Getting there and away
Songtheaws head to Vieng Xai from the Nathong bus station at 08:30 unless there are enough passengers later for another trip. The tourist office in Sam Neua doesn't have the correct information about these songthaews and some people we met had missed the last songthaew of the day due to being told the incorrect times.
Head to the Nathong bus station early. The journey costs 20,000 kip per person and takes about an hour. The Nathong bus station is approximately four kilometres from Sam Neua. It is also possible to rent a private songtheaw to take you there and back. For two people this will cost around 300,000 kip, but with more people the price will increase. It's also possible to catch the Vietnam-bound bus from the bus station on the hill and ask to get off at Vieng Xai, but this option usually requires a walk at the Vieng Xai turn-off from the main through road to the centre of town. 25,000 kip departing between 07:30 and 08:00. Arrive early.
Songthaews depart for Sam Neua from the Vieng Xai bus station which is located in the centre of town at the market early with the last one departing at 11:00 unless enough passengers wish to take the trip later. A bus from Vietnam zooms along the main Vietnam-Sam Neua road just outside of town at 17:00 and picks up passengers for 25,000 kip and drops them at Sam Neua -- many locals choose this option.
There is one bus a day to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam. This will drop and pick up from the main turn off from the main road at 08:30, approximately a kilometre from town for 25,000 kip. Get there 30 minutes early as the bus timing varies dependent on the Sam Neua departure.
Motorbike rental is available across the road and 100 metres towards the roundabout from the Tourist Office. Price depends on who is running the shop on the particular day, but bank on between 60,000 and 80,000 kip for a full day with a passport as your deposit. No paperwork needs to be filled out and you'll be given a bike that will almost certainly have no petrol in it. Because the people who own the bikes are mechanics, they are mechanically sound despite being quite old. Certainly a highly recommended mode of transport in this area.
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