Some of the most popular search terms of my blog are related to Laos and how to get there, so I decided to write more about this lovely country that I visited in February 2013.
We flew with Lao Airlines from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Vientiane, Laos, and spent two very pleasant days in Vientiane. To read more about the World’s Cutest Capital, as I call Viantiane, see my previous articles The Sleeping Beauty: Vientiane (part 1) and The Sleeping Beauty: Vientiane (part 2).From Vientiane we took a bus to Luang Prabang (read Bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang) and from Luang Prabang we traveled by air to Bangkok. However, if you are doing more or less a similar kind of itinerary but traveling on a shoestring budget, then you may want to consider visiting Luang Prabang first, descending to Vientiane by bus and spending few nights there, and continuing to Thailand by land.
The travel time (by land transportation) from Vientiane to Thailand is significantly less than travel time from Luang Prabang to Thailand. A lot of other travelers we met arrived from Hanoi, Vietnam, were using Luang Prabang as an entry point and Vientiane as an exit point.
The national carrier Lao Airlines (http://www.laoairlines.com/) deserves some words, too. The Internet is still full of worrisome questions about the safety but in overall, Lao Airlines is “as safe as it gets”. In the past I used to fly old Tupolevs and other planes with questionable reputation in countries where sanctions often put limits to airplane maintenance. Once in Uzbekistan the plane was taking off and the flames were coming out of its engine. Another time the plane was filled with chicken (talking about avian influenza…)! All this said, I am still here and I felt safer with Lao Airlines than with many other airline I have tried, and I have comparison material!February and March 2013 we flew Laos Airlines on ATR72 airplanes, which are French-Italian manufactured twin-engine turboprop planes, thus considered very reliable. In 2011 Lao Airlines purchased two Airbus A320 aircraft and in an interview given in January 2013 with Mr. Sengpraseuth Mathouchanh, Vice President of Lao Airlines, it was announced that the number will increase to four by March 2013. In the same interview, Mr. Mathouchanh revealed the next new destinations: India and the Middle East. He emphasized that the airline is currently working hard on the safety management system (SMS), aiming at the IOSA accreditation in 2014 (the IOSA accreditation will allow Lao Airlines to fly to Europe). In terms of the pilots, they are trained in Toulouse, France.
(Interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbMc3fa_oi8)
An Englishman we met at Chokdee Cafe in Vientiane said he had flown from Luang Prabang to Vientiane on an A320 aircraft and it was excellent. I bet that the more you stick to the more touristic routes, the better your chances of getting the newest aircraft is.
Lastly, Laos being one of the only remaining Communist countries in the world provides tourists with one benefit: the price fluctuation is weak. Each time we flew Lao Airlines we purchased the tickets one day before (and this was during the high season!) and the price had not changed at all. For example, Luang Prabang-Bangkok (one way) costs 120USD and Bangkok-Vientiane round trip 135USD.
ຍິນດີຕ້ອນຮັບສປປລາວ! (welcome to Laos)