On April 11 at 9am Beijing time, the railway departments of China and Laos began issuing tickets for the China-Laos Railway International Passenger Train. The service between Kunming and Vientiane allows travelers to journey between the two destinations within a single day. The cross-border service is expected to make the China-Laos Railway a vital route linking China's southwestern regions with countries in South and Southeast Asia.
The China-Laos Railway, which spans the mountainous regions of western Yunnan and northern Laos, began construction in December 2016. After five years of construction, it opened for operation in December 2021, with passenger trains running in sections from Kunming to Mohan and Vientiane to Boten.
Initially, only freight trains were running cross-border. The international passenger service came as pandemic policies shifted and demand for outbound tourism grew.
The first train departed April 13 from Kunming South Railway Station at 8:08am and arrived in Vientiane, Laos, at 6:38pm. The train stopped at seven stations, including Pu'er, Xishuangbanna, Mohan, Boten, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane.
The total travel time, including customs clearance at the border, is 10 hours and 30 minutes. The earliest train departing from Kunming to Vientiane leaves at 8:08am and arrives in Vientiane at 6:38pm the same day. Meanwhile, the earliest train from Vientiane to Kunming departs at 9:08am Beijing time and arrives at Kunming at 7:38pm the same day.
The train can reach a maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Standard power sockets from both China and Laos are available under each group of seats, while passenger information displays, broadcasts, and service signs are provided in Chinese, Lao, and English.
Customs clearance for the railway follows an "inspections on both sides" model. So passengers traveling from Kunming to Vientiane must carry their luggage to the inspection area at Mohan Station. After completing the inspection, they can return to the train and continue their journey. Upon arrival at Boten Station, passengers must again carry their luggage and complete inspections. Those arriving at Boten can then leave the station and others can return to the train to continue their journey. The customs clearance process for passengers traveling from Vientiane to Kunming follows the same protocol, with passengers requiring approximately 1.5 hours for both exit and entry customs clearance.
Cross-border tickets from Kunming to Vientiane can be purchased via the China Railway 12306 website or ticket sales windows at five designated stations: Kunming, Kunming South Railway Station, Pu'er, Xishuangbanna, and Mohan. Those with online tickets must present their valid passport used for the ticket purchase and exchange their online confirmation for paper tickets at one of the five designated stations in China.
Passengers departing from Vientiane can purchase cross-border tickets through the Laos Railway Internet Ticket App (LCR Ticket App) and ticket windows at four designated stations in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Boten. Passengers holding online tickets must present their valid passport before boarding the train and exchange their online confirmation for paper tickets at one of the four designated stations in Laos.
Cross-border passengers must present their paper tickets when entering and exiting stations or when embarking or disembarking at the border. For those purchasing non-cross-border tickets, electronic tickets are required for the Chinese section, while paper tickets are necessary for the Lao section.
Since its inauguration in December 2021, the China-Laos Railway has streamlined exchanges between the countries, establishing a "golden corridor" between China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. It has bolstered economic and trade links between China and Laos, and the international passenger service is set to boost cross-border tourism.
The China-Laos Railway is a key component of the "Belt and Road Initiative" and represents increased connectivity and cooperation in the region. As the railway continues to expand its service, its influence is poised to extend far beyond its tracks.