Of the defined total road system of some 30,000 plus kilometers, only some 15% are paved. This may be given the low traffic volumes and predominance of two and three-wheeled vehicles.
Laos is a land locked country, and therefore relies on its neighbours, Vietnam and Thailand, for sea port services. Most of WFP’s commodities are imported through Bangkok, Thailand.
Transport infrastructure in the Lao PDR is at an early stage of development as demonstrated by the Lao PDR’s road density of 6.1 km per 1,000 people as well as by the road quality.. In addition, the general demands on the transport infrastructure are low, since traffic levels on the national network (except near Vientiane and Savannakhet) are below 1,000 average annual daily traffic and below 500 average annual daily traffic on most other networks. However, demand has been increasing over the years at an annual rate of 5%–8% for goods and 8%–10% for passengers, indicating a rise in line with economic growth. A majority of the roads are impassable during the rainy season. (Source: Statistical Year Book Lao PDR 2014, MPI)
The Lao road network is estimated at about 46,000 Km, with only 28% paved. In general more than 60% of the total national roads are classified as in poor or bad condition. Most of the provincial and district roads are inaccessible during the rainy season. It is estimated that more than 40% of villages are 6 kilometers or more from a main road and nearly half are nor accessible during the rainy seasons. Road transport is the most used mode for freight transport, accounting for more than 80 percent of total freight transport.
Summary of Roles and Services
In accordance with Prime Ministerial Decree 66/PM of 1999, the Ministry of Public Work and Transport (formerly known as Ministry of Communications, Transport, Post and Construction) is the state management organisation responsible for the management of land, water, air, transport, post and telecommunication and urban and rural housing throughout the country.
The duties of the Ministry include:
- Studying and developing the party and government's policy on land, water, air transport, communications, housing and urban planning in order to develop strategic plans, policy advice and detailed urban and rural development plans in each planning period, supervising their implementation in order to ensure efficiency and success;
- Studying and defining regulations and laws for the organisations managing land, water, air, transport, communications, housing and urban planning and their activities;
- Studying and seeking domestic and foreign funds to improve and extend networks of land, water, air, transport, communications, housing and urban planning in accordance with government development plans;
- Establishing the plan and managing the implementation of the budget, finance and accounting in the sector;
- Inspecting, overseeing and managing the activities of the organisations and business units within the sector in accordance with regulations and laws;
- summarising and evaluating the implementation of plans, analysing communication systems, housing and urban planning in order to discover, develop and promote successful outcomes as well as discovering the disadvantages in order to resolve problems in time, summarising statistical data concerning communications, housing and urban planning for official use;
- Managing land, water, air, transport, communications, housing and urban planning transport and machinery;
- Studying and using the system of working methods of the Ministry to manage regulations concerning the organisational structure and civil servant numbers within the sector;
- Educating, training, creating, reshuffling, managing and implementing incentives policies for civil servants within the sector in accordance with party and government policy; and
- Concentrating on research, promoting creative ideas and applying new scientific and technical advances to the sector. The Ministry composes of the following offices and departments:
Road Construction / Maintenance
Lao government continues to depend upon the support of its development partners including World Bank, Asia Development Bank, SIDA, Japan/JICA, OPEC, IFAD, KFW, UNCDF and EU to implement rehabitation/reconstruction project in the transport sector. The costs of extending, upgrading and maintaining the transport system are very high
The road maintenance fund (RMF), established under Decree Number No. 09/PM, 2001, is designed to ensure a sufficient and stable domestics source of revenue for road maintenance. Under the decree, 10% of RMF annual revenue is allocated to local road network (provincial, district and commodity roads), 0.5% to road safety programme, and up to 90%, after allowing administration cost of the fund, to national road.
Preservation and development of the Lao PDR road network, which sits centrally in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) network, is crucial to national and regional integration. However, the country’s low population density and varied topography increase the cost and complexity of meeting travel needs. The very poor live in remote, usually upland, areas where infrastructure is limited. Improvements in rural accessibility and strengthening of the provincial, district, and community road network to all-weather standards were identified as priorities in the National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy of 2004, which sets out the government’s policy for poverty reduction.
Continued economic growth, including growth in subregional trade, will generate an increasing demand for travel and a corresponding need for improvement of transport infrastructure. Growth in freight transport demand is likely to be broadly similar to the rate of economic growth, and passenger travel is likely to increase at a similar or slightly faster rate. With economic growth of 7%–8% per annum anticipated in the medium term, considerable additional transport demand will need to be accommodated in the future.
Cost per km for different surface type and standard of road
Cost estimations below are for road improvement/expansion, new bridge construction, land acquisition and safety measurement. The applied unit rate is from the 2012 unit rate of Ministry of Public Works and Transport. According to the road design standards of the MPWT, the width of a four lane road is 32 meters and the width of a two lane road is 18 meters in total. The cost estimats below are for road improvement/expansion, new bridge construction, land acquisition and safety measurement. The applied unit rate is from the 2012 unit rate of Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Four Lane Road
Two Lane Road
Asphalt Concrete Road
Asphalt Concrete Road
Cost per Km ($)
Cost per Km ($)
Cost per Km ($)
Cost per Km ($)
Average cost per Km
|Breakdown of Surface Types of Roads in Laos|
TRAVEL TIME FROM CAPITAL CITY TO MAJOR TOWNS (hours / Days)
Road security and accidents
Traveling in Laos is generally safe with exception of some areas in the North where precaution should be taken. UN Humanitarian missions to be briefed by UNDSS before travel. Field staff to be informed by local authorities. Vehicles often do not have lights and animals stray on to the roads. The number of road accidents in Laos has risen sharply in recent years along with the increase in the number of motor vehicles, especially motorbikes.
Weighbridges are supervised by the Department of Transport under Ministry of Public Work and Transport. Unfortunately, existing weigh stations on national roads do not adequately enforce vehicle axle controls, while provincial and rural roads lack such stations.
Weigh stations do not generally inspect vehicles for dimension limits or roadworthiness, and there does not appear to be any existing procedures for testing and certification of weighing devices used for the enforcement of vehicle weights. Truck overloading, although having significantly declined in recent years due to increased enforcement, is a problem in some areas, for example, close to quarries, mines, or cement factories and timber extraction, often in remote areas.
Axle Load Limits
All roads under the GMS project are all weather roads and in good condition. These roads were designed axle as outline below. However, the rest of the domestic network can only support lower loads typically below 8.5 metric tons
Maximum Gross Weight limits (metric tons)
Type of Vehicle
2 axles 4 wheels
2 axles 6 wheels
2 axles 8 wheels
3 axles 6 wheels
3 axles 8 wheels
3 axles 10 wheels
3 axles 12 wheels
4 axles 8 wheels
4 axles 12 wheels
4 axles 14 wheels
5 axles 18 wheels
6 axles 22 wheels
Note: the maximum gross weight limits are reduced by 20% during the rainy season (June 01 to November 30).
There are three complete bridges crossing the Mekong River between Laos and Thailand with a fourth under construction in the North. The Australian-Lao-Thai first friendship bridge was opened on April 8 1994, connecting the international border-crossing in Vientiane Capital (Laos) with NongKhai province (Thailand). The bridge is designed and equipped with a railway which opened on March 5, 2009.
The second Lao-Thai friendship bridge is part of Asia Highway No. 16 (or Road No. 9 in Laos) and officially opened on December 19 2006. The bridge first opened to the public on January 9 2007 and connects Savannaket province (Laos) to Mukdahan province (Thailand). With the completion of the Mekong Interantional Bridge linking Mukdahan to Savannaket, East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), runs from Thailand to Vienam.
The construction of the third Lao-Thai Bridge over the Mekong River, connecting the town of Thakhek in Khammouane province, Laos’ to Nakhon Phanom province in Northeastern Thailand began in March 2009. Construction is expected to be completed in 2011.
The fourth bridge, also expected to be completed in 2011, will connect Chiang Mai's Chiangkhong with Huayxai district in the Lao province of Borkeo.
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) provides Laos with greater and better access to countries in the South East Asian Region. GMS comprises Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China.
Since 1992, the countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) have embarked on a program of economic cooperation (the GMS Program) that aims to promote development through closer economic linkages.
The GMS Program initiated by Asia Development Bank (ADB) emphasises the implementation and development of regional infrastructure in GMS countries in transport, energy, telecommunications sector. The GMS transport programme consists primarily of the building and development of “Economics Corridor’, called the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC) connecting southern China and Laos/Myanmar and Thailand; the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) connecting Myanmar and Vietnam via Thailand and Laos; and the South Corridors Economic Corridor (SEC) running from Vietnam via Cambodia and Thailand to Singapore.
Source: National Human Development Report: International Trade and Human Development, UNDP, Lao PDR, 2014
The North-South Economic Corridor links northern Thailand to northern Laos and southern Yunnan province of China. And the East-West Economic Corridor connects central Vietnam in the east with Myanmar in the west, cutting cross southern Laos and northern Thailand.
In Laos, two highways are sections of those economics corridors: Road No. 3 that crosses northern Laos from Houayxay to Boten linking Thailand to China was completed in April 2008. And the Road No. 9 that crosses southern province of Savannakhet from provincial capital in the west to Lao Bao on Vietnamese border.
International corridors leading to the Country
The transport network of the Lao PDR is linked to that of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and associated GMS economic corridors. The GMS transport sector strategy defines the key transport corridors of the Northern Corridor, connecting Thailand and the PRC (comprising National Road 3 in the Lao PDR); the Central Corridor (National Road 13 in the Lao PDR), linking Cambodia and the PRC; the East–West Corridor (Road 9) between Thailand and Viet Nam, crossing the Mekong River at Savannakhet; and the new Northeastern Corridor, connecting northern Viet Nam and Thailand along a new road (in the long-term parallel roads 6 and 7 within the Lao PDR) to Louangphrabang and Road 4 to Thailand.
Under GMS programme, a number of cross-border agreements aimed at shorter procedures have been agreed, one of which is the “single stop/single window service”. This is promoted to be introduced among GMS countries under ADB’s initiatives in order to promote international transport and logistics. For this purpose, international cross border points are designated at each country, and the other cross-border points designated as local cross-border points. Laos PDR has 26 cross-border points in total. Among them, 10 are international cross-border points to Thailand and Vietnam, while the others are local cross-border points. These are indicated below:
Source: Study on Integrated Distribution Center in Savannakhet and Vientiane in Lao PDR (March 2007), Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Japan).
Main corridors within the Country (leading to main towns / hubs)
The Lao PDR major national roads are: Routes No. 7, 8, 9, 12, 18 and 13. These corridors link to all main towns in the country to Vietnam in the East where they pass through. Rout No.13, in particular, is regarded as a national backbone. It serves as the spine of the national road system linking the every province in the north of the country (China-Lao border) to the every south (Cambodia-Lao border) connecting main hub cities together such as: Oudomxay, Luangpabang, Vientiane Capital, Thakek, Savannaket and Pakse. Moreover it acts as beginning points for many major roads such as: 7, 8, 9, 12 and 18 (MPWT, 2014).
The Route No 13, with the length of about 1,500 km, Route 13, parallels the Mekong for much of its distance. Though the route is paved and considered as all-weather passable, the quality of the road varies over its length. Some sections, particularly in the North from Louang Namtha to Vientiane province run through mountainous areas with numbers of sharp curb, steep, narrow which discourage in-land transport for container trailer.
There are currently 8 internal routes in the Lao PDR that have been designated as ASEAN Highway (AH) routes for regional integration as follows: (also see Roads Density Map in Annexes: 5.10. Road Density)
- Route AH-3: Houeixay (Lao-Thai border) to Boten (Lao-Chinese border) with total length of 251 km;
- Route AH-4: Boten (Lao-Chinese border) to Thanaleng (Lao-Thai border) with total length of 702 km;
- Route AH-5: Muang Ngeun to Uodomxay to Taichang (Lao-Vietnamese border) with total length of 391 km;
- Route AH-6: Thanaleng (Lao-Thai border) to Veunkhan (Lao-Cambodian order) with total length of 882 km;
- Route AH-7: Ban Lao to Nam Phao (Lao-Vietnam border) with total length of 238 km;
- Route AH-7A: Thakek to Mugia (Lao-Vietnamese border) with total length of 149 km;
- Route AH-7B: Vang Tao to Ban Het (Lao-Vietnam border) with total length of 309 km;
- Route AH-8: Savannaket to Densavanh (Lao-Vietnamese border) with total length of 237 km
Source: Country Report on Transport and Logistics, MPWT, 2014
For information on Laos Road Network Additional information, please see the following documents:
Note: The information provided in the attached documents, which has been taken from the old DLCA, does not match the structure of the new LCA and is therefore provided separately.
For information on Laos Road Network contact details, please see the following link: