The lack of adequate transportation facilities continued to be a major deterrent to economic progress in Laos. Of the approximately 39,568 km of roads, only about 530 km were paved in 2007. Many are impassable in the rainy season. Only a single major road connects the northern and southern regions. Most of the roads were damaged by US bombing in the Vietnam war, but the main links with Vietnam (notably Highway 9, from Savannakhét to the Vietnamese port of Da Nang, and Highways 7 and 13, from Vientiane and Savannakhét to the Vietnamese port of Vinh and Ho Chi Minh City, respectively) were rebuilt with Vietnamese aid. Under the 1981-85 economic plan, 844 km of roads were built or improved.
There are no railroads in Laos, although in 1994, the government entered into an agreement with a Thai company to build a railroad from Nong Khai in Thailand to Vientiane. In 2006, French president Jacques Chirac reported that his government would support Thai efforts to build this planned railway, which, as of that year, had not been constructed.
In 2012, there were an estimated 42 airports, which only nine had paved runways. Vientiane has the only international airport. Major cities in Laos are connected by air services operated by state-run Lao Aviation, founded with Soviet aid in 1976. In 1995, the government signed an agreement with China's Yunnan Airlines forming a joint venture projected to increase Yunnan's holdings of Lao Aviation to 60% while the former pays off the latter's debt. In 2003, about 219,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
Landlocked, Laos' only water-transport link with the outside world is via the Mekong River, which forms a large part of the border with Thailand and flows through Cambodia and Vietnam into the South China Sea. As of 2012, the Mekong is navigable for small transport craft and, with its tributaries in Laos, forms a 4,600-km inland waterway system, although rapids make necessary the transshipment of cargo. However, another 2,900 km are navigable by small craft that draw under 0.5 m. To lessen dependence on Thailand, Laos in 1977 signed an agreement with Vietnam whereby the Vietnamese port of Da Nang would replace Bangkok as the chief outlet for Laos. In 2005, Laos had one merchant vessel of 1,000 GRT or more, a cargo ship, at 2,370 GRT.
Airports - with paved runways:
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2012)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 22 (2012)
refined products 540 km (2010)
total: 39,568 km
paved: 530 km
unpaved: 39,038 km (2007)
4,600 km (primarily on the Mekong River and its tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m) (2012)