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VIP 24 Hour Direct Bus from Siem Reap to Vientiane (as if...)

Posted by NickyWoo on 30/9/2013 at 12:20

Hello, I've been browsing for a couple of years but this is my first post here

Just wanted to share my experience of taking the bus from Siem Reap to Vientiane . I'm guessing the same scenario has been posted up here before but I haven't come across it so here goes.

I was staying in some little hostel in Siem Reap (the Dancing Frog). The owner seemed a bit nuts but as I couldn't be bothered going to a travel agents I booked a ticket through him for the 24 hour direct VIP bus to Vientiane. The photographs of the bus looked lovely. Gorgeous reclining sleeper seats. All that was missing was a cocktail waiter.
I can only assume that 'Direct' means something entirely different in Cambodia.

1 government/local bus, 5 minivans, an overnight 'spooning' bus and 48 hours later I finally arrived at my destination.

Firstly a minivan turned up at the crack of dawn to take me from the guesthouse in Siem Reap to the bus station. I then transferred to a government bus (i think) which kicked me out at Kompong Cham, then I got into a mini van which seemed to stop every half hour for the driver to get out, smoke a *** and chat to his mates before picking up a friend. A couple of hours later (no idea where), I had to get into another mini van and the same kind of thing continued.
Things had gotten pretty sweaty by now. No aircon, couldn't even move my arms, way up too close and personal with strange men for my liking and wondering when the VIP sleeping bus is going to materialise.

So we are heading north and I'm thinking that things are going pretty slowly and it's doubtful we are going to make the border before it shuts but the driver says it's no problem. Then we hit what has the be the worst road I have ever come across. I can still feel the pain of hitting the roof as we hit the giant potholes. This went on for a good hour or more. At this point it's getting dark but then I see the a sign that says 'Border'. Hurrah ! My heart skips a jump and the driver simultaneously turns in a completely different direction ?

Shortly afterwards, the minivan stops, yells 'everyone out' and drives off leaving a bunch of knackered confused tourists wondering what just happened ...and where the hell are we ??

It was pitch black by now, there's a power cut in the whole town and it was pretty obvious we'd been scammed. The owner of the guesthouse we had just been dumped outside was most helpful, kindly informing us that these 'rogue' transport companies do it to tourists all the time. He fortunately had spare rooms where we could stay the night for 10 dollars :-) He assured us that a van would come and pick us up in the morning and we would be happily on our way to Vientiane.

I wasn't too bothered as I was quite happy to get out of the friggin van and get some sleep by that point but some of the other travellers were starting to freak out as they were supposed to be flying out of Vientiane the following morning.

My only concern was exactly how much we had been scammed. Eg, was my transport to Vientiane still valid for the next day or would I have to purchase a new ticket ?

When the power came back, I managed to email the guesthouse owner back in Siem Reap to complain. I wasn't expecting any reply but he got back to me within minutes and I'm not sure exactly what he did (I think it involved threatening to kill the travel agent...I still have his emails here and they are pretty funny) but the next morning the Stung Treng guesthouse owner refunded me the 10 dollars just before a minivan turned up to take me on my merry way to Laos.
The guesthouse owner who had 'come to our rescue' and also encouraged us to email the Cambodian government to complain was clearly in on it. Maybe he should seriously think about taking the link to the travel company off his own business cards oops :-P

After that it was nice and easy. Once at the border it took us a few minutes to cross and then another minivan took us to Pakse where I had a pleasant afternoon prior to boarding the night bus to Vientiane. No one had told me about the sleeping arrangements but I got lucky and ended up spooning with a slim petite australian girl. Others weren't so lucky and one girl had a sleepless night with some Lao guy in the same bunk.

I'm not moaning about the experience. I got to experience the delightful Stung Treng by night and a free bed and breakfast and luckily I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere.

Just wanted to share the story with those contemplating bussing it to Laos... Don't bank on it being VIP or 24 hours :-)

#1 NickyWoo has been a member since 30/9/2013. Posts: 3

Posted by NickyWoo on 30/9/2013 at 12:25

Actually, it's just occurred to me that 'Direct' could just mean from Cambodia to Laos....and not passing through Thailand or Vietnam.

In hindsight I guess the minivan could have gone via Saigon and taken a whole lot longer :-)

#2 NickyWoo has been a member since 30/9/2013. Posts: 3

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Posted by Geer1 on 30/9/2013 at 12:35

For future people wondering about how to get to Vientiane from Siem Reap. You have 3 options.

1) Fly, without doubt this is the most comfortable method. It also is the only method that will somewhat guaranteeing you get to Vientiane on time if you are catching another flight from there or something like that. Unfortunately it isn't cheap.

2) Work your way down around to the Laos/Cambodia border and then up Laos into Vientiane similar to how the OP did. You can do it in 2 days like the OP but I would advise taking at least 3 if not a week or more to stop at some of the sights along the way. The buses in Laos and Cambodia are not all that comfortable so I advise against this route if you are in a hurry.

3) Take a bus or fly to Bangkok(Air Asia has reasonable flights now) and then take night train up to Nong Khai and then minibus/bus to the border and then into Vientiane. If you want to save money I believe this would be your most comfortable way to do this trip. It might be a little more expensive then buying a "direct" ticket like the OP did but you will have a much better trip.

#3 Geer1 has been a member since 14/9/2012. Posts: 540
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Posted by NickyWoo on 30/9/2013 at 13:07

Very sensible suggestions.

It wasn't actually THAT bad but then I'm used to roughing it. The most un-nerving thing was getting unceremoniously dumped at Stung Treng. It worked out pretty cheap and once over the Laotian border was great. I would never advice taking a bus anywhere in a hurry though and made a note to allow myself at least double the time for future travels 'just in case'

Plus the Lao sleeping bus could be a bit of a nightmare if you are opposed to the idea of spooning with a stranger :-)

#4 NickyWoo has been a member since 30/9/2013. Posts: 3

Posted by Geer1 on 30/9/2013 at 16:04

I was dumped in Stung Treng as well although it was a lot stranger then yours was. I was travelling from Don Det to Kratie . Got to the border and sat around the border for hours, seemingly because the bus driver didn't show up for work or something. Eventually the guy calling the shots came over and asked for the passengers heading to Kratie only and shuffled us into a minivan and he personally drove us to Stung Treng where he then dumped us at a random little store/restaurant and said wait here and another bus will come by to pick us up shortly. We figured we were screwed and would have to find our own way but decided to wait for a while to see what would happen. Half hour or so later a bus rolls to a stop up the road and the owner of the store waves us to go to it. We show up and it is the same bus that was at the border, same people that we had been chatting with up there... The only difference was that it had only 1 or 2 empty seats and we had to sit in the aisle. The guy drove us to Stung Treng just so we wouldn't be able to argue with him about having to sit in the aisle...

#5 Geer1 has been a member since 14/9/2012. Posts: 540
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