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Laos to Hanoi overland, advice?

Posted by LoneFNewbie on 28/1/2012 at 05:46

Hi everyone,
I am planning to travel through Laos to Hanoi from Thailand. Aside from the slowboat to luang Prabang, does anyone have advice/suggestions for rest of journey. I have about ten days only as meeting a friend.
I have heard the coaches are problematic, is this true?
Appreciate any help, thanks.

#1 LoneFNewbie has been a member since 28/1/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by tf_geckozy on 28/1/2012 at 14:00

>I have heard the coaches are problematic, is this true?

It's not true now.

and please check my post as below.
If you don't need or want to stop on the way to Ha Noi, i recommend you to take B route-1, and if you have enough time and enjoy scenery on the way to Ha Noi, i recommend A route.

(as for A-route=Muang Khua-DBP route above in my post, i read a post saying new direct bus service from Oudomxai to DBP began recently but i haven't confirmed it yet)

#2 tf_geckozy has been a member since 2/9/2008. Posts: 82

Posted by LoneFNewbie on 29/1/2012 at 03:13

Your link is fantastic. Can't thank you enough. As lone female traveller, would you say lots of travellers are likely to be taking these routes? Safe?

#3 LoneFNewbie has been a member since 28/1/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by tf_geckozy on 29/1/2012 at 20:41

>would you say lots of travellers are likely to be taking these routes?
A route(Muang Khua to/from DBP) is very popular and many foreign travellers traced this route with local people(almost of them are Vietnamese) and B & C route are not so popular for foreign travellers but very popular for Vietnamese(not Laotian) because almost of direct buses between VN and Laos are operated for Vietnamese who live or work(including the time temporary) in Laos.

As for Safe Travel, these 3 routes are basically all safe for you--not 100% but 99%...(1%=you are a female traveller)

You are a female traveller so i think your anxiety includes phisical safe for woman and if you be aware of taking buses that run in daytime only, you can avoid 100% of troubles and conflictions and also can escape from your anxiety as a female traveller very often done by Vietnamese crews(driver & money collector) with rude and bad behaviors --unreasonable overchargings, especially in C route-Xam Neua to Thanh Hoa(*) in the past but today you can avoid it very easily "buying ticket at the bus station and its not problem in other routes --(*) in my recent travel i confirmed bus company that are operating direct bus service "as daily" has changed to other one.

As for the problem of "safe or not safe"--many years ago in the past, there very often occurred banditrys between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, that bandits of a group arming with guns appeared around Kasi and attacked buses and once(=2003) 8 Laotian passengers of bus & 2 French tourists(cyclists) were killed with guns and after that a Lao miritary soldier who shouldered a AK-47 gun wearing private clothes rode on the bus everytime when buses passed through around Kasi but it became a very old story now and even at that time we could travel very safely all other routes in Laos.,

Today if occures something problem, its not banditry as above but concerning money --overcharging & rips-off and rude and bad behavior for it by bus crews(driver & money collector, almost Vietnamese), and it's also becoming a bit old story today because we can entirely avoid it buying ticket at the bus station even if those kind of problems still remain.

So what you only need for your safe travel now is to keep basical theory of traveling and surely buy your ticket at the bus station before taking a bus at each point thats all.

(VOA is not available for entering into Viet Nam at any border gates of northern VN and paying small fee is needed(1-2 usd) when you cross border)

Good luck!

#4 tf_geckozy has been a member since 2/9/2008. Posts: 82

Posted by MADMAC on 30/1/2012 at 11:37

Great run down

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Posted by stoneman on 31/1/2012 at 22:17

I've read in the past less than complimentary descriptions of bus journeys between Laos and Hanoi. Maybe, as roads are paved, travelling conditions are on the improve.

#6 stoneman has been a member since 8/5/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 100
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Posted by MADMAC on 1/2/2012 at 05:10

Oh without a doubt it's going to suck, no matter how you slice it or dice it. That's a long trip - and a long trip on a bus is a bad trip on a bus. But TF gives a good rundown on the options here.

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Posted by LoneFNewbie on 1/2/2012 at 07:25

Better to fly? Any info on Laos airlines - I'm nervous flier - so idea of tin can airline also worrying!??

#8 LoneFNewbie has been a member since 28/1/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by MADMAC on 1/2/2012 at 09:01

Laos airlines is pretty reliable now - but it ain't cheap. That's why backpackers avoid it.

Any reason in particular you want to go to Laos instead of, say, staying in Thailand and then flying Bangkok to Hanoi?

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Posted by karen1labero on 3/2/2012 at 06:55

The business class of Laos airlines is mind blowing.

#10 karen1labero has been a member since 3/2/2012. Posts: 1

Posted by Mirepoix on 12/2/2012 at 18:56

From my own personal experience, I would absolutely never ever ever again take the bus from Vientiane to Hanoi. I have travelled quite a bit and taken many many buses. That was by far the worst bus trip I have ever had, I still have nightmares about it lol. Worst 30 hours of my life. Since the bus leaves Vientiane in the late evening, you arrive at the border crossing (which is way up in the mountains and cold at night) at about 3AM, then you just sit and wait for 5 hours until the office opens. When we arrived there the drivers simply wnt outside and went to sleep on the ground next to the bus. Lol I didnt know what was going on, but you know what they say, Laos PDR (plese dont rush). All the while hundreds of locals are pouring across the border both ways on foot, taking advantage of the darkness and remote location of the border point to cross into both countries illegally. Which I honestly dont care about but it just makes you want to get done even worse!!

#11 Mirepoix has been a member since 12/2/2012. Posts: 4

Posted by LoneFNewbie on 22/3/2012 at 22:29

Wanted to post a reply and let you know what Route i took. Basically I met a great couple and ended up doing the whole trip from luang Prabang to the border by boat. Took days! But was amazing! Stopped at Nong Kwai and Mueng Noi - both fantastic destinations. The boat was so much better than a bus. The scenery was stunning. Very glad I got to see more of laos. We crossed into DBP and then got a night bus to Hanoi . Very bumpy ride but all part of the fun.

The bus from luang Prabang to Hanoi was 24 hours but I would have missed so much.

Thanks for your help, I hope this is helpful to other travellers but perhaps only for those with time on their hands. I was ten days late in the end!

#12 LoneFNewbie has been a member since 28/1/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by wanderingcat on 23/3/2012 at 00:58

thank you for reporting back!

glad you got to enjoy the Nam Ou, work on new dams on this river supposed to start this year.

when exactly did you travel, & how was the condition of the road from Muang Khua to Tay Trang? anywhere near being fully paved yet?

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Posted by noca2020 on 27/3/2012 at 16:39

I was just about to post this very same question (i.e. regarding tavel from Luang Prabang to Hanoi). I'm just planning my very first trip to Asia and although it's exciting; I have sooo many questions! This is certainly a great way to get started.

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Posted by tf_geckozy on 28/3/2012 at 03:03

to OP
I'm glad to know that you finally made a best chice for going to Ha Noi--on Nam ou (Nam =river) from Luang Prabang (=LPB) to Muang Khua and that you ssufficiently enjoyed the stunning scenery along Nam Ou stopping at Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi .

OP, did you notice that there exist many villages-big and small-same to Muang Ngoi along Nam Ou while you were enjoying your boat cruise from Muang Ngoi to Muang Khua?

Once i by happen visited a village( Hat Sa in Luang Prabang, not Hat Sa in Phongsaly) between Muang Ngoi and Muang Khua (4 or 5 years ago) landed our boat to the bank for taking lunch with our boat driver(of course with drinking Beer Laoother local passengers were waiting for it in the boat for few hours with no complaining??!!Lao peoples hart is every time bvery gentle and quie and i noticed that there exist the same villages to Muang Ngoi along Nam Ou nothing different except the points of no tourism & no tourists & Ghs there.

Between Muang Khua and Hat Sa (Phongsaly prov.), there are about 20 villages now so between Nong Khiaw (or Muang Ngoi) and Muang Khua, i estimate there exist far many villages along (Nam Ou) and people are living there with ordinal life styles but more quietly with no tourism, i felt that but every thing is changing slowly and quickly in Laos so im not sure in future.

Well, now i'm staying at Luang Prabang (today is 5th day), and before coming to LPB i travelled with the same route to OP(but its in reverse from Ha Noi to Muang Khua viaDBP and after arriving Muang Khua, i turned to Phongsaly by taking slow boat going to Hat Sa on Nam Ou, and after staying at Phongsaly 5 days i travelled to LPB via Oudomxai.
After staying at LPB , i'm going to north of Yunnan(China) via Luang Nam Tha & Boten(Laos)/Mohan(CN) border..

If you can visit Laos one more time, please make Phongsaly put into your destination lists though it's out of popular tourist trails in northan Laos but Phongsaly is one of our last destinations in Laos and good place to visit and access to Phongsaly is nothing difficult though it locates at north end of Lao map..

to other travellers
Now i introduce a part of my traveling to OP & other travellers describing accessing from Viet Nam(Ha Noi , DBP and from LPB, LNT, Muang Khua etc in Laos) but please remember that the circumstances along Nam Ou is changing slowly and quickly as above i wrote.

*Sleeper bus between Ha Noi and DBP--there exist 7-8 sleeper buses a day besides day bus /bus fare(sleeper bus): 300,000-350,000VND (dep.time:16:30-21:30pm(from My Dinh bus station or Ha Noi Giap Bat=southern bus station)

*Direct bus from DBP to Muang Khua--dep.time:05:30am from DBP bus station/bus fare:100,000VND/required time:about 5 hours(by new road)
*Direct bus from Muang Khua to DBP--dep.time:around 07:00am from opposite bank of Nam Ou/bus fare:100,000VND or ****Kip

*Direct bus from DBP to Oudomxay--dep.time:actually "07:00am" though the timetable on the board at DBP bus station is showing 07:30am. /bus fare:200,000VND or 80,000Kip/required time:8-8.5 hours(arr.Muang Khua around 12:00noon8lunch time9 & arr.Oudomxay15:00-15:30pm)

*Direct bus from Oudomxay to DBP--dep.time:08:30am from Oudomxay bus station/bus fare:80,000Kip or 200,000VND/arr.time to DBP:around 16:30pm

(a small B5 size poster at Oudomxay bus station is saying that it's 4 buuse a week (on Fri. Sat. Sun. Mon). but i confirmed it's actually daily servivce. now.

And if some one want to go to LPB from Ha Noi on this route and take a sleeper bus from Ha Noi to DBP as early dep.time as possible (16:30-18:00pm), next morning you can transfer to direct bus going to Oudomxai without staying at DBP (one overnight in sleeper bus from Ha Noi to LPB + one overnight at Gh in Oudomxai) , and next day you can go to LPB with 6 hours by bus(dep.time:08:30am/12:00noom/16:00pm)

*Shared slow boat between Muang Khua and Hat Sa--dep.time: 09:30am from both sides/boat fare: in case of many passengers= 105,000Kip/per person and in case of very few passengers(i.e.3 passengers only)=400,000Kip/per person (for reducing down to 300,000Kip is required negotiating but please politely because Laotian are different from aggressive Vietnamese!)

*Bus(micro bus or tuk tuk) from Hat Sa to Phongsaly --dep.time:10:00am & 15:00pm/bus fare:12,000Kip/required time: 1 hour
*Bus from Phongsaly to Hat Sa--dep,time:08:00am(the first bus) & arr.time Hat Sa:09:00am/bus fare:12,000Kip/required time: 1 hour

*Local bus from Phongsaly to Oudomxay--dep.time:08:00am/bus fare:75.000Kip
*Local bus from Oudomxay to Phongsaly--dep.time:07:00am/bus fare:75,000Kip

*Local bus from Oudomxay to Luang Prabang(the first bus) --dep.time:08:30am/bus fare:55,000Kip/required time:6 hours
*Local bus from Luang Prabang to Oudomxay(the first bus) --dep.time:09::00am/bus fare:55,000Kip/required time:6 hours

*Local bus from Muang Khua to Oudomxay--(i didn't check)/bus fare:30,000Kip
*Local bus from Oudomxay to Muang Khua--08:30am/12:00/1500pm/bus fare:30,000Kip

****Accommodation at DBP****
As far ss i checked at DBP while i was staying there ---there are at least 26 Hot els & Ghs in DBP city as below..
*around DBP bus station=8 budget Ghs, 150,000-200,OOOKip per night
*aound Thanh Binh bridge(150m from DBP bus station)=3 Ghs, 200,000-220,000Kip
*near the rotary 4 big or small Ghs--200,000-300,000VND(including a 2 star class hotel)
*along the main road(=7/5 street) 3 "2 star class" hotels(12-35 USD per night & 5 budget Ghs(150,000-250,000VND)
*along 7/5 street direction Ha Noi=one "4 star class" hotel(=Muong Thanh Hotel , 45 USD per night) & one small budget Gh=200,000VND per night(it locates 300m far more Muong Thanh Hotel).
*one "2 star class" hotel just in front of the DBP airport(=Asean Hotel, 35 USD per night)

(If you are independent travellers=not in group) and need to stay at DBP, i recommed you to stay at this built Gh Nhu Ngoc Hotel(= near DBP bus station but not at old Nhu Ngoc GH with the same owner) ---i stayed there with special bargaing price(room charge) brfote opening because this Gh was still under construction except rooms.) ---details of this Gh is as below.

Nhu Ngoc Hotel(new)***
*about 5 mins walk from DBP bus station, first walk 30m from DBP bus station then turn to the left at the first corner and walk 20m and you will find 3 Ghs in a line along the road , and the newest one is Nhu Ngoc Hotel (new).
*Adress: No.8, Pho 4, Thanh Binh district, DBP city
*Tel: 0912 097 320
*Room charge-- 200,000VND per night(after opening at the end of Mar, 2012)
*Facilities:--2 big beds in each room with AC, flat TV, Hot shower & toilet(enough Hot water) and Wifi is available---every thing is very new. & clean and Room no.201, 301, 401, 501 has big windows facing the road and a small balcony in each.

****Accommodation in Phongsaly****
1.Phou Fa Hotel-(big hotel rather for big group use not for indepent travelers but possible to stay)/80,000Kip-
2.Phongsaly Hotel--70,000Kip (big and very old)
3.Viphaphone Hotelcomparatively big and opposite Lao Telecom building/70,000Kip.
4.Sensaly GuestHouse--60,000-70,000Kip, i stayed here in Phongsaly, small house(3 rooms) is better.
5.Yee Hua GuestHouse--50,000Kip/the owner is Chinese, Internet service avalable
6.Nangtam GuestHouse--60,000Kip
7.Pine Kham Doungnaly GuestHouse--newly built Gh and very close to Tourist information center/(**?**Kip)
8.Nam Sok Mai GuestHouse--it locates at north end of old town/the owner is Chinese/50,000Kip
9."Km 3" GuestHouse--in the Phongsaly bus station/50,000Kip (bus station locates at 3km from city center)
---Guesthouse #.4, 5, 6,7 are better for independt travellers and #6 has Internet service but elecricity in Phongsaly is supplied between 05:00am-09:00am in the morning/17:00pm-21:00pm in the evening only(so the time of taking "hot showre" in your Gh is the same).

****Accommodation at Hat Sa(Phongsaly)****
*Vanna GH--30,000Kip (6th grosary shop from the shore of the river is a Gh and rooms are on 2nd floor of it(its very very poor Gh but only one Gh in Hat Sa as far as i checked and my Gh is very poor so has no toilet but also no bed bugs at least when i stayed there)
---our slow boat from Muang Khua arrived Hat Sa delaying 4 hours(dep.MK10:00am-arr.Hat Sa19:45pm in the dark) due to 2 times of screw shaft broken and once with engine trouble so i had to stay at Hat Sa one overnight before going to Phongsaly.

****Accommodation at Paknamnoi=a junction of direction Muang Khua & Phongsaly & Oudomxay****
*1 hour from/to Muang Khua by bus or tuk tuk=local bus)
*Souviravon GeustHouse--newly built Gh that 1F(5 rooms) had been completed(100%) and 2F still not(0%)/60,000Kip

****Accommodation at Muang Khua****

****Accommodation at Oudomxay****

to wanderstraycat
Now direct buses use the new road between DBP and Muang Khua except near Lao border & Muang May village & a village at opposite bank of Nam Ou before crossing the river by pontoon to Muang Khua town.

This new road has enough width for big buses and trucks all the way to Muang Khua and maybe in rainy season those vehicles also can run with the same conditionroad condition & required time- from both sides (our microbus from DBP to Muang Khua run with 4h45mins only when i travelled 3/16 from DBP though once it took 13.5 hours from Muang Khua to DBP with extreamly muddy road in the end of rainy season=dep.fromMK 07:00am & arr.DBP 20:30pm in the dark) and it became a my nostargic Good old memory now. Every thing is changing! In Laos too.

And in my traveling this time, i saw a new road along the river(Nam Ou) from Muang Khua to near Hat Sa being constructed 95% and i also saw 2 new concrete bridges that are now under construction(20% only) over Nam Ou--one for before Muang Khua, --and one for before Hat Sa but i don't know details about these roads and bridges are constructed for what (for normal transports? or construction Dams?) and at which points dams will be constructed on Nam Ou.

(at Luang Prabang - Mar.28, 2012)

#15 tf_geckozy has been a member since 2/9/2008. Posts: 82

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