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The bus from hell Vientiane to Hanoi- has anyone done it and is it safe for solo women?

  • suswati37

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    Joined Travelfish
    21st November, 2009
    Location United Kingdom
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    Hi all,

    I just have a query, I realise the Vientiane to Hanoi is the bus from hell, but has anyone done it and would it be safe for solo female travellers to do? Unfortunately the flight is out of my price range so its my only option...Cheers!

    #1 Posted: 7/12/2009 - 15:54

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Well it's your only option if you really want to go to Vietnam. I'd be surprised if it wasn't safe (not counting accidents of course).Long, horrible... maybe. But otherwise probably safe.

    #2 Posted: 7/12/2009 - 18:11

  • christay2009

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    I think most, if not all, people on it will be tourists but i don't know if that makes it safer or not?!

    i agree with Mac, sounds pretty long and horrible but so what?! you can have fun telling people at home you were on a bus from hell. A friend of mine had a 58 hour bus ride in Mongolia, made a great story.

    #3 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 01:45

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Laos
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    I was getting my passport renewed about 1 year ago. The guy sitting next to me in the Embassy had lost his passport - it had burned up together with most of the luggage when a fire broke out in the exhaust of the bs on this route.
    However, "yes" it is safe in terms of personal safety etc.

    #4 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 07:34

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "A friend of mine had a 58 hour bus ride in Mongolia, made a great story."

    I wouldn't be alive to tell any stories. Around hour 30 I'd have killed myself.

    #5 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 09:08

  • suswati37

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    Haha yes I realise, its stupid but don't have much time and its cheap! I did the crazy trips in Mongolia, yep its pretty dire in a broken down minivan that starts smoking every 2 hours.

    #6 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 21:38

  • hasherjoe34

    Joined Travelfish
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    you can make a blog just for that story alone

    #7 Posted: 9/12/2009 - 16:02

  • ellenruth

    Joined Travelfish
    29th November, 2009
    Posts: 3

    Hi, I am a solo woman and the flight also wasn't in my budget. It's definitely cheaper to do the "Bus from hell" but you could do it in a few steps, vientiane-lak sao-border-vinh- Hanoi . That's what I ended up doing and I really enjoyed the more rural parts of the trip. It was pretty and fun. My worst experience was at the Hanoi bus station but you can avoid that since you'll be doing it in reverse.

    #8 Posted: 12/12/2009 - 19:44

  • bass_ke

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd August, 2009
    Posts: 19

    If you've got time break it up and check out a bit more of north eastern Laos, I just recently went to Hanoi from Sam Neua in Laos, it was still a bit of along day but a way better option than the Vientiane - Hanoi hell bus.

    We got a Songthaew to the Nam Xoi border from Sam Neua and then managed to get tickets on a mini bus from the border to Hanoi, swapping buses at Thanh Hoa and arriving Hanoi at about 1000 Pm

    #9 Posted: 26/12/2009 - 21:09

  • duriantime

    Joined Travelfish
    21st January, 2010
    Posts: 1

    Hi, new on here so hello to all folks :)

    Will be in Vientiane mid Feb and have 3 nights unplanned before getting to Hanoi. The flight is really expensive between the 2 cities, so am thinking of the bus, but it sounds rough as. Breaking up the journey en route sounds like a good bet, so with 2 or 3 nights to stop over - does anyone have recommendations on where would be good to visit?

    Thanks :D

    #10 Posted: 21/1/2010 - 09:40

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  • pcoffman

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    8th November, 2010
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    I know this post is old, but I figured I would post here since I myself searched the travelfish forums before starting out on my own "bus from hell" journey.

    The bus ride I had could in no way be considered a "bus from hell" adventure. It was actually not that bad and at times quite enjoyable. We booked through Sinh Cafe (the real office in Hanoi) who then booked a ticket through another company. We had a lot of trouble deciding where to book but chose Sinh Cafe because their bus service in Vietnam was very good and as such trusted them to contract a reliable company for the Hanoi-Vientiene trip. We met at the Sinh Cafe at 5:00 pm and were then transported by moto to a more central location to wait for more travelers. There we waited as more tourists were brought there and eventually took a taxi to the bus station. The moto driver who picked us up met us at the station and purchased our tickets for us. We boarded the bus around 6:30 or so and left at 7:00pm. Our bus stopped for dinner and arrived at the Laos border early that morning (~3am? I'm not sure, I was solidly asleep). At approximately 6:45 am we were woken up and told to cross the border, which took about 1 hour total (easy). We again boarded the bus on the Laos side and stopped for breakfast a short time later. We then continued driving and arrived in Vientiane around 3:00 pm (early).

    Yes, what others have said is true: the road is bumpy, the seats are small, and it is a long time to be on a bus. At close to 6ft and 220 lbs I actually was reasonably comfortable and slept fairly well along the way. We stopped for dinner and breakfast but we also brought some snacks along (recommended). A good book and ipod will make your trip a lot better also. It could be worse- you could be on a 60 hour ride in mongolia or on a hard seat 3rd class train from Beijing to Shanghai (22 hours of butt pain)

    #11 Posted: 25/11/2010 - 14:09

  • svendj

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    Location Belgium
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    did the same as you pcoffman. only we arrived a few hours later but it was a minibus (max 12 people) and it took us 23 hours to get from Hanoi to Vientiane . still loved this trip as I remember a lot from it. we started of with only me, one of my friends and 2 girls from the UK on that bus, all the way to the border, so we made a good time sleep out of it with plenty of room.
    After the border the bus got filled up all the way but I didn't mind.
    If you are a little bit social and into languages, try to talk to the locals on the bus and they'll start having fun together with you.

    arrived at about 6pm in Vientiane after a 23 hour ride which for me was like maybe 5 hours cause I was just having fun on the bus.

    the roads are bumpy, the bus will stop sometimes to cool down the engine but it's all fun after all.

    #12 Posted: 25/11/2010 - 21:23

  • mushlova

    Joined Travelfish
    26th November, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi there, I am planning to take this bus but from Hanoi to LP. Does the bus actually stop in Luang Prabang? Do I need to sort my Visa in Hanoi or can I do it in the border?
    If I can do the visa on the border, do I need to have US Dollars with me or can I use Vietnamise Dongs??

    Thanks!

    #13 Posted: 26/11/2010 - 08:49

  • svendj

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    hey mushlova, I think there are 2 roads to go with, I took another one more down south cause I had to get to Vientiane. I think the other one does stop in LP, just check with the tourist centre in Hanoi where you are going to book your tickets.

    Best is to bring us dollars to the border (don't take 100 dollar bills as they won't except it, happened to me so I got in for free :p ). Visa's do get arranged at the border, so no worries if you don't have one in advance for Laos.

    #14 Posted: 26/11/2010 - 15:26

  • mushlova

    Joined Travelfish
    26th November, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    wicked!

    thanks for your help, I actually might bring 100$ bills as a strategy to avoid visa fees :)

    #15 Posted: 27/11/2010 - 16:52

  • UCSBrown

    Joined Travelfish
    28th November, 2009
    Posts: 24

    Done it. It's safe, well the VIP one. Do 3rd class for an added touch of the 3rd world experience.. But, bring plenty of snacks and sleeping pills.

    #16 Posted: 11/12/2010 - 21:15

  • DavidSeattle

    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2004
    Posts: 4

    The bus of hell is not fun. 23 hour sleeper to Hanoi stuck in a fibre glass box so narrow at he bottom you cannot keep your feet vertical. It was awful. The roads are hairpin after S turn. And buses from the other direction are a real hazard. You keep sliding, getting pushed deeper into this box and your pants feel like a noose around your crotch. Imposssible to sleep!
    There is also a 3-4 hour wait for the Vietnamese border to open, spent at a country shack restaurant, very unpleasant, under constant insect assault.
    A train is the best way to travel through this region however longer it might take. I rode the train from Bkk. to Vientienne and it was very okay on a sleeper. I slept.
    If there is a train to Hanoi, take it from Vientienne. Change your Kip before you leave Laos or at the Vn. Border. It is not widely acepted in Hanoi.
    DavidSeattle

    #17 Posted: 1/7/2011 - 02:51

  • busylizzy

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    There are no trains in Laos so getting one from Vientienne to Hanoi. You're out of luck on that one!

    #18 Posted: 1/7/2011 - 03:04

  • schmuly

    Joined Travelfish
    26th June, 2011
    Posts: 7

    Hi, I have read through this Forum lots and there is lots of information for sure, but basically i want to go from Luang Prabang by LAND not Air to Hanoi. The flights are way to pricey and I am not in a huge hurry.

    I would like to make this trip without going back down to Vientiane as I would have already come from down there. I also don't mind one stop over along the way from Luang to Hanoi. I will also already have my visa for Vietnam to cross over with.

    Thoughts?

    #19 Posted: 1/7/2011 - 10:06

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    schmuly
    It's going to be long and unpleasant. PM Rufus concerning the bus scheduling. He can tell you how to break this up, and probably knows when the buses go from LP to Vietnam.

    #20 Posted: 20/7/2011 - 23:46

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
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    #19:
    do a Google search for:
    - "jp_geckozy"+bus+laos
    - "tf_geckozy"+bus+laos

    you will find his posts on this forum & LP Thorntree forum with the most detailed & up to date (AFAIK) info.

    #21 Posted: 21/7/2011 - 08:09

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 949

    There are a few ways by bus.

    Luang Prabang - Ponsavahn - Vinh - Hanoi
    The bus from Ponsavahn to Vinh only leaves on Mondays. It is about 20 hours driving time from LP to Vinh.

    Luang Prabang - Samneau - Thanh Hoa - Hanoi

    Both are arduous.

    #22 Posted: 23/7/2011 - 13:42

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6045
    Total reviews: 10

    I was re-reading this thread. It's funny what some people consider "fun". There is no way any bus ride in excess of two hours could possibly be fun for me. Two hours of smoking and joking, OK. 18 hours? No way. I understand if it's the only option you've got, and you have to go... but fun?

    #23 Posted: 23/7/2011 - 14:22

  • schmuly

    Joined Travelfish
    26th June, 2011
    Posts: 7

    Geez Madmac - High Maintenance or what!

    #24 Posted: 24/7/2011 - 08:23

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Laos
    Posts: 949

    Well, I agree with the Macster.

    #25 Posted: 24/7/2011 - 08:41

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Schmuly, it's kind of like flying. I mean, it sucks, but sometimes you've got to do it... the bus is the same thing.

    #26 Posted: 24/7/2011 - 11:17

  • lunar

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd August, 2011
    Posts: 10

    Did this trip in the end of March 2011 and it was ok. Bus (normal bus for 17 or 18 $) left around 7pm and arrived in Hanoi 24h later. It was safe and I was lucky that the bus was quite empty. About 15 backpackers and 5 locals were on the bus, so plenty of room to spread out. At the bus station in Hanoi an employee from Prince Hotel offered all tourist a mini bus ride to the old quarter, where the cheap accommodations are. It was 1.5 or 2 $. They dropped us off at their hotel and we could see some rooms, but the best thing is, just pay them and find your own way :)

    #27 Posted: 3/8/2011 - 22:24

  • rinzai

    Joined Travelfish
    7th August, 2011
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I took the bus from Vientiane to Hanoi on 3 August 2011 at 0700PM. First of all, in certain forums there appears to be some confusion with the information as to the two different types of sleeping buses operating on certain days. Reportedly the difference is the toilet. While this is correct, minds may differ as to which one is actually nicer. As it happens, those Asian buses with toilets tend to make the whole bus stink like one. On the other hand, the lack of toilet, absent diarrhea, is not a problem, as the bus will stop at least once on the approximately 6-hour ride from Vientiane to the border. That is where the bus will stop for 5 to 7- hours until the border control opens 0700AM the following morning. On the way from the border to Hanoi it will stop at least half a dozen times. These stops occur not just for the toilet and snack breaks, but also because the bus will drop off some cargo as well. The latter are one of the main reasons why a 400km ride from the border to Hanoi will take a somewhat astounding 12 hours, another being the road conditions, which are beyond belief effectively reducing the speed to 40km/h.

    As to the pricing of the ticket, in Vientiane I went to couple of places that had their stands on the street indicating that they’re selling the relevant bus tickets. If you want to get the cheapest ticket you should shop around. There are differences with the prices in KIP and in particular when quoted in USD. I found a range from USD 35 to 42. And if you require the bus with toilet, please don’t trust the agent, as they wouldn’t have a clue. I was guaranteed that there would be a toilet on the Wednesday-bus but there wasn’t, not that I needed one, but presumably I did pay for it.

    On the other hand, if you’re expecting a sleeper-bus to have seats going all flat – most likely it only materializes in your dreams. The bus I traveled with was basically a tourist bus with regular seats, which go a few inches lower than they normally do. In other words, you won’t get a bed as we think of it. However, one of the ticket agents claimed that at least some buses have some type of bunk beds. If this is accurate, there might be a chance for fully flat beds, too.

    If you’re asking if the ride is from hell, the answer is: yes, by any Western standards it pretty much is. There are two major hell-parts on the ride. Number one is the on-board entertainment, that is the DVD’s they’re playing, and in particular the volume they keep their AV-system on. Trust me, you will need earplugs. They will play Vietnamese comedies; movies and music videos, and for some unknown reason they play them on maximum volume. At least I personally would be very surprised if they could turn it louder. The buses are equipped with state of the art AV-systems with one big flat screen in front and at least 2 dozen(!) loudspeakers spread around the bus giving hundreds of watts. The second hell-part starts at the border. As mentioned above, the bus arrives at the border and simply stops. The driver opens the main door but not the roof windows. After a while you start feeling like you’re running out of air – which is exactly what you are. You have around 30 people on board, all snoring, snorting, crying, screaming and farting. The air is not, I repeat not, circulating. For some unknown reason all foreigners (3 of us) where ushered to the backseat(s). That is where the air runs out first. However, getting out from the bus around 0500 is not necessarily a bad thing. I experienced the nicest breeze and a beautiful sunshine up in the mountains. At the border they have a building with squat toilets and running water. There is also a small shop selling refreshments which opens around 0600. There is also an exchange office, which you should strongly avoid. The guy in the shop doesn’t have good rates, not even semi-good like somebody in some forum said. The rates are simply rip-offs. I went for it without a clue of the correct rates and lost 16 euros by exchanging 50 euros - that is how good the rates are.

    The border formalities will take approximately 2 – 3 hours. While the Vietnamese and Lao passengers hand their passports to the bus driver, all foreigners keep theirs and are expected to handle the formalities by them selves, although this is, of course, not being told. What I recommend is that you be the first one at the immigration exit office on Laos side. Beware of the local tour guides getting Lao and Vietnam passports being stamped by plastic bag loads and slowing down the process. Be first around 0630, place your passport through the small window at the desk even though the office is not open and wait. There are three main desks/windows, choose the center window which only says Immigration Exit and which is the one to open for certain, the other two have something to do with customs as well. By this way you’ll get to move forward first. After receiving your exit-stamp, walk to the Vietnamese side approximately 500 meters away, get your stamp (they charge USD 1 or KIP 10.000 for it) and wait for your bus to arrive, as that is where your luggage will be. At this stage the local fellow travelers are still somewhere at the Laos border and you’ll be alone with the otherwise empty bus and the bus drivers. Then you have to push your bags through the x-ray and walk through the gate and wait for the rest of the passengers to arrive, which will take 1 – 2 hours.

    There is the tiniest “café” on the Vietnamese side where you can get hot water and indeed some strange coffee. You can also get a Vietnamese (Viettel) pre-paid GSM card from there, which will cost 100.000 dong and will have some credit for 60.000 which comes handy as you can, for example, start calling hotels for reservations during the second part of the trip. Once you arrive to Hanoi, after the trip you have now come to realize was indeed hellish, please ask your (hopefully English speaking) hotel reception to help you out in getting unlimited 3G data plan (at Viettel max 3,1 gigabytes as of 6 August 2011) activated on the phone. That will give you 3G for 30 days for the price of another 200.000 dong, but activating it will require some very complicated SMS’ing etc. so don’t even think of trying it yourself. My personal recommendation for hotel is Sports Hotel very close to the old quarters, charging very reasonable (around) USD 15 per night for a room with extremely clean rooms, A/C and Wi-Fi. In comparison, the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel charge USD 7 for dorm.

    Last but not least, don’t get ripped off by the cabbies on arrival. Don’t jump into taximeters without settling the price first, as they will rip you off, guaranteed. You shouldn’t pay more than 100.000 dong for the trip from the bus-station to the old quarters. In the event of argument(s), show the cabbie that you have the hotel phone number on your phone, and most likely this will settle them down.

    Even though the trip is one from hell, I wouldn’t change a thing, as it is an experience! Have a good one!

    #28 Posted: 7/8/2011 - 12:12

  • rinzai

    Joined Travelfish
    7th August, 2011
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Deleted a double post.

    #29 Posted: 7/8/2011 - 12:15

  • colucadormi-
    da

    Joined Travelfish
    28th February, 2012
    Posts: 1

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Thank u guys for all the info about this bus, i had to take the bus anyway cause of the budget. The bus was FROM VIENTIANE TO HANOI, on 6th March 2012.
    The LAST NEWS about it:
    I got into the BUS TERMINAL (nobody there speaks english, NOBODY), they gave me a seat at the back, and top bed beside the toilet (which smells really bad even with the door closed), and i asked to change it (at that moment i was with a terrible diarrhea so i needed to go to toilet every time, and in between 2 ppl, top bed it wasnt the best place to be). So they changed it for me, that was nice.
    The bus was a sleeper bus, i paid about usd 30 (i understand that the one for usd 17 is crap, and it is, i saw it on the border, it didnt look very comfy).
    We left about 8pm and we stopped for dinner (which is not included in the price) about 10pm. After that and before the border we had new passengers, who were sleeping in the corridor with lil matress in between the seats, so if u wanted to go to the toilet that was no posible.
    THE BORDER:
    We got there at 3am. I dont really understand why we left at 8pm if we had to be stopped in the border until 7am (for the opening hours). Anyway that was Ok, we slept there til we stamp the passports to cross to Vietnam.
    At 7 am, the border was full of ppl, many buses, they collect all the passports and go with a big bag full of them to the officer, nobody says "excuse me", they just push u and get there before u with a huge bag of passport.
    The toilet there u have to pay, and they dont let u go to the toilet in the bus.. Actually they dont let u go inside the bus for any reason.
    I had left my small backpack into the bus, and while we were doing the stamps to cross, the bus left us there, we had to walk (not too far) til the Vietnamese side (i was worried about my backpack), but almost nobody speaks english so we had to ask where the bus was, and hardly we understood that we had to go further..
    On Vietnam side we had to pay usd 1 for no reason to get the stamp so be sure u have that money on you, (or 10.000 kip, or 20.000 dong; u can change there anyway), i had my money on the bus which was on Vietnamese side already.
    They take all the backpacks out of the bus, so as soon as u pay the 1 usd, all the backpacks are there, u have to take yours and pass through the X-Ray (the hand bags are checked on the bus, they dont take them out). After that, u put ur baggage into the bus again, and get into the bus quick, cause there are new passengers with no seats so be sure u have yours..
    We left the border about 8.30am, and got in HaNoi about 7pm. The bus DOESNT STOP in all that way (just one time u will have time to have a cigarette or buy something in the street shop), so be sure u have enough food, snacks, or drinks for all the time.
    It was a 24 hours bus, they say that is minimum, and maximum 1 or 2 hours more. To be honest any 24 hours trip is the hell, but this one was in comfy seats, i slept almost 12 hours very good. So dont be panic if u have to do it, its not that bad, and its cheaper than the flight.
    The only advice is be carefull with the taxi drivers in the terminal in Hanoi, try to get a minibus with all the ppl of your bus, everybody goes to the same place so for about usd 1,5 they take you safe to city centre.
    Hope my experience to be usefull for the travellers, have a nice a safe trips everybody!

    #30 Posted: 10/3/2012 - 22:27

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6045
    Total reviews: 10

    Glad it worked out for you. You couldn't pay me to do this though. I think I'd have just had to stay in Vientiane. But great that everything worked out for you in the end.

    #31 Posted: 11/3/2012 - 10:02

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