LivingTravelTips for traveling to each place in Laos

Tips for traveling to each place in Laos

When choosing between flights to Laos, you need to consider not only the price, but also, depending on how long you have, which parts of the country you want to see.

While flights to the capital Vientiane will undoubtedly be cheaper, you will face a long overland bus ride on mountainous roads to visit Luang Prabang in the north or Si Phan Don (The 4000 Islands) in the south.

Route 13 through Laos

Although the main north-south highway through Laos has improved over the years, many travelers would agree that ’13’ is an appropriate number for the notorious highway. As you take the narrow and mountainous connector between Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, offering you beautiful scenery and the opportunity to at least pass small towns, the journey can be a spooky experience.

The freedom fighters who once stole the buses are gone, but Route 13 is still littered with high-speed buses and reckless drivers moving around hairpin turns; shipwrecks are not uncommon. Some locals and travelers even refuse to travel the highway by bus and instead opt for cheap flights between Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Flights to Vientiane

Flying to the capital of Laos is undoubtedly the easiest option, if not the cheapest, to enter the country. Wattay International Airport (airport code: VTE) is conveniently located just two miles from the city and handles the most flights to Laos.

Vientiane Airport receives flights from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Bangkok, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and other points in Laos. AirAsia, the leading budget airline in Asia, operates cheap flights from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

Starting your journey in Vientiane is the most logical entry point, however you will have to catch a quick flight or take a long bus along Route 13 to see Luang Prabang.

Flights to Luang Prabang

If the main purpose of your visit to Laos is to see Luang Prabang, the famous cultural capital on the Mekong River, you may consider flying to the small airport there.

Luang Prabang International Airport (airport code: LPQ) was once considered a relatively dangerous place to land due to the approach through mountainous terrain. The small airport has undergone numerous expansions and runway extensions. You can fly directly to Luang Prabang from Thailand, Hanoi (Vietnam), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Yunnan (China) and other parts of Laos.

If you plan to take advantage of the great trekking in Luang Namtha, you will want to fly to Luang Prabang and take the bus north.

Vang Vieng airport

Ironically, Vang Vieng is built on an old secret CIA airstrip that was once used for covert missions during the Vietnam War, but there is no airport nearby. To visit Vang Vieng, you will need to fly to Vientiane and then take one of the many minivans or tour buses going north.

Flights to Si Phan Don

If you want to enjoy the backpacker atmosphere and see the pink dolphins among the islands of the Laos River (the 4000 islands), you’d better fly into Pakse International Airport (airport code: PKZ) in the south of the country. The small airfield is used by the military, but it also handles flights from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang in Vietnam, Siem Reap in Cambodia, and other locations in Laos.

Get to Phonsavan

To see the ancient Plain of Jars near Phonsavan, you will probably have to arrive by bus. While the small airstrip at Phonsavan (airport code: XKH) has a handful of flights from Vientiane per week, schedules are irregular and flights are often canceled.

You can get to Phonsavan by bus from Vientiane or Luang Prabang, however Luang Prabang is closer to seeing the Plain of Jars.

Getting to Laos from Thailand

While there are many cheap flights available from Bangkok to Vientiane, Luang Prabang and even Pakse, you can also go overland, by bus or by boat, from Thailand. If time is not a problem and you are leaving Pai, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand, reaching Luang Prabang by boat can be a unique experience with incredible Mekong landscapes to enjoy.

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