Photo: The backpacker express.

How to get to and from Nong Kiaow

Use the quicklinks below to jump to the desired section regarding transport in and around Nong Kiaow.


There are two forms of public overland transport available from Nong Kiaow: local bus or minivan.

The bus station is 1 km from the town centre/bridge if you take the straight road that runs behind the station, or 1.5 km if you take the road in front of the station that follows along the river—this road forms the town’s main street. A tuk-tuk will demand around 10,000 kip per person to shuttle you to/from town.

As of 2018, Luang Prabang is the only guaranteed departure from the station.

Luang Prabang: local bus departs at 09:00, 11:00, 12:00. Costs 40,000 kip and takes 4-5 hrs, depositing passengers at Luang Prabang’s northern bus station.

Note that the “local bus” to Luang Prabang may take the form of bus, mini bus, minivan or songthaew. It’s best to buy the ticket 30-60 minutes in advance though they will not leave until very full. Like Nong Kiaow itself, departure times are laidback so it’s a case of hurry up and wait: show up for the 12:00 departure and don’t be surprised if you’re told it will leave at 16:00. And if having a decent seat is important to you, get there in advance and use a backpack (filled with non-valuables, of course) to reserve a seat otherwise you may end up sitting in the aisle. Ask any travel agent/tour company in town for the latest schedule.

There’s also minivan service to Luang Prabang, available with demand which is not a problem in the busy tourist season. Minivans may depart at 08:30, 10:30 and/or 13:00. Costs 50,000 kip and takes 3-4 hrs, depositing at Luang Prabang’s southern bus station. Tickets can be purchased with a travel agent in town and the minivan will pick you up at there.

For Sam Neua or Muang Hiem (where travellers can spend the night before the Nam Nern Night Safari), the bus departs from Luang Prabang and will pass through Nong Kiaow around 12:30-13:30, with another around 17:00-18:30. This Luang Prabang-Sam Neua bus does not stop at the Nong Kiaow bus station, rather, it stops by the bridge. Purchase the ticket with a travel agent/tour company by the bridge like NK Adventures as they can “reserve” you a seat on the bus, you can wait at the office and the bus driver will call them as they approach.

Muang Hiem (Viengthong): Costs 130,000 kip and takes 5-6 hrs.
Sam Neua: Costs 160,000 kip and takes 10-11 hrs.

Finally, there may or may not be a bus/minivan departing for Udomxai and Luang Nam Tha. There’s no guarantee. If it does depart:

Luang Nam Tha: departs at 11:00. Costs 100,000 kip and takes 7 hrs.
Udomxai: departs at 11:00. Cost 50,000 kip and takes 4 hrs.

If there is no direct service that day, travellers should take an early departure to get to Pakmong, which is the major junction where the road from Luang Prabang splits right to Nong Kiaow, or left to Udomxai and Luang Nam Tha. In Pakmong, wait to catch one of the many buses passing through to Udomxai and Luang Nam Tha.

Again, Nong Kiaow may or may not have a dedicated departure to Pakmong. The more reliable option is to take any transport to Luang Prabang and jump off at Pakmong. The price to Pakmong is 25,000 kip, however, you may be told that if you want the seat you’ll have to pay the full fare to Luang Prabang.

Map of the bus station and ferry landing in Nong Kiaow

Map of the bus station and ferry landing in Nong Kiaow
(1) Boat Landing (2) Nong Kiaow bus station

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Public boats run up the Nam Ou connecting Nong Kiaow with Muang Ngoi (boat only) and Muang Khua (boat and minibus combo), for a scenic, memorable river journey.

To avoid the noise from the motor at the back of the boat, sit closer to the front and/or bring ear plugs. Having something to use as a cushion for the hard wooden bench is also a good idea. In the winter months, layer up as it can be extremely cold with the wind rushing through.

The boat station and boat landing are located on the town side of the Nam Ou river, adjacent to the bridge. The public boats system is organised (in other words, it’s a mafia). Buy tickets 30 minutes before departure time.

Muang Ngoi: departs at 10:30, 14:30. Costs 25,000 kip and takes 1 hr. Through the boat station, a private boat one-way costs 500,000 kip. Through a tour company like NK Adventures at Sabai Sabai Restaurant, we were quoted 450,000 kip, and 500,000 kip (2-3 persons) for a roundtrip excursion to Muang Ngoi including some stops at villages along the river, without a guide.

Though the boat station would deny it, a dirt track connecting Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi exists. In February 2018, construction was underway to widen it into a full road and (we were told) to also pave it. We’re sure the boat mafia aren’t too thrilled about this development. In the future, look for ground transport as an option.

Muang Khua: departs at 10:30. Costs 150,000 kip and takes 6-7 hrs. This ticket is inclusive of the boat up to the dam (2 hrs), songthaew around the dam, and another boat for the final leg to Muang Khua (3 hrs). If there are not enough passengers, a surcharge will apply per person. Private boat to Muang Khua costs 1,500,000 kip. See Muang Khua transport for details on how to go from Muang Khua to Hat Sa, Phongsali by boat.

Due to dams, regular slow boat service between Luang Prabang and Nong Kiaow ceased in 2013.

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Getting around

The town is very easy to get around on foot and walking from the bus station to the tourist centre on the other side of the bridge takes no more than 30 minutes. For exploration further afield like to both caves, bicycles can be rented for 20,000-25,000 kip/day or mountain bikes for 50,000 kip/day. There’s one shop beside CT Restaurant renting motorbikes for 80,000 kip/day, automatic scooters for 100,000 kip/day. To get on the water, kayaks are 80,000 kip/day.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Nong Kiaow? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.

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