Getting there & away
Buses use three different stations in Vientiane, all with some English-speaking staff. The Northern Bus Station (260255; Th T2), about 2km northwest of the centre, serves all points north of Vang Vieng, including China, and has some buses to Vietnam.
The Southern Bus Station (740521; Rte 13 South), commonly known as Dong Dok Bus Station or just khíw lot lák kāo (Km 9 Bus Station), is 9km out of town and serves everywhere south. Buses to Vietnam will usually stop here.
The Talat Sao Bus Station (216507) is where desperately slow local buses depart for 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. It’s also home to the Thai-Lao International Bus .
Getting into Thailand: Vientiane to Nong Khai
The Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge is 22km southeast of Vientiane. The border is open between 6am and 10pm, and the easiest way to cross is on the comfortable Thai–Lao International Bus (12,000 kip, 90 minutes), which leaves Vientiane’s Talat Sao bus station at 7.30am, 9.30am, 12.40pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 6pm. From Nong Khai in Thailand, it leaves at the same times for 55B. Similar buses run to Udon Thani (20,000 kip, two hours) six times a day. Visas are issued on arrival in both countries. Alternative means of transport between Vientiane and the bridge include taxi or jumbo (60,000–70,000 kip – bargain hard) or regular public buses from Talat Sao (13,000 kip) between 6.30am and 5pm. At the bridge, regular shuttle buses ferry passengers between immigration posts. For information on crossing this border in the other direction.
Rare, no-frills cargo boats head upstream to Luang Prabang (four days to one week) from Kiaw Liaw Pier, 3.5km west of the fork in the road where Rte 13 heads north in Ban Kao Liaw. Go there and speak with the boatmen in advance to see if, when and how far they’re running. During dry season, November to May, it’s out of the question.
Lao Airlines (code QV; 212051; www.laos-airlines.com), Thai Airways International (THAI, code TG; 251041; www.thaiair.com) and also Vietnam Airlines (code VN; 217562; www.vietnamairlines.com) are the main carriers for Vientiane. From here you can fly to Siem Reap (US$140), Phnom Penh (US$50), Pakse (US$100), Savannakhet (US$60), HCMC (US$180), Bangkok (US$100), Chiang Mai (US$90), Kunming (US$140), Huay Xai (US$90), Luang Prabang (US$60), Phonsavan (US$50) and Hanoi (US$120).