New rail link unlocks the beauty of Laos
New rail link unlocks the beauty of Laos
My first visit to Laos since COVID not only gave me the chance to visit our offices and catch up with our Laos’ country team face-to-face, it also gave me the opportunity to try the new high-speed train from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. For the ones who remember, an overland trip from Luang Prabang to Vientiane was previously a very long and tiring full-day journey – the new train is a comfortable one hour and 50 minutes ride!
Julie of Asian Trails Laos & Tien of Asian Trails Vietnam with Laurent at the station
Built by the Chinese and completed in late 2021, the rail link is changing the way goods are transported between the two countries and it will eventually connect passengers to China, which has one of the largest train networks in the world. At present, cross-border passenger trains do not yet operate but we are told that this will commence soon. What is still far off though and might take a generation to complete is the objective that one day high-speed trains will run from China through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore.
Western travelers usually assume that train stations are located in the centre of a city and airports are far out. In Laos this is different, since airports were built in the early days near cities, whereas the train stations are new and positioned further out. It takes about 40 minutes to get from the centre of Luang Prabang to the train station and about the same time from Vientiane Station to the city centre.
Inside the ample station
The stations are modern and large and spotlessly clean, with ample seats for all passengers, but there are no shops or restaurants. Travellers are advised to bring their own food and beverages, though a small selection of drinks and snacks are available on trains. Passport and security checks take place at the entrance to the station and tickets are checked prior to accessing the platforms. Guides, as well as accompanying persons without tickets, are not allowed into the station. Sufficient time should be calculated for these procedures and we advise clients to arrive at the station 45 minutes prior to train departures.
Trains run on time and there are currently three services per day from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane and two services to the border town of Boten. Stations are well organised and display carriage numbers on platforms so clients can easily board the carriage displayed on their train ticket. Train ticket information is also personalised, with the passenger’s name and passport number, as well as carriage and seat number identified on the ticket.
1st Class Seating
First class carriages offer four seats abreast and second class five seats abreast, with luggage storage available at the end of the carriage, as well as in overhead shelves. The trains are spotless with train attendants constantly moving through the carriages making sure it stays clean throughout the journey. There are both Western and Asian toilets in every carriage.
Currently, tickets are not easy to obtain. Trains are always fully booked and tickets go on sale only 72 hours prior to the specified travel date. Our Laos office manages reservations and ticketing for all Asian Trails’ clients who have booked full services with us. We apologise that train ticket-only sales cannot be offered at the moment.
Vang Vieng – a nature-lover’s paradise
The train ride from Luang Prabang south to Vang Vieng, best known for its beautiful river scenery and adventure tour programmes, takes only one hour at an average speed of about 160 kph per hour. The journey takes travellers through mountains and valleys with frequent tunnels.
After Vang Vieng, the train travels east towards Laos’ capital city Vientiane through plains and alongside small towns for the remaining 50 minutes travel time. The rail link is changing the way we conduct tours in Laos – giving clients more time to explore the sights and sounds in each destination and also, the ability to swiftly move from one place to another. Travel to Laos has never been easier!
Vientiane, the charming capital of Laos
It is a bit sad that for many visitors, a journey to Laos only concentrates on the cultural highlight of Luang Prabang and maybe a short stop in the capital Vientiane. For guests who love to explore the more remote parts of Asia, Laos offers ample possibilities.
For instance, travel on a boat on the Mekong River from the Thai border to Luang Prabang, with an overnight stop in a lodge on the way; or go completely off the beaten track in Northern Laos and visit mountain communities; the plain of jars is another sight that only few people will see; Southern Laos sees few tourists, though it has exceptional attractions, including the famed ‘4,000 islands’, quaint river lodges, ancient temples dating back to the Angkorian period and don’t forget the Bolaven Plateau with its picturesque coffee and tea plantations.
Asian Trails is happy to tailor-make your clients’ personal journeys through fascinating Laos. For further information, please email: Res(@)asiantrailslaos.com