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Getting Around Laos

Transport in Laos is not the most efficient, punctual or reliable with frequent break downs and delays. Timetables are more a guideline and most transport is overcrowded. However the scenery is spectacular so sit back an enjoy the journey!


Laos has a small domestic network connecting the main cities. Flights can be expensive compared with ground transport but will save some lengthy journeys. The safety record of Lao Airlines has improved dramatically in recent years and the fleet is as modern as any in the region.


Bus travel in Laos is a test of patience at the best of times. While VIP buses run the major routes, these are still dilapidated coaches with broken suspension. The overland journey from Luang Prabang to the capital twists and turns through stunning karst scenery - it's 200km in a straight line but 390km by road - and takes at least 10 hours no matter what travels agents will tell you!

Bus transport in more rural areas is even more of an adventure with locals bringing everything on board with them. There's also no such thing as a full bus - plastic seats fill the aisle and then it's standing room only!

Even timetabled buses tend to leave when full so can be late setting off - or more often early.


River travel was always the traditional way of getting around the country, although this is declining as roads improve. Some out of the way destinations are still only accessible by boat. The 2 day journey to Luang Prabang from the Thai border by slow boat is a popular trip passing remote communities dependent on the river. Speed boats are a faster alternative for passengers but these are very uncomfortable and have an alarming safety record.

Local Transport

Most local transport is by tuk-tuk or jumbo which run as shared taxis. Tuk tuks are bigger than their Thai counterparts holding 8 people, while a jumbo is a homemade three wheeler, welded to the side of a motorbike.