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Transport options between Vientiane and Luang Prabang

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Jun 22nd, 2014, 03:36 PM
  #1
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Transport options between Vientiane and Luang Prabang

I will be visiting Laos next February for ten days, flying in and out via Vientiane as part of a longer trip including Sri Lanka via KL. I prefer to avoid flying in country if possible.
After reading many trip reports here and on other forums it appears the intercity buses, including VIP and sleeper buses, are rather uncomfortable and unreliable. Minivans or private drivers with cars seem to be the best option.
I would appreciate any suggestions on the subject from those who have travelled in Laos on these questions and any other info you feel useful:
1. What would a car with driver cost for a 6 to 9 day trip starting and finishing in Vientiane via at least Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, possibly with a side trip to Plain of Jars? I would use the driver while in the towns as local transport too.
2. Is it best to book that in advance or just wander around the various agencies on arrival? Or should I take a chance on drivers arranged by a hotel?
3. If I use minivans between the cities, how do I select and book them?
I have lots of other questions, but that’s enough to begin with 
Cheers, Alan
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Jun 22nd, 2014, 09:31 PM
  #2
 
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Why are you opposed to flying? The first time I visited Laos I went by road from Vientiane to LP with an overnight in Vang Vieng. It was a fascinating trip, but long, and my other two visits I flew.
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Jun 22nd, 2014, 10:10 PM
  #3
 
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Not too sure I'd want to travel by road between VT and LP, and then back again. Why not fly out of Laos from LP?

I've travelled by bus from VT to VV. It takes about 4 hours once you get going, the road was fine, but the scenery apart from the last half hour was fairly ordinary. In VT we were picked up by van from the hotel and taken 'round the houses' to the bus station, and had to wait about 40 minutes for the main bus to leave. The bus was full, but not particularly uncomfortable.

The bus between VV and LP takes 6-7 hours, and the scenery is superb from start to finish. The bus was full, and there were even plastic seats down the aisle. Motion sickness could be an issue as the road is mountainous with lots of switchbacks. The bus leaves from the centre of VV.

Hiring a van when you arrive will be easy, but before committing any money I'd want to see the van and check whether it was fit for purpose. I'd also want a trial run with the driver to make sure he wasn't a kamikaze pilot in his former life!
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Jun 22nd, 2014, 10:33 PM
  #4
 
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A car with driver will be the most expensive option by a fair margin. If you want explore teh is option your best bet will be to email a few operators in LP for price. Tiger Trails seem to get good reviews but I think are more of an adventure operator. We used Lao Tourisme bit that was around 20 years ago and I am not sure whether they still exist. Exotissimo is andon the possibility. I would not book via an agent in your own country as this will just increase the cost and they will outsource to a local operator anyway.

We have travelled fairly extensively in Laos using just about every form of transport going and will be returning next Jan / Feb for a month and will use public transport only. However, given your outline itinerary in 10 days it would seem that flying, at least some of the legs, would make more sense.

You don't really need a driver to get around LP or Vientienne towns and it is easy to arrange day trips from these places with local tour operators ( hotels will charge the earth, usually for very little)

Here is a link to a useful site for Lao travel
http://www.travelfish.org/country/laos
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Jun 23rd, 2014, 12:00 AM
  #5
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Thanks for the replies. My preference for not flying is simple. On this trip I will be flying OOL>KUL (8hrs), KUL>VTE, VTE>KUL, KUL>CMB (4hrs), CMB>KUL and finally KUL>OOL.

I reckon that's enough flights for one trip. I've been on some pretty rough roads in my travels so that doesn't bother me but the stories I read of breakdowns and other passengers getting travel sickness in the Laos buses puts me off a bit. I am prepared to hire a driver if the price is reasonable (did that in India a couple of times) but I'm not silly enough to drive myself in Asia. If I can find a driver who speaks English that is a definite bonus.

I'll fly, if I must, one way and return using a car or minivan. I appreciate all the suggestions and the link. Minivans between towns and tuk tuks locally is looking like the best choice at the moment.
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