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Vietnam forum

Sapa to Dien Bien Phu and on to Laos

Posted by crisaniaf on 3/12/2008 at 21:39

Posted from within Vietnam.

I am currently in Sapa and intend to leave on Saturday morning, stay overnight in DBP and catch the 5.30am Sunday bus to cross into Laos via Tay Trang. What I am having real problems finding out about here are the local buses to DBP from Sapa, where they leave from, on which days and times and how much I should pay for the trip. Please if anyone has made this trip recently avoiding the tour offices prices for "minibuses" to DBP let me know any information you have. So far I think I have established that the bus leaves from the petrol station which is about 2 km out of Sapa, but I don't want to wait around there like a lemon for days on end waiting for a bus that never comes!! Thanks in advance to anyone with uselful tips.

#1 crisaniaf has been a member since 21/11/2008. Posts: 6

Posted by somtam2000 on 4/12/2008 at 06:00 admin

There's buses daily to Lai Chau (actually bus starts in Lao Cai and passes through Sapa) from where you can get a bus to DBP.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,943
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Posted by Flo76 on 17/12/2008 at 18:06

Posted from within Vietnam.

I too am planning this trip just after Christmas. Any info you may gather from your experiences will be welcomed. Thanks.
p.s. glad to hear of another traveler avoiding the tourist "mini-buses"!

#3 Flo76 has been a member since 14/6/2008. Posts: 5

Posted by brucemoon on 27/12/2008 at 15:09

I was reading Thorn Tree and there are comments:


Aug 2007, thomassigler

Yes, I have successfully crossed at the Dien Bien Phu (Tay Trang) border crossing. There is a visa-on-entry into Laos, but not into Vietnam. The actual border is in the middle of the woods, so don't just get dropped off at the border, take the bus from Dien Bien Phu (monday, wednesday, fri 5:30AM). We chartered a car from Sapa to DBP, then took the bus the next morning, which took us about 50 kms into Laos. From there, you need to cross the river (try to have kip with you, we only had dollars), and walk about 500 meters to the bus station, from which you can go onward to Oudomxai (pronounced Udomsai, but written on maps as Muang Xai). It's not fun, but you get there...

Jan 2008 bajabanditos

the bus from sapa to dien bien phu passes through sapa around 8am. it picks up at the main intersection outside of sapa. it's a full-day journey to dien bien phu. then at DBP, there is a bus to muang khua, laos that leaves on monday, wednesday, and friday. when i did this journey, there were six of us, and we hired a metered taxi to take us from DBP to the border on a tuesday morning. we bought our 30-day visas at the border, no problem. but then there was no transportation going further into laos. the guys at the border offered to call their friends to drive us to muang khua for $100, so we just started walking. after about 12km we passed a village, then a few KM later, we were able to hitchhike in a large truck. we paid the driver about $6/person. the scenery during our walk was amazing, and i'm glad i did it this way, but the easy way is to just wait for days the bus leaves.

once in muang khua, laos, there is a small bank that changes cash. i don't remember if they changed traveler's checks. there is no atm.
also, from muang khua, you can hire a boat to take you down the nam ou river to either muang noi or nong khiaw. the boat ride is amazing. you could also get bus transport out of muang khua.


If others can add to this, I'd be appreciative.

#4 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by tf_geckozy on 19/2/2009 at 13:35

(I checked at DBP bus station on 6th.Jan,2009)

Bus from DBP to Muang Khua /from Muang Khua to DBP become daily service 7 buses a week=every day(last year--4 buses a week)


*From Viet Nam to Laos
Departure time:05:30AM(not changed)/from DBP bus station
Ticket price:80,000VND

*From Laos to Viet Nam
Departure time:05:30AM(changed from 07:00AM/last year--a stuff=girl at DBP bus station answered my question but i haven't confirmed at Lao side yet)/from opposite bank of Nam Ou river in front of Muang Khua Town
Ticket price:I'm not sure recent orice but maybe 5 USD(≒8000VND→Kip)

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

Posted by tf_geckozy on 19/2/2009 at 13:43

(I'll correct #5)

*From Laos to Viet Nam
Ticket price:I'm not sure recent orice but maybe 5 USD(≒8000VND→Kip)
Ticket price:I'm not sure recent price but maybe 5 USD(≒80,000VND→Kip)   

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

Posted by fotosbydavid on 20/3/2009 at 10:31

Posted from within Vietnam.

There are several buses from Lao cai to lai chau (and some that go all the way to DBP) that pass through sapa. The junction where the buses pick you up is near the gas station. if you are at the gas station walking towards town you will come to a junction where the road "splits" and you could go straight or to the right. there is a small "island" in the middle where the road splits. this is where you can pick up the bus to lau cai. As you probably know trying to get a fair price on a bus is almost impossible. The posted fair lai chau to lau cai is 52,000 dong. You will be lucky if you can get the bus from sapa to lai chau for that price.

Once in Lau chai there are several buses to DBP. I just checked at the bus station there a few days ago and was told that there is a 10am, 11, 12, and 1:30pm daily bus to DBP and the price ranges from 75,000 to 125,000 (there are also earlier buses but since i will be coming from sapa I didn't write them down.

A Vietnamese friend from Sapa told me that you can catch the Lau cai DBP bus for around 200,000 but that seems a little high to me.

#7 fotosbydavid has been a member since 20/3/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by brucemoon on 14/5/2009 at 07:05


An update.

The Muang Khua - DBP bus leaves at 7:00 (on opposite side of river bank), but to ensure you get a seat you should be there no later than 6:30am.

The cost is now 100,000kip.

For the DBP to Sapa (or reverse) trip please go look at:


#8 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by spahrkellys on 6/1/2012 at 22:24

My family (mom, dad, & 7 & 12 year old daughters) made this trip between christmas and new years of 2011.

Day 1: We booked the bus from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu through a travel agency and got a tourist bus. We paid 280,000 VND per person and got a confirmed seat on a minibus and a bus that stops less along the way. It left at 7:30 and arrived at 3:30. We took two short stops and one 1/2 hour lunch stop along the way. The road was OK though some parts were poor. It was beautiful and dramatic. Never felt unsafe.

Day 2: In Dien Bien Phu, we took the local minibus that left at 5:30 and arrived in Muang Khua at 12:30. This included one and 1/2 hours at the two border stops, and a 1/2 hour breakfast stop and stops to pick up and drop off passengers. The road is still very much under construction and very poor in places and OK in others. We paid 100,000 VND per person. It was an eye opener for our daughters to travel through rural Laos and a testament to their can do attitude. Fording the rivers with motorbikes and water buffaloes next to the partially built bridges was always exciting and always doable.

We were travelling in the dry season and I imagine both these roads could be much harder to travel in the wet season.

The Visa on arrival for US passports cost $35 US plus $1 US processing fee. Also paid 3000 VND stamping fee, 2000 VND H1N1 test (take forehead temp with an IR thermometer) plus another small fee - added up to 7-8000 VND.

Kip was very hard to find. The border changed VND at a rate of 3 Dong for 1 Kip. Looked at three banks in Dien Bien Phu, but none sold Kip. We changed a little at the border. In Mung Khua, the bank was closed for a 5 day weekend for the New Year so we changed the last of our VND at our hotel for the same rate as the border and had just enough to get to Luang Prabang . A fellow traveller had to bus to Udomxai for the ATM and then bus to Nong Khiaw.

Day 3: The next morning we took the boat to Nong Khiaw. The posted cost was 120,000 Kip and 100,000 Kip to Muang Ngoi Neua for 10 passengers. Only six passengers arrived and so we waited from 8:30 until 10:00 for more but finally left for a charge of 150,000 Kip per person. This was a stunning stretch of river - highly recommended. We arrived in Nong Khiaw at 1:30 including several stops to pick up more passengers on the way. The seats are wooden benches and the vibrating boat made sitting on sweaters helpful.

Wish we had access to a bank to change travellers checks so we could stay here longer.

Day 4: We got a local minibus to Luang Prabang from the bus station 1-2 km outside of town. This is where the 11am bus leaves from - there are several each day. Get there early to get seats, some later arrivals didn't get seats on this bus. We left at 11:15 and arrived at 3:30 including many short stops for passengers and goods along the way. Road was mostly fine.
From the northern bus station a tuk-tuk to the city center was 10,000 kip per person.

#9 spahrkellys has been a member since 6/1/2012. Posts: 1

Posted by tf_geckozy on 7/1/2012 at 15:39

to spahrkellys #9 post

Hello! and thank you for your good report.

I travelled Laos many times and crossed TayTrang/PangHoak border 4 times from both sides of DBP and Muang Khua but my last travel of this route was Oct.2009 as i wrote #5 and at that time i saw the new road at Lao side was under construction same to now and i know it still haven't completed in your report though it has already pasted 2.5 years since isaw it . I'm very surprised that it7s too slow.

I travelled Laos and Viet Nam and China twice a year and till recentry i intended to confirm it(about the construction of new road at Lao side and new bus service between DBP and Oudomxai that i read in someone's recent post ) travelling Laos and Viet Nam and crossing this border one more time from DBP, but after reading your report i 'm thinking about re-making my travel plan one more time now.

With your report, i knew the road condition at Lao side hasn't changed yet and once i had an extreamly hard experience at Lao side=at the point of 5km from Muang Khua on the way to Muang May village (a town between Muang Khua and Lao border and beside a river) .
At this point in rainy season, the road was ascend road(now the same) and after continuos 2 days heaviy raining it became aufully muddy road and our bus couldn't go up any more being caught by muddy and crazy road condition so we all passengers except bus driver had to get off our bus and pushed many times but our bus didn't move at all so next we pulled our bus with a rope for escaping from this point. It took full 5 hours for the distance of only 500m!!

At that traveling, our bus left Muang Khua to DBP at 07:00am morning and spent full 5 hours for muddy point and arrived Lao border gate at 18:30pm (at that time, the name of Lao border gate was "Sop Hun" and now "PangHoak") then left Tay Trang VN border gate at 19:00pm(19:00pm is closed time) and arrived DBP bus station at 20:30pm. When i arrived DBP, i was very much exauseted and could sleep very well after checking in my Gh as i (=we) pushed and pulled our bus continuously 5 hours at Lao side. It's one of very hard experiences in my travellings SEA but now it's becoming my good and unforgettable memory beacuse i'll never experience one more time even if how huge amount money i pay. and after the completion of the new road at Lao side, no one will experience too.

As for money exchanging at Muang Khua---now many Chinese came to Muang Khua for living and working and they run many grosary shops at Muang Khua town, but before that for many years , there have lived many Vietnamese and run grosary shops and restaurants, so if you try to find Vietnamese grosary shop in the town, you can find it and exchange money with VND & USD to/from Lao Kip even if Lao Development Bank at Muang Khua is closed on Sat & Sun and after 16:00pm on week days as far as those shops are opened.(maybe it's difficult at Chinese grosary shops)

As for money exchanging at Nong Khiaw---there is a "Western Union" Bank in the post office(very small but it's OK) that locates at the bridge end (it's not Xam Neua side but LPB side)

Any way, # 9 Mr. spahrkellys, i think you(your famiily) enjoyed travelling Laos sufficiently, especialy by chosing this route and river cruise on Nam Ou river by boat having no hard experience and troubles, it's very good !

Thank You , bye!

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

Posted by navilink on 12/5/2012 at 03:56

Posted from within Vietnam.

it might be a weird question, but which seat (left or right) is best for viewing sceneries for 1) sapa to dien bien phu 2) dien bien phu to muang khua 3) muang khua to nong khiaw and 4) nong khiaw to luang prabang? don't want to face the walls of the mountains ranges all the way..

#11 navilink has been a member since 14/3/2012. Posts: 11

Posted by MADMAC on 12/5/2012 at 22:01

This is a very old post of course, but man, did this catch my eye:

"...and catch the 5.30am Sunday bus to cross into Laos via Tay Trang."

Get up at five in the morning while on vacation? The chances of me every doing that are zero percent. It just goes to show, different strokes for different folks.

#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by tf_geckozy on 13/5/2012 at 02:36

Between Sapa and Dien Bien Phu
*from Sapa to Tam Duong---you will enjoy very good and stunning scenery of Hoan Lien Son mountain range(2800-2900m) at right side of your bus, and left side is also good.
*from Tam Duong to Lai Chau ---you will have very good mountain scenery at both sides
*from Lai Chau to Muang Lay---
>don't want to face the walls of the mountains ranges all the way..
it's defenitly at right side of your bus because your bus runs along beautiful Lai Chau valley and it flows at right side of your bus.
*from Muang Lay to Dien Bien Phu---you don't mind it so much because scenery to Dien Bien Phu is not remarkable.

Between Dien Bien Phu and Muang Khua
*you don't need to mind it so much because there is not so much amazing scenery now all the way to Muang Khua, especially after the road in mountain area at Lao side was widened and as the result it destroyed beauiful mountain scenery along the way, and the more worse(to me but better to others?) bus runs very fast(about 5 hours now) on dusty road to Muang Khua.
(now there are 2 bus services between Dien Bien Phu and Muang Khua=05:30am/07:00am from Dien Bien Phu bus station ( i.e. 07:00am bus going to Oudomxai arrives Muang Khua at around 12:00 noon=about 5 hours)

Between Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw
---it means you go to Nong Khiaw not by bus but by boat on Nam Ou and you will enjoy very good stunning scenery at both sides of your boat .

Between Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang
*by boat on Nam ou---i haven't experienced it.
*by bus---scenery is nothing remarkable(3-4 hours).

In conclusion-- you need to mind it between Sapa and Dien Bien Phu only and right side is better all the way to Dien Bien Phu.

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

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