Getting To Luang Prabang From Vang Vieng, by Bus or Mini Bus

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If you boarded your bus, took your assigned seat and looked up to see this over your head, would you be worried? You’d be right to be.

Luang Prabang Travel Blog Laos
The bus to Luang Prabang with built in shower.

We had the seats with the built-in internal rain shower. Every time we climbed a hill (and there were many), at a particular angle, water from the air-conditioning system gave us a free shower.

In this post we’ll tell of our experience on the VIP bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang and also of the return trip, the minibus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng.

We’ll share how to book tickets and help you decide which to take, VIP bus or minibus.  We’d recommend the big bus for anyone who gets car sick.

Getting from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang by bus. Laos.
Getting from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang by bus. It’s a long ride, but an incredible one. Here we stop at a roadside shop with WCs to stretch our legs and check out the views.

It wasn’t so bad, we kept our hats on and learned to predict when the rain would start.  All electronic devices stayed dry and we weren’t quite as wet as when we went kayaking and caving in Vang Vieng in the wet season.

Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, the VIP Bus or Mini Bus

Getting to Luang Prabang from Vang Vieng by bus.

10am, time to be picked up by shuttle from the centre of Vang Vieng for the ride to the bus station, it’s a little way out of town. We were on time, dripping already in the heat and lugging oversized backpacks. The shuttle bus wasn’t. But no worries, she’ll be right, as they say in Australia.

An hour later we arrived at Vang Vieng bus station, loaded our bags and took our seats. Time to go?

Not quite, we sat on the bus for an hour or so while a man with nail clippers fiddled with the engine. It was pretty hot on the bus, they did eventually turn the air-con on.

The bus to Luang Prabang
Still smiling on the hot, stationery Luang Prabang bus while nail-clipper-guy fiddled.

Unfortunately, the air-con did very little for us at the back, maybe a slight breeze.

We’re tight budget travellers, so we saved a few bucks by booking three seats between the four of us. That worked out OK, we weren’t too squashed, just hot, and sometimes wet.

There were a few ants too and some flies and the odd mosquito, but nothing too devastating.

So Was The VIP Bus to Luang Prabang a Living Hell?

The road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng Laos from the bus.
With views like this who cares about getting wet. The road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng is stunning and fairly hair-raising.

No, actually, it was fine. Nobody was bus-sick, nobody had a meltdown, nobody was busting for the toilet and the bus stopped a couple of times for refreshment stops.

I really quite enjoy long travel days and being forced to do nothing, trains are my favourite, like the train to Kanchanaburi or The Trans Siberian, but buses are OK by me too.

The kids are absolutely fine on buses and trains. We normally have a no computer games rule, they read, but we broke it this time.

It was so hot as we waited for nail-clipper-guy to stop fiddling that I let them have the tablets.

I like to just look out of the window, looking into people’s lives for a brief moment. The bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang passes through some incredible mountain scenery as the road twists and turns.

Roadside shops between Luang Prabang and Laos.
Roadside shops selling surplus produce, children running bare-foot in the dust, accidents waiting to happen as buses speed past.

For most of the way the road is lined with wooden homes and market stalls and all the life that goes with them.

Women sell surplus produce from their farms, children play in the dust at the roadside, chasing plump puppies or harassed chickens.

I couldn’t imagine a Western mother relaxed enough to allow her babies to play almost on the road, maybe they learn early how to be road safe, maybe there are tragic accidents.

Bus to Luang Prabang. Toilets
Yes, there were toilets.

At the second refreshment stop we walked into the home of the shop owners. A simple home with a million-dollar view. We are so privileged to be able to see into people’s lives like this.

Rest stop on the way to Luang Prabang
A simple Laos home on our journey
Laos bus trip
with a million-dollar view

It makes me question my anxiety over Dengue and Malaria, these people have almost zero protection from mosquitos, we should be fine in our air-conditioned guest house, shouldn’t we?

You don’t have to take the VIP bus to Luang Prabang, there are minibuses for about the same price. I’ve heard they are even more vomit-inducing as the road snakes its way around the mountains.

Last time we were here we took the local bus, not much different to the VIP, other than the little plastic stools in the aisles. They really like to pack them in here.

In a few days we’ll be leaving lovely Luang Prabang and heading back along the same road, probably by local bus to save money. I’m not looking forward to it particularly, but I’m not dreading it either.

There were a few white-knuckle screechy brake moments and a lot of landslides, it’s wet season here. But if I shut my eyes for the worst bits and keep watching the world go by the nine or so hours will pass painlessly. I just hope we’re not sitting in the shower seats this time.

The Mini Bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng (Update)

We returned to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang by minibus. It was a harder journey because of cramped conditions and increased risk of car sickness.

We had to stop twice for fellow passengers to get out and breathe and on our rest stop two people vomited.

If you’re going to take the minibus be extra certain to take anti-motion sickness tablets.

Vang Vieng Laos
Sleepy Vang Vieng, one of our favourite places, beautiful scenery and plenty of fun water activities. We tested tubing, caving and kayaking, all with the children. We spent weeks here in a little guest house on the island, even through wet season floods.
Luang Prabang Laos
Luang Prabang is more up-market, more expensive and has far more tourists. There is more to do in Luang Prabang itself and in surrounding areas. The markets are great to explore and don’t miss nearby caves and waterfalls.

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How to Book Tickets for Transport Between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng?

The easiest way to buy tickets is to use one of the many small travel agencies in Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng. Try a few to compare prices and availability. 12 Go Asia, the company that books bus and train tickets online all over South East Asia is also a possibility.

Finding Accommodation in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang

In this part of the world you can still find accommodation the old-fashioned way, by knocking on doors and negotiating on price. This was the way it was always done 20 years ago but now the internet is taking over. If you are travelling at any sort of peak time or festival it’s probably better to book and if you’d like a resort or up-market hotel, particularly in or near Luang Prabang, same. Vang Vieng was very empty the last time we were there, Luang Prabang wasn’t. Agoda are the Asia specialists with a big selection of hotels and guest houses, and good deals. is probably best for refundable hotel deals.

The bus to Luang Prabang, part of our Laos, Vang Vieng, Vientiane and Luang Prabang travel blog first appeared on World Travel Family. We hope you find our content useful and enjoy your time travelling in Laos.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

12 thoughts on “Getting To Luang Prabang From Vang Vieng, by Bus or Mini Bus”

  1. Thanks for all this information! We’re taking the buses between Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane in a few weeks so trying to find out as much as possible about them! Hopefully we won’t get sick!!

  2. Hello! Any chance you can confirm how you booked this VIP Bus?
    I am really struggling to find any way of booking a bus ahead of time (which I need to do to avoid needing an extended Thailand Visa).

    12goasia seems to be VERY over priced in comparison to the actual websites for the VIP bus but I cant seem to get a response to my emails to arrange a booking.
    I am also reading alot on line that say its best to only book any buses when your in the country, which isnt possible for us.

    Any advice? I greatly appreciate it! ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Hi,

    Me & my girl friends will be travelling to Laos next month.

    Come across to your post while we still juggling between VIP bus & mini van from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng (return) after read some not-so-good reviews about VIP bus.

    Can you help us out which one much better for long hours travel?

    Thank You.

    Aina (Malaysia)

    • Having done both Aina, it depends on you. Do you get car sick? If so, you are much, much more likely to lose your breakfast on the mini bus. That road is one of the longest, windiest, most up and down roads in the world. Personally I’d prefer the bus. The mini bus was cramped and most people got car sick.

  4. What an Amazing Road trip!! Amazing experience for the children! They must have made lots of friends on the way
    See you soon in Luang Prabang!
    From everyone at Villa Maly

  5. Dear traveller,
    You must have been very happy to travel Laos with your family!
    I have a plan to travel Laos for the 1st time in my life, soon.
    Would let me know the departure times of VIP bus from Vangvieng to Luan Prabang.
    Thank You.
    From Jin(in South Korea)

    • 9am, 10am, 11.30am 2.30pm and then an overnight bus around 9pm Jin. Prices depend on times. How my husband managed to remember those times I don’t know, he’s amazing! There are lots of places to buy tickets in Vang Vieng, they’re all the same, take your pick. Have fun in Laos, we LOVED it ๐Ÿ™‚


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