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Northern Laos

Getting there & around

Many visitors enter northern Laos via Thailand at Huay Xai, then make their way southeastward to Luang Prabang and Vientiane from here. Others come northwestward by bus from Vientiane, and yet others fly to Luang Prabang from Bangkok or Chiang Mai in Thailand. You can also fly to some northern cities – namely Luang Prabang, Phonsavan, Udomxai, Luang Nam Tha and Sam Neua – from Vientiane.

Boat travel along the Mekong River is a popular way of moving between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, and less so between Luang Prabang and Phongsali. The most common means of interprovincial transport in the north is public bus. Bus trips around the north can be quite slow due to the steep and winding nature of the roadways as well as the conditions of the roads themselves.

Sǎwngthǎew (pick-up trucks fitted with benches in the back for passengers) do the job in less populated areas. These can often be chartered for between 10 and 15 times the individual passenger fare.

Some people travel the north by bicycle or motorcycle now that the government has loosened restrictions on the hire of two-wheeled vehicles. Car hire is also an option, although the only cities where hire cars are readily available are Vientiane and Luang Prabang.