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Visas and border crossings

Visas and border crossings forum

Dien Bien Phu border crossing

Posted by norcalhiker on 15/2/2009 at 18:24

I'm in town now and I've got some updated information.

According to the english speaking employee at the bus station, buses across the border now leave every day. They go as far as Muang Khua in Laos. They leave at 5:30am. They cost 80,000 dong.

#1 norcalhiker has been a member since 15/2/2009. Posts: 1

Posted by somtam2000 on 16/2/2009 at 11:36 admin

That's great - thanks for the update -- will get that reflected in the relevant sections of Travelfish shortly.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,079

Posted by fionashearer on 27/2/2009 at 10:53

I just crossed from Dien Bien Phu to Laos. In brief: If the bus is cancelled, wait a day. It's terrible without the bus.

In theory, yes, there is a daily bus to Muang Khua , leaving at 5.30am and costing 80,000 dong. But the day I wanted to travel, despite having sold me a ticket, they cancelled the bus. (I think, with the small number of travellers, they were running a bus every two days. They cancelled the one from Muang Khua the next day, so it's probably one bus doing the journey back and forth.)

I took an expensive xe-om (motorbike) to the border post. The visa process was fine - but note that there are no money-changing facilities there, and you'll be charged a check-in fee of 3000 kip.

Without the bus, there's no way to get down the mountain on the other side. We haggled with motorbike drivers to get a cheap price down to Muang Mai (first settlement, 35km from the border, but tiny) but they know they can charge what they want so it's expensive. You also have to sit on the bike with the goods the driver is already transporting, so it's not exactly comfortable. Muang Mai does have a hotel, but no buses (as we had understood there would be from the border people), no ATM and no money-changing facilities. It's a case of chartering a truck or hopping on the back of a bike again for the next 50km.

We made it to Muang Khua, but it took a long time and cost five or six times what the bus would have done. And when we got there we discovered that the bank was closed - computer failure. You can change dollars or dong in town, but at bad rates of exchange. I'd advise changing some money in advance!

#3 fionashearer has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 1

Posted by somtam2000 on 28/2/2009 at 09:14 admin

Thanks for the report fionashearer -- good information and much appreciated.

I've credited your account with a complimentary copy of the Travelfish Guide pack for Laos -- hope you find some useful information in there!


#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,079

Posted by harrietwilson on 30/5/2009 at 13:58

When trying to cross from Laos to Vietnam via Dien Bein Phu I couldn't find much info so for anyone wanting to do the same hope this helps:

Local buses run every day from the village of Muang Khua across the border and into Dien Bein Phu city. It is about a 6 hour journey. From Dien Bien Phu you have options. You can spend a day and night there and then get another bus straight to Sapa . I had 5 mins to decide and boarded a bus straight away to Lai Chau . This can be a bit confusing as there are two places referred to as Lai Chau, the nearest, which I passed through is also known as Muang Lay. I think it is possible to get off the bus there and stay the night, then travel to Sapa from there. I stayed on the bus and went to the other one further north (6 hours from Dien Bien Phu). I spent the night there and then caught my third bus into Sapa in the morning - only 2 hours.

I'm still not sure which route would have been best, the people on the bus told me I should have got off at Muang Lay, however, the journey I took from Lai Chau to Sapa the next day was across the Trom Ton pass and the most incredible scenery so if it was an accident it was a happy accident.

If you are in Luang Prabang or Northern Laos I'd strongly recommend making this crossing rather than get the bus back to Vientiane (which seemed to be what they offered in the agents and guesthouses). To get to Muang Khua we got a mini bus from Luang Prabang to a village called Nuang Khiaw , then next day a boat to (can't spell this but next village) Muang Ngoi Neua, then a five hour boat to Muang Khua. This sounds like hassle but the first two places were some of my favourites yet, very chilled and beautiful and well worth spending some time in if you like to just relax and watch village life go by. The boat trip to Muang Ngoi Neua can be expensive if you don't have a group (three of us paid 150,000kip each in the end which was OK) and it is a lovely journey.

The only downsides are there were no ATMS between Luang Prabang and Dien Bien Phu and I didn't have enough time to get any money until Sapa. Any money changed on border isn't a good rate but I had no choice - prob good to get your Dong sorted in Luang Prabang). I was the only Westerner on all my buses and communication was tough, but it was also quite good fun and photos of family and a phrase book go along way when making friends. The actual crossing was v straight forward (apart from the p*ss taking guards who told me I had to walk from there into Vietnam over the mountains).

I am only just finding my travelling feet and I will admit I was a little nervous about doing this alone, and slightly nervous until the minute we hit Sapa, but looking back it was so worthwhile.

Oh, but don't be suprised if you have a strange border fee of 4,000kip to pay. When I asked waht it was for I was told 'because its saturday' It was Sunday. Oh well...

#5 harrietwilson has been a member since 28/5/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by brucemoon on 30/5/2009 at 20:50


You raise an interesting observation: the lack of appropriate information in the place YOU think it should be located.

This is a major flaw in Travelfish.

I'm glad you did the journey - it's great, is it not.

I did it a few months ago, and posted under the Laos 'heading' at:


I also posted on the DBP - Sapa 'connection' under Vietnam, at:



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

Posted by brucemoon on 30/5/2009 at 20:52


I forgot to add:


Cheers (again)

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

Posted by Skimonkey on 5/7/2009 at 18:05

Hi All

I was thinking of taking this crossing into Vietnam from Laos, does anyone have any information on the current road conditions. I encountered a land slide in the mountains from Luang Prabang to Phonasvan a few days ago when on a public bus,all be it a small one. Any information would be grateful & I appriciate that conditions can change rapidly especially in the wet season.

Many thanks

#8 Skimonkey has been a member since 16/4/2009. Posts: 40

Posted by BruceMoon on 6/7/2009 at 06:32


Given that few tourists do the trip, I think you'd be extremely lucky to get a reply.

Should you proceed anyway, when you get to Muang Khua I suggest you'll find either no bus (meaning it has been stopped from 'returning' to Laos from VN by a road closure), the bus will be there, but will not go (again because of a road closure), or the bus will depart and you'll enjoy!!! a slippery slidy trip across the range.


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

Posted by Skimonkey on 7/7/2009 at 18:56

Thanks for the nudge.

I'll be leaving Vientiane on Thursday 9th July to make my way north to the border crossing (I pick up my Vietnamise visa tomorrow morning Wednesday 8th July) I am aiming to cross on 15th of July which still give's me plenty of time to find another route should I find it closed. I'll keep you all posted on how I get on.


#10 Skimonkey has been a member since 16/4/2009. Posts: 40

Posted by Skimonkey on 17/7/2009 at 09:52

Well I gave it a go

I made the trip from Louang Prabang to Muang Khua via Nuang Khiaw & Muang Ngoi . I had the boat to myself from Muang Ngoi to Munag Khua it's pricey but In my opinion worth doing.

Any way when I arrived I sorted out a guest house and went straight to the Tourist information center, where they told me the but leaves every morning at 7am from the other side of the river. However I learned from a resturant owner (first one on the right up the hill as you get off the boat), that he had not seen the bus for 3 days. Next day I crossed anyway and walked up through the village on the opposite side of the town and spoke to 2 more people, which said no bus many many rain. There were also no motorbikes/ cars or trucks etc going to the border.

The resturant owner I first spoke to said he would take me for 200USD but would not garantee I would get through. With Finances running low and time running out on my visa I decided to cross elsewhere. Shame as it look like it would have been an interesting trip. Also frustrating as I am loosing time on my Vietnamese visa now.... cest la vie.

The resturant owner did not speak much english, but I bumped into a Swedish NGO worker who was fluent in Lao, and acted as a translator.

#11 Skimonkey has been a member since 16/4/2009. Posts: 40

Posted by BruceMoon on 17/7/2009 at 12:28

Sad luck mate,

Still at least you got to see and experience a nice part of the world.


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

Posted by Suturn on 8/9/2012 at 01:05

"A DBP-Tay Trang-Muang Khua-Oudomxay bus service started running in November 2011, departs DBP at 7:30AM. runs on Fri, Sat, Sun & Mon...but latest from Oudomxay (June 2012) is that it now operates daily, though the update was in the form of someone crossing out 'Fri Sat Sun Mon' & writing 'daily service' on the existing schedule at a travel agency (not the bus station)."

Source: wanderingstraycat on http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2226296

#13 Suturn has been a member since 14/4/2012. Location: Italy. Posts: 28

Posted by Satie382x on 28/12/2013 at 01:57

Took the bus from DBP to Muang Khua today after taking an overnight bus from Hanoi to DBP. We assumed we missed the 5:30am bus that is written about in many places but luckily caught a minibus across the border at approximately 7:00am. It cost 115,000 dong. Happy travelling!

#14 Satie382x has been a member since 28/12/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by MADMAC on 28/12/2013 at 12:29

The Vietnamese really need to change the name of their currency.

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

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