Three carriers — Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines — fly in and out of Luang Prabang and serve both domestic and international destinations. LPQ is the airport code and the airport itself is a tiny little affair reminiscent of simpler times.Domestically, Lao Airlines provides service to Vientiane several times daily and to Pakse three times a week.
Internationally, they fly to Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Hanoi daily and to Siem Reap almost every day.Bangkok Airways has two flights daily, only serving Bangkok. Their lounge at the airport is lovely and makes flight delays almost seem worthwhile.Vietnam Airlines serves Siem Reap and Hanoi five times a week each.
Phamahapatsaman Rd,Luang Prabang. T: (071) 212 172; (071) 212 173
Bangkok Airways: 57/6 Sisavangvong Rd, Ban Xieng Mouane, Luang Prabang. T: (071) 253 334; (071) 253 253
Vietnam Airlines: Luang Prabang International Airport. T: (071) 213 048 http://www.vietnamairlines.com
Luang Prabang has two main bus stations: one for traffic to and from the north, called Kiew Lot Sai Nuan, and one for traffic to and from the south, called Naluang.
Some buses occasionally transit through the opposite station to which you’d expect, and consequently there are some Vientiane-bound buses leaving from the northern station and buses to Luang Nam Tha departing from the southern station.
To get to and from either station catch a tuk tuk for around 10,000 kip per person, no matter how many are going. Late at night or if there are only a few passengers, the price will rise to 20,000 kip.
If you tell your driver your ultimate destination, he should know which station to get you to.Most buses leave at around their scheduled departure time and will pick up more passengers along the way. Get to the station early as buses will often be filled to capacity, and the first on gets the best seats. Leave a bag of non-valuable belongings on your seat to reserve it if you don’t want to sit there until the bus leaves.
Those buses which are arriving from one town in transit to another can arrive already full. It’s possible to get your money back on a ticket in this situation if you make it politely clear to the bus station staff that you won’t go because the bus is full, and you’ll depart the next day. It’s best to do this while the bus is still at the station.
An alternative to the public system is to go by minibus -– really a minivan -– to some of the major tourist destinations. Tickets can be booked at all travel agents and some guesthouses and internet cafes.
The journeys are much shorter by minibus than on a public bus. Daily destinations are Vang Vieng (60,000 kip, 5 hours) and Vientiane ($18, 7 hours) but others can be organised if you have a number of people going, or are prepared to pay the cost of the whole van (such as Nong Kiaow, about $50, 3 hours, seats 6-7 people).
Southern Bus Terminal T: (071) 232 066Vang Vieng (Express): departs at 08:00 and roughly hourly thereafter, costing 100,000 kip and taking 6-7 hours.
Vang Vieng (VIP): departs at 08:00 and 09:00 and costs 130,000 kip and taking 6 hours.
Vientiane (Express): departs roughly every 90 minutes from 06:30, costing 120,000 kip and taking 10 hours.
VIP (Express): departs at 08:00 and, 09:00 and costs 135,000 kip and taking 8 hours.
Xieng Khuang/Phonsavan (local): departs at 08:30, costing 100,000 kip and taking 10 hours.
Xieng Khuang/Phonsavan (VIP): departs at 08:30, costing 115,000 kip and taking 8 hours.
Northern Bus Terminal T: (071) 252 729Huay Xai (local): departs 17:30 Tue, Thu, and Sat and costs 170,000 kip, taking 14-16 hours.Huay Xai (express): departs 17:30 Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sun and costs 190,000 kip, taking 14-16 hours.
Kunming: departs around 22:00-23:00 and costs 450,000 kip, taking 28-30 hours!
Luang Nam Tha: departs at 09:00, costing 90,000 kip, taking 8-9 hours.
Mengla (VIP): departs around 22:00-23:00 and costs 160,000 kip.
Nong Kiaow: departs at 10:00 and costs 55,000 kip, taking 4 hours.
Phongsali: departs on Friday 16:30 and costs 115,000 kip, taking 14-16 hours.
Udomxai: departs at 09:00, 12:00, 16:00 and costs 70,000 kip, taking 5-6 hours.A note about the above trip times. These are estimates, based on best case scenarios. Landslides and other issues frequently cause delays — moreso in wet season.
From Luang Prabang it is possible to go by boat to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi, and to Huay Xai and the Thai border, via Pakbeng.The journey to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi, a further hour upstream from Nong Kiaow and only accessible by boat, takes six to eight hours depending on the height of the river.
The journey starts with an hour or two up the Mekong, which turns into the Nam Ou, right where Pak Ou caves are, so a visit to these can be combined with the trip if organised in advance. The Nam Ou is stunning, lined with huge limestone cliffs towering straight up out of the water, small white sandy beaches, jungle forest and small villages with children playing in the water or washing nearby. Most travel agents will organise a boat to make this journey, and advertise for others to fill any empty spaces.
Boats are small and can be a little cramped, toilet stops are by the side of the river and you have to bring your own food and drink. But the scenery is beautiful and the trip is worth it. The cost for a private slow boat seating between one and six people is US$90, but through a tour company, you can get a seat on the 08:30 boat for 140,000 kip .The most common boat journey is between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai.
There are three options, with the fastest being by rocket boat. These speed boats make the distance in about six hours — approximately three hours for each leg with a brief stop in Pakbeng. The boat is very noisy and considered dangerous by many. Passengers wear helmets and life jackets. Tickets for speedboats can be bought at all travel agents and cost 370,000 kip to Huay Xai and 230,000 kip to Pakbeng only. Rocket boats leave from the pier at Ban Don, which can be reached by tuk tuk.
It takes about 15 minutes from town and should cost about 20,000 kip per person.Two kinds of slow boat make the journey to Huay Xai via Pakbeng. The more popular and cheaper option is the daily “backpacker ferry”, which leaves from the boat pier behind the Royal Museum.
Tickets can be bought from any travel agent in town, and cost 140,000 kip to Pakbeng, where onward tickets can be bought for Huay Xai. It departs daily. 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 widely.The decadent option is to go by luxury slow boat with Luangsay Cruises for a two- or three-day voyage. The two-day cruise departs Luang Prabang on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays in the high season or Wednesdays and Saturdays only from May through September. Passengers stay at their own Luangsay Lodge one kilometre out of Pakbeng on their way through.
This costs US$243 to $394, depending on the season. The three-day option departs every Monday, Tuesday and Friday in the high season, and on Tuesdays and Fridays from May through September. It follows the same route with an extra overnight stop in a Khamu village and costs between $343 and $525. The cruises include all meals while on the boat and at the Lodges, accommodation in wooden bungalows with private bathroom and hot shower, an English-speaking guide, assistance crossing the Lao/Thai border and entrance to Pak Ou caves.
Late booking specials are sometimes available and can be reserved either by calling or visiting the Luangsay office in Luang Prabang via their website, or through any travel agency in Luang Prabang.However you travel, the Mekong is a beautiful river, and this is one of the best ways to travel long distances through the country. There is plenty to look at, and the journey is relaxing on the slow boats. Highly recommended.By boat from Luang Prabang to VientianeRegular passenger ferries no longer run between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. There is a speedboat service between Pak Lai in Sainyabuli province and Vientiane, but there are no regular public boats.
You have to hire the whole boat from a travel agent or at the boat landing. Speed boats cost about $160, seat six people, and take around five hours for the trip from Pak Lai to Vientiane. Slow boats take all day, seat 10-12 people and cost $200. If you can hire a boat independently, the price can be substantially cheaper.To reach Pak Lai from Luang Prabang, take a bus to Sainyabuli (5-6 hours) and then a songtheaw to Pak Lai (3 hours). Accommodation is available in both towns.
Slow Boat T: (071) 252 389Nong Kiaow: Departs at 08:30, costing 140,000 kip
Pak Ou Cave: Departs at 08:30, 10:30, costing 70,000 kip
Pakbeng: Departs at 08:30, costing 140,000 kip
Speed Boat T: (071) 212 237
Huay Xay: Departs at 08:30, costing 370,000 kip
Pakbeng: Departs at 08:30, costing 230,000 kip
Luangsay Cruises 50/4 Sakkarine Rd, Ban Wat Sene, Luang Prabang. Tel: (071) 252 553 ; Fax: (071) 252 304. Web: http://www.asian-oasis.com