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Laos forum

Laos to cambodia - overland

Posted by upasana87 on 9/10/2014 at 12:31


I am headed to Laos mid December. I am planning to go to Luang Prabang from Chiang Rai, spend about 4 nights at Luang Prabang. I need to head to Siem Reap from Laos (overland). I am not sure if I should stop over at Vang vieng or Vientiane (Or somewhere more interesting. Suggestions are welcome!) on my way to Siem Reap. I will have around 3 nights to spare including travel to Siem Reap. I will really grateful if you can suggest an overland travel from Luang Prabang to Siem Reap (On budget so I am not flying) with a stopover suggestion in Laos. I do not want to do this through Thailand again : hassle of multiple visas. I will be back in Thailand again from Cambodia. I have read the posts here and I understand that it will be a hair-raising, pain stricken journey :)

Thanks in anticipation!


#1 upasana87 has been a member since 9/10/2014. Posts: 2

Posted by MADMAC on 10/10/2014 at 00:34

OK, you understand you are talking a VERY, VERY long way.

You could go from Luang Prabang to Vientiane on day one. That's about 12 hours, maybe less with a van. Then you can take the bus from Vientiane to Paxse - another 12 hours. If you can make the connection at Vientiane before the night bus rolls, then in 24 hours of pretty much continuous riding, you'll be in Paxse. From Paxse to PP in Cambodia is more than 12 hours. So, with 36 hours of almost continuous travel, you can make it to PP, although I would think after 24 hours you'd want to spend 24 hours in Paxse to recover. From PP to Siem Reap is another 6 hours.

In short you are talking about approximately 42 hours travel time in a 72 hour period. And it will be 42 uncomfortable hours.

I copied this from another site:

To Phnom Penh (from Vientiane via Pakse and vice versa)
The Laos-Cambodia bus (to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap) departs from Vientiane,southern bus station (Dong Dok), at 20:30 (8.30pm). It arrives in Pakse around 6:00am the next morning. You need to change buses in Pakse (just get off one bus and hop on another) at KM2 bus station. The bus to Cambodia departs from Pakse (KM2 bus station) at 7:30am, and arrives at Phnom Penh Sorya Transport station next to Phsar Thmey (Central Market) arround 20:30 (8:30pm).

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by blorg on 10/10/2014 at 02:57

As Madmac says it would be a VERY long way to do it through just Laos and Cambodia. Looking on Google Maps it is just a hair under 2,000km but more to the point it is 2,000km in two countries where the transport runs very slowly. It is almost half the distance going through Thailand but more to the point from Vientiane all the way to Siem Reap there is very good, fast transport.

I have done it myself following the Mekong on the Laos side but on a bicycle and over a time period of several months.

If you have time to make stops it is a great idea, there are several places along the way well worth stopping and spending a night or several:

- Vang Vieng. Absolutely beautiful natural landcape with karst peaks and a river running through them. Well worth it even if you aren't into the tubing/backpacker party scene. The place I stayed was very quiet and relaxed. Of course even more worth it if you are into the tubing/backpacker party scene, that is great fun as well and did seem much less commercialised than Thailand, it was quite charming in a way.

- Vientiane . Charming capital, the smallest feeling national capital I've been to. Vientiane has several very attractive wats that are well worth a visit, for pure wattage it easily competes with Luang Prabang IMO, they are just in a smaller more attractive setting there while in Vientiane they are spread out in the middle of a (somewhat) modern city. There are also a wealth of really nice restaurants and cafes whether you are looking for Lao or international (French, Italian) cuisine.

- 4,000 Islands. This place is really special, if you can only pick one place to stop between your gargantuan distance from Luang Prabang and Siem Reap , I would make this it. I actually ended up overstaying my Lao visa by a few days because the place was just so damn pleasant. I stayed at the southern end of Don Det near the bridge which was very quiet, party central is at the northern tip (the "beach") where the ferry arrives but that is only 2km or so away so easy to get to by bike. Absolutely magical place. Also near here are: Champasak , a major Khmer temple in southern Laos, the largest waterfall by volume in SE Asia, and the Mekong river dolphins.

- Phnom Penh . Cambodia's capital is also well worth a visit, the genocide museum at S21 is well worth visitng and very moving. It also has probably the widest range of fantastic value restaurants and cafes of any city I've been. Whether you want to eat basic Khmer, upscale Khmer, French, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, cakes, chocolates or ice cream the place is absolutely fantastic for food. And dirt cheap.

There are lots of other places worth stopping on the way also if you have buckets of time, these are just the standouts, for me. Kampong Cham is charming for example particularly if you are in the right season to see the bamboo bridge.

HOWEVER if you are looking to do this straight through and have no interest in stopping for a few nights on the way you would be absolutely INSANE to try to do it this way rather than just going through Thailand.

For the vast majority of nationalities and certainly all Westerners Thailand will give you between 15 and 30 days on the border without a visa so there should be no visa concerns. You then just need to get a bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and cross the border into Nong Khai .

At Nong Khai the Buddha Park is well worth a visit if you can spare the time, bizarre Buddhist sculptures including things like dogs driving cars and you can even see the Laotian guy who created it all as he is embalmed and his corpse surrounded by flashing LEDs in the mausoleum on site. Fantastically bizarre place.

One of the main advantages of doing it this way is you can then get the NIGHT TRAIN from Nong Khai to either Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) or Bangkok. This is extremely comfortable in a second class sleeper and you can get a genuine good night's sleep, I wouldn't count it as travel time at all. The full distance to Bangkok is around 750B IIRC for 2nd class aircon sleeper. Korat will be cheaper. It will also be cheaper if you can get a fan but they were booked out last time I did it.

Korat is slightly nearer to the border at Aranyaprathet (and nearer Nong Khai) so a good idea to disembark there. IF you have time the Khmer ruins at Phimai 60km north are well worth a visit. Note neither Phimai nor Champasak have anything on Siem Reap in terms of scale but they are extremely impressive in their own right and additionally get only a tiny fraction of the tourists, so you can basically have them to yourself if you are lucky.

From Korat it is then about 3.5 hours on the bus to Aran, across the border into Cambodia and it is the best road in Cambodia all the way to Siem Reap which should only take another 2-2.5 hours or so.

This is a lovely trip to do down through Laos if you have a week AT MINIMUM (preferably longer) to do it. I would stop in Vientiane, 4,000 Islands and Phnom Penh AT MINIMUM and take at least one day off to see the places.

If you want to do it straight through, though, go through Thailand, it makes no sense to do it through Laos and there is no visa issue as Thailand lets you in free without one anyway. The distance going down through Thailand is almost half the distance going through Laos but the greater point is that Thailand has incomparably better transport infrastructure so that leg is much faster and as I say IMO you can write off the night train part as I sleep better on those than most guesthouses I stay in (I'm not so keen on most night buses.)

Through Laos (1,917km):


Through Thailand (1,132km):


I would not go through Laos with only three nights, it is simply not worth the additional travel time and hassle. If you can take a week, it is worth it. Not three nights. As Madmac says, you are looking at at least 42 hours actually sitting on transport, I mean that is 14 hours a day over three days. And you would have to add several hours onto that to making connections, waiting for buses and so on.

You would not have time to appreciate anywhere you stop on the way and you would arrive in Siem Reap absolutely wrecked. Go through Thailand and stop to see Vientiane/Nong Khai and Phimai, that would be my recommendation.

#3 blorg has been a member since 10/10/2014. Posts: 4

Posted by upasana87 on 10/10/2014 at 05:23

Thank you very much! That's very very very helpful :) Madmac, I was just going to book a flight from LP to SR but after reading the last response, I think maybe I will break my journey, stay a few nights at Vientiane or Pakse and for sure do Phnom Penh.

I was very keen on doing 4000 islands, but I am short of time so maybe I will keep it for later.
I am so grateful to you guys for sharing your insight.

I am from India so getting a multiple Visa might just get a bit difficult/expensive.

Many thanks.

#4 upasana87 has been a member since 9/10/2014. Posts: 2

Posted by blorg on 10/10/2014 at 10:03

OK, if you are Indian Thai entry is more complicated, yes.

If you really want to do it through Laos, there is lots to see there, but I would try if at all possible to budget more time, it is a long way.

Savannakhet is Laos' second city and really charming, lots of French colonial architecture, good restaurants and very few tourists. I liked it a lot.

Just to note about Pakse - Pakse is a perfectly pleasant town but most people end up there because it is the transport hub for southern Laos and they are going somewhere else- Champasak , the Bolaven Plateau, 4,000 islands, Cambodia. I spent a week in Pakse, it is fine, but don't go to Pakse as a destination, unless you are looking at an overnight (in which case, yes, it is great for that).

If you want to spend two nights in Pakse, do go to Champasak which is easily accessible down a 40km road financed by the Japanese.

#5 blorg has been a member since 10/10/2014. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 11/10/2014 at 05:05

"Savannakhet is Laos' second city and really charming, lots of French colonial architecture, good restaurants and very few tourists. I liked it a lot."

Really? I've been there five times. I think it's a hole. But, we're all different with different tastes.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

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