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Vientiane. Cost of a tuk tuk from southern bus terminal to airport and approximate journey time?

Posted by SBE on 18/1/2016 at 21:41


I'm getting an overnight VIPsleeper bus from Pakse to Vientiane and I want to go straight to the airport from the southern bus terminal. Yes I know, bit risky relying on a long distance bus in Laos to catch a flight but several people in Pakse have assured me that the new sleeper buses are very reliable and actually arrive on time ..... hmm that means they're unlike any other buses in Laos then!

My bus is supposed to arrive in VTE at around 6.00am so it should, in theory, be possible to get to the airport in time for my flight at 9.45am (If not I'll just have to try and figure out a plan B to get to KL)

The Pakse VIP sleeper buses arrive at the very inconveniently located southern bus terminal .... its quite a long way from Vientiane somewhere to the North East of the city apparently. Why the private VIP bus companies decided to build their terminal there and chose to pay for more fuel than absolutely necessary I have no idea...something to do with tourist tuk tuk fares into town and someone getting kickbacks from the drivers perchance? Just a hunch.

Anyway, I have a couple of questions please:

1. Google maps say it takes around 35minutes to drive from the southern bus terminal to the airport … doesthat sound about right to you or might the journey take significantly longer? I haven't been to Vientiane for over 15 years … back then there werehardly any cars at all but I hear they have actual traffic jams there nowadays.

2.Does anyone know how much the tuk tuk fare is likely to be? I'm guessing it might be a staggering 80,000LAK based on the other Vientiane tuk tuk prices I've seen quoted online (for comparison, that's about half the price of the long distance VIP bus ticket)... but it could be even more than that (or less)

I don't want to pay a lot more than absolutely necessary (who does) but on the other hand I won't have much time so I can't take the #29 bus option or spend hours haggling with the driver. Just want to know what a reasonable fare would be. I need to have enough cash be able to pay for the tuk tuk to the airport but I'd rather not arrive there with great wads of unusable kip still in my pocket if possible...would prefer to get rid of any excess local money before boarding the night bus in Pakse.

Thanks for any replies in advance!

#1 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by SoManyMiles on 19/1/2016 at 20:38 TF writer


"The Southern Bus Terminal (Dong Dok) is the main departure point for all destinations in southern Laos and international services to Vietnam and Cambodia. It's located 11 km north of the downtown core, straight up Kaysone Phomvihane Avenue from Patuxai monument. "

Bus terminals have been built close to the highway that serves the route. It makes sense. Why would you put major bus terminals within the busy city centre? It would add 60 minutes for a big bus to get out of the city.

"something to do with tourist tuk tuk fares into town and someone getting kickbacks from the drivers perchance? Just a hunch."
The Southern bus terminal is also served by a public city bus. So it's a choice: convenience of a tuk tuk or take the cheap but slow city bus. It's also up to the person if they want to spend hours haggling over a dollar.

Vientiane is prone to traffic jams. People also drive slow and tuk-tuks are slow, but if you are arriving as you hope you will, at 6 am, then the traffic shouldn't be so bad.

This is a lot of worry for a couple of dollars. Try for 80,000 kip. Might be 100,000 kip.

#2 SoManyMiles has been a member since 7/2/2014. Posts: 147

Posted by exacto on 19/1/2016 at 22:06

Wow. Really? SoManyMiles response came off as pretty snotty, particularly from a TF writer. Please tell me that wasn't intended. SBE has been a Travelfish member for almost 8 years now, and has contributed heaps of helpful, insightful, detailed, and spot on posts during those years. Maybe she won't be unhappy with the tone of that reply, but I am.
For the record, I agree with SBE that putting the bus station 11 km out of town is a massive inconvenience, particularly for buses terminating in Vientiane. Why would you put a bus terminal in the middle of the city? How about because it is the actual destination.
I had the same problem on a Savannakhet to Pakse bus, where the bus stopped to (force) drop off all western travelers at the northern terminal, and we had to pay about half of the fare of the long-distance bus to travel those last few km. Plus, after collecting our fare, the songthaew driver gave a cut directly to the long-distance bus driver. It was definitely a taxi mafia situation.
@SBE. In any case, if you don't mind, I'd like to hear more about the overnight Pakse to VTE bus afterwards, such as the price, comfort, arrival time, and options/cost for getting into town once you arrive. Cheers.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,841

Posted by fondo on 20/1/2016 at 07:37

Agree exacto. Who is this dude?

#4 fondo has been a member since 23/6/2006. Posts: 185

Posted by exacto on 20/1/2016 at 13:21

@fondo. He is actually a she, a Canadian writer and photographer that has written several excellent articles and done some serious work for Travelfish in Laos and Vietnam. You can read more about her in the "About Us" section. Consistently good stuff. Really. My concern is about the attitude on a few of her forum posts, and my hope is that this attitude is unintentional.

#5 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,841

Posted by antoniamitchell on 20/1/2016 at 15:36

The bus stations miles outside of town are one of the things that consistently get my back up.

I understand why avoiding city traffic in a coach is a good idea (although I've also seen this "new coach terminal in the middle of nowhere" in smaller towns without traffic problems, where a main road goes right through the town and there's no earthly reason why the coach couldn't stop in town, except for someone wanting to make money). But I've been in this situation far too many times: the information about public transport from the coach station into the city is very difficult to find, and you know there probably is a minibus service, but language difficulties (or this idea that all tourists are rich and so will automatically take a taxi) make it even harder to find the answer out.

So you plan to follow the locals who are getting off the coach to find the minibus / public transport connections, but as soon you step off the coach you are massed by half a dozen taxi drivers, all shouting at you and jostling you at once, and blocking your movements so you get separated from the locals you are trying to follow (like a pack of wolves separating the weak animals from a herd). They won't leave you alone, and even though you keep saying no and trying to walk away, the pack just follows you like a cloud of midges. Before you manage to break away from them, all the locals have disappeared, and there's no signage and no one left in the lot but the other lost tourists and the taxi drivers.

I find it very discomforting and stressful (and the one thing I dread about coach travel, knowing I'll likely have to run that gauntlet as soon as we arrive). And the taxi drivers in this situation invariably quote masses more than the normal fare to get you into town (Mandalay springs to mind, where it's only a few miles - less than 10 minutes by taxi - to the centre, and they still try and get $10).

And if it wasn't for the taxi mafia, this whole mess wouldn't be necessary. I remember being impressed by long distance coach travel in Turkey, where the coach station was miles out of the town centre, but the coach companies provide a fleet of minibuses going to key points in the city centre, and the cost of that minibus was included in your coach ticket. Being that I was obviously a clueless tourist, the conductor on my coach even walked me to my correct minibus and translated for me (to the minibus driver) which stop in town he should drop me at.

Sorry, I realise that's not helpful to the OP. Just my two cents.

#6 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by SoManyMiles on 20/1/2016 at 20:36 TF writer

Hey SBE, exacto & fondo - apologies for any attitude/snootiness -- it was entirely accidental! The going rate for a tuk tuk is 80-100k and the bus station is out of town for the reasons I mentioned. Good, safe travels all!

#7 SoManyMiles has been a member since 7/2/2014. Posts: 147

Posted by SBE on 20/1/2016 at 21:57

Yeah you were Antonia...maybe the reason nobody in the whole world seems to have any first hand information about getting from an overnight VIP Pakse sleeper bus to the airport in time to catch the Air Asia flight is because nobody's ever managed to do it successfully! If tuk tuk drivers sense you're in a hurry and have no other option they will charge accordingly of course. I really don't want to have to stay in Vientiane for a day but I'm now wondering if it's too much of a risk not to do so.

@somanymiles: Thanks for your input. As you're TF's expert on Laos, presumably you've taken the overnight sleeper bus from Pakse yourself? Did it arrive on time?

Re buses. FYI the International bus from Ubon Ratchathani also passes near the center of Pakse and then drives a further 8km to dump passengers into the hands of waiting songthaews. They charge passengers 80B each to turn round and drive straight back the way they've just come. A couple of people did manage to hop off the bus as it was passing near the center of town but they didn't have any luggage in the hold.

I went to check out Laos on a sudden whim as I haven't been here for ages and am regretting my decision somewhat...why didn't I go somewhere else? Must admit I'm somewhat underwhelmed by what I've seen of Southern Laos so far. Scenery's nothing special as far as I can see and it's relatively expensive to come here.

Am in Tad Lo and would definitely have given it a miss if I'd known how noisy it was going to be. Was under the impression that it was a pretty laidback and peaceful spot but turns out to be the by far the most noisy place I've been yet. There's Lao music blasting all day and all night, couldn't get any sleep whatsoever at all last night even with earplugs. At 6am it finally stopped for a short while but someone immediately took over to deny any chance of sleep by making announcements with a megaphone. Rooster calls were fine, was expecting those, but not deafening music and constant electric drilling and sawing and hammering (lots of contruction work going on during the daytime) plus plenty of traffic noise. Not a relaxing place to hang out for a few days AT ALL if you ask me and I don't recommend coming here on a local bus either. They leave from the northern bus station of course...tuk tuk fare to go there was 30,000Kip because I was on my own. Bus fare was also 30,000Kip but it took two hours for the bus to get sufficiently crammed full of people and sacks of rice to leave. Journey takes about two hot sweaty hours before you get dropped off by the side of the road where, contrary to what TF says there's no transport to the GHs. You have to walk the 2km with your luggage. Going back is different, you can pay 10,000LAK to get to the main road. Anyway, I'm too knackered to face going back to Pakse today on public transport...will see if I can find a slightly quieter place further away from the racket for tonight. Will probably cost extra to be away from the noise too. I wish I'd done a touristy day trip instead of this! Pakse GHs incredibly quiet and peaceful in comparison, there are far better food options, and no muddy pigs, dogs and chickens wandering about under your table while you're eating

Anyway, cheers for all the replies! I've made about 2000 posts but I think that was my very first question on TF! Didn't have much wifi access before coming to Laos so was hard to do any planning and I haven't found the tourist info office in Pakse particularly useful either....god knows why they recommended staying here rather than doing a day trip!

#8 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by somtam2000 on 20/1/2016 at 22:30 admin

Hey SBE,

What you doing in Laos?! Bit far from the beach ;-)

@somanymiles was previously based in Laos and yes it is part of her wicket now, but the section you're referring to was written by @sitdowndisco a few years ago now -- I'm pretty sure he didn't do the overnight bus from VTE to Pakse or in the reverse as he was covering stuff in between.

While it has been many years since I've been to Tad Lo , I gotta agree with you, always struck me as a bit of an over-rated spot -- I do like the panhandle though -- good for just hanging out.

Not much snorkelling though.


#9 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,093

Posted by Contribauteur on 15/2/2016 at 02:17

Hi All,

arrived two days ago from Thakek at the Vientiane Southern bus terminal.

Tuk-tuks want to charge between 30000 and 60000/pers. to go to the City center. Remain calm, patient and head towards the bus stop (green buses - 5000 kips headed to Talat Sao, the morninh market) outside the gates. You will soon find some guy happy to drive you downtown for 20000 kips.

Yet, I still think that the fares are outrageous, considering the level of living in Laos and comparing with neighbor countries.

#10 Contribauteur has been a member since 15/2/2016. Posts: 2

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