Vientiane's Wattay Airport (IATA: VTE, ICAO: VLVT) is 4 km west of the city. International services are quite limited, but this is slowly changing.
There are direct flights to/from:
- Bangkok Suvarnabhumi: Thai Airways, two flights daily (code share with Lao Airlines) and Lao Airlines, one. Bangkok Airways also operates one flight daily
- Hanoi (Viet Nam): Lao Airlines, three times weekly, Vietnam Airlines daily, Cambodia Angkor Air daily (some flights co-shared with Vietnam Airlines).
- Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam): Vietnam Airlines daily via Phnom Penh; Lao Airlines three times/week via Pakse
- Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): AirAsia  daily.
- Phnom Penh (Cambodia): Vietnam Airlines daily.
- Siem Reap (Cambodia): Lao Airlines three flights weekly via Pakse.
- Chiang Mai (Thailand): Lao Airlines six times weekly via Luang Prabang.
- Kunming (Yunnan, West China): China Eastern Airlines operate four and Lao Airlines three flights weekly. Lao Airlines and the Lao Consulate both have offices in the Camellia Hotel, Kunming.
- Singapore: Lao Airlines flies four times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday.
- Seoul (South Korea): Lao Airlines flies Daily. Jin Air , t'way air 
- Busan (South Korea): Lao Airlines flies every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
There is a US$10 departure tax for international flights, but this is being incorporated into the ticket cost so is not now payable in cash for most flights.
From Bangkok many visitors choose to fly into Udon Thani in Thailand, and cross the border by bus, as this domestic flight is considerably cheaper than a direct international flight to Vientiane. There is a direct shuttle from Udon Thani airport to the Thai/Lao border at Nong Khai (about 50 km away) for 200 baht. Alternatively,Nok Air offers flight+minivan service from Bangkok to Vientiane v.v. by flying with Nok Air from Bangkok to Udon Thani and transferred on a minivan to Vientiane. This can be booked directly from their website. Also, there are also direct cross-border bus services from Udon Thani (the city, not the airport!) to Vientiane. From Udon Thani airport, you can take shuttle van to Udon Thani City Bus Terminal for 80 baht to catch the direct bus to Vientiane. The buses to Vientiane operate 8 times daily, from 8 am - 6 pm* (see below for details). If you wish to catch the last direct bus to Vientiane, you should get to the bus terminal before 5 pm to make sure that you get the ticket** (see below for details). This option (flight plus bus transfers and immigration clearance at 2 points) takes at least 2 hours longer than a direct Bangkok to Vientiane flight. Be aware that you may have difficulty getting an international bus to Laos if you do not already hold a visa. Ticket officers for the buses sometimes check for this as the buses do not wait at the border long enough for the painfully slow visa on arrival process. If you are flying to Udon Thani you should also make sure you go to the correct departure airport. Nok Air and Thai Air Asia flies from Don Muang, the old Bangkok airport, with Thai Airways flying from Suvarnabhumi.
The schedule is 8 am (TH), 9 am (TH), 10.30 am (LA), 11.30 am (LA), 2 pm (TH), 3 pm (TH), 4.30 pm (LA), and 6 pm (LA). The buses leaving from Vientiane (Thalat Sao) to Udon Thani also depart at the same time. The usual fare from Udon Thani to Vientiane is 80 baht. It is subject to 5 baht extra charge if you travel on the weekend or after 4.30 pm of the weekdays. If you travel back from Vientiane to Udon Thani Bus Terminal, the fare is 22,000 Kip (approx. 88 baht). Sometimes the extra 2,000 Kip (approx. 8 baht) may apply.
During the weekend or long holiday or festivals of Thailand and Laos, more people from Vientiane will cross the border to Udon Thani for shopping. They will usually catch the last bus back to Vientiane, so the last bus will be full faster than usual. As the last bus is Lao bus bound back to Vientiane, Lao passengers usually carry a lot of luggages and cram in the bus. Sometimes, the driver allows passengers which cannot get the tickets - because the tickets are sold out - to stand and cram in the bus for 100 baht.
Lao Airlines flies to five domestic destinations (three to five flights daily to Luang Prabang; once or twice daily to Pakse, four times per week to Huay Xai and Oudomxay, and six times per week to Xieng Khuang (Phonsavan).
Laos Skyway: formerly known as Lao Air, is a private airline with its headquarters at Wattay Airport in Vientiane, Laos. It operates scheduled and charter services to airports in the country not served by Lao Airlines. Some of the destinations include Luang Prabang, Pakse, Xieng Khuang, Huayxay, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Samneua, and Phongsaly.
Transfer to the city
An airport shuttle bus service has recently started operating. The bus stop is located in front of the International Arrivals exit (turn left upon exiting), and operates to Vientiane City Center (hotel area) and Central Bus Station/Talat Sao. The fare for a one-way trip is 15,000 kip or around US$2. The Airport Shuttle has a direct service to Lao ITECC-CBS Line, which means that it would be possible to travel directly from the airport to Patuxay, That Luang and ITECC. Click here to see the route map of the shuttle bus
Many hotels offer a pickup service from the airport, or you can take a jumbo or taxi for US$7 (57,000 kip).You can buy a taxi coupon before you leave the airport building for US$7. The journey to the airport should be cheaper, around US$3 by tuk-tuk. From city to airport, tuk-tuk is 30,000 kip (October 2014). Do not agree with 55,000 kip, shown on a price list by some tuk-tuk drivers. You can bargain down to 30,000 kip, or simply walk away to find another tuk-tuk. Always agree with the price before boarding the tuk-tuk.
The railway link across the Mekong finally opened in March 2009, and there are now four shuttle services daily from Nong Khai to Tha Naleng, some 13 km away from Vientiane and reachable by shuttle bus from the Morning Market. The shuttle trains are timed to connect with overnight trains to and from Bangkok, with around 90 minutes buffer time at the Thai side of the border for buying tickets and Immigration. It's thus possible to hop aboard special express #25 at 8 PM in Bangkok, arrive at Nong Khai at 6:30 AM and reach downtown Vientiane around 9. The train has first and second class air-con sleepers, which cost around 1200/800 baht respectively. Check State Railway of Thailand for the the up-to-date time tables and fares, as well as online ticket booking. A Lao visa on arrival is available at Tha Naleng station. However, note that the station (unlike Friendship bridge) is located in the middle of nowhere and songthaew drivers may ask as much as 100 baht/person (even from Thai/Lao people) for a shared ride to Vientiane. A combined shuttle train/minibus ticket to Vientiane is sold at the Nong Khai train station ticket counter for 300 bath/person.
The other option is to get off the train at Nong Khai and cross the border by bus via the Friendship Bridge. The Nong Khai station is just 1.5 km from the bridge, so if you take a tuk-tuk it should cost no more than 30-40 baht for all, after bargaining of course. Outside the station there's an information board listing the official prices to the nearby destinations. Most tuk-tuk drivers will stop at a travel agent just outside the station and try to coerce you to buy both a Lao visa and shuttle bus to Vientiane. Don't listen to them: you can get a visa and shuttle easily at the Lao border.
For those, who already have a Lao visa, or do not need one for a short visit (citizens of ASEAN countries, Russia and a few others), getting off the train in Udon Thani then taking direct cross-border bus to Vientiane bus is a good option. See below for details.
The train journey either way is pleasant if basic, if you have a sleeper. (Less than 800 baht.) You usually don't need air-con as the train isn't hot, though non-air-con often isn't available: few cold-blooded travellers say the air-con is too cold. Pack your own meals, beer, etc. The food on the train is expensive - and beyond awful. There is a 'change racket' operating among the catering staff: being seriously short-changed is the rule, not the exception. You need to note the prices on the menu, have baht as kip or US dollars will result in a big loss on the change & have small denominations: a 1,000 baht note can serve as an excuse for a 9-hour delay in bringing change; even then you will have to go looking for it.
The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Saphan Mittaphap) from Nong Khai, Thailand is the most common means of entry. The bridge cannot be crossed on foot or by bicycle (theoretically; however people have been seen strolling the bridge), but there are frequent 20 baht shuttle buses just past Thai immigration. The price changes depending on the time of day and day of week. You will get a receipt. Bicycles can be carried on buses in the cargo compartment.
Direct bus services to Talat Sao bus terminal from Nong Khai (55 baht), Khon Kaen (185 baht from Khon Kaen Aircon Bus Terminal (Prab-argat) at 07:45 (usually delayed till 08:00) and arrives Vientiane Talat Sao Bus Station around noon. Second bus departs at 15:15), Udon Thani (80 baht).
If you don't already have a Laos visa in your passport, the bus will not wait for you at the Laos immigration point. You will have to take the local green bus 14 near the immigration gates or a tuk tuk (see below).
These direct buses from Thailand are cheap, comfortable, hassle-free and popular, so book ahead or arrive early. Schedules change often, currently the buses start at 08:00 and leave every 2 hours or so, until 18:00.
Alternatively minibuses depart from out front of Central Plaza (Udon Thani) every 30-60 minutes and cost just 50 baht to the Friendship Bridge. To get from the Udon airport to the Friendship Bridge, a 200 baht minibus fare can be purchased in the airport and will drop you off on the Thai side of the bridge.
Visas on arrival are available at the bridge for US$35 or 1500 baht (ie. cheaper to pay in US$). Overtime fee of US$1 may be charged from late afternoon onward and on weekends.
A photo may required. Should it be requested and you forgot your passport photo, they'll photocopy your passport for an extra US$1/40 baht (or do it on the Thai side for just 2 baht).
When you get a visa on arrival, you get the entry stamp at the same time, so you don't have to wait in line afterwards. A 40 baht (or 10,000 kip) "entry fee" is sometimes charged once through. Just walk past the entry fee booth. If no-one stops you, you haven't done anything wrong.
Once through immigration, you can take a jumbo (posted price 250 baht, easy to bargain down to 100 baht or less for immediate departure with only one passenger) or taxi (300 baht) to any destination in the city. Shared jumbos are cheaper. You should be able to negotiate to a good deal less than 50 baht/person if you're prepared to share and possibly wait.
The local bus (usually #14) to Talat Sao (the Morning Market) is the cheapest of all, 8,000 kip or 20 baht, but signage is nonexistent and you may be in for a wait (up to 20 minutes). The bus runs until at least 18:45 or so.
It's about 25 km from the bridge to Vientiane; allow at least 30 minutes.
When arriving via the Friendship Bridge, you might like to visit the Buddha Park sculpture garden before going on to Vientiane, and save yourself a return trip back past the border crossing later. The same local bus (usually #14) that connects Talat Sao (the Morning Market) and the Friendship Bridge checkpoint also continues on to Buddha Park. Ask the driver which way it's going, just in case. You can take the public bus to Buddha Park although the roads are paved, it can get a bit bumpy.
The bridge immigration shuts quite late, around 22:00. (Ambulances can go through at any hour, in an emergency.) But check with the locals if you are unsure. Although note that the Thai clock is very different to the Western one, so using 24 hour time may be a better way to ask.
A direct bus from Hanoi takes at least 20 hours (despite what the travel agents might say, avg 24 hrs) and should cost about US$15-20. There is a twice a week VIP bus (better seats) and a local bus that departs every day. For the local bus: apparently you're not always certain of a seat and Vietnamese people tend to sit and never get up again until you've arrived.
The journey from Hue is 14-18 hrs and should cost US$20-30. The bus arrives at Southern Terminal where you have to bargain hard with tuk-tuk drivers. The ride to town after midnight is 30,000 kip. There are local buses heading towards town from here that usually stop at the central market priced at about 10,000 kip.
If you arrive before 8 pm, ignore the Tuk-Tuk drivers, walk out the gate, to the right you'll see a row of ATMs, right next to it a "bus shed" with seats. The Tuk-tuks will tell you the bus is cancelled, just left, etc. be patient and wait for the local bus to arrive. A bus to city centre is 3000 kip.
The bus trip from Phnom Penh to Vientiane costs about US$50 if you go 'VIP': this involves a bed for the night portion of your trip; however unless you have a partner you will share the rather small bed with a random passenger of the same sex. The bed is comfortable, though there have been reports of leaking windows and wet mattresses.
At the Lao-Cambodian border, essentially the same form has to be filled out numerous times (to ensure each official gets his 'fee'). If you can't carry your luggage 500 m from the Cambodian border post to the Lao, you're out of luck: the bus staff will have disappeared by now. The border process is hot, slow and enervating.
Regardless of what the travel agent or busline tells you, the Phnom Penh-Vientiane (or vice-versa) trip usually involves four separate buses, not two. The Phnom Penh-Lao border and Pakse-Vientiane legs are comfortable enough. However in between the border and Pakse in Southern Laos you will be crammed into a minibus or open van, sit on other people's laps, etc, as the vehicle does the rounds of every guesthouse in the region. You will eventually be transferred into another van, and the process repeated. It can take 4-6 hours, and it is seldom clear where you are, where you are going, or who is in charge..
If the busline talks you into putting your luggage on a second bus (because of space problems), it is liable to vanish along the road.
The bus trip from Phnom Penh to Vientiane, or vice-versa, averages 27 hours.
From elsewhere in Laos
Buses to and from destinations in Vientiane Prefecture depart from the Talat Sao bus terminal, just east of the Morning Market. There is an informative schedule and schematic diagram of the bus piers painted on the central building, which is where you can also buy tickets.
The Southern Bus Terminal, used by all buses coming from the south (including VIP), is on Thanon Kaisone Phomvihane, which is the first stretch of the "Route 13 South". It is also called the Dongdok Bus Station. It is 10 km and, perversely, north east of the centre. Shared songthaews are leaving from Talat Sao bus terminal for around 20,000 kip. Hiring a tuk tuk from the center should be around 30-50,000. Public bus number 23 or 29 stops by the entrance of the southern bus station and connects it with the Talat Sao bus terminal (Morning Market) at 3,000 kip (Route #29) or 5,000 kip (Route #08), from where it is a ten minutes walk into the tourist centre.
The Northern Bus Terminal, recently moved out of city centre - about 20-30 minutes ride - is where all buses to the north arrive and depart. From there you can take a green Isuzu bus (Route #08) to the city centre, the driver will ask 5,000 kip when you exit the bus.
Note that if you buy a bus ticket, with quite a margin, in town, it should include the transfer to the respective terminal.
When you get out of the bus, don't forget to check your luggage: the bus staff has a plenty of time to go through your things, and they do.