As Laos is often part of a wider trip to the region, many people choose to travel there overland, with the crossings from Thailand near Vientiane and at Houayxai the most popular options. There are currently no direct flights to Laos from outside of Asia – most visitors fly via Bangkok, from where it takes just over an hour to reach Vientiane, and just under two hours to Luang Prabang. Connections are also possible from Chiang Mai and Udon Thani (Thailand), Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (Vietnam), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Kunming (China) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Due to the lack of direct flights, it can be quite expensive to fly to Laos, though this is more than compensated for by the low cost of living and travelling once in the country.
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The high season for flights to Southeast Asia is from the beginning of July through to the end of August and also includes most of December, during which period fares can be twenty percent higher than at other times of year. If Laos is only one stop on a longer journey, you might want to consider buying a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket, which can be tailored to the destinations you want to visit. Also worth considering if you live in Australia, New Zealand or the west coast of North America are Circle Pacific tickets, which feature Bangkok as a standard option.
Package tours to Laos, some of which take in the country as part of a wider Indochina trawl, are inevitably more expensive and less spontaneous than if you travel independently, but are worth investigating if you have limited time or a specialist interest. Booking through a tour company in Laos will undoubtedly save you money compared to booking in your home country for details of recommended tour operators.
Flights from the UK and Ireland
Most flights from the UK and Ireland to Laos will involve a change of plane at Bangkok; an alternative route is via Vietnam, though this requires a change of plane in France or Germany first. In total, flying to Laos from the UK will take at least fifteen and a half hours, though this varies greatly according to connection times – flying on Thai Airways to Vientiane is usually the quickest option.
Flying from Ireland will involve changing planes at least twice – once in London or another European hub, and again at Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City – with a journey time of at least eighteen and a half hours.
Because of the lack of direct flights, prices are generally high throughout the year. Expect to pay at least £750 from London and €900 from Dublin, though prices often rise over £1000/€1500 respectively. With flights to Bangkok alone significantly cheaper (from £450/€600), it’s worth considering travelling overland between the Thai capital and Vientiane by train.
Flights from the US and Canada
Flying to Laos from North America usually involves one stop, in Bangkok, if travelling from the west coast, and two stops, often Hong Kong and Bangkok, from the east coast. Expect journey lengths of at least nineteen and twenty-three hours, respectively.
Fares from the west coast start at around $1200, while you should expect to pay upwards of $1500 from the east coast. From Canada, prices begin at Can$1300 for Vancouver departures, Can$1700 from Toronto.
Flights from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
Flights from Perth to Laos are via Bangkok, while those from elsewhere in Australia may go via Vietnam or Hong Kong (the latter requiring an additional change at Bangkok); average journey time is around thirteen hours from Perth and sixteen hours from Sydney, depending on connections. Flights from Perth start at around Aus$1000, Aus$1200 from Sydney; a cheaper alternative could be to fly the budget airline Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur, from where you can connect to Vientiane. From New Zealand, flying to Laos involves at least two stops, usually in Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam or Bangkok; the journey takes around nineteen hours and fares start at around NZ$1900.
Expect a journey upwards of nineteen hours if flying from South Africa, with at least two stops en route. Prices start at around R8500.
Getting there from neighbouring countries
Landlocked Laos is easily accessed from most of its neighbouring countries, either overland or by flying. Note that visa on arrival is not available at all overland entry points for details and check locally for the most up-to-date information.
Lao Airlines operates flights from Bangkok to Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, from Chiang Mai to Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and from Udon Thani to Luang Prabang. In addition, Bangkok Air has twice-daily flights to Luang Prabang. All flights take between one hour and one hour forty minutes.
As of the time of writing, there are six routes across the Thai border into Laos: Chiang Khong–Houayxai; Nong Khai–Vientiane; Nakhon Phanom–Thakhek; Mukdahan–Savannakhet; Chong Mek–Pakse; and Beung Khan–Paksan. Visas on arrival are available at all but the last crossing, but check locally before travelling as the situation can change. It’s possible to get visas in advance from the Laos Embassy in Bangkok.
Vietnam Airlines flies from Hanoi to Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Vientiane (all 3hr); both routes are also served by Lao Airlines. It’s also possible to travel overland into Laos at six border points: Tay Trang–Sop Hun; Nam Xoi–Na Meo; Nam Khan–Nam Can; Cau Treo–Nam Phao; Lao Bao–Dansavanh; Ngoc Hoi–Bo Y. Visas on arrival are available at all of these crossings.
Lao Airlines operates direct flights from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang (1hr 30min) and Pakse (1hr 45min), and to Vientiane via Pakse (3hr). The only way to cross overland into Laos is at the Dom Kralor–Veun Kham crossing, where it’s possible to get a visa on arrival. It’s also possible to cross here by boat. You will probably have to pay a small “fee”, usually around $1–2, to the immigration officials at the checkpoint, in addition to your visa fee.
It’s possible to travel by road or air into Laos from China’s southwestern Yunnan province. Lao Airlines operates flights from Kunming to Vientiane (1hr 20min). The only border crossing is at Mengla–Boten, from where buses run to Luang Namtha and Oudomxai – it’s best to travel first thing in the morning in order to be able to connect to either town.