I was searching a bit around before I crossed this border between Vietnam and Laos, and it seemed like a lot of people were confused about it, and there were no really recent information, so here goes:
First thing first, the border is still open. I crossed the border form the Laos side. You still CANNOT get visa's on arrival either way.
From Sam Neua and Vieng Xai you can get sawngthaew's, jumbo's and the like to the border, but I wouldn't recommend that, as it seemed like it was hard to find transportation on the Vietnam side.
In Sam Neua there's a minibus leaving four times a week for Thanh Hoa, and then Hanoi; Wednesday, Friday, and I think Saturday and Monday. This is problaly the best option. The minibus leaves at 8:00 in the morning from the busstation furthest away from the city (past the airport).
It's very important you buy the ticket from the counter at the busstation. I met the driver of the minibus when I was having breakfast in Sam Neua, and he said I could buy the ticket from him for 30$. I didn't, and when I arrived at the busstation you could buy the same ticket for 150k kip, which is way cheaper (just under 20$). The driver and the ladies at the ticketcounter actually had an argument about this, but the staff at the station is really nice and will problaly look after you.
The tour itself is about 10-11 hours to Thanh Hoa, and then another 3.5 to Hanoi. The bus is decent. Bring a pen and 5000 kip to the border for filling out forms and paying for a mandatory SARS test.
All in all I thought the trip was pretty troublefree. Many of the guidebooks will tell you that this is a tough border crossing, but the only thing I found hard was the uncertainty, and if you've read this you'll be fine.
#1 SimonD has been a member since 4/2/2009. Posts: 8