Shared Minivan Between Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Laos

Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng

A popular tourist route it is surprising how bad the roads are in this part of the country. Not fully understanding the situation, we booked a shared minivan from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng with our hotel in Luang Prabang.

This was a mistake as the service crams as many bodies as they can fit into the minivans, meaning some luggage goes in a different vehicle that is being used as a private transport and therefore has fewer passengers and more room for extra luggage. They spent over an hour after they picked us up picking up other passengers and stuffing luggage under seats and in every spare corner they could.

The 180k journey is on bad roads. The road up a big hill is particularly slow with frequent sections on even rougher track over cleared away mudslide. They give you one short break in the morning and a longer break at lunch. With an 8:30 pickup we arrived in Vang Vieng at 2:30.

The landscape, if you can actually see out the window of the crowded minivan, is lush and scenic with more prominent mountains coming into view as you near Vang Vieng.

After talking with some folks who took a private minivan to Vang Vieng, private may be the better way to go. Without the weight of so many passengers the trip up and down the big hill is much faster. However, they do stop in route at a couple of viewpoints and other attractions so you don’t necessarily arrive much earlier.

Vang Vieng to Vientiane

Although another unpleasant shared minivan experience, this one was not as bad as the trip from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, but only because it was shorter, 4 and half hours door to door. Still, they packed the minivan such that if you are unlucky enough to sit in the back row or next to a fat Thai woman who takes up more than her side of a double seat it makes for a less than comfortable trip.

On this route, 157k, there is just one stop at the nicest roadside restaurant/toilet we’ve seen.

The problem is the roads. They may be paved but just barely with frequent sections of bumpy gravel which greatly slows down traffic. There are also more big slow trucks on the road to Vientiane than there were on the “new” road to Luang Prabang.

We had tried to arrange a private minivan with our hotel and at travel agency in Vang Vieng, but found nothing available.

October 31 and November 3, 2018

For links to all the posts in this series see the Laos/Cambodia page.