Flag of Laos

Luang Prabang

Getting there and away

Air

The small Luang Prabang airport (airport code LPQ) is located four kilometres from the city centre. Like the city itself, the airport is a throwback to simpler times with a single terminal, single runway and outdoor waiting area. As of 2013, an expansion was underway and due to finish soon.

Lao Airlines flies domestically to Vientiane (four flights daily) and Pakse (daily). Internationally, Lao Airlines links Luang Prabang to Siem Reap (daily), Hanoi (daily), and two destinations in Thailand: Bangkok (daily) and Chiang Mai (daily).

Bangkok Airways flies to Bangkok twice a day. Fares are higher than Lao Airlines, but passengers can wait for their boarding time in the lovely Bangkok Airways lounge.

Vietnam Airlines also serves Siem Reap and Hanoi from Luuang Prabang.

Bangkok Airways
Airport office: (071) 253 334
http://www.bangkokair.com

Lao Airlines
Airport office: (071) 212 173
http://www.laoairlines.com

Vietnam Airlines
Airport office T: (071) 213 048
http://www.vietnamairlines.com

Updates from Travelfish readers

  • Actually, Lao Airlines now has a more modern fleet than Bangkok Airways - average fleet age 3.3 years (vs 6.6) according to http://aerotransport.org/php/go.php?query=operator&qstring=Lao+Airlines&where=112011&luck=

    Update by BC (2)
    Written on 5th June, 2012

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Bus

The bus situation in Luang Prabang can get a little confusing. There are two main bus stations, one serving destinations to the north and the other for destinations to the south. Minivans, the transport generally preferred by tourists, leave from a separate station near the southern station, technically increasing the number of bus stations to three.

Bus departures are subject to random changes to time and point of departure, and this combined with the ever-rising fee to get to the bus station means that, unless you're a diehard do-it-yourselfer or in a group, arranging transport through your guesthouse or a tour agency and paying a small commission usually equals out.

If you book through a third party, the ticket price will include pick-up from your guesthouse and transportation to the correct bus station. Minivan prices quoted at the minivan station are inclusive of hotel pickup and a discount is not provided if you are making your own way to the station.

Transport, particularly minivans, is often filled to capacity and then some, so arrive early. Arriving early means you have a better choice of seats and won't end up squished in the front next to the driver. Leave a bag of non-valuable belongings on your seat to reserve it if you don't want to sit there until departure time.

For traffic to and from the north, use Kiew Lot Sai Nuan station:
Northern Bus Terminal T: (071) 252 729


Huay Xai (local) Departs 17:30, costs 120,000 kip, takes 13-15 hours
Huay Xai (VIP) Departs 19:00, costs 145,000 kip, takes 12-15 hours
Luang Nam Tha (local) Departs 09:00, 17:30, costs 90,000 kip, takes 9-10 hours
Nong Kiaow Departs 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, costs 40,000 kip, takes 3 hours
Phongsali Departs 17:30, costs 130,000 kip, takes 14-16 hours
Sam Neua Departs 17:30, costs 140,000 kip, takes 14-16 hours
Udomxai (local) Departs at 09:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:30 costs 55,000 kip, takes 5-6 hours


For traffic to and from the South, use Naluang station
Southern Bus Terminal T: (071) 232 066


Vang Vieng (Express) Departs 09:30, costs 105,000 kip, takes 6-7 hours
Vang Vieng (VIP) Departs 12:30, costs 130,000 kip, takes 6-7 hours
Vientiane (Express) & Vang Vieng Departs 06:30, 07:30, 08:30, 11:00, 14:00, 16:30, 18:30, costs 110,000 kip, takes 8-10 hours
Vientiane (VIP) & Vang Vieng Departs 08:00 and 09:00, 19:30, costs 130,000 kip, takes 8 hours
Xieng Khuang/Phonsavan (express) Departs 08:30, costs 95,000 kip, takes 10 hours
*** Note you pay the same price for the VIP/Express whether you go to Vang Vieng or Vientiane


Minibuses
Naluang Mini Bus station: (071) 212 979

Some of those buses are minivans and some are regular tourists buses.


Chiang Mai 18:00, 265,000 kip, 18 hours
Hanoi 18:00, 350,000 kip, 24 hours
Kunming 07:00, 420,000 kip, 24 hours
Luang Nam Tha 08:30, 110,000 kip, 8 hours
Nong Khiaw 09:00, 55,000 kip, 3 hours
Phonsavan 09:00, 105,000 kip , 8 hours
Vang Vieng08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 14:00, 15:00, costs 100,000 kip, takes 6-7 hours
Vientiane 08:00, 155,000 kip, 9 hours


The above trip times are estimates, based on best case scenarios. Landslides and other hiccups frequently cause delays, particularly during the wet season.

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Boat

Boats are a scenic way to travel around northern Laos and a refreshing alternative to long, bumpy bus rides. From Luang Prabang it is no longer possible to travel on the Nam Ou River to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi due to dam construction, but boats still run up the Mekong to Huay Xai and the Thai border via Pakbeng.

The popular border crossing between Laos and northeast Thailand is also the most popular river trip in Southeast Asia: Luang Prabang to Pakbeng to Huay Xai. There are three options for this trip: speedboat, slowboat, and luxury cruise.

The speedboat is by far the fastest and does the whole trip in about six hours: approximately three hours for each leg with a brief stop in Pakbeng. The ride is rough and noisy, but an absolute thrill. Many people consider it to be dangerous, and passengers are given lifejackets and helmets. If you do decide to take it, earplugs and water-proofing your bags are a must. Speedboats depart at 08:00 from the pier at Ban Don outside town. It takes about 10 minutes to reach by a tuk tuk who will ask for at least 50,000 kip for two passengers. From a tour agency tickets cost 400,000 kip or, if you only want to go halfway to Pakbeng, it's 280,000 kip. Some agencies will include minivan transport to the pier.

The more popular and cheaper option is the daily "backpacker ferry" which does the trip over a leisurely two days. The boat departs from the pier near the Royal Museum at 08:00 and arrives in Pakbeng around 17:30. After overnighting in Pakbeng, the boat continues to Huay Xai at 08:30 the next morning.

Slowboat tickets can be bought near the pier or from any tour agency in town and cost 110,000 kip to Pakbeng, where onward tickets can be bought for Huay Xai. There is no limit to the number of tickets that are sold and it can sometimes be packed to the rafters. The designated boat for each day varies and, as the boats are individually owned, the quality varies and there's no way to know which boat you'll get. A cushion is a solid investment.

The slowboat has been known not to run when river levels are particularly low. Check in advance of your journey in the dry season.

The decadent option is to go by luxury slow boat with Luangsay for a two- or three-day leisure cruise. The two-day cruise departs Luang Prabang on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays during the high season or Wednesdays and Saturdays from May through September.

The cruise includes all meals, coffee/tea/drinking water, accommodation in Pakbeng, an English-speaking guide, a tour of the Pak Ou Caves and a hilltribe village, plus assistance crossing the Lao/Thai border. On the overnight stop in Pakbeng, guests stay in teak bungalows at the luxurious Luangsay Lodge in the forest in the forest outside town. Prices are US$393 to $491 for twin-occupancy, depending on the season.

The three-day option departs every Monday, Tuesday and Friday during the high season, and on Tuesdays and Fridays during low season from May to September. It follows the same route with an extra overnight stop in a Khamu village and costs $545 to $681 at time of writing. Late booking specials are sometimes available. Enquire by visiting their website or contacting a travel agency in Luang Prabang.

Regular passenger ferries no longer run between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

Slowboat
T: (071) 252 389
Pakbeng Departs at 08:30, costs 110,000 kip from the pier
Pak Ou Cave Departs at 08:00, costs 65,000 kip from the pier

Speed Boat
T: (071) 212 237
Huay Xay Departs at 08:00, costs 400,000 kip
Pakbeng Departs at 08:00, costs 280,000 kip

Luangsay Cruises
50/4 Sakkarine Rd, Ban Wat Sene, Luang Prabang
T: (071) 252 553
F: (071) 252 304
http://www.luangsay.com

Updates from Travelfish readers

  • The showboat no departs from the same pier as the speed boats. This is a 15/20 minute tuk tuk ride from the Town. Please don't make the same mistake as me by going to the old pier and nearly missing the boat. I travelled in Jan 2014 and tickets are still 110,000K for each leg of the journey. Both days the boat took 9hours arriving at dusk. There were plenty of seats but do take something to eat because refreshments on board consisted of over priced bags of crisps.
    If you have time this is a great way to travel although by the end of day 2 I was glad to arrive!

    Update by mjcaines (1)
    Written on 4th February, 2014

  • Slow boat from Huay Xai, now costs 220,000k (Feb 2012), at the office (no agencies). The first way to Pakbeng is in between 6 and 7 horus. The following day it departs at 9 am, but it stops everywhere (the trip is for about 8 or 9 hours), and the captain lets everybody gets into the boat on the way. So keep your seat, otherwise you will have to sit on the floor or beside the noisy and hot engine.. Many people says that if you complain about that they have to use another boat, but that can happen in Huay Xai, where there is a control about it. Gerenerally from there 2 boats depart, and from Pakbeng is just 1.

    Update by colucadormida (1)
    Written on 28th February, 2012

  • Slow boat tickets from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang cost 200,000 kip (November 2010) if bought at the official ticket office near the peer. Travel agents in Huay Xai charge anywhere from 240,000 to 265,000.

    Update by immi (2)
    Written on 1st December, 2010

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Getting Around

Luang Prabang is a small enough town that all the main sights and eateries are within walking distance of one another.

Updates from Travelfish readers

  • The Shompoo Cruise company is fairly new, and offers a slowboat luxury option for 140 USD/person for the two day cruise stopping in Pakbeng (with no accommodation) up to 200 USD/person for high end accommodation in Pakbeng at the Pakbeng Lodge. For a couple, that ends up costing 120 USD for the hotel with dinner and breakfast included. If you don't want to pay for expensive room, just walk up the road in Pakbeng and find a guesthouse for roughly 12 USD/night and breakfast for 2 USD in the morning.

    The service is good though - a good lunch, great guide, water, coffee and tea - and the reliability compared to the other lower-end slowboats might be worth the extra cost. We met a couple crossing over the border who took the lower-end slowboat option instead and they arrived in Pakbeng hours after we did, and with many more headaches. We took the cruise January 14-15 2014 and were impressed with the professional staff.

    Update by chiny (2)
    Written on 15th January, 2014

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