Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum


Posted by jamesspignesi on 29/1/2009 at 16:24

Be very wary of the small buses that run between these areas or for that matter anywhere in Laos. I am not talking about the mini-vans nor the largeb public buses. These are the mid-sized ones sometimes with a white ,red, or purple top.Make sure you purchase your ticket at a bus station otherwise they stop in the middle of nowhere and demand more. My trip should not have been more than 25,000 kip i had to pay 110,000.I witnessed the driver and his little witch also demand more money from the lao. One woman was in tears because it was all the money she had. I saw this happen on two different routes and heard from other travelers.If it had been in Thailand i would have told them to go @!@*% themselves and gotten out. But this happened in the middle of nowhere. Would love to hear of other reports about these buses.

#1 jamesspignesi has been a member since 18/8/2008. Posts: 29

Posted by somsai on 31/1/2009 at 16:27

Something sounds not right.

Regular bus fares to Sam Nua to Pack Mong were 120,000 a couple weeks ago. I didn't see any posted fares to Udomxai but isn't Udomxai 3 hours past Pack Mong? To say sorry in for big things in Laos put your hands together in a prayer like motion at the level of your nose maybe, tilt your head slightly foreward and say Kah tote nah.

I've taken many busses and songtheaws in Laos and in all my years never been quoted a wrong fare even when jumping on midroute, or when on a songtheaw and there is no posted fare. I've even private hired minivans and been quoted the right price first time. There is no dual pricing (for busses)same price for everyone.

Tuk tuks are a rip off, but that's a different story.

I have seen drivers stop in the middle of nowhere to discuss price if there is a misunderstanding, but always they were quoting correct fare. Their thinking goes better to get it straightened out before you get to your destination and pay nothing.

I'd go slow at getting in arguements and cussing people out. The other party might be in the right and you have misunderstood.

#2 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566
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Posted by wanderingcat on 1/2/2009 at 09:01

Public buses in Laos include midsized 20+ seaters, not just large 40-seaters.

Common practice for buses to stop in middle of nowhere before reaching final destination, for driver/crew to collect fares from those who haven't paid up. Prevents people from jumping off (esp for songthaews) & running away without paying once the vehicle reaches town limits.

If you were headed all the way to Udomxai, you were made to pay the correct fare. Back in 2007, the 706KM Udomxai-Sam Neua (Houa Phan) route was already 100,000kip:¤t=1940335_W6V2A1QPdM3336.jpg

& that was before transport fares went up across Laos due to rising fuel prices. 25,000kip will just get you to a neighbouring town/village 2-3 hours away.

What are the two different routes you saw this on?

All my time travelling by buses in northern Laos, never encountered such a situation. Neither have any of my Lao friends.

#3 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by jamesspignesi on 1/2/2009 at 11:27

Just so you understand correct, the fare of 110,000 kip was from Hua Muang to Nong Khiaw. From Sam Neua to Nong Khiaw the bus fare is 30,000 kip. If you do not believe check the bus station yourself. You can travel all the way from Udomxai to Vientiane for 110,000 kip. I stand by what i say. Otherwise that was the most expensive bus fare i have had in nine years of travel in Southeast asia.

#4 jamesspignesi has been a member since 18/8/2008. Posts: 29

Posted by somsai on 1/2/2009 at 16:10

Three weeks ago the Sam Nua / Nong Khiaw price posted in the tourism office Sam Nua was 100,000. That's what I seem to remember paying on that route headed in the other direction, too. Regular bus probably takes over 14 hours, we did it in 12 with a dinner stop in a newish mini van. At the bus station they didn't have a price to Nong Khiaw but to Pak Mong it was 120,000. I took photos. Are you perhaps using an old guidebook for reference?

110,000 kip comes out to about $13 US. Usually one of the bus workers comes back and collects money when they are past the point of picking up more likely fares, only time I've seen them stop is when the driver (owner) himself comes back to straighten things out and they might need all of them. They make money by moving not by stopping.

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Posted by jamesspignesi on 1/2/2009 at 22:41

Sorry i still disagree, i know what i saw and my girlfriend clearly remembers the same. I was there less than ten days ago. Speaking of the bus trip . The Lao were just as disturbed as I was. When we stopped the driver and his little witch demanded I repeat demanded more money from everyone. I watched as a number of pissed off Lao asked to see the rates on paper. The driver took it out and looked at it himself and would not allowed anyone to look. I know when i am being scammed i have lived around this area going on nine years. Whatever you may think again i repeat that was the most expensive bus ride i have ever taken. Also as i mentioned before i was told by more than a few people about the buses. Also if you have time in the Lao Lonely Planet they mention the same scam on the road to the Vietnam border.

#6 jamesspignesi has been a member since 18/8/2008. Posts: 29

Posted by exacto on 1/2/2009 at 23:52

sounds like a bummer. sorry to hear it. luckily, in my experience anyway, these kinds of things are fairly rare, particularly in laos. usually just the normal amount of caution is enough of a safeguard.

i do think that somsai's suggestion to go slow at getting into an arguement because it may turn out that the other person is right is some of the best advice i've seen on the website.

when this type of thing has happened to me, most of the time it is just a misunderstanding and at least half of the time the other person was right. the problem is that if you are expecting to be scammed, should anything be not right, you'll think you are being scammed, even when you are not. regards.

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Posted by seagypsy on 5/2/2009 at 12:16

Sorry james but i'm with somsai and the straycat on this one. Maybe there was a misunderstanding but I really do find it hard to believe that you can travel by bus between Sam Neua and Udomxai for a mere 25,000kip. Heck, you can't even get to Nong Khiaw from Luang Prabang for 40,000 and Sam Neua is a much further distance. Recently took VIP buses between LP and Vientiane , VTE and Pakse, etc. and you couldn't travel the distance without paying more than 100,000++kips.
BUT I do agree that it's best to buy your bus tickets directly because in quite a number of touristed Lao towns, a number of agencies and hotels/guesthouses charge considerably more than the real bus fare. BTW, a good source for accurate bus transport is the Vientiane Times which regularly publishes the bus fares for local and VIP buses between major destinations.
Anyways, james, I hope you enjoyed the bustrip because that route is one of my favorite roads in Laos.

#8 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136

Posted by SimonD on 5/2/2009 at 13:45

I've read about that. Not long ago, I bought the most recent edition of a Laos guidebook (LP). Just flipping through it, I found a warning about that. It seemed to be mainly on buses going cross border to Vietnam, where the bus driver would suddenly stop in the middle of nowhere like you described and ask for say, 20$ in order to continue.

Unfortunately it also says that there's not much to do except pay the price :(

#9 SimonD has been a member since 4/2/2009. Posts: 8

Posted by somsai on 5/2/2009 at 18:46

I think the extortion for extra money happens on the Vietnam side of the border after it crosses. Vietnamese busses, Vietnamese driver. Laos is not Vietnam.

A rough guide for prices (ordinary busses) is 10,000 an hour, slightly less if there are dinner stops etc. Some routes are much slower than others but require lots of gas and wear and tear on engines and brakes. I wouldn't want to discourage anyeone from getting on a bus in between towns either. I used to do it all the time to save myself two hours going in to town and back. The price is fixed, always. No bartering.

Everyone on the road knows all the prices. If you ask the people on the bus they'll all give you the same answer right away. Many people riding the busses aren't poor or meek. Often they are local party officials, merchants, soldiers, police, no one you would want to start trying to extort money from. Everyone knows everyone, there aren't many people, they do the same route every day. The local militia is the defacto police force.

Normaly on any report of thievery or altercation with guest houses I always opt for the poster. This is a web site for tourists not Lao business owners. But not if they have the price totaly wrong. You can't buy loa beer for 500 kip. You can't ride eight or ten hours from Hua Muang to Nong Keaw for 25,000, with a bike as extra bagage 110,000 sounds about right.

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Posted by bjpfoto on 6/9/2009 at 20:14

My wife is from Sam Nuea. Her father owns and operates the buss service to Vientiane.
He confirms the price Sam Nua – Udom Xai is some 120.000 Kipp. There is no direct bus. You will change buss in Pha Hmong.

#11 bjpfoto has been a member since 6/9/2009. Posts: 2

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