It’s a long journey from Hanoi to Luang Prabang but totally worth it if you want to see the wondrous nature of Laos. Take a semi-sleeper bus between the two countries and cross the border easily. Buses depart once a day in the evening and are well-equipped. On them you can find well-functioning air conditioning, reclining seats, and blankets.
There are 3 operators that run from Hanoi to Luang Prabang, with 1 departure per day. If you decide to take a Flight, you can take the Economy option.
Luang Prabang is a laid-back place, made for unwinding in coffee shops, meandering down the river and wandering to gilded stupas. The UNESCO World Heritage site has a wealth of well-preserved traditional and colonial buildings, and is surrounded by wildlife-rich rainforests. All this makes it a highlight of any trip to Southeast Asia.
Luang Prabang is right in the middle of Laos, making it a convenient place for onward travel. You can continue south to Vang Vieng and the capital of Laos, Vientiane, or head north to Nong Khiaw, Muang Ngoi and the mountains, or east to Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars. Luang Prabang also has an international airport, from where you can connect to destinations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap and Singapore.
If you're traveling overland through Southeast Asia, Hanoi to Luang Prabang is a popular route. The 720 km (447 mile) journey overland by long distance bus is epic, and takes around a day and a half to complete. Traveling on a mixture of tarmacked highways and smaller, windier roads, through two countries, you’ll get to see the less touristy parts of Vietnam and Laos, and probably have a few adventures along the way.
There are several routes between Hanoi and Luang Prabang, but most buses take a route south of Hanoi towards the coast, through Pu Mat National Park and on to the Nam Can border crossing. There's lots to see along the way, including some mountainous scenery as you pass through the national park. You’ll cross into a remote part of Laos and drive through the mountains, villages and small towns of rural Laos to reach Luang Prabang.
Taking a bus
Taking the long distance bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang is cheaper than flying, but the journey takes an epic 24 to 26 hours. The bus that travels on this route is an air-conditioned ‘sleeping bus’, which has seats that recline to almost-flat, maximising your chances of getting to sleep.
You’ll be given a blanket, some water and there will be a charging port for your phone or laptop. The driver will make some stops along the way so you can stretch your legs, use the bathroom and get something to eat and drink.
This is a very long journey, and there are some tips for making it more comfortable. Air conditioning can make the bus cold, so wear layers, and take earplugs and an eye mask to help you sleep. Stock up on snacks and water, to keep you going between rest stops. Wi-Fi might be patchy, so download any films, music or books in advance. Take some toilet roll and hand sanitizer for bathroom breaks. As the bus crosses the border, make sure you have your passport with you, along with some dollars if you need to pay for a visa on arrival.
When you arrive in Luang Prabang, you'll be dropped at the Southern Bus Terminal so you’ll need to get a taxi or tuk-tuk to your hotel or guest house, which shouldn't cost more than a few dollars.
Providing the bus is on time, you’ll be arriving in the afternoon — but just in case, it's a good idea to let your hotel or guest house know you’re arriving on the ‘sleeping bus’ in case of delays along the way.
Vietnam is a long, S-shaped country, allowing easy travel from the capital of Hanoi to the economic hub in the south, Ho Chi Minh City.
A word picture is painted of the overnight train ride from Hanoi to Sapa; From the cold quarters to the sunrise upon arrival and everything in between.
Everything you need to know about taking the overnight bus from Vietnam’s coastal town of Nha Trang to the ancient city of Hoi An is right here.