Transportation in Laos

Planes, trains and automobiles…what’s the best way to get around?

Laos Tuk Tuk

Jumbo, Sǎam-lâaw, Sakai-làep, Tuk-tuk:

The various three-wheeled taxis found in Vientiane and provincial capitals have different names depending on where you are. Larger ones are called jąmbǫh (jumbo) and can hold four to six passengers on two facing seats. In Vientiane they are sometimes called tuk-tuks as in Thailand (though traditionally in Laos this refers to a slightly larger vehicle than the jumbo), these three-wheeled conveyances are also labelled simply taak-see (taxi) or, usually for motorcycle sidecar-style vehicles, săhm-lór (three-wheels). The old-style bicycle săhm-lór (pedicab), known as a cyclo elsewhere in Indochina, is an endangered species in Laos.


Vientiane has a handful of taxis that are used by foreign business people and the occasional tourist, though in other cities a taxi of sorts can be arranged. They can be hired by the trip, by the hour or by the day. Typical all-day hire within a town or city costs between US$35 and US$45 subject to negotiations.

Bus, Sǎwngthǎew & Lot Doi Saan:

Long-distance public transport in Laos is either by bus or sŏrngtăaou (literally ‘two rows’), which are converted pick-ups or trucks with benches down either side. Private operators have established VIP buses on some busier routes, offering faster and more luxurious air-con services that cost a little more than normal buses. Many guesthouses can book tickets for a small fee.

Sŏrngtăaou usually service shorter routes within a given province. Most decent-sized villages have at least one sŏrngtăaou, which will run to the provincial capital and back most days.

Transport in Laos is very good value compared with the developed world, but journeys can take a lot longer than distances on a map might suggest, in part due to long and winding roads and in part due to unexpected delays along the way.

**Pick-pockets: While traveling in Laos is a breeze, it is always important to be aware of your surroundings. Pick-pocketing is a major occurrence, especially in larger cities. Make sure that your bag is zipped up and carried in front of you and that your wallet is tucked away safely. It is also a good idea to keep copies of your passport and essential documents in your dorm or hotel room, just in case. Keep an eye out for yourself and your friends on crowded metro trains and don’t be afraid to make a lot of noise if you see something out of place. Pick-pockets scare easily!

Additional Resources:

Tips to Get Around Laos

Getting Around Laos