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A plane lands in Luang Prabang.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Laos

Laos Getting in & out

  
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By plane

The international airports at Vientiane and Luang Prabang are served by national carrier Lao Airlines and a few others, including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines. Some seats on flights of Vietnam Airlines are reserved for Lao Airlines.

Pakse is the third international airport, with flights to/from Siem Reap and from/to Ho Chi Minh City. Laos used to be off-limits to low-cost carriers, however Air Asia now flies to Vientiane from Kuala Lumpur three times a week. Another cheap option for getting to Vientiane is to fly to Udon Thani in Thailand with discount airlines Nok Air or Air Asia and connect to Nong Khai and the Friendship Bridge via shuttle service directly from the airport (40 minutes); from here Vientiane is just 17 km away.

By train

The long-awaited first link across the Mekong from the Thai town of Nong Khai to Tha Naleng near Vientiane finally opened in 2009. There are two shuttle services per direction per day, with one timed to connect to the night trains to/from Bangkok. Visa on arrival is available when crossing the border by train.

Boats are lined up for sunset in Luang Prabang, Laos.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

From China

The land crossing between Mengla (Yunnan) and Boten (Laos) is open to foreigners and visa on arrival is possible ($37 for UK citizens) or you can get in advance at the Lao consulate in Kunming. Daily bus service operates from Mengla to Luang Namtha and Udomxai. Buses from Mengla to Luang Namtha leave from the North bus station. The first bus leaves around 8am and costs about 40 RMB.

Generally speaking, it is not possible for independent travellers to cross from China to Laos via the Mekong River, not least because there's a chunk of Myanmar in the middle and the Lao checkpoint at Xieng Kok does not issue visas on arrival. Travel agents in China, including Panda Travel run irregular cruises from Jinghong (China) via Chiang Saen (Thailand) to Huayxay (Laos), but schedules are erratic and prices expensive.

From Myanmar

Foreigners cannot legally cross the Laos and Myanmar border.

From Thailand

There are seven border crossings open to all between Thailand and Laos. From north to south:

That Luang (Grand Stupa) in Luang Prabang.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

  • Huay Xai/Chiang Khong: Fourth bridge under construction. Usual route to/from Luang Prabang, easy bus connections to Chiang Rai and points beyond on the Thai side.
  • Nam Hueng/Tha Li: Easily reached via Loei on the Thai side, but 378 km of dirt road away from Luang Prabang. No visa on arrival.
  • Vientiane/Nong Khai: The first Friendship Bridge and the busiest of crossing of them all. Direct trains from Bangkok now available.
  • Paksan/Bueng Kan: No visa on arrival.
  • Tha Khaek/Nakhon Phanom: Third bridge under construction.
  • Savannakhet/Mukdahan: The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
  • Vang Tao/Chong Mek: On the route from Pakse to Ubon Ratchathani

From Vietnam

There are at least six border crossings that can be used by foreigners. These include:

  • Donsavanh - Lao Bao - to/from Savannakhet
  • Keo Nua Pass
  • Lak Sao - to/from Khammouan Province
  • Nam Can - to/from Plain of Jars
  • Na Meo - to/from Sam Neua
  • Tay Trang - to/from Muang Khua and Nong Khiaw




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