Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Lao Airlines (tel. 021/214-427; www.laoairlines.com) flies to Xieng Khouang from Vientiane (US$53/£29), five times weekly, and Luang Prabang (US$40/£22), twice weekly, with return flights now offered to both cities. Schedules change with the seasons. Make sure you reconfirm your flight out every day until you leave to guarantee a seat back (flights overbook in the high season and get canceled in the low season).
By Bus -- Daily buses connect Phonsavan with Vientiane (6-8 hr.; 90,000 kip/US$9/£4.95) and Luang Prabang (6-8 hr.; 85,000 kip/US$8.50/£4.70). Route 7, a spur of the main north-south artery, Route 13, begins 150km (93 miles) north of Vientiane; the road, once a contender for the world's worst, is now in great condition. The ridge-top scenery is spectacular, but buses are overcrowded and slow. The road is also prone to landslides, so ask travel agents and fellow travelers about current conditions before setting out. Private vehicle hire is costly, but the best choice.
Visitor Information & Tours
At Sousath Travel, adjoining Maly Guesthouse, a short ride south from the town center (tel. 061/312-031; fax 061/312-395), the effusive Mr. Sousath is the definitive source on local history and a true steward of the jar sites; he has been featured in a number of local history and archaeology books and was in a documentary, Ravens, about the covert CIA pilots who flew from the area during the Vietnam War. A tour with Mr. Sousath himself, if you are so fortunate, is one of the town's most interesting activities. A car and driver can be arranged.
Diethelm Travel, on the main road in Phonsavan (tel. 061/211-118; www.diethelmtravel.com), meets its usual high standards and can cater guided tours to any sights, local or remote.
Local guides will come and find you upon arrival or if you're wandering central Phonsavan. Make sure they have been certified by the government, be specific about the itinerary, and barter for price. Freelance guides usually charge about US$30 (£17) for tour and transport.
For information on the ongoing unexploded ordinance (UXO) cleanup effort in Xieng Khouang, talk to the knowledgeable staff at the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), on the main road. MAG has been working in Laos since 1994 to clear the country of the deadly remnants of the U.S.'s "secret war" that continue to kill to this day.
Fast Facts: Phonsavan
Currency Exchange -- There are a few foreign exchange counters on the main road (Rte. 7) near the central market, and Lane Xang Bank has a branch near the post office.
Internet Access -- Internet access is hard to come by, but there are a few spots where you can log on. Connections are of the dial-up variety, slow and prone to disconnecting mid-email. Patience is essential. Try Hot Net, near the main intersection, the cheapest in town at 300 kip per minute (US$1.80/£0.99 per hr.).