Long Lines for Railway Tickets Leave Passengers Out on a Limb

Vientiane Railway Station
Vientiane Railway Station (Photo: Doug).

Passengers boarding the Laos-China Railway have complained of long queues and inconvenient ticketing systems.

The Laos-China Railway was officially launched in time for Lao National Day on 2 December, opening for public use early this month.

Reports from passengers describe the train itself as a clean, quiet, and convenient mode of transport. It allows for a cheaper alternative to air travel, and a much faster alternative to travel by bus.

It is no surprise, then, that this novel mode of transportation has become such a wild success among Lao people, with representatives of Vientiane Station reporting over 5,000 tickets sold in the first five days of operation.

And while the appetite for domestic travel in Laos remains strong despite the pandemic, passengers have continuously complained about the railway’s ticketing system.

Passengers queue to purchase train tickets at Vientiane Railway Station.
Passengers queue to purchase train tickets at Vientiane Railway Station.

Long Queues at Distant Locations

Tickets for the Laos-China Railway are sold exclusively at six railway stations along the way, which, given their size, are unsurprisingly located far from urban centers.

The major train station on the line, Vientiane Railway Station, is located nearly 15 kilometers from downtown Vientiane, a city that lacks efficient public transportation and boasts limited taxi services at best.

This has meant passengers must make their own way to the central railway station and spend up to two hours in a lengthy queue that often extends beyond the ticket office and out into the street.

Information on prices, bookings, and reservations are nowhere to be found on the railway company’s website or Facebook page, while tickets must be purchased in cash at the station.

Some would-be travelers have reported reaching the end of the queue only to find that tickets have sold out, or that a particular train has been canceled.

At the same time, ATMs or credit card facilities have either yet to arrive or are not in service, meaning those without cash are unable to access funds.

Unless the Laos-China Railway Company can upload a website for customer information or build a network of ticket sales offices, travelers may take the train for a one-time trip but will ultimately return to the skies for a more reliable customer experience.

Written with assistance from Cameron Darke.