A Handy Guide to Laos International Airport

Laos International Airport

Laos is situated in the central part of Southeastern Asia and is completely landlocked. Some people think that this country is a large part of Asia, but in actual fact, from the northwest tip to the southeast point, it only extends a distance of 650 miles. To put this into context, this is only 50 miles longer than the furthest distance in the UK.

Passenger traffic in the last year or so has virtually doubled, and the main international airports have proved to be increasingly busy. Of the 4 international airports in Laos, 2 of them handle the bulk of business and tourist traffic. The major international entry and exit airport is called Wattay, located in the capital and largest city, Vientiane.

Read on to learn more, and be sure to apply for your eVisa for Laos before your trip too!

All About Laos International Airport

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) 3-letter code for this airport is ‘VTE’, which you will need to know when travelling. This code may be printed on your ticket, depending on which airline you use, but you will certainly see the code displayed on signs when you check in or out.

Considering there are 4 locations servicing international travellers, it is important that you know the code to ensure your journey goes smoothly. The other air hubs handling overseas traffic here are Luang Prabang (LBQ), Savannakhet (ZVK), and Pakse (PKZ), but Wattay International is the largest and most commonly used.

It may be easy to get a little confused, as some regular travellers and locals refer to Wattay’s name in other ways, such as Laos International, Wat or Laos Wat International Airport – which is why it is useful to know the official ‘VTE’ code.

Wattay International Airport’s History and Services

Built in 1999, renovations are ongoing and the construction of a domestic terminal, which opened in 2018, is one of the reasons traffic has increased in recent years. The terminals are connected, making it easier to arrive at and depart this airport to international or local destinations, such as Bangkok in Thailand.

The airport provides all the usual facilities, such as banks, ATMs, shops, restaurants and a wide range of transport services, even though the city centre is less than 2 miles away – which is very convenient.

Please note that there are no luggage storage arrangements available, so it’s best not to think that you can store your bags for any period of time. Travel light if you can!
Fortunately, whilst it can be remarkably busy here, there is plenty of comfortable seating available while you’re waiting to catch your flight or for loved ones to arrive.

What Do I Need to Know About Laos Wat International Airport?

One important thing to know is that there are no ‘direct’ American or European flights to or from Wattay, and so to arrive here you first transit via other Southeast destinations.

As well as Bangkok, other popular transit routes to arrive here are via the main cities in China, Vietnam or Cambodia. Meanwhile, the most popular airlines used for connections are Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines.

The national carrier, Lao Airlines, is popular with residents, and as such it’s best to book early to secure a seat during festival times or national holidays.

Also, if you’re arriving at Wattay then travelling to the capital Vientiane late at night, consider asking your hotel to arrange a pickup. This is quicker, easier and better than finding an available taxi during the nighttime hours. In addition, it is important to reconfirm your flight 24 hours before departure.

Fortunately, you are unlikely to encounter heavy traffic from the airport, as this is usually only common around the city centre. Still, leave plenty of time, though, just in case.

How Many Laos International Airports Are There?

As previously stated, there are 4 international hubs, but the main airport of this type is Wattay. Connections from here are well serviced by several small-to-medium-sized airlines flying to East Asian destinations. That said, UK, US and EU carriers such as British Airways do not have any presence here for now.

How Do I Get to Laos International Airport?

There are several transport options, the cheapest being the shuttle bus from the Central Bus Station (which, handily, includes a few hotel collection points). The cost of this service is quite negligible, at around 1.50 USD! However, the shuttle bus only operates between 09.15 am and 9.15 pm, so if you are arriving late, you’ll need to find alternative transport.

Other choices are, of course, taxis, which cost around 8 USD one-way to the city. If you want to be adventurous, you can ride in a tuk-tuk for approximately half the cost of a taxi, although this is only possible if you have a small amount of luggage!

Please be aware that there is no train service from Wattay. A very useful app called Loca Laos is used by many travellers to Laos, and you can book a taxi service with them.
All transportation payments must be made in cash, namely Laos kips (currency code: LAK).

How Long Does It Take to Arrive at Laos International Airport?

The bus can take up to 30 minutes from the town centre if it is going to make stops. If you take a taxi, you can expect to arrive in around half that time. Just be aware that many taxis do not operate before 7 am or after around 9 pm, so when making plans, check this in advance.

What International and Domestic Flights Go From Laos Wattay International?

The following flights operate from and to the airport:

  • Air Asia
  • Air Busan
  • Bangkok Airways
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Jeju Air
  • Lao Airlines
  • Scoot
  • Sichuan Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Vietnam Airlines

Every so often, there are additional charter flights added by smaller airlines. Fares do vary, so check out your options before booking.

What Facilities Are There at the Main International Airport in Laos?

There is plenty of seating, toilets and washing facilities. There are also the usual commercial and tourist services such as banks and ATMs, currency exchange, travel desks and information desks, postal facilities, duty-free shopping and food outlets.

In terms of food, there is an internet café, buffet-style restaurant, and a few bars. There is also a business lounge. Connections to immigration and customs are made via a series of sky bridges.

Are There Plans to Expand Laos Airport?

Yes, whilst expanding Wattay is planned, space is limited in the surrounding area to significantly lift the airport’s international passenger handling capacity.

Whilst updates and improvements are always ongoing, the domestic terminal is getting the most attention for now. This is understandable, as domestic traffic is of great importance here, and no major airlines operate to Laos International Airport from outside of Asia.

We hope that you’ve found this article helpful! For more top information ahead of your visit to this up-and-coming Southeast Asian destination, check out Visit Laos page.