Overland to Vientiane & Luang Prabang

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This page explains how to travel between Laos & neighbouring countries by bus or train, and how to travel by bus or train between Vientiane & Luang Prabang.  Laos originally had no railways, but now has two: In 2009, a metre-gauge line opened from Nong Khai in Thailand to Thanaleng in Laos, it was extended to a new station at Vientiane in 2024 and a new direct Bangkok-Vientiane sleeper train starts on 19 July 2024.  The standard-gauge Laos China Railway (LCR) opened in 2021 linking Vientiane, Luang Prabang and the Chinese border, with onward connections to/from Kunming.  Click here for a map of train routes in Southeast Asia.

Information on this page

small bullet point  Vientiane to Luang Prabang by train, bus or boat

small bullet point  Bangkok to Vientiane by train

small bullet point  Hanoi to Vientiane or Luang Prabang by bus

small bullet point  Beijing - Kunming - Luang Prabang - Vientiane by train

small bullet point  Europe to Laos by Trans-Siberian Railway

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Laos

Information on other pages

small bullet point  Train travel in Thailand

small bullet point  Train travel in Vietnam

small bullet point  Train & bus in Cambodia

small bullet point  Bangkok - Kuala Lumpur - Singapore by train


Useful country information

Train operator in Laos:

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

The Laos-China Railway operates from Vientiane to Luang Prabang & Boten on the Chinese Border, www.facebook.com/LaosChinaRailway.

 

Time zone:

GMT+7 all year.

Dialling code:

 

+856

Currency:

£1 = 26,000 New Kip,  $1 = 20,500 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.  You can buy an e-visa at laoevisa.gov.la.

A 30-day visa on arrival is available for US$40 when entering by road or train via the Friendship Bridge near Nong Khai and several other border points and when arriving at Vientiane or Luang Prabang airports.  Have cash with you for this, if using USD they must be clean, undamaged banknotes.  Visa on arrival is not (yet) available on the border crossing from China at Boten/Mo Han. 

Page last updated:

10 July 2024


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 bus, river boat or (from December 2021) by new 160 km/h air-conditioned train.

Option 1, Vientiane to Luang Prabang by 160 km/h train

From 3 December 2021, a 160 km/h train links Vientiane & Luang Prabang twice a day in as little as 2 hours, see the Kunming-Boten-Luang Prabang - Vientiane section below.

Option 2, Vientiane to Luang Prabang by minivan

Vientiane to Luang Prabang by Chitpasong air-conditioned minivan takes 6h, departures at 08:00, 11:00, 13: 16:00.

Various companies also run buses, both air-con VIP daytime buses taking 10 hours, and overnight sleeper buses of varying quality.

Fare:  280,000 Kip by minivan.

How to buy tickets:  Book online at 12go.asia.

Option 3, Vientiane to Luang Prabang by river boat

Traveller's reports

Traveller John Dinger reports:  "My wife, son, and I took the Air Conditioned VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in July. I travel by train and bus whenever it's a viable option and time allows. I read so many reports that travelling 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."

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Bangkok to Vientiane by train

It's easy to travel from Bangkok to Vientiane (or vice versa) by train.  From 19 July 2024 there's a daily direct sleeper train with air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers, air-con 2nd class seas & 3rd class seats.  Or you can take a high-quality Chinese-built sleeper train with modern 1st class & 2nd class sleepers from Bangkok to Nong Khai then a train from Nong Khai to Vientiane.

Update 2024:  Until 18 July 2024, trains from Nong Khai only go as far as Thanaleng, 13 km short of Vientiane.  From 19 July 2024 the new direct Bangkok-Vientiane train starts and trains are extended to the new Vientiane Khamsavath station, also known as Vientiane-Tai, 7 km from downtown.  Location of new Vientiane station.

Timetable northbound starting 19 July 2024

 Bangkok ► Vientiane

Km

Train number:

77

25

133

147

Classes:

DRC

1,S,R

3,2,S,R

2,3

0

 Bangkok Krung Thep Aphiwat depart:

18:35

20:25

21:25

-

22

 Don Muang depart:

19:25

20:42

21:42

-

71

 Ayutthaya depart:

20:04

21:39

22:30

-

621

 Nong Khai arrive:

04:15

06:25

07:55

-

621

 Nong Khai depart:

-

 -

08:35

17:25

640?

 Vientiane Khamsavath/Tai station (see map):

-

-

09:05

17:55

Train 133 is the easiest option, it's direct from Bangkok to Vientiane starting 19 July 2024 with air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers (ex-Japanese Railways with a side corridor off which open door-less bays of 4 berths, 2 upper & 2 lower), air-conditioned 2nd class seats & non-air-con 3rd class seats.  If you get any good photos of this train inside or out which I could use, please get in touch!

Train 25 is a high-quality Chinese-built sleeper train with 1st class sleepers, 2nd class sleepers (air-con) & restaurant car.  You may prefer to use this train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, then train 133.

Train 77 = Diesel Railcar express with 2nd class air-conditioned seats, but not recommended as it runs overnight but has no sleepers, only seats.

Train 147 = 2nd class air-con & 3rd class non-air-con.  Starts from Udon Thani.

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..

Timetable southbound starting 19 July 2024

 Vientiane ► Bangkok

Train number:

148

26

134

76

Classes:

2,3

1,S,R

3,2,S,R

DRC

 Vientiane Khamsavath/Tai station (see map)

09:35

-

18:25

-

 Nong Khai (Thailand) arrive:

10:05

-

18:55

-

 Nong Khai depart:

-

19:40

20:15

07:45

 Ayutthaya arrive:

-

04:33

06:20

15:35

 Don Muang arrive:

-

05:33

07:13

16:19

 Bangkok Krung Thep Aphiwat arrive:

-

05:50

07:30

16:35

Train 134 is the easiest option, it's direct from Vientiane to Bangkok starting 19 July 2024 with air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers (ex-Japanese Railways with a side corridor off which open door-less bays of 4 berths, 2 upper & 2 lower), air-conditioned 2nd class seats & non-air-con 3rd class seats.  If you get any good photos of this train inside or out which I could use, please get in touch!

Train 26 is a high-quality Chinese-built sleeper train, with 1st class sleepers, 2nd class sleepers (air-con) & restaurant car.  You may prefer to change at Nong Khai and use this train from Nong Khai to Bangkok.

Train 76 = Diesel Railcar express with 2nd class air-conditioned seats, meals included.  If you prefer to travel by day you can stay overnight in Nong Khai and take this.

Train 148 = 2nd class air-con & 3rd class non-air-con, runs through to Udon Thani.

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..

 How much does it cost?

 In Thai baht, in either direction

1st class sleeper 

a/c express train 

2nd class sleeper 

a/c express train

2nd class seat

Air-con

3rd class seat

Non-air-con

 Bangkok to Vientiane by direct sleeper train

-

Upper berth 784

Lower berth 874

574 baht

281 baht

 Bangkok to Nong Khai by high-quality sleeper train

Upper berth 1,350

Lower berth 1,550

Single use 2,350

Upper berth 894

Lower berth 994

   

 Nong Khai to Vientiane by train

-

-

120 baht

70 baht

£1 = 44 baht.   €1 = 35 baht.  $1 = 33 baht.

Child fares:  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.

Border procedures

Procedures for the new direct train and for the new Vientiane station are not yet known.  Feedback appreciated.

How to buy tickets

To book trains 133/134 Bangkok-Vientiane (either direction):

Option 1, book at reliable agency 12go.asia.

You can book in multiple currencies, overseas credit cards accepted, you board with an e-ticket on your mobile.

Option 2, book on the SRT website www.dticket.railway.co.th, only in Thai baht.

To book trains 25/26 & 76/77 Bangkok-Nong Khai (either direction):

Option 1, book at reliable agency 12go.asia.

12go lets you book in multiple currencies, overseas credit cards accepted, you board with an e-ticket on your mobile.

Option 2, book with reliable agency www.baolau.com

Baolau lets you book in multiple currencies, overseas credit cards accepted, you board with an e-ticket on your mobile.

Option 3, book on the SRT website www.dticket.railway.co.th, only in Thai baht.

To book trains 133/134 & 147/158 Nong Khai-Vientiane (either direction):

Currently the only option is to book on the SRT website www.dticket.railway.co.th, in Thai baht.

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

Nong Khai to Vientiane using local transport

Nong Khai is just a few kilometres from the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River into Laos.  If the twice-daily trains don't suit you, you can travel between Nong Khai station and Vientiane at any time through the day, 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 minutes after leaving the bus station then crosses the Friendship Bridge to arrive at Lao customs & immigration some 10 minutes 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.

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Hanoi to Vientiane & Luang Prabang

You can take a bus from Hanoi to Vientiane or Luang Prabang, but bear in mind that it's a 20 hour ride to Vientiane or 23 hours to Luang Prabang - 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.  More recent reports say that things have improved, with better roads and there's a more modern bus with sleeper bunk on the Hanoi-Vientiane route, at least on three days a week.  An older bus, still with sleeper bunks, operates on the other days.  A daily bus operates Hanoi to Luang Prabang.  There are also buses from Hue and Danang to the border, for onward buses to Vientiane.

 Hanoi ► Vientiane or Luang Prabang

 

 Luang Prabang or Vientiane ► Hanoi

Bus type:

Modern

sleeper bus

Older

sleeper bus

Sleeper

bus

Bus type:

Modern

sleeper bus

Older

sleeper bus

Sleeper

bus

Days of running:

Tues, Thurs, Sat

Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

daily

Days of running:

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat

Wed, Fri, Sun

daily

 Hanoi depart:

18:00 day 1

18:00 day 1

18:00 day 1

 Luang Prabang dep.

-

-

18:00 day 1

 Vientiane arrive:

17:00 day 2

17:00 day 2

|

 Vientiane depart:

18:00 day 1

18:00 day 1

|

 Luang Prabang arr.

- -

19:00 day 2

 Hanoi arrive:

17:00 day 2

17:00 day 2

19:00 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.  If you use this route, feedback or photos would be appreciated!

 How much does it cost?

 Hanoi to Vientiane

$30 bought online from 12go.com.

550,000 dong (£19, $25) if bought locally.

The price is the same whichever type of bus you use.

 Vientiane to Hanoi

$30 bought online from 12go.com.

330,000 kip (£31, $41) if bought locally.

The price is the same whichever type of bus you use.

 Hanoi - Luang Prabang

$54 bought online from 12go.com

How to buy tickets

You can buy tickets online for these buses in either direction at 12go.com, a reliable online ticketing agency.

The bus company itself has no website, let alone online ticket sales, so either pre-book through 12go.com or 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!

Visas for Laos:  Check which border crossing your bus will use, and check that the crossing offers visa on arrival.  Some border points don't.

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Traveller's reports

Traveller Jonny Steph reports: "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. 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:  "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:  "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:  "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:  " 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." 

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Beijing & Kunming to Vientiane

A new Chinese-built standard-gauge line called the Laos-China Railway (LCR) opened on 3 December 2021, linking Vientiane, Luang Prabang and the Chinese border at Boten.  International trains started on 13 April 2023, linking Vientiane & Luang Prabang with Kunming in China.  Trains operate at up to 160 km/h in Laos between Vientiane, Luang Prabang & Boten, then at up to 200 km/h in China between Boten and Kunming.  More about the China-Laos Railway on Wikipedia.  It's the fastest & most comfortable way to travel between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, although buying a ticket can sometimes take longer than the train ride!

Note that visa-on-arrival for Laos is not available when arriving from China by train at Mo Han.  You can buy an e-visa at laoevisa.gov.la.

Laos-China Railway (LCR) 2024

 Vientiane ► Luang Prabang ► Kunming 

Train:

C86

D88

K12

C92

C82

C84

Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

Classes:

B, 1, 2

1, 2

S, H

B, 1, 2

B, 1, 2

B, 1, 2

0 km

 Vientiane depart:

07:30

08:08

09:10

10:35

13:05

15:55

123

 Vang Vieng arrive/depart:

08:26

09:03

10:38

11:47

14:01

17:08

239

 Luang Prabang arrive:

09:16

09:53

12:08

12:39

15:04

18:16

239

 Luang Prabang depart:

09:33

09:57

12:05

-

15:10

-

339

 Muang Xai arrive/depart:

10:19

|

13:15

-

15:58

-

406

 Boten (Laos border) arrive:

-

11:07

14:40

-

16:36

-

406

 Boten (Laos border) depart:

-

12:07

-

-

-

-

419

 Mo Han (China border) depart:

-

13:19

-

-

-

-

419

 Mo Han (China border) depart:

-

14:19

-

-

-

-

1000

 Kunming arrive:

-

18:34

-

-

-

-

 Kunming ► Luang Prabang ► Vientiane 

Train:

C85

C91

D87

K11

C83

C81

Days of running:

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

daily

Classes:

B, 1, 2

B, 1, 2

1, 2

S, H

B, 1, 2

B, 1, 2

 Kunming South (Nan) depart:

-

-

08:08

-

-

-

 Mo Han (China border) arrive:

-

-

12:23

-

-

-

 Mo Han (China border) depart:

-

-

13:23

-

-

-

 Boten (Laos border) arrive:

-

-

12:35

-

-

-

 Boten (Laos border) depart:

-

-

13:35

15:40

-

18:20

 Muang Xai arrive/depart:

-

-

|

16:47

-

19:02

 Luang Prabang arrive:

-

-

14:45

17:53

-

19:46

 Luang Prabang depart:

10:20

13:20

14:49

18:01

19:10

19:52

 Vang Vieng arrive/depart:

11:13

14:28

15:41

19:19

20:06

20:46

 Vientiane arrive:

12:12

15:23

16:34

20:38

21:03

21:38

Notes for timetable

The best place to check these times is at the Laos Railway's Facebook page,  www.facebook.com/LaosChinaRailway.

All times are local time, there's a 1 hour the time difference between Laos & China:  Laos = GMT+7, China = GMT+8.

If you have more information or have any photos, please get in touch!

B = Business class.  1 = 1st class.  2 = 2nd class.  S = Soft sleeper (day mode).  H = Hard class seat.

C81-C84 = Express trains, Business class, 1st class, 2nd class (Business class = premium 1st class).

D887, D888 = International express train, 1st & 2nd class.

K11/K12 = ordinary train with soft sleepers (used in day mode as 4-seat compartments) and hard class seats.

Vientiane station is some 14 km from central Vientiane, about 30 minutes by taxi, see location map

Luang Prabang station is some 12 km from central Luang Prabang, about 25 minutes by taxi, see location map.

For trains between Beijing & Kunming, see the Train travel in China page.

 How much does it cost?

 Vientiane to Luang Prabang

 by fast trains C81-C92

 975,000 kip Business class

 522,000 kip 1st class

 330,000 kip 2nd class

 Vientiane to Luang Prabang

 by slow trains K11/K12

 579,000 kip in soft sleeper

 234,000 kip in hard class seat

 Vientiane to Kunming

 2,592,000 kip 1st class

 1,626,000 kip 2nd class

$1 = 20,500 kip.  £1 = 26,000 kip.

How to buy tickets

What are the trains like?

Laos trains C81 to C84 are streamlined air-conditioned 8-car electric unit built in China, a version of the Chinese CR200J, maximum service speed 160 km/h.  1 x 1st class car, 1 catering car, 6 x 2nd class cars, see the photos below.  Train K11/K12 is a 2nd class only ordinary train, maximum service speed 120 km/h.

The Laos-Luang Prabang-China fast train   Laos-Luang Prabang fast train

The Vientiane-Luang Prabang fast train.

Courtesy of H.M. Ambassador to Laos, John Pearson.

 

Boarding the train.

1st class seats on the fast train from Vientiane to Luang Prabang   1st class seats on the fast train from Vientiane to Luang Prabang

1st class.  Courtesy of Paul Kim.

 

2nd class.  Courtesy of Paul Kim.

Business class seats on the fast train from Vientiane to Luang Prabang   1st class seats on the fast train from Vientiane to Luang Prabang

Business class.  Courtesy of Mark Prior.

 

Business class lounge.  Courtesy of Mark Prior.

What are the stations like?

These are new stations, built for the new railway and located a little way out of town.  Vientiane station is 14 km from central Vientiane, about 30 minutes by taxi, see location map.  Luang Prabang station is 12 km from central Luang Prabang, about 25 minutes by taxi, see location map

There is a security check to enter the station, knives and so on (even small Swiss army knives) will be confiscated, as will any alcohol, or hand gel/insect repellent/deodorant/hand sanitiser if they are marked as flammable.  There is then a ticket check onto the platform to board the train, boarding usually takes place from 30 minutes before departure until 5 minutes before.

It's a good idea to buy food & drink for the journey before entering the station, inside the station after the security check there are toilets, seats & water and a small sandwich shop.

Vientiane station

Vientiane station.  Photo courtesy of Alan Seah.

Vientiane ticket office   Boarding at Vientiane

At Vientiane ticket office (above left), an electronic display shows availability in each class on each of that day's trains.  It switches between local script and English.  Above right, passengers wait until boarding is called.  Photos courtesy of @Travel Lexx.

Inside Vientiane station   Luang Prabang station

Inside Vientiane station. Courtesy of Alan Seah.

 

Luang Prabang station. Courtesy of Alan Seah.

Travellers' reports

Traveller Tim van den Bogaard reports:  "Security at the stations is apparently outsourced to a Chinese company and it's definitely not funny. Every item in your luggage that has a flammable icon will be taken from you. This also means deodorants and hairsprays. There were not a lot of westerners but every time a tuktuk full of westerners passed security they could start a drug store next door. The part from Vientiane to Vang Vieng is very scenic, especially on the right hand side (coming from Vientiane). The part between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang is basically just one big tunnel with a glimpse of sunlight and spectacular mountain scenery every now and then."

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Europe to Laos by Trans-Siberian Railway

Update 2024:  The war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia means there are currently no trains from western Europe to Moscow, Moscow-Beijing Trans-Siberian trains also remain suspended.  But for the record, here's how you could reach Laos overland before the war and pre-pandemic:

If you have the time (we're talking 14 days), it's possible to reach Laos overland from London or anywhere else in Europe, by train from London to Moscow, then the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing.

When Covid recedes and cross-border services begin, you will be able to take a Beijing-Kunming train then the new fast rail link from Kunming via Boten to Luang Prabang & Vientiane, see the China-Vientiane section above.

Alternatively, you can take the twice-weekly Beijing-Hanoi soft sleeper train or a daily Beijing-Nanning train and the daily Nanning-Hanoi sleeper (both suspended due to Covid).  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.

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Hotels & accommodation

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

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 and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  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 with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from buy from Amazon.com.

 


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