Last Updated 17/01/2020

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. 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 mini bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng . We’ll share how to book tickets and help you decide which to take, VIP bus or mini bus.  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.


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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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 mini buses 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 mini bus. 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 breath and on our rest stop two people vomited. If you’re going to take the mini bus 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

Is tis 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. Try using Hotels Combined to comare prices on multiple booking engines. This works for hostels, resorts, guest houses and resorts. Alternately Agoda are the Asia specialists with a big selection and good deals. You need to check   Agoda separately to Hotels Combined . 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. We’ve been travelling the world f