If you're overlanding, allow at least two days for the full trip -- see the Visa and border crossing FAQ for more info, as there are a couple of different options for this route.
#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,737
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Given your limited time frame, FLY! Both Lao Airlines and Vietnam Airlines with Lao being cheaper even though they codeshare.
#3 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
I did the reverse of the journey and SomTam is wrong. It takes TWO full days from HaNOi to LPB (stopover at SonLa). A full day from DBP to Muang Khua , and a full day from Muang Khua to Luang Prabang (via Oudom Xay).
Anyone have advice on finding a cheap flight from Hanoi to LP? I'm hoping to avoid the long overland journey but all I'm finding are prices like $190 (Lao Airlines) and $278 (Vietnam Airlines) - both a bit more than I thought they would be. Searches on Kayak, Opodo etc aren't throwing up any options. Wondering if the Discovery Airpass would be better option - anyone used this? Tips! Also been warned of very old (ie unsafe) planes and excessive delays with Lao Air?
#6 sarahandjake has been a member since 16/5/2009. Posts: 3
I suggest your 'issue' with Lao Air no longer exists.
You can look at the $190 'cost' two ways. One, that compared to other air travel destination prices it is expensive. Or, in comparison to the actual cost of the overland option it ain't all that bad.
The actual overland journey 'cost' is some 4+ nights accommodation, and bus (or depending on the route bus and rail) fares.
If you approach the idea of the 'long overland journey' to be a fun (adventurous?) part of your holiday, I'm sure you can plan to really enjoy all that the journey has to offer.
On this, go see:
Sarahandjake: The Lao Airlines fare sounds a wee bit high (assuming you are quoting for one way), but last time I bought tickets was about three months ago. Perhaps fares have gone up some. I paid 285 USD round trip, HAN>LPQ. You could contact this person: tuyenvu@tcd-travel dot com. Mr. Tuyen is a travel agent in Ha Noi.....I've worked with him several times and found him to be completely reliable and honest. E-mail him and see what fare he can get for you. What the hell...mention you got his name from me (Michael Eltrich).
No matter how the airfare deal works out, though, flying really is less brain damage than going via bus...good grief.
And --- Lao Airlines was delightful. The equipment they fly between Luang Prabang and Ha Noi is Italian. Aerospatiale, turbo-prop. Clean, new, safe.
Thanks for the advice guys - will contact your man Mr Tuyen, Michael (cheers!), and see what he can do. Although the overland does sound an adventure, we have so little time in Laos we can't afford to do it- so as you say, the cost of the airfare also buys us extra time in LP, etc. V glad to hear planes are ok- think our source may be outdated!
Bruce, loved your blog/video...the Gibbon experience looked really cool (except for the leeches) and might consider it though prob means skipping some time on the slow boat up the Mekong. Worth it?
You guys obviously know your stuff, so can I just ask one more question? Our travel agent has said she's not sure if foreigners can cross into Thailand at Huay Xai/Chiang Kong border crossing-? It seems most people do it the other way around, eg Thailand to Laos... but visa/borders info on this site makes no reference to any problems with crossing into Thailand from Laos....again, I suspect her info is out of date, but can anyone confirm this is do-able? If not, it has serious implications for this leg of our trip (Hanoi-LP-Pakbeng-Huay Xai-Chiang Rai-Bangkok) - we've got to make a flight from Bangkok to UK so bit anxious about unexpected delays!
Thanks for helping out a 'newbie'!
#9 sarahandjake has been a member since 16/5/2009. Posts: 3
Yes, no problem crossing into Thailand from Huay Xai to Chiang Khong BUT you'll only receive a 2 week visa if you cross into Thailand by land. A full 30 days are given if you fly in. This all changed only earlier this year and previously it was 30 days whether by land or air.
From Luang Prabang to Luang Namtha is the better part of a full day's van and bus journey (transfering at Oudomxai) and from Namtha to Huay Xai takes approx.4 hours but best to catch morning transport to ensure you get to the border in time to cross.
Namtha and nearby Muang Sing have become the primary tekking area for Laos.
#10 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
Seagypsy is 'spot on' with the 'reverse' X-over. It appears your agent is either out of touch or isn't a fan of Laos.
There is something about the 'slow boat' on the Mekong. For back/flash-packers it's sort of like a right of passage: one just can't claim to have 'been there' unless they've done what the herd does!!!
When I say "I travelled the Nam Ou by boat", people still ask whether I went on the Mekong!!!
I don't know what you are proposing for your journey - other than you said time is short - nor when you are planning to be in SE Asia.
As Seagypsy indicated, the bus from Luang Prabang to Luang Nam Tha takes a day (there is a 'straight through' bus that takes 9 hours and stops at OudomXay for lunch - sometimes, but not always, a minibus does that route and takes an hour less [be warned, though, the big bus may be hot, the minbus is HOTTER & less comfortable]). With the 4 to 5 hour trip from Luang Nam Tha to Huay Xai, it works out to be two days either by road or the Mekong.
As for the Gibbon Experience, let me explain some background...
We wanted to 'experience' the naturally forested areas (ie. not yet logged) in Nth Laos. We'd noted the contents of the Lonely Planet 'Laos' p. 198 re: 'naturally forested areas', and searched the web for options.
We saw the website for the Gibbon Experience, and given our ages, thought it may be too strenuous. We pursued the Green Discovery option to find that only two options appeared to suit: a 2 day river/trek option, or a 2 day NPA trek option (both were expensive). Sadly, neither were available at the time of year we were to be there. We pursued the Laos Gov't Ecoguide option and determined that the 2 day NPA trek from Vieng Phouka was OK. But, even then, we had some doubts as the replies we got didn't really satisfy our queries. We weren't sure that we'd spend much time on the NPA.
We eventually chose to 'do' the Gibbon Experience after we saw a couple of 'vids' (similar to what we [later] posted) that appeared to show it would be OK for us. I'm glad we committed ourselves because much of the trekking was in unlogged rainforest. Some, though, traversed forest regrowth (probably logged about 15 years ago). That we interacted with the H!Mong guides - who could speak English quite well - more than satisfied any qualms we may have had about not 'sleeping' in villages.
The 'buzz' for us was that not only were we in a forested area experiencing the various 'sights' that a forest has to offer, but that we went ziplining. That was WOW!!!
For us, the Gibbon Experience satisfied all the various 'contact' type expectations we had for the nth Laos region: AND MUCH MUCH MORE!!!
We didn't see any Gibbon. But that wasn't an issue for us. That the 'project' is supporting Gibbon habitat was sufficient. As I said, we went for the forest and all that that offers. Had we actually seen a Gibbon, it would merely have been an extra bonus.
At 160 Euro pp, it is not cheap. But, sometimes one has to say "Is it possible to do something else that provides a similar experience, and is better value for money". Our answer is NO. It's akin to Halong Bay in that if one wants to get a good experience, the price is challenging.
The Gibbon Experience is a 3 day journey [day 1, 8:00 from Huay Xai, day 2 in forest, day 3, return about 15:00 to Huay Xai]. Yes, you can enter/depart by joining in at Ban Don Chai - but that doesn't shorten the trip from 3 full days.
Hope this helps
Hope this helps
Brilliant, lots to mull over...I think we could've done with another week in Laos! Unfortunately I've got to get back to work (1 month out is already pushing it)
Thank you for all of your great advice everyone - our travel agent is lovely (and loves Laos, perhaps she's just not been in a long time?) - but your advice has been much more useful and reassuring! We leave in a few days - Laos is at the very end of our trip so will be there mid June. Wish us luck!
#13 sarahandjake has been a member since 16/5/2009. Posts: 3
Hi guys, some fresh info about LPQ>HAN -
Just checked with Lao Airlines, the flight from Luang Prabang to Hanoi now costs $130, this is roughly the same price I got in Bangkok (4540 Baht).
Any of their offices can book the flight for you (e.g. over the phone) and then you have until 3 days before departure to pay for it. Bangkok office is cash only, Vientianne has 3% credit card charge.
I contacted Mr. Tuyen as per Archmichael's post and he quoted me $175 + credit card charge each way.
Hope this helps
#15 eupilgrim has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 1
Eupilgrim: thanks for the airfare update. Sounds like you got a better deal direct through Lao Airlines (vs. Mr. Tuyen). At the time we bought our tickets, I couldn't purchase directly on-line from the airline and time constraints required that we have the tickets prior to leaving the US. In any case, this is a good example of the usefulness of websites like Travelfish for the ever-in-flux realm of travel.
Does any one know how long travel by land from Chiang Kong- Hanoi takes? I need to catch a flight in Hanoi and need to know how much time to allow for this trip. Chiang Kong-Luangprabang-Vientiane-Hanoi. Also, what is projected travel cost, i.e bus, border fees, etc, excluding lodging and food.
#17 scott0604 has been a member since 27/6/2009. Posts: 3
I did the trip earlier this year. Go see my blog:
In many respects, the journey itself is relatively simple and reasonably inexpensive.
What costs - both in time & money - are the 'interesting' non-bus or side trips along the way to deal with the monotony of bus travel.
By bus, the quickest route is:
Chiang Khong > Huay Xai > Luang Nam Tha > OudomXai > Muang Khua > Dien Bien Phu > Son La > Hanoi
This will take 5 days of straight travel. The cost? Somewhere in the vicinity of US$40.
But, you want to go to Luang Prabang . So, by bus, instead it is:
Chiang Khong > Huay Xai > Luang Nam Tha > OudomXai > Luang Prabang > OudomXai > Muang Khua > Dien Bien Phu > Son La > Hanoi.
Here add 1 extra day, and another US$5.
Now, there are also boat trips for part of the journey, eg:
Huay Xai > Pak Beng > Luang Prabang
Here one more day to the above, and add another US$10 (to above).
Luang Prabang > Nong Khiaw > Muang Khua
Here, add another day and add another $12 to above.
Also, when arriving at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, one can go direct to Hanoi via Son La, or
Dien Bien Phu > Lai Chau > SaPa > Lao Cai > Hanoi.
This will add a bus trip to SaPa & Lao Cai, and a rail trip to Hanoi. If stopping at SaPa, then add another day, and with overnight train add another US20.
The times are knowable, but the travel costs are approximate and depend on a host of 'issues' that may arise.
I haven't included accommodation / food costs along the way.
Hope this helps.
"This will take 5 days of straight travel."
Sometime around day three I would be ready to shoot myself. Five days in a bus... driving endlessly... I'd rather face the Spanish Inquisition.
Intrepid, I'd strongly recommend you stop along the way as Bruce suggests or fly.