Laos: Local Travel Info
Southeast Asia?s most pristine environment
Internal flights and major international airports in Laos
Unless you are in a country that borders Laos, you will need to travel to Bangkok usually to then change flights to Laos. Laos has only three international airports:
Wattay International in Vientiane; Luang Prabang International in Luang Prabang and Pakse International in Pakse. Laos Airlines is the national carrier and monopolises many of the flights in and out of the country, though it does code-share with more famous neighbouring airlines.
Getting to and from the airports
Wattay International is only located 2 miles from Vientian. The best way to the city is by taxi, which can be found outside Arrivals. Laos has over the past few years, began enjoying increased services from private bus companies, where some of the country had been previously inaccessible. As such you may be able to get a bus from the airport to the city. Luang Prabang International currently only serves one international airline – Bangkok-based Angel Air, which is the only way to fly into this airport. From there you can take a taxi into Luang Prabang or get a bus if available.
Travel Costs in Laos
With more than 4600km of rivers in Laos, these are the traditional highways and byways and the best way to navigate the country. Tourist boats will start from the usual 2 or 3 Euros up, depending on the distance; you can also take river taxis for around 4 Euros an hour for 8-10 person capacity. Buses can be taken either via local buses which are very cheap indeed. You can also get VIP buses which cost around 1.5 Euros per 100km. Much more pricey than their local competitors, but with the added bonus of luxury travel and air conditioning. Taxis are in circulation, including three-wheeled ones. These don’t have a set price and especially in tourist areas, you are best negotiating what you can.
Renting Cars in Laos
Chinese and Japanese-made 100 and 110cc motorbikes can be hired for around 15 Euros per day in most large centres. In Vientiane, Pakse and Vang Vieng 250cc dirt bikes are available to hire around 18 Euros a day. It’s possible to hire a self-drive vehicle, but when you consider that a driver usually costs no more, takes responsibility for damage and knows where he’s going, it seems pointless. Informal charters can be arranged almost anywhere, with small Japanese pick-ups going for between 35 Euros and 90 Euros per day, depending on where you’re going; the rougher the road, the higher the price.
To book car rental in Laos online, view our Car Hire section for Laos. We offer Ok Alpha users the latest special offers and best rates available for car hire in Laos. We advise you book your Laos hire car in advance so you can pick it up and drop it off directly at the airport.
Drivers’ License Requirements in Laos
Driving in Laos is easier than you’d expect and rental companies won’t ask for anything remarkable. A valid drivers’ license, passport and tourist visa/clearance is all you’ll need in terms of paperwork and the agreed levels of deposit and insurance. Be sure to check what your insurance covers though, especially if you’re hiring a motorbike.
Driving Rules in Laos
There’s nothing really to note here other than Laos drives on the right and the national speed limit is 40km/h. You will soon realize why this relatively slow limit is in place, due to the condition of some of the roads, particularly in the north. One bizarre ethos that will soon become apparent is the complete disregard for who is behind you. In other words, whoever you are behind, you need to drive like they do to avoid accidents. You’ve been warned!
Buses in Laos
Minibuses are quicker and more expensive, however that doesn't mean they are necessarily better. A typical VIP Bus is just an old bus by Western standards, and may be more prone to breakdowns, but they usually have more leg room which can make a long journey much more comfortable. Both types are usually air conditioned. Local buses are slightly less reliable and private buses tend to have more normalized routes. Either way you can get about to most of Laos by bus.
Taxis in Laos
A common form of local transport (less than 20 km) in Laos is the jumbo, a motorized three-wheeler mostly referred to as a tuk-tuk like in Thailand, although jumbos are somewhat larger. These are also known as taxis and, more amusingly, skylabs - after a perceived resemblance to a space capsule. A jumbo should cost no more than 10,000 kip (less than 1 Euro) for short journeys of 1-5 km.
Cycling in Laos
The stunning roads and light, relatively slow traffic in most towns and on most highways make Laos arguably the best country for cycling in Southeast Asia. Several tour agencies and guesthouses offer mountain biking tours, ranging in duration from a few hours to several weeks. Simple single-speed bicycles with names like Hare, Crocodile and Rabbit can be hired in most places that see a decent number of tourists, usually costing less than 1 Euro per day. Mountain bikes can be hired in a few places, including Luang Nam Tha, Vientiane, Vang Vieng and even Khoun Kham, for between 2-4 Euros per day.
Water transport in Laos
With over 4600km of rivers, this used to be the way to get about in Laos. These days, with the construction of roads replacing the rivers, you will be lucky to find a local boat as commercial boats are mainly aimed at sightseeing. For shorter river trips, such as Luang Prabang to the Pak Ou Caves, it’s usually best to hire a river taxi. The héua hang nyáo (longtail boats) are the most typical, though for a really short trip (eg crossing a river) a héua phái (rowboat) or one of the small improvised ferries can be hired. The héua hang nyáo are around 4 Euros an hour for a boat with an 8-10 person capacity. Larger boats that carry up to 20 passengers are sometimes available for about 7 Euros per hour, although higher tourist prices are often applied, and prices go up with fuel consumption if you’re heading upriver when the river is at full flood.
Hitch hiking in Laos
Although not recommended (as always), hitching is certainly popular in Laos and slightly common. Cars with red on yellow (private hire) and blue on white license plates (depending on the capability of your vision) are best to target as they are more likely to be friendly. Long-distance cargo vehicles are always a good bet too.