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Laos forum

Sleeper bus - Vientiane to Pakse

Posted by dclayw on 17/7/2009 at 07:50

Well, I'm just starting to re-plan our trip to Laos this December/January, so expect a few posts from me over the next few weeks. I say re-plan because our month long trip planned for last December/January didn't happen because of the closure of BKK airport early December last year. (This time we are by-passing Thailand altogether)

I can't find much info on the sleeper bus Vientiane to Pakse. There appears to be a few companies offering the service. Can anyone provide some info on which company provides the "most comfortable" trip, the cost, where the bus leaves from, schedules, and some general feedback on what the trip is like.

I expect the sleeper bus is becoming a very popular option between Vientiane-Pakse, so is it necessary/advisable/possible to book in advance (we are a family of 4).

We are going to bus this sector to keep costs down a bit as we'll be flying the Pakse-Luang Prabang sector, and that fare is not cheap, especially for 4 people.

#1 dclayw has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 22

Posted by BruceMoon on 17/7/2009 at 13:25

dclayw

Where are you starting your journey, where will you have been before entering Laos (if anywhere), and where are you entering Laos.

Cheers

#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941


Posted by wanderingcat on 17/7/2009 at 14:16

not done VTE-Pakse before, but a bit of info linked here:
http://laomeow.blogspot.com/2008/07/bussongthaew-schedulesdetails.html
see the ' Vientiane Capital' section on Vientiane southern bus station & also the 'Champasak province' section. if am not wrong the sleepers are two pax per bed.

#3 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by dclayw on 17/7/2009 at 14:28

We have 30 days in Laos so will have a chance to have a good look at the place. I've planned an itinerary that sees as much as possible without going overboard. We'll be flying Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane , spending 3 days there and then the o'night bus to Pakse . About 12 days in the south, visiting Pakse/Champasak/Si Phan Don/Bolaven Plateau. Bolavan Plateau will be a day trip from Pakse. Planning on spending 5 days on Don Khon and 3 days in Champasak, just taking it very easy. Lots of cycling around, a bit of hiking.

Then planning to fly to Luang Prabang from Pakse spending about 12 days around that area. This will include a 5 day trip up the Nam Ou to Nong Kiau and Muang Ngoi, returning to LP. Then busing it back to Vientiane with a couple of days at Vang Vieng on the way. So it's basically a loop as we have return tickets KL-Vientiane.

Last year we were doing the more traditional route Bangkok-Ubon-Pakse-Vientiane-Luang Prabang-Huay Xai-Chiang Khong but this time we wanted to avoid Thailand because of the political carryings on in that country. We have travelled to Thailand many times before and love it but to be honest I've had it with the place. The closure of Bangkok airport last year (our inbound flight was cancelled) is not the first time my travel plans have been disrupted by the carryings on in Thailand, and last year it cost me quite a lot of money.

#4 dclayw has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 22

Posted by dclayw on 17/7/2009 at 14:44

@wanderingcat

Thanks, that helps, I had not seen that site before. There is a link on that site that says all southbound VIP buses leave Vientiane at 8:30pm. I did manage to find this site http://www.buslaos.com/ which is the KTV bus company that runs VIP buses between Vientiane-Pakse, but they only appear to show schedules in one direction, north.

#5 dclayw has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 22

Posted by BruceMoon on 17/7/2009 at 14:55

dclayw

Given that you are a family of 4, and you have (rightly, I suggest) chosen to fly Pakse - Luang Prabang (that is via Vientiane I understand), I really think you ought rethink the mode of transport for the Vientiane > Pakse section.

Personally, I wouldn't even try a night time bus on a Laos road. And, the fare difference wouldn't break the bank. The night bus = a US$20 fare. Laos Air are selling the flight at US$110 flight. So, X 4 = US$360 (but if 2 are kids, maybe cheaper)..

I've done some risky things along my various travels, including night sleeper buses (Vietnam & Thailand). But, as I said, a night bus in Laos isn't one I'd entertain. It's not about risk - though it is - but that the laos raods don't allow for smooth travel, so I doubt I'd sleep. And, the sleeper 'seats/beds' don't allow for awake type travel.

Cheers

#6 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by wanderingcat on 17/7/2009 at 23:32

have travelled VTE-LPB by overnight ordinary bus, friends have done that several times too in both directions. much better driving & smoother ride than you get on public buses in Singapore. but have observed that VIP buses & minibuses on that very route tend to speed even on the more dangerous sections, maybe that's how they shave 3+ hours off the journey time (apart from making far fewer stops). anyway that's for mountainous northern Laos section of HWY13...the VTE- Pakse section of HWY13 through southern Laos covers flatter terrain along the Mekong valley.

found a few recent trip reports (with photos) of Pakse-VTE by sleeper bus:
http://www.ironwulf.net/2009/04/13/transit-pakse-to-vientiane-vip-bus/
http://www.mytripjournal.com/travel-432744

since you have a few days in VTE, you can ask your GH about booking the KVT bus to Pakse bus. the buslaos.com site has their VTE phone no., perhaps you can get GH staff to help you call them for more details.

#7 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by MADMAC on 18/7/2009 at 12:35

This is a tough call. I would be a little concerned for my family's safety... I don't trust standards in Laos at all in this regard (I don't even trust Thai standards all that much with buses). On the on hand you have to be financially realistic, and I think this is the kind of trip that the family will never forget, great bonding experience. On the other, I wouldn't want them dead to get the experience. I guess I'll defer to Wandering, who has made this specific trip multiple times.

"if am not wrong the sleepers are two pax per bed."

Does this mean I would have to sleep with a hot Laotian chick on the bus risking divorce from my wife or arrest from Laotian authorities? Cause there is no way I am sleeping next to a Laotian man!!!

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Rufus on 18/7/2009 at 14:57

The road from Vientiane to Pakse is fine and wide and you would have no problems on the sleeper bus. Many of my friends have travelled on this bus and i have driven the route myself, (not behind the steering wheel of a bus, of course).
Mac, is being meledramatic as usual, and by the way Mac, no Lao girl would sleep with you - they have better taste. :-)

#9 Rufus has been a member since 22/4/2007. Location: Laos. Posts: 973

Posted by MADMAC on 18/7/2009 at 16:41

"Mac, is being meledramatic as usual, and by the way Mac, no Lao girl would sleep with you - they have better taste. :-)"

Rufus
I thought you were culturally aware. In Laos, as in Thailand, money trumps all. I have money. I have Laotian girls hit on me CONSTANTLY. The restaraunt about two clicks from my house has Laotian waitresses and they all are always offering to "take care" of me for a small fee. You know the deal here - if you don't, you aren't paying attention to your environment.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by dclayw on 18/7/2009 at 20:02

I've considered the safety issue, as I always do. Are people suggesting the sleeper buses are inherently more dangerous then say, the VIP buses between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

I would definitely fly if the flights were a bit more reasoanble. We are already flying one sector Pakse->LP and if you remember we lost quite a bit of money on our planned Laos trip last year, so we are pretty lucky be able to go at all really. It's a pity Laos doesn't have a rail network.

By the way, our children are now 15 and 17 and pretty seasoned travellers, so we're quite used to long bus/boat/train trips through all parts of Asia.

#11 dclayw has been a member since 20/10/2008. Posts: 22

Posted by MADMAC on 18/7/2009 at 23:40

The children aren't children anymore... so yes, I would take the bus.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by BruceMoon on 19/7/2009 at 06:00

dclayw

Given what Rufus has contributed, I may have been a bit overdramatic. But, remember, the decision-making needed to care for a whole family is greater than (say) for a single or couple.

As you signal budgetary constraints, and Rufus suggests the bus is OK, and 'saving' US$300 in expenditure is for you important, then it appears an open/shut decision.

Cheers

#13 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by smkuchta on 19/7/2009 at 13:21

We did this trip from Pakse to VTE a couple of months ago and while I would respectfully disagree as to the safety issues, the road seemed fine the whole way to VTE and the bus also seemed well maintained it was one of the most uncomfortable journeys of our trip. You can read about it here http://mekong.kuchtaworld.net/2009/05/so-tired.html

We did see some other sleeper buses that looked better but truthfully we would have been more comfortable on a regular bus with seats such as what we took from VTE to LP.

So in conclusion I wouldn't be worried about safety issue but would be worried about comfort issues.

#14 smkuchta has been a member since 10/8/2007. Posts: 72
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Posted by wanderingcat on 19/7/2009 at 15:44

to make it clear, i have not travelled the VTE-Pakse route myself. was just (1) describing my experience with overnight ordinary bus in northern Laos, where the main highways are generally poorer & far more mountainous than in the south, & (2) linking two trip reports with photos of the VTE-Pakse sleeper bus from other travellers, that could help dclayw get a better idea of what to expect.

smkuchta: there is more than one company operating VTE-Pakse sleeper buses. so far accounts of KVT buses that i've come across tend to be positive. have heard of bad experiences with one other (non-KVT) company, but not been able to pin down the name. did you note which company's bus you travelled on?

#15 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by smkuchta on 19/7/2009 at 15:49

I did not notice the bus company. We booked it through Pakse Travel which is across the street from Nazim's Indian Restaurant in Pakse, the better bus that we saw had an office down by the river, can't miss it if you walk along the river.

Agreed that there seemed to be many buses, when we made our 2am stop in Savankhet there was no shortage of different buses heading north and south.

All I am saying is make sure you know what bus you are getting, ours wasn't any cheaper than the nicer buses.

#16 smkuchta has been a member since 10/8/2007. Posts: 72
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Posted by somsai on 9/8/2009 at 11:49

Old thread but...

I found the ride fine, slept like a baby, don't know if I was on a good bus or a bad one. In general I find the bus rides in Laos much safer than neighboring countries, much much fewer crashes, less traffic, slower speeds. I liked the sleeper, I've taken lots of long busses in Laos, at night, this one had a bed!

All that talk of buying women is kind of over the top, makes my skin crawl gosh knows how it makes women reading this feel. And yes they do pair up single guys with other guys and women with women, people in Laos often sleep all together on the floor so it's not as strange as it might seem.

#17 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by seagypsy on 9/8/2009 at 21:27

dclayw and smkutchka---the bus company that operates from along the river in Pakse has a Lao name which I've forgotten but the english title is "the King of Bus". They offer two night buses; one that's a VIP with reclining seats and the other, a sleeper with beds that sleep two (not ideal if you're not traveling with your honey) and small if it's two large or tall persons. If you're solo, then I'd recommend the recliner VIP. But for your family of 4, it should be OK and a 'good sleep' is more subject to your sleep patterns. I slept OK.
Oh, and BTW, whether you're in Pakse or Vientiane, it's best to buy your tickets directly from the bus company or at a minimum, 'shop' the bus ticket at several places (hotels, guesthouses, travel agencies, etc.) before buying because some places charge up to double the price of the ticket.
There's also the KVT Bus Co. which operates out of the Kilometer 2 Bus Station. Seems that the overnight buses seem to all leave about the same time and break at Thakek around 1AM for a bathroom break.

#18 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136

Posted by hokasch on 20/8/2009 at 20:52

I made the VIP sleeper bus trip Pakse -> Vientianne. Company was Sengchaluean, I think.

The bunk beds may look allright for one person, you will have to share it with another though (happy spooning). And no, they will NOT let opposite genders sleep in the same bed.

I slept quite well, but woke up from people screaming - oops, bus on fire. we were still driving, biting smoke everywhere... my brain just shut down completely, instincts took over - really strange feeling- and I was out of the bus through the driver window in no time, did not even wake up my buddies.
anyway, no one was hurt, we never found out what actually happened (the only english speaking local got completely soiled in black hydraulic oil when someone tried to fix the car jack by jumping on it, and was therefore not in a chatty mood). the bus did not burn down, but was out of business. we camped on the road in f**cking nowhere for around two hours, then another "standard" bus came to our rescue. we, the only 4 westerners, got in last and surprise! no free seats left... they provided us with plastic stools (no backrest) to sit in the alley. with still 7 hours to go, we were not so amused, so we took the least stinky sheets and cushions from the VIP bus to "stretch out" (well, not quite) in the alley, and catched some sleep at last. so, I would recommend the sleeper ticket, as you are directly behind the driver, so you can get out fast, and even so if the passenger door is blocked/stuck with people from above (just kidding).

this is a personal experience, and I do not think this is happening a lot. call it bad luck (or, a lot of luck, depending on perspective).

anyway, enjoy Laos! I certainly did.

#19 hokasch has been a member since 24/12/2008. Posts: 45

Posted by seagypsy on 21/8/2009 at 05:30

Hi hokasch,

Thanks for the report on the sleeper VIP bus. Man, that must have been a bit scary to be awoken to the screams of fire on the bus! Glad that no one got hurt. Sorry about the inconveniences you had to suffer but it makes for a great story to tell your frieneds about your adventures while traveling in Laos.

BTW, you mentioned 'bunks' on the Sengchaleurn. Were those bunks that were stacked upper and lower or were they across from each other by an aisle or both? Also am curious as to if you caught this bus at the Kilometer 2 bus station in Pakse or in the town along the riverside. thanks and again, also for the report!

#20 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136

Posted by BruceMoon on 21/8/2009 at 05:57

Above, I wrote...

"dclayw

Given what Rufus has contributed, I may have been a bit overdramatic. But, remember, the decision-making needed to care for a whole family is greater than (say) for a single or couple.
.

After reading the journey of hokasch, maybe I wasn't being 'a bit overdramatic'.

That experience would definitely unnerve me.

Cheers

#21 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by hokasch on 21/8/2009 at 06:00

Hi seagypsy!

yea, it was a bit scary, no one got hurt though so it was allright. We picked up a bus up from the street in Tad Lo, and we arrived at some bus station in Pakse when it was dark already. Sorry, do not know which one. There was nice street food, I did not see a river. We got the tickets and the bus from there.

The bus hat seats mostly, only left from when you come in there was a small compartement with beds, directly behind the driver cabin. Two beds on each side, and then a a "big" space after that. Like this:

bus
||_||
|___|
-----
driver

Actually, I am not sure if there was a another bed under the first two. I think it was just space to for the driver and stuff, one of my friends slept down there.

I really do not people to get overly scared of sleeper busses, to late I guess. Just could not resist when dclayw asked about it.

#22 hokasch has been a member since 24/12/2008. Posts: 45

Posted by hokasch on 21/8/2009 at 06:01

that doodle did not work out.

#23 hokasch has been a member since 24/12/2008. Posts: 45

Posted by seagypsy on 21/8/2009 at 06:10

hokasch--thanks, again. Hmm, do you recall if beds were stacked upper and lower or just across from each other. The reason why I'm asking is that there's one VIP that originates from Attapeu and I'm trying to figure out if it stopped at the K2 Bus Station too. Anyways, thanks again.
Also, you mentioned visiting Tad Lo. Did you visit Tim's GH?

#24 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136

Posted by hokasch on 21/8/2009 at 18:28

(wow. my last writing constitutes a personal record in typos-per-post. more sober now)

I think they were no bunk (as in stacked) beds, actually. Some people, a friend of mine included, slept under the beds, but I think there was just "space" down there, not really beds. There were sleeper beds for only ~10 pax on the bus, the rest was seats.

If you came in the sleeper bed compartment, facing front of the bus, there were two beds on each side. Behind that was a big bed, for around 6 people, just one level, not stacked. Behind that was the driver.

I try another doodle for you. Each exclamation mark is a pax lying in its bed.

!!_!!
!!!!!

I'm pretty sure we stopped shortly after department to pick up more people.

We had some food in Tim's guesthouse, he had a "new" bus connection to Vientianne straight from Tad Lo, not sure where it originated. We did not book it, just hopped on a bus to Pakse.

I hope this is of help for you...

#25 hokasch has been a member since 24/12/2008. Posts: 45

Posted by kiwibc on 24/8/2009 at 16:10

We did this trip a few months ago and it was average. It was two to a small bunk but I was with my partner so no worries there. Roads seemed fine and bus was ok but didn't sleep much. We did see at the bus depot when we left, amazing super size buses with queen/king size beds and private compartments that were doing the same route. Intially, given that we'd paid for VIP at the guesthouse we thought that was our ride but no luck unfortunately! If anyone does the journey definately try and get on one of those VVVIP buses!

#26 kiwibc has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 18

Posted by seagypsy on 25/8/2009 at 03:26

"We had some food in Tim's guesthouse, he had a "new" bus connection to Vientianne straight from Tad Lo, not sure where it originated. We did not book it, just hopped on a bus to Pakse ."

hokasch--wow!, Tim must be doing very well to have a new bus of his own. Or, are you saying that he offered info about the bus connection? Hmm, maybe it originated from Salavan? Anyways, thanks again for more details.

kiwibc--thanks for your VIP experience, too. Also, do you remeber where you caught your VIP bus in Pakse? Was it at the Kilometer 2 Bus Station or in central Pakse along the riverside? That Super VIP that you described sounds luxurious and I'd like to catch it the next time. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

#27 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136

Posted by hokasch on 25/8/2009 at 04:05

@ seagypsy
I think he just sold tickets for this bus connection. They departed from somewhere else, but passed by Tad Lo.

#28 hokasch has been a member since 24/12/2008. Posts: 45

Posted by kiwibc on 6/9/2009 at 11:13

Hey seagypsy. Sorry can't help there as we went from Vientiane to Pakse rather than the other way around, and from there onwards to the southern islands.

#29 kiwibc has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 18

Posted by wanderingcat on 8/11/2009 at 15:07

video of interior of VTE-Pakse sleeper bus (don't know which bus company):
http://laos.conmochila.com/video-37-sleeping-bus-de-vientiane-a-pakse/

some of the passengers in the video will give you an idea of the size of the bunks ;)

#30 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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