Getting there and away
There are two bus stations in Sam Neua. The one most people will arrive at from Vietnam and other provinces in Laos is located on top of the hill (Phoutanou bus station), two kilometres from the centre of Sam Neua. The tourist office insists that information it has printed on its brochure is correct, but it isn't. Some minibus and big bus information is mixed up, which impacts on departures to places like Vieng Thong. This information is correct at time of writing (late 2012). Buses go to the following destinations from the bus station on the hill:
Luang Prabang: Costs 140,000 kip departs at 07:30 & 08:00 and takes 15 hours (big bus departs at 07:30 and is faster and 10,000 kip extra)
Muang Kham: Costs 70,000 kip, departs at 07:00, 08:30 and 09:00 and takes 6-7 hours (range of different buses and minibuses)
Nong Khiaw/Pak Mong: Costs 130,000 kip departs at 07:30 & 08:00 and takes 12 hours (big bus departs at 07:30 and is faster and 10,000 kip extra)
Phonsavan: Costs 80,000 kip, departs at 07:00, 08:30 and 09:00 and takes 7-8 hours (range of different buses and minibuses)
Thanh Hoa, Vietnam: Costs 180,000 kip, departs at 08:00 and takes 11 hours (arrive at least 30 minutes early as the bus often leaves early)
Vang Vieng: Costs 150,000 kip departs at 07:00 & 14:00 and takes 15 hours (via Phonsavan)
Vieng Thong: Costs 40,000 kip, departs at 08:00 and takes 6 hours
Vieng Xai: Costs 25,000 kip, departs at 08:00 and takes 1 hour (arrive at least 30 minutes early as the bus often leaves early)
Vientiane: Costs 170,000 kip, departs at 07:00 & 14:00 and takes 18 hours (via Phonsavan, it is also possible to travel via Luang Prabang, but the trip takes much longer)
The bus station used primarily for destinations to the east of Sam Neua is called Nathong terminal and is located four kilometres east of town. Tuk tuks from the centre of town will make the journey for 5,000 kip per person if you're not in a hurry or 10,000 kip if you want them to leave straightaway.
Vieng Xai Costs 20,000 kip and departs at 08:30, taking 1 hour (we have received reports that this is the only songthaew departing for Vieng Xai every day despite the tourist office claiming that there are four, so head to the station early)
Vietnam The bus to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam also swings by here after departing from the Phoutanou station closer to town. It's probably best to catch the bus from the Phoutanou station to be safe.
Despite some errors in the transport information at the tourist office, it is largely a great source of information when trying to decide on your next destination. As always, arrive at the bus station early.
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