The ironic thing about being a long-term traveler is that the “travel” part of the process is soon the thing you come to like least about this lifestyle. Wax philosophical all you like about how it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, but I’m betting that 9 out of 10 travelers would vote that the easier it is to get from point A to point B, the better. Sure the horrific travel days where you catch 14 different types of transport, possibly get scammed and get horribly lost make for epic and often amusing stories in retrospect, but in the moment, they suck.

I’ve loosened up a lot on this journey and can now roll up to a city without lodging pre-booked (in fact, I tend to prefer it!) and we rarely bother with in-depth itineraries and schedules any more, preferring to fly by the seat of our pants and see where the spirit moves us. But when we have a big day of travel ahead of us, particularly when it involves crossing a land border into a new country—a notorious breeding ground for scams and stress—I like to be prepared and am fastidious about my research.

Unfortunately, even in our internet age, sometimes getting information about transportation can be a little thin or a lot outdated and you find yourself having to go in blind. Such was the case when we decided we would travel from Hue, Vietnam to Savannakhet, Laos. Although our research told us that this is apparently one of the most straightforward and commonly traveled border crossings between the two countries, actually finding current detailed instructions about how to do the route was pretty much impossible. We wound up resigned to the fact that we would have to show up in Hue and hope that getting information about the journey once we were actually on the ground would be a little easier.

We spent a lot of time in Hue riding our motorcycle around from different travel agencies and bus stations to get as much information as we could. To help out any future travelers planning to take this route, we’ve compiled our findings so that you can better spend your time exploring and sightseeing around the city (which you really should do because Hue is awesome).

As of March 2014, there are three* major options for reaching Savannakhet, Laos from Hue, Vietnam by bus.

The Cheapest Option: The Northern Bus Station

If you are one of those people who is only content to do everything the cheapest way possible, plan to leave Hue from the NORTHERN bus station (Ben Xe Phia Bac). From here you can catch a local bus to the Vietnamese border town of Lao Bao. Tickets are 80,000VND-90,000VND (~$4USD-$4.5USD) depending on what time you leave (earlier tickets are cheaper) and the first bus leaves at 6:00 am, and then leave every 30 minutes until early evening.  The journey to Lao Bao should take about 3 hours.

Note that this will only get you to Lao Bao, not necessarily the border, so you may need to get a xe om or taxi to the actual border depending on where the bus station is. And of course, once you get across to the Laos side, you’ll need to figure out how to get to your next destination. We did not choose this option and so we weren’t looking for onward transport at the border, but that said, we didn’t see too many options. I’m sure they exist, but I can’t say where you’d need to go to catch them nor how much they would necessarily cost. Given how nebulous this portion of the journey would be, we decided not to go this route.

The Easiest Option (aka The Sucker’s Route): Hotel/Travel Agency

If you are someone for whom convenience is king and the less finagling you have to do, the better, then you should probably just go ahead and book your ticket through a travel agency or your hotel. When we mentioned that we were going to Savannakhet, Laos, our hotel said they could get us tickets on the VIP direct bus for 400,000VND (~$20USD) per person. I had read a few things about tourists being shuffled about from one bus to the next on this journey, but they were adamant that we would only take one bus straight through the entire journey.  We would be picked up from our hotel at 6:30 – 7am on the day of travel.

Note: We talked to another travel agency while we were in town, and they also quoted us 400,000VND for this journey. We rented our motorcycle through them and they offered very fair/competitive prices on that, so this leads me to believe that 400,000VND is the right price for agencies in town to charge. We talked to one random guy while out at dinner who quoted us $25USD  (500,000VND) per person for the journey, but we figured he was a shyster. We were right.

I am not 100% certain about this next thing because there were a few communication issues, but I got the sense that our hotel was suggesting that this Hue – Savannakhet bus may not run every day. It’s possible that it might, but on certain days it is a day bus, and on intervening days it is a night bus. I had read online that the bus only departs on odd numbered days from Hue, but I didn’t get explicit confirmation of this (and we were leaving on an odd-numbered day, anyhow). Regardless, we would have been put on a day bus if we had booked through them. They said that the journey would take no more than 10 hours.

The Smartest Option: The Southern Bus Station

I admit it, we almost wussed out and went through our hotel. But, we stopped in at The Mandarin Café where they have a reputable travel desk and talked to the owner—he told us that for this route, we would be better off simply buying our tickets directly from the SOUTHERN bus station (Ben Xe Phia Nam). He said there would be plenty of buses and these would be what our hotel and any agency around town would be putting us on anyway, but at a marked up rate.

So, we wound up buying our ticket direct to Savannakhet at the Southern Bus Station. We needed our passports to purchase the tickets (though I’m not entirely sure why as none of this information was on the tickets themselves and I’m not sure it was recorded, but perhaps this is meant to prevent scalpers?) and they cost 300,000VND (~$15USD) each. This price was already stamped on the tickets and Tony saw a sign on our bus with this price listed as well, so I do think this is the real price and there wasn’t any trickery taking place. We purchased our tickets 2 days before our journey, but you could probably just show up early on the day of and get tickets if you like to live on the edge. The bus was scheduled to depart at 8 am and we were told it would take about 11 hours to reach Savannakhet.

To reach the bus station from the backpacker’s/tourist area of Hue, have your hotel call you a taxi (specify Mai Linh, they use the meter without question). The taxi ride should cost about 50,000VND (~$2.50US).

Sketchy bus in Hue

Our Experience

We arrived at Ben Xe Phia Nam around 7:15 am and found ourselves faced with a bus that was surely once nice but had clearly seen better days. Moreover, it was being loaded with sacks of rice and bags of carrots. Although our tickets had numbers on them, we sat wherever we wanted and that seemed to be fine—our strategy was to simply find seats that weren’t already laden with cargo and whose floor space hadn’t been similarly occupied (I still wound up using a bag of carrots as a foot rest).  Our bags were stored underneath the bus alongside crates of tomatoes—I would highly recommend placing your bags in large plastic bags beforehand if you can as the baggage hold was a little moist.

True to Mandarin Café’s word, about 20 minutes before the bus left, a minibus with a bunch of foreigners pulled up and they boarded. In all likelihood, these are the folks who had purchased tickets through their hotels or at travel agencies around Hue. We saw some crappier buses headed to Lao Bao at the station, and a handful of nicer buses going to various destinations in southern Vietnam, but no other buses heading to Savannakhet, Laos.

Despite the somewhat bedraggled appearance of our bus, it was pretty comfortable all things considered. It left on time and although I had read of some potential tomfoolery involving tickets being taken early on in the journey and travelers being forced to repurchase the Laos portion of the journey, we were always in possession of stubs that proved we had purchased tickets to Savannakhet and it did not seem as though any attempts were made to make people pay more than they should.

We made a few pit stops along the way, so it took us about 4 hours to reach the border. Although there will be stops where you can purchase food and snacks (and there is one official lunch break), it’s probably smarter to simply have all your snacks purchased and packed before you leave—most of what we saw on offer was pretty suspicious and unappetizing.

Just before the border some ladies came aboard the bus and were selling local currency, but their rates were terrible (7,000LAK to $1US, whereas the normal exchange rate should be 8,000LAK:$1US) and you should plan to pay for your visa in US dollars anyhow. We did not have exact change, but had no problem getting the correct cash back. As we discovered, there are several ATMS in Savannakhet so getting local currency once you arrive at your final destination should not be a problem.

At this point, we took our hand luggage to Vietnamese immigration and were stamped out. We then had to walk across a stretch to Lao immigration where we paid for visas on arrival ($40US for U.S. citizens, $42US for Canadians); we also had to include a passport photo along with our visa application, so have some handy.

Steph heads to Laos

Although we did not experience any scams as such at the border, there are two things you should be on watch for:

1)   We talked to one traveler who said that when his passport was returned to him with his visa, the change was placed inside it. Apparently our bus driver took the passport and passed it over to the immigration window. Unsurprisingly, the traveler’s $18US change disappeared and he never got it back. The bus driver claimed he didn’t take it, and obviously, you don’t want to argue with immigration officials. It goes without saying that you should not let other people handle your passport unless they are authorized to do so and that you should make sure you take out your change immediately from your passport upon receiving your visa before passing it on to the next window.

2)   We managed to be the last travelers to get through Laos immigration, and while we were waiting to be stamped through and receive our passports, our bus left us (with our big luggage still aboard). As we didn’t have our passports, there wasn’t anything that we could do but watch it drive away. Thankfully, when I went to investigate, some young guys hanging around implied the bus had gone to get lunch and they would drive us there on motorcycle for $1 each. I told them no and that we would just walk, taking the gamble that the bus was not too far away (I vaguely remembered reading something in an old forum where someone mentioned the bus leaving for lunch and having to walk about 1km to meet it again.). It was a very hot and dusty walk, but we only had to go about 800 meters before we spotted the bus. Travelers we chatted with reported that they had told the bus driver that he was leaving 2 people behind, but he apparently did not care. Customer service was surly at best on this bus, so I’d suggest doing your best to get through immigration as fast as you can. But if you get left behind, don’t panic, just be ready to walk a little bit. I’m not sure this was a scam worked out so that the guys with motorcycles make a little money off of tourists or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

Other than these two things, there were no other issues at the border and we had no problems with bribes.

From the Laos Border, it was another 5.5 hours or so to Savannakhet. We arrived around 6:30 pm at the bus station, which is about 2 km north of town. We decided to just walk as we had no lodging booked and figured this would let us scope some places out, but there were plenty of tuk tuk drivers around (though I don’t think anyone took them up on what I’m sure were unreasonable prices).

So, there you have a recent account of traveling from Vietnam to Laos by bus. It’s a long day, but not all that difficult or unpleasant. Given that plane tickets to Vientiane cost about $175 per person from Vietnam, we don’t have any regrets with our choice as the journey only cost us about $35US total.

*Footnote 1: Although we break this journey down into three alternatives, there are really only two: take the local bus to Lao Bao, or take a direct bus to Savannakhet. You can buy your ticket for the latter through a hotel or travel agency or directly at the bus station, but despite different prices, the bus you’ll be getting on is the same.

Written by: Stephenie Harrison


In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I’m turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I’m going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I’m most looking forward to is whichever one we’re in right now!

We want to hear from you!

Required fields are marked with red.
Anything you share with us will not be published, traded, sold or otherwise used outside this site in any way, ever. We will not spam you.

We moderate comments, so if you haven't posted with us before and your comment doesn't show up right away, we will get to it, no need to post it twice. Thanks for your patience!

A comment is required.

Name is required. You can only use alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z).

CommentLuv badge

Read comments (42)

  1. March 26, 2014 at 8:23 am
    Mar. 26, '14

    Nice roundup guys! Glad to made it safely even after getting ditched by your bus. I hope you shared some choice words. Phu Quoc you, man!

    Flying to Laos from Vietnam is really expensive because only Vietnam Airlines does it. And it doesn’t even go direct from HCMC, having to route through Phnom Penh… I did find a killer deal via AirAsia last year, though, only USD 130 return, but having to go through Kuala Lumpur…

    *I think you’re missing the word “photo” at the border section… “we also had to include a passport [photo] along with…”
    James recently posted..Zombies, Cheese and Bacon Pillows – Can You Ever Go Home Again?

    • March 26, 2014 at 6:54 pm
      Mar. 26, '14

      I think the cheapest I ever saw tickets to Laos for were something like $179 PER TICKET… ONE WAY. I am way too cheap to pay so much for such a short flight, so even though I looked longingly at those tickets every couple of days, we stuck with the bus. Honestly, it really wasn’t too bad, even with the vegetable footrests and the momentary stranding at the border.

      And thank you for the catch! You’re right that we had to include a passport PHOTO (though also our passport as well!). Once an editor, always an editor, am I right? 🙂

  2. Steve C
    March 26, 2014 at 1:47 pm
    Mar. 26, '14

    Great job Stephenie! This is one of the reasons I love reading travel blogs. I like to read this type of account, one that makes you think it has happened at least within the week. And, the little things that happen that you can’t and don’t find in travel guides (no offense lonely planet). I immediately bookmarked this to my Vietnam folder as I plan to do a similar trip in this area.

    As I’ve been to this area in Vietnam before, long ago, I think I’ll be going north from Hue to Dong Ha first, then catch a bus west to the boarder. I want to stop off in Khe Sanh for a day or two, just because, (a tear wells in my eye as my memory races)

    As I’m also a long term traveler, my experience is it always makes things easier to do as much ahead of time as you can. Getting the Laos visa ahead of time in Vietnam (wherever their embassy is in a large city, like HCMC) would drastically reduce the hassle at the boarder. Getting your visa that way never puts your passport in questionable hands.

    I gotta laugh at your take on that bus. It looks like very nice bus to me from the picture above, considering some of the buses I’ve been on in that part of the world. And, I never rely on getting food on the fly for bus or train trips. I always stock up ahead with “good” food before departure. As “good” is a subjective term, I can remember being really thankful for that can of sardines and box of crackers on a long, dusty, hot trip to ____ (fill in the blank).

    Again, this is the type of blog that is most appreciated for me. Thanks again Steph! Good Job

    • March 26, 2014 at 7:09 pm
      Mar. 26, '14

      Hi Steve! Glad to hear you’ll be heading (back) to Vietnam and that this info will (hopefully)come in handy. If you’re heading to Dong Ha from Hue, I think you’ll want to go to the northern bus station but I’m not 100% certain about that. We found that one of the hardest thing was just getting the names in Vietnamese of the two stations (unsurprisingly, most people don’t understand “southern bus station”…) so at the very least this should be of some help!

      I normally am an advocate of getting visas in advance whenever possible, but we didn’t do that for 2 reasons: 1) It was actually really difficult to find information about the location/existence of a Laos embassy in HCMC; 2) my online sleuthing suggested that it’s not unusual for embassies to actually charge a higher price for the visa than you would pay at the border. This is certainly true of Cambodia and it looked like it might also be true of Laos. Also, we’ve had friends who recently went to embassies and the wrong dates were stamped on their visas and there wasn’t enough time to fix them, so honestly, sometimes doing it at the border actually smartest.

      My face with the bus was mostly due to the large quantities of produce that were spilling out of the under carriage. The photo really doesn’t do it justice, but it was pretty much us riding in a vegetable truck! Given that this bus was being touted as VIP around town, I’d hate to think of what the “crap” bus would actually look like…

  3. March 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm
    Mar. 26, '14

    I love that you mention dreading travel days. We, too, occasionally got flack about “oh it’s the journey that matters”. Bullshit, travel days are just travel days and, while do sometimes make amusing stories in the aftermath, are often just days you get through in order to get on enjoying the journey!
    Rhonda recently posted..Embracing Airlie Beach

    • March 26, 2014 at 7:08 pm
      Mar. 26, '14

      I think people who really get excited about travel days are people who don’t travel very much or who have very weird priorities. I mean,yeah, we’ve had funny stories (like getting left at the border…) that keep life interesting and certainly traveling like this isn’t solely about the destinations, but even understanding it’s all part of the journey, travel days, especially 12+ hour ones, generally suck. That is that!

      • March 27, 2014 at 9:46 am
        Mar. 27, '14

        Amen to that!

  4. March 27, 2014 at 10:21 am
    Mar. 27, '14

    Incredibly informative post – I’m sure that many people in a similar situation as you will look to this post for many years to come!
    Lauren recently posted..Caribbean Cruise Video of Bonaire, Snorkeling and Downtown Kralendijk

    • March 27, 2014 at 11:27 pm
      Mar. 27, '14

      I hope it is helpful to others! At the very least, it’s about 3 years more current than anything else I was able to find, so hopefully that counts for something… 🙂

  5. March 27, 2014 at 2:08 pm
    Mar. 27, '14

    Yep…that dreaded travel part . We just endured a 31 hour bus ride and I am in no rush to figure out our next travel day.

    Good round up – when we went into Laos we’d heard of so many terrible scams – your information will be a beacon of light to all future travelers doing that route!

  6. March 27, 2014 at 11:59 pm
    Mar. 27, '14

    Thanks for the info, I’m hoping to do this myself either this year or next, and this kind of practical knowledge is better than any guidebook out there!
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..The Chennai Kitchen; Madras Pavilion at ITC Gardenia

    • March 28, 2014 at 12:10 am
      Mar. 28, '14

      Glad to hear it, Tim! Most of the times we feel like this information is covered pretty well by other sites/blogs so there’s no need for us to talk about the mechanics of traveling from place to place but in this case, we definitely felt there was a gap. Hope that when the time comes it proves useful to you!

  7. March 28, 2014 at 4:30 am
    Mar. 28, '14

    This totally brings back random memories of me from various places around the world, traveling by bus/train and really having no idea what was going on.

    Glad you made it there safely! Entertaining to read, though probably not so fun at the time 😉
    Lisa from Lulu’s Big Adventure recently posted..Itchy Feet

  8. March 28, 2014 at 8:28 am
    Mar. 28, '14

    Good info Steph! I plan to refer back to this one day!
    Corinne recently posted..Where to Eat in Singapore – More Hawker Stall Goodness

  9. March 30, 2014 at 7:58 am
    Mar. 30, '14

    Thanks for breaking down the options! I plan to visit Vietnam soon but have yet to travel by bus for long journeys in south east Asia.

    It does seem a bit daunting.
    Jenna recently posted..What to do in Ningbo

    • March 30, 2014 at 9:54 pm
      Mar. 30, '14

      I wouldn’t worry too much about traveling by bus in SEA—it is pretty straightforward and we’ve never been in a position where we couldn’t get where we needed to go. I was just more nervous than usual because we would be crossing an international border which can be notoriously scammy. Obviously things didn’t go completely smoothly but they did work out just fine in the end!

  10. March 30, 2014 at 1:37 pm
    Mar. 30, '14

    Cool tips – I gonna be around next month. Btw I also just followed you on Twitter. Great blog! Looking forward to connect!
    MightyTravels recently posted..Review: American Express Platinum credit card – earn 40,000 points at sign-Up

    • March 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm
      Mar. 30, '14

      Glad this was helpful for you and happy travels!

  11. April 16, 2014 at 1:28 am
    Apr. 16, '14

    I wish I came across this post before we did the Hue – Savannakhet journey. Would’ve saved myself many hours of research with no clear answers. I can, however, confirm that this is exactly how our border experience went on 14 April 2014.
    *Paid 350,000 for the bus ticket to our hotel, which included pick up. So 50K dong for minivan, and 300K for the bus. By the way, our hotel – Four Seasons – in Hue blew us away as an outstanding budget option (they also didnt charge us overhead on bus ticket!)
    * Picked up at 7:30 am, bus departed at 8 am. A/C but little leg room due to tomato crates under ever single seat.
    * Border guards very friendly, and no problems either on Vietnam or Laos side. When getting their exit and entry stamps Vietnamese put small amount of money in their passports, apparently to facilitate the process. We didn’t, and were just fine.
    * Our bus left us at Laos side of the border before we were through with passports, and we too walked bewildered in heat to our “lunch” destination.
    * Arrived in Savannakhet at 6 pm.

    • April 17, 2014 at 7:13 am
      Apr. 17, '14

      Although I too wish you had been privvy to this post before you tackled this route yourselves, I’m glad that to have you corroborate it for others. And glad to hear that your hotel was honest with you and they didn’t mark the tickets up; if only more hotels were like that!

  12. Russ C
    April 24, 2014 at 12:22 am
    Apr. 24, '14

    Hi – will be travelling from Vietnam to Savannakhet in 5 weeks on a mini tour through SE Asia – I too have been trolling the net for info and luckily came across your site – thank you so much for your post!!! current, informative and a great read. I trust your travels still go well. — Russ

    • April 24, 2014 at 2:49 am
      Apr. 24, '14

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Russ, and I’m so glad to hear you found the post informative and helpful. Anything to help a fellow traveler out! Hope you have an excellent time in SEA! 🙂

  13. May 11, 2014 at 9:15 am
    May. 11, '14

    Thank you so much for this detailed description! We, too, just did this on 10 May and generally found this to be the case. Here are a few additional notes:

    * We paid 320,000dong per ticket at the bus station. The woman may have indicated that the extra was because we were foreigners, or maybe the extra was because our bus was a sleeper bus. Whatever, it was $1.
    * I have no idea how we got so lucky but we actually did have a VIP sleeper bus. With AC and open foot area instead of those cabinets they put at the feet on most sleeper buses. We had lots of cargo and extra passengers sleeping/sitting in the aisles but there were no visible crates of tomatoes on our bus. Our luggage was all stored on the bus, not underneath, so it stayed cool and dry.
    * We were charged $1 each when exiting Vietnam. Allegedly this was an “overtime” fee (we departed on Saturday).
    * Our Laos visa cost us $37 each (US citizens) and we were charged another $1 extra, probably the same “overtime” fee.
    * We had the front seats on the bus so we took your advice and got in the Vietnam exit line early, but the border control guy either didn’t really know what he was doing or was having computer issues or simply didn’t want to have to deal with our passports, so we (and an Italian guy) ended up being the very last ones to exit Vietnam and enter Lao. However, our bus attendant was always visible and the bus did drive off but waited for us at the Lao gate before driving another 500 feet to the lunch spot. (Which was really, really nice of him but really, he could’ve just gone to the lunch spot!)
    * Left Hue around 8am, arrived in Savannakhet around 6pm. The drive through the mountains was AMAZING! 🙂
    * We did not change any money to kip at the border but there appeared to be an ATM on the right after you exit Vietnam, before you enter Laos immigration. No idea what currency it dispenses. If anyone can validate…? We should’ve exchanged just a few dong or dollars for kip at the border because the bathroom at the first stop cost 1000 kip. A very nice lady on our bus spotted us the fee which was pretty embarrassing for us but really kind of her.

    Thanks again for this very helpful post!

    • May 12, 2014 at 1:46 am
      May. 12, '14

      Thanks for sending your update, Jen & Patrick! I’m glad that you actually got a nice bus for your money rather than the overburdened veggie bus we were put on. I think we would have paid the extra $1US for that privilege; money well spent!

  14. Denise
    February 1, 2015 at 4:00 am
    Feb. 1, '15

    Thank you so much for this much needed information. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around how to get to Laos from Hue.

    I was wondering did you buy the tickets on the day of departure or did you have to go before hand to buy it?

    • February 2, 2015 at 10:31 am
      Feb. 2, '15

      Hi Denise! Glad this post could be of some help to you!

      We purchased our bus tickets the day beforehand because it was such an early morning bus and we didn’t want to have to get there even earlier in order to try to secure tickets. Also, we had a motorbike so, it wasn’t really a problem for us to pop over the day beforehand. I would imagine that you could risk it and wait the day of (just arrive early!)—I don’t believe our bus was sold out—but for long-distance/international bus rides like this where there is only 1 bus per day, I tend to be a little more cautious and pre-purchase if possible.

  15. March 31, 2015 at 1:46 am
    Mar. 31, '15

    Many thanks for your elaborated description of the way from Hue to Savannakhet. We followed the same route you took and it was exactly as you described (as of end of March 2015!). Kind regards, Ulrika and Pontus

    • March 31, 2015 at 12:43 pm
      Mar. 31, '15

      Glad this information still holds true a year later and that you found it useful! Thanks for reporting back!

  16. Cam
    June 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm
    Jun. 29, '15

    Hi Steph,
    This posting is so helpful as I will be crossing the Vietnam/Laos border sometime later this year. As a long-time traveler, I am glad to have stumbled upon your blog; it’s always a pleasure to learn from other travelers. You are also a fine writer. Hope you are enjoying Morelia, and thank you.

    • June 29, 2015 at 5:25 pm
      Jun. 29, '15

      So glad you found the post useful, Cam, and I hope you have a wonderful time in Vietnam & Laos. Both are wonderful countries and the long bus trip is certainly worth it!

  17. meltingpot
    September 28, 2015 at 11:19 pm
    Sep. 28, '15

    Dr Steph,

    Very useful info here. e.g. if the bus leaves without..continue and you will catch-up with it eventually. By the way, is the hotel/travel agency booking always the suckers route?, or is it just for the route you did?. Hue to Savannakhet.

    Would like to travel from Vientiane to Da nang. The buses that leave for Da nang start from the SOurthern Bus Terminal which is 11Km from downtown Vientiane. Buying ticket at Bus station according to http://www.travelfish.org/transport/laos/vientiane_and_surrounds/vientiane/vientiane/all is 25 USD (may gone up, can someone update if it has). Coupled with the fact that if I was to make a trip to the bus station the day before, that will cost and take half a day, then the cost of booking a taxi to get to the bus station (as I have a suitecase) on the day, I cannot see how it translates as a suckers route. Yes, there are some reports of drivers stopping too often to pick-up passengers and goods and vegetable crates as foot rests from booking through Hotel/travel agencies. But I don’t know if this happens anymore. Maybe I am too gullible for believing the “VIP Sleeper Bus” claim made by the travel agency. If someone has done this route can you please report.

    THe Travel agency also offers pick-up from hostel/hotel as part of the booking and the cost is 35 USD for the journey including hotel pickup. Yes, its no fun if its too easy, so I might actually hire a bicycle for the day, go to southern bus terminal Vientiane, maybe see the bus we will be travelling in, book ticket for next day, hire a cab separately to get to bus terminal on the day, unless I come across any reviews to the contrary.

    • December 6, 2015 at 3:48 pm
      Dec. 6, '15

      We had our own transportation in Hue, so it wasn’t a big deal heading to the bus station and back either in times of money or time. If it really were going to take you half a day to get the bus station and back in Vientiane (which, having been there, I find hard to believe) then maybe it would make more sense to book your ticket at the hotel. BUT you will always get the best price buying your ticket directly at the bus station or on the bus… that’s just the way it is pretty much everywhere in the world. I don’t know where you are staying in Vientiane and how far you are from the bus station, but paying 10 dollars to get there (which would be the difference between the travel agency price and the actual price at the station) is probably way higher than what you would negotiate on your own unless you are very far away.

      Then again, at the end of the day, it’s $10. If that’s not a lot of money to you and time is short, then go ahead and book through an agency. Just know that you are definitely putting money into their pockets and that 99% of the time, you will be able to get a better price booking direct. The savings may no be much in the end if you are far from the bus station, but unless you can see the bus in advance and have some way to guarantee you are getting on it, I wouldn’t believe anything that claims to be VIP sight unseen in Asia!

  18. meltingpot
    December 7, 2015 at 12:37 am
    Dec. 7, '15

    Dr Steph,

    Was staying near Rushmi Hotel in Vientiane. From there the distance to Southern Bus station is 11.3km. (Although its in North Vientiane, its called southern Bus station because the buses leave for destinations in the South apart from International ones I suppose. all this is from the link I posted in previous post)

    For anyone travelling from Vientiane Central bus station to Southern Bus station it’s 8.7km. I don’t have personal experience of travelling to Southern Bus station, so cannot say if it will actually take half a day. But I remember reading on another blog/forum that it did take half a day to go there and back. Maybe it was an exaggeration, maybe not. One thing to bear in mind, for anyone booking a taxi in advance. Never give the exact time you want to be picked-up, oh!, no, not in Vientiane. They will come there 1 hour late to pick you up. If you want to be picked-up at 9am by taxi, say 8am, they will come sometime between 8:30am and 9am. Hey!, it’s Vientiane, I am not trying to change it, just letting others know.

    About my trip from Vientiane to Vietnam. I chickened out of the bus adventure and went for the plane option. It was just too much of a gamble, plus I needed a three month visa, which I obtained via approval letter method (i.e. didn’t have to visit Vietnam Embassy in Vientiane). If you use approval letter, as I understand it, you have to enter via an airport. Paid 90 USD with Vietnam airlines, VTE to HAN. flight was not bad, apart from one rude staff member. May be I will go on a bus trip within Vietnam soon.

    • December 7, 2015 at 7:07 am
      Dec. 7, '15

      Thanks for the update and yes, you are correct about needing to enter via air if using the visa approval letter (rather than actual visa) when entering Vietnam. All things considered, 90USD is not such a terrible price to pay and the journey was surely much shorter. 🙂

      Also, good tip about scheduling taxis! We rarely, if ever, take them, but time definitely is more fluid & flexible in that part of the world (& here in Mexico) than some of us are used to!

  19. Melinda Septoni
    February 19, 2016 at 1:40 pm
    Feb. 19, '16

    One of the travelers mentioned that the border agent was having problems with the computer. Do the Vietnamese border agents use a computer to enter your passport info when you exit from Vietnam? That could take a lot of time.

    • March 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm
      Mar. 10, '16

      Yes, of course, they do it when you enter and you when you leave, like in nearly every country nowadays.

  20. March 10, 2016 at 1:06 pm
    Mar. 10, '16

    Hello Stephenie
    I did this travel in Feb. 2016, bought the ticket in a guesthouse in Hue, 380’000 Dong, start at 7.00 am by pick-up in the guesthouse, collecting passengers all over Hue and then going to the Hue bus station. Start there is 08.15 am. The bus is comfortable, not full. The drive goes along the highway to Dong Ha, where it turns left into the mountains. Stops for coffee refreshment 2 times, arrives at the border at about 11.45 am, passengers leave the bus for border processing on the Vietnamese side, all luggage remains in the bus, which is closed by the driver. Then walk to the Lao side of the border for Lao border processing. Since I am Swiss I did not need a visa for up to 15 days, otherwise visa is available without problem and straight forward. Price depends on nationality, generally between 30 and 40 US$, payable in $ only, otherwise more expensive. There are Vietnamese women around for changing Dong or US$ into Lao kip. At the time the going rate was 3000 Dong = 1000 Kip, not really good but also not really bad. No banks at the border. The bus waits until all passengers have completed the border processings then it continues trough Lao villages to Savannakhet, with one stop for toilet and refreshment for about 20 minutes. Arrival in Savannakhet bus station was at 17.20 pm, quite slow, but nice journey, no problems at all. The bus runs now every day in either direction. Start in Savannakhet to Hue is at 9.00 am. Booking possible the day before, but in most days not really necessary. If you wish I have also photos of the journey.

  21. Eimeara
    June 5, 2016 at 3:17 pm
    Jun. 5, '16

    I agree, unauthorised people should not handle passports and a driver is not authorised in my book.

    Personally i don’t think it’s right for a bus conductor /tour guide / driver to collect passports as you might never see it again. If you lose it it’s your problem not theirs

  22. Eimeara Stapleton
    November 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm
    Nov. 19, '16

    I agree with you, drivers should not be allowed handle passports. And it makes me mad the way they often put out their hands for it. What about asking the owner’s permission? What if they lost it? They’d blame you.

  23. February 24, 2017 at 9:25 pm
    Feb. 24, '17

    Thank you for your detailed post.
    We followed your “smartest option” in February 2017, it was still 300 000 VND (in the hotel they quoted 450 000) and everything was easy- no problems crossing the border with visa on arrival and the bus waited for everyone.
    So, that’s the way to do it.

  24. April 4, 2017 at 8:57 am
    Apr. 4, '17

    Hi! Thanks a ton for this post–several years old but still works the same. I made the trip April 2017, bought the ticket at the bus station for 300,000, the bus was similar to yours (vegetable foot rests, a bit smelly, but otherwise decently comfortable). And thanks to your post, I wasn’t worried when the bus drove off to get lunch. As I started walking, a man on a motorbike gave me a ride for free, as a favour to the bus driver if I understood correctly. Long ride, but no problems!

    • April 4, 2017 at 9:00 am
      Apr. 4, '17

      Oh, and I travelled on an even day and a Tuesday… Both which I thought may not be possible based on things I found online. But mmaybe there are nicer buses on different days?

Leave a comment!