Minibuses are faster and more costly, but it does not always imply that they are better. A typical VIP Bus is just an old bus by Western standards (typically retired Chinese tour buses), and although they may be more prone to problems, they normally offer greater leg space, making lengthy journeys considerably more pleasant. A bottle of water, a snack, and a lunch/dinner break are all included on VIP buses. Air conditioning is common in both kinds (albeit it may not always function).
A hired vehicle with driver is much more costly, but it is unquestionably the most convenient. A vehicle with a driver will set you back about USD95 per day. Some people are able to cross the border into Thailand, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam by car. Tour firms, tourist hotels, and vehicle rental businesses can help you organize transportation. Because the vehicles are new, they are dependable. They offer the added benefit of allowing you to stop the vehicle at any moment for photographs, a stroll around a town, or just to stretch your legs.
Although Laos’ roads have improved in the last 10 years, the fact that 80% of them are still unpaved is alarming. The major roadways linking Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and Savannakhet are now sealed, with bus, minibus, and converted truck as modes of transportation.
The following are some of the most popular routes across Laos:
- Vientiane to Vang Vieng is a very short, fast, and pleasant journey (less than 4 hours by VIP bus).
- Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang is an incredible journey through the mountains, but it comes at the expense of an 8-hour journey filled with bends.
- Luang Prabang to Phonsavan – minibus: crowded, so get there early to obtain a decent seat towards the front; great views, so grab a window seat if possible.
- Phonsavan to Sam Neua – modified pickup truck: lovely vistas, but plenty of slopes and curves, which may cause nausea.
- Sam Neua to Muang Ngoi – minivan: a 12-hour journey over a terrible road; beautiful vistas and a necessary evil, but enjoyable if you’re willing to take a few bumps and speak to some Lao people who, after all, are in the same situation.
- Muang Ngoi to Luang Namtha – Minivan: 10 hour journey (Oudomxay); good route, used by travellers.
- Luang Namtha to Huay Xai is only accessible by road during the dry season; however, during the wet season, the same trip may be done by boat. China is constructing a new route connecting China and Thailand. This road connects Luang Namtha with Huay Xai and is in excellent condition.
- Between Borikham and Tha Thom, there is a new road that connects Paksan and Phonsavan. A guesthouse with eight rooms is located in Tha Thom. The woodland between Borikham and Tha Thom is still in excellent shape (despite the fact that it is a gravel road). Since the majority of Laos’ forest has vanished, this is one of the few remaining highways surrounded by primary forest. This is a must-see if you’re traveling by motorcycle! Also, inform everyone that if no visitors visit, the forest would be burnt or sold. Between Paksan and Phonsavan, the Vietnamese are doing extensive roadwork, which may cause some lengthy delays. Even though the distance is just a few hundred kilometers, traversing this stretch may take 16-20 hours.
Tuk-tuks, jumbos, and sky labs, motorised three or four wheelers, are used for local transportation in Laos (less than 20 km). For short trips of 1-5 kilometers, a jumbo should cost no more than 20,000 kip (about USD2.50).
Stray Traverse now offers a fully guided “hop on hop off” bus service that allows you to travel the length of the nation. This is Southeast Asia’s first guided hop-on hop-off bus.
Women should be mindful that there is frequently no chance to use the restroom during breaks on long bus or minibus rides, so a wide skirt may be appropriate.
A songthaew () is a truck with two rows of bench seats in the rear, one on each side — thus the name, which means “two rows” in Thai. They’re sometimes referred to as “minibuses” in English tourist literature. The most popular form, which is based on a pickup truck and has a roof and open sides, is by far the most frequent. Smaller types are converted micro-vans with a front bench facing backwards and a rear bench facing forwards. Larger types start out as small lorries and may have windows and an additional central bench; smaller types are converted micro-vans with a front bench facing backwards and a rear bench facing forwards.
Songthaews are widely utilized as both local buses (the most cost-effective mode of short-distance transport) and taxis; in some cases, the same vehicle is used for both. If you ask a songthaew to take you somewhere and there is no one else in the rear, the driver may charge you the taxi fare. In this instance, be sure you know how much the ride will cost before you go.
A broad range of small/lightweight vehicles are referred to as tuk-tuks. The overwhelming majority have three wheels; some are completely custom-made, while others are based on motorcycle components in part (primarily engines, steering, front suspension, fuel tank, drivers seat). The rates that visitors are supposed to pay for point-to-point locations are regulated by a tuk-tuk organization in Vientiane. The prices are adjustable, and you should explicitly negotiate before boarding a tuk tuk.
Traveling by motorcycle in Laos is not without dangers, but the benefits of genuinely autonomous travel are enormous. Bike rentals are available in Vientiane and other cities like as Luang Prabang, Pakse, and Tha Khaek, although they may be rare in other areas of the nation. Because machine quality varies from shop to shop, you should thoroughly examine your new companion before hitting the road. Touring Laos is simple since there are numerous excellent roads, including several paved ones.
Depending on whatever town and rental business you visit in Laos, you may hire a variety of motorcycles. The Honda Baja or XR 250 dual-purpose motorcycles, the Ko Lao 110cc, and the standard Honda Win/Dream 110ccs are all available. Helmets are not only required by law in the nation, but they are also a prized commodity in a location where traffic regulations are made up on the fly. Police have been clamping down on individuals who don’t have a motorbike license, so if you’re found without one, prepare to pay a fine.
With calm roads, cycling is a fantastic alternative. Laos has great isolated places to explore, little-traveled roads, nice people, and even businesses that provide bicycle trips with expert guides across the nation. The more time tourists spend in Laos, the more they appear to like the peaceful travel atmosphere and the chance to interact with the locals. In Laos, excellent maps of the roads are accessible, and all main routes have decent roads. Simple guest rooms may be found within reasonable distances, and in all large cities, there are more options and restaurants. Food will not be an issue if you remember to bring some with you. The staples are tropical fruits and noodle soup.
A variety of guided mountain bike excursions are offered by a number of local companies across Laos.
Outside of Vientiane, there are relatively few good bike stores if you’re traveling on your own. However, you may have difficulty with bikes with 28-inch wheels. Bring your gear and make sure you obtain contact information from a provider, perhaps in Thailand.