By bus

It is possible to reach Luang Prabang by bus from other towns in Laos, including from the capital Vientiane. Buses are probably the least comfortable way of travelling, with many vehicles being old and susceptible to breaking down. However, many visitors prefer travelling by bus than flying due to safety concerns about domestic flights. It is however a rollercoaster ride from the capital, taking all day.

The bus situation in Luang Prabang can get a little confusing. There are two main bus stations, one serving destinations to the north and the other for destinations to the south. Mini-vans, the transport generally preferred by tourists, leave from a separate station near the southern station, technically increasing the number of bus stations to three.

Bus departures are subject to random changes to time and point of departure, and this combined with the ever-rising fee to get to the bus station (first to buy your ticket, then for the trip itself) means that, unless you're a die-hard do-it-yourselfer, arranging transport through your guesthouse or a tour agency and paying a small commission usually equals out.

If you book through a third party, the ticket price will include pick-up from your guesthouse and transportation to the bus station. If you're making it to the station on your own, it's a good idea to get to the station early. Transport, particularly minivans, is often filled to capacity and then some. Arriving early means you have a better choice of seats and won't end up squished in the front next to the driver. Leave a bag of non-valuable belongings on your seat to reserve it if you don't want to sit there until departure time.

Sometimes buses arriving from one town in transit to another are already full. It should be possible to get your money back in this situation if you make it politely clear to the bus station staff (not the driver!) that you won't go because the bus is full, and you'll depart on the next bus. It's best to do this while the bus is still at the station.