Getting there and away
Savannakhet's huge airfield to the southeast of town is serviced only by Lao Airlines. At time of writing, the only destinations with service to/from Savannakhet are Pakse, Vientiane, Bangkok and Da Nang. Flight times are limited and rates are expensive. For more info, check www.laoairlines.com.
The main bus terminal in Savannakhet is located two kilometres northwest of the centre of town on Makhasan Road. Skylabs should not be more than 25,000 kip or 100 baht, and it's possible to haggle a lower price than that.
Destinations within Laos
As ever, it is important to remember that this is Laos, not Switzerland. Though we've done our level best to nail down as much accurate information as we can, it never hurts to pay a visit a day in advance and firm things up. Times and fares are posted for most destinations in English at the bus station.
Attapeu: Departs 09:00 and 19:00. Costs 75,000 kip and takes 9 hours to cover the 345km.
Nakasang, Don Khon, Don Khong: Departs 19:00. Costs 60,000 kip. 367km, 7 hours.
Pakse: Departs 07:00, 09:00, 10:30, 14:00, 17:30. Costs 40,000 kip. Takes 5 hours to cover the 247 km trip. It's possible to transfer to buses bound for Champasak in Pakse.
Salavan:Departs 12:30. Costs 60,000 kip. 190km, 7 hours.
Sekong: Departs 10:30. Costs 70,000 kip 285km, 8 hours.
Tha Khaek: Departs hourly between 08:00 and 16:00, costs 30,000 kip and takes 3 hours to cover the 175 km trip.
Vientiane : Local buses depart hourly from 06:00 to 21:00, costs 75,000 kip and takes 10 hours to cover the 495km trip.
Vientiane-bound local buses also stop in Tha Khaek, Paksan, Pakading, Nam Thone and just about everywhere else in between.
Vientiane VIP Night bus: Departs at 21:00. Costs 120,000 kip and takes 8 hours. It's best to buy VIP bus tickets on the morning of the departure date as it's often fully booked.
About 50 metres west of the bus station at Savansai market is the songthaew stand where large songthaews depart for destinations throughout the province. Destinations include:
Champhon: 6 departures between 08:00 and 14:00. 20,000 kip. 2 hours.
Outhouphoun: 3 departures between 08:00 and 12:30. 15,000 kip. 1 hour.
Palanxay: 3 departures between 08:00 and 12:30. 25,000 kip. 3 hours.
Phine: 4 departures between 07:00 and 11:00. 30,000 kip. 3 hours.
Sepon: 6 departures between 07:00 and 14:00. 30,000 kip. 4 hours.
Xaibouly: 4 departures between 08:00 and 12:30. 20,000 kip. 2 hours.
Buses to Thailand
Mukdahan: Departs hourly from 08:15 to 19:00 and costs 45 baht. You'll get off the bus to pass Lao immigration, hop back on to cross the Friendship Bridge 2, get off again for Thai immigration, then get on once more for the 15-minute ride to the bus station in Mukdahan, from where buses depart regularly for Bangkok and many other destinations in Thailand.
Buses to Vietnam
Da Nang: VIP buses depart Thursday and Friday only at 07:30. 150,000 kip. 11 hours.
Hue: VIP bus departs daily 09:00. 120,000 kip. 10 hours.
Hue / Da Nang: Local buses depart everyday at 22:00. 110,000 kip to Hue, 140,000 to Danang. This bus arrives at the border at 03:00 and you'll have to sleep on the bus until the border opens at 08:00. After passing Vietnamese immigration you'll be put on another bus that stops at both Hue and Da Nang. Remember there is no visa-on-arrival at Vietnam borders.
All of these buses also service Dong Ha.
There are also a handful of "special" buses that depart for Dong Ha / Hue / Da Nang mainly on Saturdays and Sundays when there is enough demand. Inquire at the bus station to see what's available.
Alternately, you can just go to Lao Bao and catch a continuing bus on your own.
Lao Bao Border: Departs 07:00, 08:30, 11:00. Costs 60,000 kip. 240km, 4 hours.
Savannakhet isn't huge and you can walk from one side to the other in an hour, although renting a bicycle is the best way to get around town. The streets often look the same and are not clearly marked with road signs, so it's easy to temporarily get lost but the town is so small that you really can't get too lost.
Many guesthouses rent bicycles for 10,000 to 20,000 kip per 24 hours, although quality can be lacking. We had the best luck at a small bicycle shop just south of Au Rendezvous Cafe on the west side of Ratsavongseuk Road.
Motorbike rentals can be arranged at Souavannavong Guesthouse and Nong Soda, though in both cases only manual gear bikes were available. The going price is 80,000 kip per 24 hours. Remember to drive on the right side of the street!
If wanting someone else to do the work, skylabs are widely available throughout Savannakhet. Initial quotes can be ridiculously high so be prepared to haggle. It shouldn't cost more than 10,000 kip for a ride within the city and no more than 20,000 if going all the way across town, 25,000 to the casino and 40,000 to Friendship Bridge 2. It's also possible to hire a skylab on an hourly or daily basis if wanting to visit an outlying sight such as That Ing Hang chedi.
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