Getting to Vientiane
By Air (International)
The number of flights and airlines landing at Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport continues to increase, and they are arriving from more destinations including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and southern China. Airlines offering direct flights include Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Silk Air, AirAsia, Thai Smile, and Jin Air. Many global cities are just one stop away. Visas on arrival are available. For an up-to-date timetable, visit Getting to Laos by Air.
By Air (Domestic)
Lao Airlines operates domestic flights to Vientiane from 6 popular provinces.
Luang Prabang: three direct flights depart daily to Vientiane at 07:40, 13:05, and 18:45.
Pakse: one daily direct flight departs at 12:30. A Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday flight departs at 14:20, and a flight departs on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 17:30, with a stop to pick up passengers in Savannakhet at 16:20.
Luang Namtha: one daily direct flight departs at 15:55.
Oudomxay: one daily direct flight departs at 13:00.
Xieng Khouang: one daily direct flight (except Saturday) departs at 16:30.
Lao Skyway lies from 7 provinces to the nation’s capital.
Bokeo (Houay Xay): daily direct flights depart at 10:20.
Luang Namtha: daily direct flights depart at 16:30.
Luang Prabang: daily direct flights depart at 13:30.
Oudomxay: flights depart on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 16:30.
Phongsaly: flights depart on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 15:10.
Houaphanh: flights depart every day except Sunday at 10:40 (Monday) and 11:10 Tuesday-Saturday).
Xieng Khouang: Three Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 15:15
Bangkok/Nong Khai to Vientiane
All direct overland travel between Thailand and Vientiane funnels through Nong Khai and the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 1.
The sleeper train has long been a favourite to the border. The new modern train departs Bangkok at 20:00, with brief stops at Khon Kaen and Udon Thani, before arriving at Nong Khai at 08:25. A berth in a private twin-share cabin costs ฿1,217, and the popular 2nd-class cars offer bunks for between ฿498 and ฿778, depending on air-con or fan and upper or lower beds. Seats in 2nd and 3rd class cost ฿200-500. The older overnight train departs at 18:40 and arrives at 07:35 for slightly lower prices. The day train, departing at 08:20 and arriving at 17:45, offers 2nd-class seats for ฿325. Be aware that the “ordinary” day train can arrive after the bridge shuttle closes, especially during the rainy season. However, taxis and tuk tuks await to take you across the bridge to Laos, or you’ll have to spend a night in Nong Khai.
Upon arrival at the Nong Khai Train Station, passengers have two choices for crossing to Vientiane. A Lao-bound train at the end of the platform crosses the bridge for the 15-minute ride to the Thanaleng Station checkpoint for ฿20. The train departs in morning train around 09:00, depending on the arrival time of the second overnight train from Bangkok, and again at 14:45. From Thanaleng, tuk tuks and vans are available for the 20-km ride to Vientiane. Negotiate for the price, and expect to pay ฿350-600.
The second option is to take a tuk tuk for ฿20-40 to the Friendship Bridge. After going through Thai immigration, a shuttle bus crosses the bridge for ฿20. The ticket booth is on the right after exiting the checkpoint building. On the Lao side, tuk tuks, taxis, and vans are available for the ride to the city. The going rate is usually around ฿300-500, depending on the time of day and number of people in the vehicle. The green coach to Vientiane’s Talat Sao Bus Station, which parks to the right of the immigration exit, makes the trip for LAK6,000 with ongoing departures throughout the day, though the last bus leaves before 18:00.
Fly & Ride
The hot new ticket from Bangkok to Laos is on a low-cost flight to Udon Thani and a minivan ride to the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge and immigration. Some 15 flights depart daily from both Bangkok airports for the 1-hour flight. Thai Lion, Nok Air, Thai Smile, and Thai AirAsia kick off flights at 05:15, with the last plane leaving at 20:30. All carriers offer special deals throughout the year, with ticket prices as low as ฿1,000.
A variety of transportation choices greet you at the airport. If your airline doesn’t offer a shuttle service, the airport limousine service sells seats in its transfer minivan at the taxi counter for ฿150 for the 60-km (approx. 1 hour) drive to the bridge. You can also take a private taxi for ฿600. Taxis are available to take you all the way to Vientiane, but the price approaches ฿2,500. Once at the bridge, follow the train and bus crowd through immigration, and bridge and city transport.
International bus service from Bangkok to Vientiane is limited to one a day and costs about ฿1,000. The VIP coach departs Morchit at 20:00 every evening and reaches the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai at about 07:00. After immigration stops on both sides of the bridge, the bus continues to Vientiane’s downtown Talat Sao Bus Terminal.
A handful of public busses depart from Morchit, mostly between 19:00 and 21:45, with seats ranging from ฿350 to ฿450, while a 1st Class bus departs at 20:30 for ฿700. More popular are private VIP coaches, with more than 10 departing from Morchit from 07:00 to 21:00, though most leave in the evening for the 11-hour overnight drive to the Nong Khai Bus Station. From here, you can catch the Nong Khai-Vientiane International Bus to Talat Sao for ฿55. These busses leave at 07:30, 09:30, 12.40, 14:30, 15:30, and 18:00, and wait at the border checkpoints for you to pass through immigration.
Editor’s suggestion: Take the overnight train from Bangkok in a 2nd-class sleeper. From the Nong Khai station, grab a shared tuk tuk to the bridge, and once through immigration catch the green bus to Talat Sao and a tuk tuk to your hotel or guesthouse…though the Udon flight and transfer is a close runner up.
Thai Provinces by Bus
Nakhon Ratchasima: one bus departs daily for the 6.5 hour trip at 09:00 for about $10.
Khon Kaen: two busses depart daily at 07:45 and 15:15 for the 4 hour trip for about $7.
Udon Thani: eight busses depart daily between 08:00-18:00 for about $2.50.
Nong Khai: six busses depart daily between 07:30-18:00 for the brief cross-border trip for less than $2.
By Bus (Domestic)
From the South
Busses arrive from Southern Laos at Vientiane’s Southern Bus Terminal, which is about 12 km northeast of the city on Kaysone Phomvihane Avenue (Route 13 South) just past the National Convention Centre. A public bus (Bus #29, LAK 4,000) is available to shuttle passengers between the Southern Bus Terminal and Central Bus Terminal at Talat Sao. Vans to the city centre from southern provinces are often available and can be booked at travel agents.
Thakaek (Khammouane): busses depart four times a day throughout the morning and early afternoon for up to LAK60,000.
Konglor Cave (Khammouane): one bus departs daily from Konglor to Vientiane. Check the schedule at the bus station.
Savannakhet: eight local and express busses depart daily throughout the morning for the approximately 10-hour trip for LAK75,000-90,000. A VIP sleeper departs at 20:30 for LAK120,000.
Pakse: eight local busses depart throughout the day for the 710-km journey for LAK110,000. Five express/sleeper busses leave every evening for LAK140,000-170,000.
Salavan: a local bus departs at 16:30 for LAK130,000, an express bus departs at 19:30 for LAK160,00, and a VIP coach leaves at 20:30 for LAK 190,000, for the 830-km trip.
Sekong: a local bus departs in the early morning for LAK130,000, a VIP sleeper leaves at 20:30 for LAK210,000, and an express bus departs at 21:30 for LAK 160,000 for the 855-km journey.
Attapeu: two local busses depart at 09:30 and 17:30 for LAK140,000, and a VIP sleeper bus leaves at 20:30 for LAK 220,000. The trip is 879 km.
From the North
Busses arrive from northern provinces at Vientiane’s Northern Bus Terminal, which is about 12 km northeast of the city on Sithong Road past Wattay Airport. A public bus (Route 08, LAK5,000) is available to shuttle passengers between the Northern Bus Terminal and Central Bus Terminal at Talat Sao. Vans are often available from the provinces and can be booked at travel agents.
Luang Prabang: more than 10 busses depart Luang Prabang to Vientiane throughout the day and into the evening. Prices for local busses are LAK110,000, VIP coach tickets cost LAK130,000, and sleepers cost LAK150,000. The trip takes between 8-10 hours, depending on the class. Seats in vans can be booked at travel agents for LAK150,000.
Xieng Khouang (Phonsavanh): five busses depart throughout the day to Vientiane for the 10-hour trip. Prices range between LAK110,000-130,000, depending on the class. A sleeper coach departs at 20:00 for LAK 150,000.
Houaphanh (Xam Neua): three local busses depart daily for Vientiane in the morning for LAK170,00, a VIP bus leaves at 17:00 for LAK190,000, and a sleeper coach departs at 14:00 for LAK210,000.
Luang Namtha: local busses depart daily for Vientiane at 08:30 and 17:00 for LAK200,000.
Oudomxay: local busses depart daily for Vientiane at 06:45, 13:45, and 17:00 for LAK170,000, and a VIP sleeper coach leaves at 16:00 for LAK190,000.
Sayabouly: busses depart daily for Vientiane at 09:00, 16:00, 18:00 for LAK90,000-110,000, while vans depart at 08:00 and 19:00 for LAK 150,000. Vans are also available from Paklay at 07:00, 08:00, 09:00, and 11:00 for LAK100,000.
Bokeo (Houay Xay): a local bus departs daily for Vientiane at 17:30 for LAK230,000, and a VIP sleeper coach leaves at 10:00 for LAK250,000.
Phongsaly: a local bus departs daily for Vientiane at 07:15 for LAK210,000, and a VIP sleeper leaves at 18:00 for LAK230,000.
Xaysomboun: one bus departs daily for Vientiane at 07:30 for LAK 80,000.
Note: Schedules and prices are subject to change.