Train Travel in Laos

While the railway in Laos may be a topic of debate amongst locals and political and economical experts, there’s no arguing that the opening of the train is quickly transforming travel in Laos. In this article, we’re sharing all the details of the newly opened train system in Laos for intrepid travelers eager to sink their teeth into an “untraveled” Southeast Asia.
Prepared By:

Tara Tadlock

One of the main reasons travelers opt out of visiting Laos is its lack of connectivity and ease of travel. But things are changing! Now adventurers can take a train across the length of Laos! The train journey through the lesser-known landscapes of Laos is affordable and fast, offering sweeping views of mountains swathed in jungle.

Why Train Travel in Laos

Perhaps the foremost reason travelers should consider train travel in Laos is the time it saves. It wasn’t that long ago that getting anywhere in Laos required taking a local bus. The buses in Laos only leave the stations when they are filled with passengers, which could or could not be when they are scheduled. Timetables are unreliable, and the journeys themselves can take 3-4x the amount of time they’re supposed to depending on your driver. Booking a train ticket means travelers can make the most of their time in a destination rather than spending a chunk of it getting to their desired location. 

It’s also more comfortable. Buses don’t have air-conditioning, and when they do drivers don’t tend to turn it on. There often aren’t seatbelts on the buses, which is a bit concerning given the rough state of Laos’ rural roads. The cherry on top is that buses in Laos like to carry as many passengers as can fit in the vehicle. Train travel ensures you a ride free of any potholes with a comfortable seat and air conditioning.

Aside from being a more enjoyable journey, it’s also more sustainable. Train travel is the most environmentally friendly way to get from A to B, as well as being one of the best ways to cut your travel emissions. The views you get along the way are the biggest bonus of all. Not only is it better for the planet, but rail passengers also get up-close views of the Lao countryside.

Train Travel in Laos is growing in popularity

Where the Train Goes in Laos

The train is officially known as the Boten-Vientiane railway, which is a small part of the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative. The Lao section of this greater railway project runs along the length of Laos from north to south. Boten is the most northern station, and Vientiane is where the rail service terminates in the south. 

There are two types of train services available: 1) express and 2) local. The main difference between the two is speed. The express trains make stops at the main stations only. These main stations are Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Muang Xai, Na Tuey, and Boten. The local train service stops at every station that’s been built along the way so far, with more currently being built. Because of this, the local service takes longer but is cheaper.

Train Travel in Laos is affordable and scenic

How to Buy Train Tickets in Laos

The ticketing system for trains in Laos can be confusing. Like most things associated with tourism in Laos, marketing and information surrounding the trains haven’t quite been hacked. 

Buying tickets is the biggest issue most train travelers in Laos encounter. There is an app (LCR Ticket App), but as of publishing, it only works on phones with a Lao SIM card. If you have a Lao SIM card, I highly recommend that you use the app for sake of ease. 

There are rumors that this year (2023), Baolau will begin selling tickets online to foreigners. However, currently, you do have to buy your tickets at the stations or the ticket office. Tickets can only be purchased 3 days in advance of your trip. 

The easiest way to purchase a ticket is to use a reputable reseller. The reseller will purchase the tickets for you, but they will require your passport, as tickets are sold in the name of the passenger with your passport number attached to prevent fraud. The best way to ensure you don’t get scammed is to ask your hotel reception staff if they know a train ticket reseller they would recommend. Some hotel staff double as resellers themselves.

Travel by Train in Laos

Things to Know About the Train in Laos

  • The stations are all located outside of the cities they serve. You’ll need to arrange transport prior to arrival or be prepared to negotiate with the tuk-tuk drivers sitting outside of the station. 
  • There are toilets onboard, with an option for a sitting toilet and a squat toilet, but both options are void of toilet roll. 
  • The trains in Laos are extremely clean. Most signage is posted in Mandarin and Lao, but there are also trilingual signs with English, Mandarin, and Lao instructions. 
  • Business class carriage seats are in a 2×2 configuration, giving passengers a bit more space, whereas the economy class carriage has a 3×2 seat configuration. Regardless of which class you book, there is plenty of legroom! 
  • There are outlets near the seats for charging your devices, but as of 2022, there is no WiFi service onboard. This is set to change in 2023. 
  • Bring snacks! There is a drink cart that passes through the carriages (on some trips, but not all), but it only sells Pepsi and bottled water. 
  • There are luggage restrictions. Aerosols are strictly prohibited, and there is airport-style security you will have to clear before you enter the train station. Backpacks can easily fit in the overhead storage while rolling suitcases and larger luggage are put in the boarding car. 
  • Seating is assigned and staff are quite strict about passengers sitting where they’ve been assigned.


All photos featured in this article are courtesy of Tara Tadlock/Silly Little Kiwi.

More Places Untraveled Stories

Discover Hidden Gem Destinations

Sign up to receive our newsletter and get travel tips to help you plan your next adventure!

Find out the location of the hidden gem pictured below in our next newsletter!

Punta Allen on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula


Thank you for signing up for the Untraveled newsletter!