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General information, recreation, infrastructure

Phongsali (Phongsali, also Pongsali) is a city in the far north of Laos, the capital of the province of the same name (Phongsali on the map). The province borders China and Vietnam. The population is just over 15 thousand people, and it is one of the largest cities in this part of the country.

This is one of the few settlements in Laos, lying at an altitude much higher than sea level, namely - 1440 meters on the slopes of Mount Phou FA (Phou Fa). Given such a high altitude, you should definitely take warm clothes with you, especially in the winter months, because at this time the temperature at night is kept just above zero. This is especially important if you intend to go trekking, although, however, for anything other than trekking, you should not go here. In general, it is best to go to Pongsali in the period from October to April, because this is the dry season, there is very little precipitation. From May to September it is also possible, but there may be rains.

Phongsali is a popular place for tourists and travelers, but the city itself is of little interest to tourists. Here they go in order to make trekking trips to ethnic mountain villages, mainly the Akha people, who come from Burma and have Tibetan origin. There are also Khmu( Khmu), Yao (Yao), Hmong (Hmong), Tai Lue (Tai Lue), Lolo (Lolo). In total, there are 15 ethnic groups and 40 subgroups in the province. But the city of Pongsali itself is almost entirely inhabited by Chinese people from Yunnan province.

View of Phongsali, photo

Since this is one of the most remote parts of Laos, the way of life of the local ethnic tribes has remained closest to the Middle Ages, and it is believed that such an experience of acquaintance with small nationalities can not be experienced anywhere else in Laos and neighboring countries. Trekking tours, as a rule, take place for several days with overnight stays in villages, and there is no point in going here for a one-day walk. In theory, you can make routes yourself, in practice it is unrealistic to do this, the terrain is too wild and unexplored by tourists here, and there are no maps and landmarks. Therefore, you need to go trekking with a personal guide, and unfortunately there are no group tours here, the right number of tourists is not recruited. Therefore, it is better to go here immediately as a group, and agree on trekking tours in advance. Usually tours are bought in advance in Luang Prabang, Udomsai, Nong Khiaw and other larger cities of the North, and a group is thrown here to start trekking. But you can come to the city and book trekking on the spot in the Tourist Information Center (only open from Monday to Friday), or by contacting in advance by phone or email. Contacts for communication are here - There is also a tourist office of Amazing Lao Travel in the city.

In addition to trekking, in the city you can visit the Museum of tribes (Museum of Hill Tribes), but it is usually closed.

Tribes in the vicinity of Phongsali, photo by JAY TINDALL

Infrastructure in Phongasali

Phongasli is an unexpectedly large and developed city for this part of the country. There are banks, ATMs, cafes, shops and a market, several hostels, a Tourist Information Center and a travel agency Amazing Lao Travel. You can even find bicycles (from 25 000 Kip) and motorbikes (from 100 000 Kip) for rent. Before the trip, it is better to exchange money for bales in large cities, since local ATMs for some reason do not accept all cards, and banks work only on weekdays.

Accommodation in Phongsali can be booked at

How to get to Phongsali

Phongsali can be reached from Luang Prabang and Vientiane by plane through the airport near the town of Bounneau 40 kilometers away (Bounneau Airport, code PCQ). Lao Skyway flights are operated there several times a week, but please check, they may have already been canceled.

Phongsali can be reached by bus from Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, Mueang Hua, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The bus station is on the outskirts of the city (Station on the map). To the market in the city center from here there are minibuses for 10,000 Kip (0.46 USD, see Laos money and exchange rate) by occupancy. Most long-distance southbound buses depart from here around 07:00 hours.

Buses from other cities to Phongasli:

  • Of Dien Bien Phu Vietnam bus departs at 07:15, cost 345,000 VND (13.56 USD). The journey is more than 12 hours.
  • Of Muang Khua direct bus to Phongsali leaves at 08:30, costs 170,000 Kip (7.75 a passing bus from Dien Bien Phu to Phongsali passes through the city in the period of 10 to 13 hours. The journey is 8 hours.
  • Of Luang Prabang there is at least one night bus, departs at 16:30, cost from 170,000 Kip (7.75 USD), the journey is about 16 hours.
  • Of Udomsai. The bus leaves at 08:00 and 14:00, costs 80 000 Kip (3.64 USD), 10 hours on the way. The bus at 14:00 does not always depart, it can be canceled due to the lack of passengers.
  • From Vientiane. There is information on the Internet that from Vientiane there is a bus at 08:30 and 14:00 worth 250,000 Kip (11.39 USD), 24 hours on the road. We cannot confirm this information for sure, since at the Vientiane bus station there was only a flight at 16:00 in the schedule.

On the internet there is information that you can swim by boat from Muang Khua to the village of Hat Sa, and from there take a bus to Phongsali. But as of November 2018, there were no scheduled boats, it was only possible to order a private boat.

Phongsali Map

You can download ⤓ points of interest, important transport points (bus stations, airports, etc.), districts and beaches from our map in KMZ/KML format. These files can be downloaded to the navigator or smartphone for use with offline or online Google Maps applications, Organic Maps and others that support this format, and use them to navigate and explore resorts.

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