Kip,  $1 = 8,430 New Kip.    Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.tourismlaos.org    Hotels in Vientiane   Tripadvisor Laos page   Map of train routes in Southeast Asia

Visas:

Required by UK, EU, US & Australian citizens.  A 30-day 'visa on arrival' is available when entering by road or train via the Friendship Bridge near Nong Khai and several other border points, also when arriving at Vientiane or Luang Prabang airports.  Laos has no embassy in London, but the Lao embassy in Paris grants visas, see www.laoparis.com.

Page last updated:

5 March 2014


London to Laos overland

If you have the time, it's possible to reach Laos overland from London or anywhere else in Europe, using the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing in China then the twice-weekly Beijing-Hanoi soft sleeper train

From Hanoi, you have a choice of routes to Laos.  The direct route involves a long and arduous 24-hour bus journey from Hanoi to Vientiane (see the section below).  The more comfortable and civilised option means going the long way round, taking several days, by train from Hanoi to Saigon, then bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh & Phnom Penh to Bangkok, then train from Bangkok to Nong Khai for Vientiane.


Hanoi to Vientiane by bus

You can take a bus from Hanoi to Vientiane, but bear in mind that it's a 24 hour ride - a night and a day.  A few years ago, reports from travellers said that this was a rough ride on poor roads though mountainous areas, but offset by spectacular scenery so well worth doing.  Latest reports suggest that things have improved, with better roads and a more modern bus with sleeper bunks, at least on three days a week.  An older bus, still with sleeper bunks, operates on the other days.  There are also reportedly buses from Hue and Danang to the border, for onward buses to Vientiane.

 Hanoi Vientiane

 

 Vientiane Hanoi

Bus type:

Modern

sleeper bus

Older

sleeper bus

Bus type:

Modern

sleeper bus

Older

sleeper bus

Days of running:

Tues, Thurs, Sat

Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

Days of running:

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat

Wed, Fri, Sun

 Hanoi depart:

19:00 day 1

19:00 day 1

 Vientiane depart:

18:30 day 1

18:30 day 1

 Vientiane arrive:

19:00 day 2

18:00 day 2

 Hanoi arrive:

17:00 day 2

17:00 day 2

The modern bus has sleeper bunks & toilet.  The older bus also has sleeper bunks but no on-board toilet.  Are the bunks long enough to sleep in?  See the travellers' reports below!  The bus operates via the Nam Phao - Cau Treo border point.  There are photos of the new and old buses at www.travellao.net/xe/335.

 Fares

Hanoi to Vientiane by bus costs 550,000 VND (£20 or $30)

The price is the same whichever bus you use.

How to buy tickets...

The bus company has no website, let alone online ticket sales, so just buy tickets at the bus station or via your guesthouse or a local travel agency when you get to Hanoi or Vientiane.  In Hanoi, you can buy tickets for this bus at the Nuoc Ngam (Southern) Bus Station on Giai Phong Street.  The bus ticket also shows a 'main office' in Hanoi as 70B Hoang Hoa Tam, call 04 37222514.  The ticket office phone number in Vientiane is (020) 98112233, and the RD Guesthouse in Vientiane can also arrange tickets.  Or simply ask for a bus ticket at any travel agency or guesthouse in Vientiane of Hanoi.  Feedback from travellers about this bus service would be very welcome!

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Jonny Steph reports (2012): "You can arrange a bus to Vientiane from Hanoi through most hostels, hotels and travel agencies in Hanoi. The bus leaves every night and costs around $30US per person. We were greeted in our hostel at exactly 5pm by a man on a moped. He came in, asked ‘Laos?’ and told us to follow him. There was a group of about 6 Japanese guys standing outside and we all followed him as he drove off on his moped. We arrived outside a travel agent/hotel a few blocks away, nearer the motorway and were told to wait. About 10-15 mins later a mini bus arrived and we were told to get in. We picked some more people up and made our way to the bus station.

Once at the bus station we gave our passports and were each issued a ticket. We were then told to go wait at our respective busses, some going to Luang Prabang and some to Vientiane. The Hanoi bus station is odd to Westerners but seems the norm in SE Asia. Locals sitting on their plastic stools in front of the bus all carrying more possessions than a house could hold. We waited a long while before they let people on the bus, with the driver and his assistants leaving for quite some time. All the foreigners were put on the bus first. This included us, 2 English guys, and about 8 Japanese guys. We were put in the back of the bus.

The bunks are not very comfortable, they do the job but don’t be expecting any kind of luxury. Battered leather ‘beds’ with little to no space to stretch out fully (all the Westerners were hugging their knees). There isn’t much space to bring bags on the bus, you can put it by your feet but this means you are not able to stretch out fully. Our seats were above the engine so it got very hot, not unbearable, just uncomfortable. This is just the luck of the draw though. You had to take your shoes off before you entered the bus, and were given a plastic bag for your shoes.  I imagined this would be the norm in Laos, but as yet no other bus has had this requirement.

The bus was scheduled to leave at about 7.25pm but did not leave until after 8. The journey was very bumpy in parts but in whole was ok. Our bus stopped an awful lot. I don’t know if this is the norm or just our driver wanting to stop. We picked up a few people on the roadsides who were given mattresses on the floor in between the other beds. There is a toilet at the back (where all the foreigners were sitting) it’s fine, like an plane toilet. Remember to Bring Your Own Toilet Roll!

We arrived at the border about 6. There is a café there where you can wait for the border to open at 7. All the border staff on the Vietnam side were eating breakfast there. Once 7am rolled round you make your way on foot to the border, you can leave your bags in the bus. It cost $1 to ‘Stamp out’ of Vietnam. Once you pass immigration you then walk about 1km to the Laos border. As you go in there is a window for ‘Visa on Entry’ then a price list for each country. It ranges from $25US to $42US (Canadians have to pay $42 most countries are $30-$35). If you do not have the cash then there is an ATM in the building. You also have to pay a $1 ‘stamp fee’. Once through immigration a friendly guard checked our Visas and sent us on our way. You get back on the bus and then on to Vientiane.

We arrived in Vientiane about 3pm. From then a TukTuk appeared and took everyone into town for $2.5 a person which seemed reasonable enough as there was not much other option! The tuk tuk was fine, the guy drove around the bus station until it was full so he made a fair amount off the journey. All in all it isn’t a bad journey and you get some great views of Vietnam and Laos and it is quite the experience to walk through the borders. The roads in Laos are all very new and smooth. I am not sure what all the busses are like but ours was very busy, again mostly with Vietnamese and Lao. Most foreigners seem to opt for the Hanoi – Luang Prabang bus - which did look slightly more comfortable.

Traveller Simon Philips reports (2011):  "We took the 24 hour sleeper bus to Laos; your info was spot on.  We got a ticket from the 'Little Hanoi Hostel', which we'd recommend - fantastic service, and a great place to stay too.  We were picked up along with half the western world in a packed minibus which ferried us all to the bus station in the south of town.  When we got to the bus, it was as expected - we were on the modern one, and though not spacious it was sufficient, with the toilet working fine (and not too smelly). The bus driver's assistant was a little aggressive, shouting at people to tell them where to sit - in theory it is allocated based on your ticket, but since you've only been given your ticket seconds earlier on arrival at the bus station, it isn't all that helpful.  We ended up sitting where we wanted, but others were made to move, after nearly having a fight with him. One piece of advice - it seems the shorter seats are the 'A' row of seats on the left, and the set of three in a sort of bed arrangement together right at the back.  Long legged travellers beware!  We stopped at the border at dawn, and when it opened walked the (longer than expected) kilometre or so to the Laos side. The bus made it to the Southern Bus Station in Vientiane around 5pm, 2 hours early - to much delight!  We'd definitely do it again rather than flying."

Traveller Christine reports (2010):  "I just travelled from Hanoi (where I live) to Vientiane by bus, and found the trip quite pleasant.  The drivers and assistants were friendly and drove relatively carefully with not too much horn honking. There is a bathroom on the bus and a stop for dinner.  I think the bunks are not really long enough for a westerner of 6 feet to stretch out totally but one has enough width to move around and bend the knees.  There were many tall guys on my bus and no one was complaining!  The road is not nearly as treacherous as others describe. It's quite wide and smooth actually. The scenery is indeed very beautiful once in Lao.  There is a $1 "stamp fee" when leaving Vietnam and a $2 "stamp fee" when entering Lao.  The bus assistant collected all the passports and money for these fees the night before and took them to the officials for those who already had visas.  Foreigners without visas walked their own passports through the process.  One can also take this bus from Vientiane to Hanoi. It also leaves at 19:00 and then arrives at the border at about 2am and just sits there waiting for the border to open at 7am. Tickets can be booked in Vientiane at the RD Guesthouse for $34.  Be aware that the nice bus with the bathroom only runs Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. On the other days an older bus with no bathroom runs at the same price. Once can get a cheaper price by calling the bus company directly but booking at the guesthouse is more convenient.

Traveller Paul Wiesbauer reports (2010):  "The journey was very pleasant, even in the older bus!  The information about the "modern" and "older" bus on your page is correct, even if the ticket seller tells something different!  At the Nam Phao - Cau Treo border you have to pay exit stamp fee in Laos (10000 KIP or 2 USD) and entry stamp fee in Vietnam (200000 VND or 1 USD).  On the Lao side there is a bank with the opportunity so to change money (KIP/USD/VND) but at semi good rates!  The stamp fees are cheaper if paid in VND and KIP."

Round-the-world traveller James Weld reports (2009):  " I just did the bus journey from Hanoi to Vientiane by bus.  It costs $15 on the cheap bus which was adequate.  It took 20 hrs starting at 7 pm and getting to the border crossing about 8 am.  It took 2 hours to get out of customs and we got into Vientiane at 4 pm.  In my opinion it was worth the overnight journey which wasn't great (it was hard to sleep on the packed bus) then the journey in to Laos was spectacular, great scenery well worth the over night bus journey.  When you get to the bus depot (which is 2kms out of town), a Tuk tuk should not cost more than 10,000 kip per person into the heart of town.  My advice is, get the bus, don’t fly.  Far cheaper, and you get to see some great views." 


Bangkok to Vientiane by train

  The sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai for Vientiane

Sleeper train 69 from Bangkok to Nong Khai.  This is a 2nd class sleeper car, seen in the platform at Bangkok Hualamphong.

  2nd class sleepers on train 69 from Bangkok to Nong Khai

A 2nd class sleeper on train 69 from Bangkok to Nong Khai.  At night, the attendant will make up the beds with fresh clean sheets.  There is luggage space under the seats and on the luggage racks.  There are also 1st class sleepers with 2-bed compartments.

  The international train from Laos to Thailand

The international train from Thanleng to Nong Khai.  Photo courtesy of Glen Chivers.

  Looking back along the tracks as the train from Bangkok heads off the Bridge towards Thanaleng

The railway to Laos opened March 2009...  Looking back as the train from Thailand leaves the road/rail Friendship Bridge across the Mekong and heads towards Thanaleng station.  All road traffic has to stop while the train crosses!  Photo courtesy of Andrew McIntyre.

  The tracks at Thanaleng station in Laos

The shuttle train to Nong Khai, seen at Thanaleng station.  Photo courtesy of Glen Chivers.

  The new railway station at Tha Naleng, Laos.
 

Thanaleng station...  The new rail terminal at Thanaleng, about 3km inside Laos beyond the Friendship Bridge, just 13km short of Vientiane city centre.  It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so arrange transfers in advance if you can.  Photo courtesy of Bob Fletcher

   

It's easy to travel from Bangkok to Vientiane (or vice versa) by train, using the daily overnight sleeper train direct from Bangkok to Nong Khai and a special connecting international shuttle train from Nong Khai to the new international rail terminal at Thanaleng in Laos, some 13 km outside Vientiane.  The train uses the new rail link over the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong river into Laos, opened on 5 March 2009.  You can then take a local bus or tuk tuk to central Vientiane.  It's safe, cheap and comfortable.  Alternatively, you can still travel between Bangkok & Vientiane the old way, using any of the Bangkok-Nong Khai trains, then making your own way by bus or taxi between Nong Khai & Vientiane.  This section explains both options.

 Bangkok ► Vientiane

Km

Train number:

133

77

69

Classes:

3,R

DRC

1,S,s,2,R

0

 Bangkok (Hualamphong) depart:

20:45

18:30

20:00

22

 Don Muang depart:

21:31

19:13

20:50

71

 Ayutthaya depart:

22:17

19:47

21:41

621

 Nong Khai arrive by mainline train:

09:35

05:05

07:45

621

 Nong Khai depart by shuttle train:

-

-

  09:10 *

627

 Thanaleng (Laos) arrive by shuttle train:

-

-

  09:20 *

640

 Vientiane (Laos) arrive by bus or taxi:

-

-

**

* Change trains at Nong Khai.  A separate local shuttle train links Nong Khai & Thanaleng.

** You use any local bus, taxi or tuk-tuk between Thanaleng & central Vientiane, as explained here.

Key to classes...

1 = 1st class sleeper.  S = 2nd class sleeper (air-con).  s = 2nd class sleeper (non-air-con).  2 = 2nd class seats.  3 = 3rd class seats.  R = Restaurant car.  DRC = Diesel Railcar express with 2nd class air-conditioned seats, meals included.  Most western travellers use cheap & comfortable 2nd class sleepers, although others are happy to pay more for 1st class 2-berth sleepers.

 Vientiane ► Bangkok

Train number:

76

70

134

Classes:

DRC

1,S,s,2,R

3,R

 Vientiane (Laos) depart by bus or taxi

***

 **

***

 Thanaleng (Laos) depart by shuttle train:

-

  17:00 *

-

 Nong Khai (Thailand) arrive by shuttle train:

-

  17:15 *

-

 Nong Khai depart by mainline train:

06:00

18:20

19:15

 Ayutthaya arrive:

15:30

04:04

05:50

 Don Muang arrive:

16:14

05:02

06:54

 Bangkok (Hualamphong) arrive:

17:10

06:00

08:00

A second local train also links Nong Khai and Thanaleng, departing Nong Khai daily at 16:00 northbound, and departing Thanaleng daily at 09:50 southbound, journey time 15 minutes.  Handy if you feel like a quick return trip across the Bridge!

 Fares by sleeper train...

(in Thai baht)

1st class sleeper 

a/c express train 

2nd class sleeper 

a/c express train

Bangkok to Nong Khai or vice versa

1,217 (£26, $37)

778 (£16, $23)

Nong Khai to Thanaleng or vice versa

20 baht in 3rd class, 30 baht in 2nd class.

 Fares by seats trains...

(in Thai baht)

2nd class seat

a/c DRC 

2nd class seat

ordinary train

3rd class seat

ordinary train

Bangkok to Nong Khai or vice versa

498 (£10, $15)

388 (£8, $11

258 (£5, $8)

Nong Khai to Thanaleng or vice versa

20 baht in 3rd class, 30 baht in 2nd class.

Children aged 0 to 3 and less than 100cm in height travel free, children aged 4 to 11 and under 150cm travel at half fare, children 12 years old and upwards (or over 150cm high) pay full fare.   About these fares:  The sleeper fares shown here are for a lower bunk, an upper bunk is 50-100 baht less in 2nd class.  Non-air-con 2nd class sleepers (available on a few trains) cost 160-200 baht less than the air-con variety.

Option 1:  Bangkok-Nong Khai sleeper train + shuttle train to Laos.

The easiest way to travel from Bangkok and Vientiane (or vice versa) is to take the overnight train from Bangkok to Nong Khai (train 69 northbound, train 70 southbound), and the connecting international shuttle train across the Friendship Bridge from Nong Khai to Thanaleng in Laos, just outside Vientiane, see the timetable above.  An extension of the railway to the suburbs of Vientiane was planned, although it looks like it may not now go ahead.  Then transfer into central Vientiane by bus or taxi.  How to buy tickets.

VISAS:  Visas on arrival for Laos are issued at Thanaleng station, costing US$35 + 1 baht entry fee.

Transfers by bus or taxi to central Vientiane:  There's now a little transfer desk on the arrival platform at Thanaleng station, offering transfers to central Vientiane for a fixed price of 300 baht by tuk-tuk (for 1 to 6 people) or 500 baht by minivan, suitable for up to 8 people.

The Thai government has agreed to fund the extension of the railway to Vientiane itself by 2014.

Option 2:  Any Bangkok-Nong Khai train + bus or taxi to Vientiane...

The other way to travel from Bangkok to Vientiane (or vice versa) is to take any train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, overnight trains 69 northbound or 70 southbound being the best choice.  Nong Khai is just a few kilometres from the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River into Laos.  You then use road transport across the Friendship Bridge into Laos like this: (1)  Take a local tuk-tuk taxi from Nong Khai railway station to the Nong Khai bus station.  (2) A shuttle bus runs from the bus station across the Friendship Bridge to Laos every 20 minutes throughout the day, fare about 30 baht.  It stops at Thai immigration 5 mins after leaving the bus station then crosses the Friendship Bridge to arrive at Lao customs & immigration some 10 mins later (a 30-day visa on arrival available for Laos at this border point).  (3) You now remove your luggage from the bus luggage hold and go through Lao customs.  Take another tuk-tuk to your chosen hotel.  When travelling southbound, leave central Vientiane at least 3 hours before your train leaves Nong Khai for Bangkok to allow time for border formalities and the various bus/taxi journeys.

Quick links:  Map of train routes in Southeast Asia    Taking bikes    What are Thai trains like?

How to buy tickets, Bangkok to Vientiane...

You can't buy through tickets from Bangkok to Thanaleng, you have to buy a ticket from Bangkok to Nong Khai, then buy the onward ticket from Nong Khai to Thanaleng at the station when you get to Nong Khai.

How to buy the Bangkok to Nong Khai train ticket:  You can buy your Bangkok-Nong Khai sleeper ticket at the reservations office in Bangkok or through an agency such as www.thailandtrainticket.com, www.thaifocus.com or www.asia-discovery.com.  You can no longer buy tickets online from Thai Railways, this service ceased in January 2013.  There are often places left on the day, but I strongly recommend pre-booking if you can.  For details see the How to Buy Tickets section on the Thailand page

How to buy the ticket from Nong Khai to Vientiane:  You buy this when you get to Nong Khai, there's plenty of time for this between trains.  You can simply buy a Nong Khai to Thanaleng shuttle train ticket for 20 baht when you arrive at Nong Khai station, no prior reservation necessary or even possible, then bargain for a tuk-tuk from Thanaleng to central Vientiane when you get to Thanaleng.  If you share a tuk-tuk with other travellers, this is  the cheapest option.  Or you can buy a combined train & taxi ticket at Nong Khai station for 300 baht, this includes the shuttle train to Thanaleng and a transfer into central Vientiane.

How to buy tickets, Vientiane to Bangkok...

Booking online:  You can no longer book Thai train tickets online, this service ceased in January 2013.  You can order them via agency www.thailandtrainticket.com but as they don't have an office in Nong Khai you'd need to pay hefty courier fees, so it's only worth it if pre-booking a specific train, date and class is totally mission-critical.  Just book at the station when you're there.

Buy tickets to Bangkok at Thanaleng station:  It's now (since November 2009) possible to buy tickets all the way to Bangkok at Thanaleng station ticket office, even on the day of travel.  You must buy your tickets in Thai Baht only, in cash at Thanaleng station. There is no currency exchange or ATM there, so get hold of some baht before leaving central Vientiane.

Exit fee:  There's a 10,000 kip or 40 baht exit fee to pay on leaving Laos via Thanaleng.

Customs & departure procedures when travelling from Thanaleng to Bangkok:

Ted & Heather of JumpAMonkey.com report:  "Arrive at Tha Naleng station a little early to be on the safe side. “Stamping out” at the customs window in Thanaleng station takes only 1 or 2 minutes.  When the train arrives, board a 1st or 2nd class SEAT for the 13-15 minute ride to Nong Khai, Thailand. In Nong Khai, disembark the train, go to the customs window and ‘stamp in’ for your Visa On Arrival in Thailand.  You have about an hour hour to wait.   Smile and toast the other passengers arriving from their 90+ minute bus / tuk-tuk / Friendship Bridge Customs journey who didn’t know about this option."

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Glen Chivers reports:  "On the shuttle train from Thanaleng to Nong Khai, 2nd class has reclining seats and extra leg room,  3rd class more basic seating. However you can actually sit where you want and the train journey took just 6 minutes with only about 25 people on board, every one of them a Westerner. The conductor - a security guard - was in an extremely jolly mood! The train left a few minutes late as it waited until everyone has cleared passport control (there was a bit of a queue, most arrived at the same time) and was on the train. Even so it was still another hour wait before catching train 70 overnight to Bangkok.  We got our tickets in advance via the State Railway of Thailand online system before it was suspended and getting the Thanaleng-Nong Khai ticket at Thanaleng station was a breeze, had we used a travel agent they would have charged about 250 Baht on top of each ticket price.  There is a 40 Baht per person stamp out fee, which can only be paid in Thai Baht.  Bear in mind that Lao Kip cannot legally be taken out of the country so you shouldn't have any Kip left by the time you get to Thanaleng anyway.


 


Vientiane to Luang Prabang

The jewel in Laos' crown is Luang Prabang, a city of French and Buddhist colonial buildings next to a river and nestled in mountains.  You can travel from Vientiane to Luang Prabang by river boat or bus, as follows:

  • Vientiane - Luang Prabang by VIP bus, 10 hours, morning departures, about 140,000-170,000 Kip one-way, see timetable below.

  • Vientiane - Luang Prabang by overnight VIP sleeper bus, 10 hours, evening departures, about 140,000-170,000 Kip one-way, see timetable below.

  • Vientiane - Luang Prabang by air-con bus, 10 hours, 2 morning departures, about 120,000-130,000 Kip one-way.

  • Vientiane - Luang Prabang by ordinary bus, 11 hours, 5 daily departures, about 70,000 Kip one-way.

  • Vientiane - Luang Prabang by 6-seater river speedboat, 11 hours, morning departures, about $20 one-way.  One seat61 correspondent has said he did not feel safe on the speedboat.

  • Vientiane - Luang Prabang by cargo/passenger ferry, 4-7 days, daily morning departures, about $6 one-way.

Vientiane to Luang Prabang by VIP air-conditioned bus...

 Vientiane Luang Prabang (bus)

 

 Luang Prabang Vientiane (bus)

Bus type:

VIP

day bus

VIP

sleeper bus

Bus type:

VIP

day bus

VIP

sleeper bus

Days of running:

daily

daily

Days of running:

daily

daily

 Vientiane hotel pick-up:

08:30

18:30 day 1

 Luang Prabang depart:

??:??

??:??

 Luang Prabang arrive:

 18:00?

  05:00? day 2

 Vientiane arrive:

??:??

??:??

Fare:  Day bus 150,000 Kip one-way.  Sleeper bus 180,000 kip one-way.

How to buy tickets:  Buy tickets locally from any travel agency, or ask your hotel or guesthouse.  Feedback would be appreciated!

Traveller's reports...

Traveller John Dinger reports (2013):  "My wife, son, and I took the Air Conditioned VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane on July 23. I travel by train and bus whenever it's a viable option and time allows. I read so many reports that traveling by bus between Luang Prabang and Vientiane is unpredictable and grueling that we almost flew, especially because my wife suffers from motion sickness. In fact, the road was in decent condition, the bus was reasonably comfortable, and the driver drove responsibly. It was a long ride - over ten hours - apart from that, it wasn't particularly arduous and the scenery was exceptional."

Traveller Bob Fletcher reports:  "The name of the bus has nothing to do with the actual comfort. The VIP bus is as high as a double decker with tough suspension. Try riding in the back seat for 11 hours!  The Air Con bus doesn't look as nice but is definitely more comfortable. However, neither bus will have it's air con on once it clears Vientiane.  All that said, travellers who take a flight to Luang Prabang really miss out on amazing breathtaking scenery."



Hotels & accommodation in Laos

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

  • www.tripadvisor.com is the place to find independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.


Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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