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Current conditions and tips for the SaPa to Laung Prabang road/river trip

Posted by marcusfrank on 30/11/2009 at 06:11

I am considering going from SaPa to Luang Prabang through Dien Bien/ Muang Khua on late december and then down the river to LP. Can someone help with updated information on the following:
1)Sapa to Dien Bien:heard there is constrcution going on and very bad to go through(early 2009), is the road ok? If not going by bus, what could be a reasonable fare by car/taxi?
2)Dien Bien to Muang Khua: Is the bus leaving daily?
3) Muang Khua to Nong Kiao by river: Is there any regular service or only charter? If I get stuck, how much is the total charter of boat to Nong Khiao? How much time does it take?
4) Finally, what is the best place to stop for a day and hike? Muang Noi or Nong Khiao?


#1 marcusfrank has been a member since 30/11/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by scottyheather on 30/11/2009 at 14:08

Hi marcusfrank. The following thread gives quite detailed info on Sapa-LP.

I remembered it because I wanted info from LP to Hanoi.

Hope this helps.

#2 scottyheather has been a member since 30/3/2008. Posts: 89
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Posted by marcusfrank on 2/12/2009 at 07:02

Thanks! seems from that thread there is overwhelming suppport for not doing it by land and flying instead!

#3 marcusfrank has been a member since 30/11/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by scottyheather on 2/12/2009 at 09:17

Yeah I know, but we are determined to do it overland ;) We've allowed three days but hopefully it'll take less. God knows what state we'll be in by the time we get to Hanoi!!

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Posted by somtam2000 on 3/12/2009 at 07:56 admin

I've a friend who does this trip regularly (about once a month) -- he said the road is a shocker and the drivers even worse. Said on one trip he jumped out ready to leap out the door because he was sure it was going to careen off a cliff!

On the upside, he said very very scenic trip.

#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,941
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Posted by SEQfunbod on 3/12/2009 at 08:12

My Dad wrote a lot of the stuff at and also about the road conditions at

I'm heading that way soon and I'm going in the direction my Dad went.

We were talking about the trip and he said that the alternative from sapap to dean bien phu is good, but you have to make sure the bus driver is doing that route.

But don't do it all in a rush is his motto, try and take a lot of time and enjoy things is what he tells me.

#6 SEQfunbod has been a member since 9/8/2009. Posts: 12

Posted by saso on 5/12/2009 at 18:24


i traveled this route (sapa - luang prabang) about 2 weeks ago.

the situation is like this:

- the minibus sapa - dien bien phu goes every day abound 7.30am from the bus station in sapa. the ticket ptice is 170000 dong if you buy the ticket directly at the station or 200000 in the guesthouses (includes pickup from the guesthouse). you arrive to dien bien phu at around 6pm. the road is VERY bad, there are construction sites everywhere, etc.

- the bus from dien bien phu to muang khoua (laos) SHOULD go every day at 5.30am from the bus station. why SHOULD: it is written on the time table that the departure is every day, but when we came and wanted to take the bus the bus just wasn't going on that day (long story...). we then ended up taking a taxi to the border and then hitchhiking from the border to laos (not a very good idea, really difficult to find a ride). so you have to be a bit lucky i guess. if you take the bus - the bus should arrive to muang khoua around 5pm.

- from muang khoua we went to muang ngoi with a boat that goes every morning and costs 100000 kip (cca. $12). btw - the popular guidebooks quote the price for the boat trip at $5, the price now is $12! i think the bus from muang khoua to luang prabang takes around 10 hours (not sure about that).

so it's a long long way, about 3 days in total! do it if you have time - the scenery is amazing, it's an adventure. for us it was really tiring but we experienced so much things we'll never forget (hitchhiking at the border, stopping in some villages on the way, meeting cool people, etc.) - so for us it was well worth the hassle :)

#7 saso has been a member since 6/10/2009. Posts: 10

Posted by marcusfrank on 5/12/2009 at 20:56


Many thanks for this updated description! Seems it is a bit of struggle after all and I had already plenty of adventure in the old days. Seems more reasonable to fly in to LP and then take the van to Nong Kiao and experience at elast the tail end of the adventure.


#8 marcusfrank has been a member since 30/11/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by saso on 5/12/2009 at 21:39

no problem.

i can really recommend you the boat ride on the river - north of nong khiaw (around muang ngoi neua). that part of the river is really scenic, lots of karst formations, hills, etc. definitely worth seeing!

#9 saso has been a member since 6/10/2009. Posts: 10

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