Getting there & away
Our table gives timetable information. Buses use three different stations in Vientiane, all with some English-speaking staff, and food and drink stands. The Northern Bus Station (260255; Th T2), about 2km northwest of the centre, serves all points north of Vang Vieng, including China, and some buses to Vietnam. Destinations and the latest ticket prices are listed in English.
The Southern Bus Station (740521; Rte 13 South), commonly known as Dong Dok Bus Station or just khíw lot lák káo (Km 9 Bus Station), is 9km out of town and serves everywhere south. Buses to Vietnam will usually stop here.
The final departure point is the Talat Sao bus station (216507), from where desperately slow local buses run to destinations within Vientiane Province, including Vang Vieng, and some more distant destinations, though for these you’re better going to the Northern or Southern stations. The Thai-Lao International Bus also uses this station for its trips to Nong Kai and Udon Thani.
Occasional six-passenger héua wái (speedboats) do run from Vientiane to Pak Lai, 115km away, and if you have the cash will go all the way to Luang Prabang – a full day’s trip for at least US$240 for the boat. To charter a speedboat head out to Tha Heua Kao Liaw (Kao Liaw Boat Landing), which is 7.7km west of the Novotel (3.5km west of the fork in the road where Rte 13 heads north) in Ban Kao Liaw. It’s best to go the day before you plan to travel.
If you get very lucky you might chance upon a rare cargo boat running to Luang Prabang, three to five days upriver. It would be an amazing trip, but you’ll need patience to arrange it.
Departures from Vientiane are perfectly straightforward. The Domestic Terminal is in the older, white building east of the impressive International Terminal. There is an (often unmanned) information counter in the arrivals hall, and food can be found upstairs in the International Terminal.
Lao Airlines (www.laoairlines.com) Airport Office (512028; 7.30am-noon & 1-4.30pm); Head Office (212051–4; 2 Th Pangkham; 8am-4.30pm Mon-Sat) Handles domestic and international ticketing.
Thai Airways International (Map pp88–9; 222527; Th Luang Prabang; 8am-5pm Mon-Fri, to noon Sat)
Vietnam Airlines (217562; www.vietnamairlines.com; 1st fl, Lao Plaza Hotel, Th Samsenthai; 8am-noon & 1.30-4.30pm Mon-Fri, 8am-noon Sat)