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Need to book buses in advance? 3 weeks Cambodia/Laos

  • PhoLover

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Hi there,

    Im currently trying to plan a 3 week trip to Cambodia and Laos for my partner and myself in november/december.
    I've spent the last couple of days browsing through this site and have become significantly more knowledgable, but I'm now feeling overwhelmed with information - so much so I can't decide where to go/where to leave out!

    My current thoughts on an itinerary are this..
    1- Morning flight KL to SR
    2- Angkor
    3- Angkor
    4- Angkor + night bus to Sihanoukville
    5- Sihanoukville
    6- Sihanoukville
    7- Island, Koh Tonsay?
    8- Island, Koh Tonsay?
    9- Bus Sihanoukville to PP
    10- PP
    11- PP
    12- Afternoon flight PP to Vientiane
    13- Vientiane
    14- Bus Vientiane – Van Vieng
    15- Van Vieng
    16- Van Vieng
    17- Bus Van Vieng – Luang Prabang
    18- Luang Prabang
    19- Luang Prabang
    20- Luang Prabang + night bus to Vientiane
    21 – Fly Vientiane to KL

    Id greatly appreciate anyone's thoughts on this... feeling so frazzled with information overload and trying to plan whilst studying for exams doesn't help!
    I guess we're after a mix of history, touristy sites & relaxing beach, somehow balancing visiting a number of places without it being a mad rush.

    Unfortunately, with 3 weeks we don't have the luxury of time, so I feel it necessary to plot our trip in advance. I've spent a bit of time in Vietnam in the past... Just wondering, are Cambodia and Laos similar in that there are travel companies on every corner and buses etc. can easily be booked a day or two before. Ie. if we are staying just a couple of days at each place, will that be sufficient time to book the next bus we are after? Also, I assume even at this time of year accommodation would be fine to book when we arrive?

    Also seem to be reading conflicting things about night buses...
    Is one available SR to Sihanoukville and Luang Prabang to Vientiane (sorry wrong forum I know).

    Thanks so much!

    #1 Posted: 13/10/2010 - 19:28

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  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 778


    Nov/dec is fine for showing up without bookings. Assuming that it's not the christmas period (but then it would be a strange 3 weeks starting in Nov).
    Although Nov is the start of high season for Cambodia it's not madness but you might not be able to get a room in your first choice hotel/guesthouse. Plenty of them so no need to worry. Same story goes for buses. Normally you can book easily a day in advance.
    Only consideration should be the water festival which is around the 20th of Nov. Around that date travel (and room in PP) will be difficult. You most likely should not travel during those days and if you do make a reservation (for both room and bus) several days in advance

    As for your itinerary:
    - Koh Tonsay is near Kep (and not Rabbit island). If you have a preference for Sihanoukville (as a beach town) you will find easier to find an island stay near there. That will save you needless travel.
    - Perhaps a day less in PP will suffice. Most people I know have seen the highlights in a full day. But if you like cities, by all means stay 2 full days. There is plenty to do and see if you appreciate the smaller city-things
    -I'm not a Laos expert so can not help you much there. I think Luang Prabang is great. You are aware
    that Vang Vieng is a town that attracts a certain crowd?

    good luck

    #2 Posted: 13/10/2010 - 22:08

  • Archmichael

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd July, 2008
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 396
    Total reviews: 2

    Vang Vieng "attracts a certain crowd". Cute.

    #3 Posted: 14/10/2010 - 10:48

  • PhoLover

    Joined Travelfish
    13th October, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Thanks so much for you comments eastwest, much appreciated.
    Yes I am aware about Vang Vieng... we would still like to visit, but might consider cutting off a day!

    #4 Posted: 18/10/2010 - 17:31

  • Archmichael

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd July, 2008
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 396
    Total reviews: 2

    Regarding Vang Vieng, though: there's some remarkable countryside thereabouts and I understand it's possible to avoid the rope-swinging, beer rafting crowds if one is so inclined.

    #5 Posted: 18/10/2010 - 19:37

  • eastwest

    Joined Travelfish
    17th December, 2009
    Posts: 778

    There you go. I think most of of the "certain crowd" try to combine the two but loose one of the two out of sight.

    Sorry for my incoherent reply (just reread it) but I guess it's clear. Outside of Sihanoukville, which has several sets of "certain crowd", there are some beautiful islands so I'd recommend you to choose one of those. Just ask around while you're in Sihanoukville.

    Forgot to tell about buying tickets. That's very easy. Every hotel/guesthouse sells bus tickets. Some might only sell of 1 bus company but there's not much difference in quality between them.
    They usually charge you roughly a dollar extra but that's well worth the money. You'll most likely spent more than a dollar to go to the busstation to buy a ticket yourself. And I'm not even mentioning time & language as other advantages.

    #6 Posted: 18/10/2010 - 20:27

  • Archmichael

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd July, 2008
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 396
    Total reviews: 2

    One other thing to mention: go to http://laomeow.blogspot.com/ for definitive information regarding bus schedules in Lao.

    #7 Posted: 18/10/2010 - 21:05

  • smkuchta

    Joined Travelfish
    10th August, 2007
    Posts: 72

    Not sure if there is an overnight bus from Vientiane to LP as we took the day bus (not a fan of overnight buses). The day bus was about a 12 hr ride and while being a little "Vomit Inducing" (not for us but for some others) it is a spectacular ride through some beautiful countryside.

    I don't mind the long bus trips if the countryside is interesting. We usually bought bus tickets in Cambodia/Laos the day before we intended to leave and never had issues.

    #8 Posted: 19/10/2010 - 01:24

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 730
    Total reviews: 4
    Places visited:
    At least 67

    buses etc. can easily be booked a day or two before. Ie. if we are staying just a couple of days at each place, will that be sufficient time to book the next bus we are after?

    VV-LPB & VTE-LPB: tourist minivans can be booked ahead. not sure about VTE-VV.

    VTE-VV: have seen tourists who booked through travel agents/guesthouses being crammed onto ordinary non-AC buses when they were expecting much nicer buses with AC - not sure if it the sour faces were the result of their own assumptions, or empty promises by the agents?
    easy to DIY - if you don't mind non-AC buses, i believe there are ordinary buses from Khua Din bus station (aka. morning market bus station), easy to check since it's in the middle of town. if not, just hop on next bus heading north from VTE northern bus station that has space - buses to LPB, Xieng Khouang, etc - all will pass through VV enroute. ask the driver to let you off once you see the old runway on the left (west) of the road - you'll be in the middle of town (the tourist buses will dump you at the bus station north of town & you'll have to backtrack by tuktuk).

    for buses in Laos, travel agents/guesthouses will accept your booking, but it is no guarantee of a real seat on the bus - in Laos a bus is considered full only when it is loaded to the point where the wheels cannot move ;)

    for VTE-LPB, there are buses every hour or so from early AM to evening. if you aren't particular about the exact departure time, just turn up at the bus station & get on the next bus that you can find space on. but for the overnight buses (they do exist), i'd get there an hour or so before departure time to secure a decent seat + legroom.

    #9 Posted: 19/10/2010 - 10:11

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