Laos is not easy to travel around, in part due to its mountainous terrain and lack of decent public transportation. Getting around in Laos takes time, and usually more than you may have planned.
Laos possesses a number of modern transportation systems, including several highways and a number of airports. As a landlocked country, Laos has no port or harbor on the sea. Laos depends primarily on road transport and, to less extent, on river and air transport.
Flying is by far the most convenient yet most expensive way to move between regions. Laos has a very small air travel industry, but things are rapidly growing as more flights service an increasing number of towns across this country. Domestic air services by Lao Airlines use ATR or MA60 aircraft between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Pakse, Xiengkhuang, Oudomxai, Huay Xai, Luang Mantha and Savannakhet; between Luang Prabang, Huay Xai and Xiengkhuang; and between Pakse and Savannakhet. During the rainy season, additional flights are made to access-limited locations. Another state-owned airline – Lao Air flies 10-seat Cessna aircraft on a regular basis to three remote provinces: Houaphan, Phongsali and Xingabury. In addition, there is a privately owned charter helicopter service.
Laos Airlines Plane
Historically, the primary mode of transport around the country was via boat with most of the country’s major towns linked by a network of rivers. To this day, many smaller towns are serviced by passenger boats and in some parts of the Mekong large cargo boats do the heavy lifting that road transport simply can’t do.
Travel by road is the dominant mode of transportation in Laos. Many travelers choose use the bus system which is incredibly cheap and covers nearly every town in the country. The travelers will have a lot of choice on the road No.13 (between Oudomxay - Luang Prabang - Vientiane - Paksane - Thakek - Savannakhet - Pakse) with air-conditioned bus or local bus. For the rest of the country where the roads are not good, converted pick-up trucks without air conditioning (locally called “sawng thaews” or “two-row seat”) are used for public passengers. Buses in Laos are cheap but slow for a number of reasons (the buses are old, the roads are narrow, and they stop very frequently to pick up passengers...)
Tuk Tuk in Vientiane
To support a local bus system, a "sam law" (three-wheel) vehicle can be a quick and efficient way of getting around. The various three-wheeled taxis found in Vientiane and provincial capitals have different names. Larger ones are jumbo and can hold 4 to 6 passengers on two facing seats. In Vientiane, they are sometimes called tuk-tuks. These three-wheeled conveyances are also labeled simply taxi or, usually for motorcycle sidecar-style vehicles.
Rail transport does not play a significant part in Laos's transport sector, since the country largely lacks the required infrastructure.