Savannakhet’s airport is at the southeastern edge of town. It is serviced by Lao Airlines with domestic routes a few days a week to Pakse and Vientiane (via Pakse).
Savannakhet’s main bus station is on Road 9W, at the northern edge of the city centre. It’s a kilometre from the Royal Thai Consulate.
Given the fact that Savannakhet isn’t on the main north-south running highway Route 13, transport options aren’t as plentiful as other cities in southern Laos. Travellers anywhere along Route 13 could easily hop onto a Vientiane or Pakse bound bus. In Savannakhet, you are mostly limited to departures from the bus station, transport in the form of local buses.
Destinations within Laos
As ever, it is important to remember that this is Laos, not Switzerland. It’s best to pay a visit a day in advance and get the up to date departure time. Buses depart when there are enough passengers and cargo. The amount of time the journey takes is an optimistic estimate as local buses will stop anywhere along the way to pick up and drop off. If heading to Vientiane, the VIP sleeper bus is the most direct and efficient. There’s only one, so book in advance the day before or the morning of to get a spot.
Attapeu: departs at 09:00. Costs 75,000 kip.
Pakse: departs at 07:00, 09:00, 10:30, 12:30, 17:30, possible evening departures of 19:30, 20:30, 21:30, 22:00. Costs 50,000 kip and takes 5 hrs.
Salavan: departs at 12:00. Cost 65,000 kip.
Sekong: departs at 10:30. Costs 65,000 kip.
Tha Khaek: departs at 06:45, 07:30, 08:00, 09:20, 10:30, 11:30, 13:00. Costs 30,000 kip and takes 3 hrs. Or take Vientiane bus, requesting drop off en route.
Vientiane: local bus departs at 06:00, 06:40, 07:20, 08:00, 08:40, 09:20, 10:10, 11:30. Costs 75,000 kip.
Vientiane: VIP sleeper bus departs at 20:30. Costs 120,000 kip and takes 8 hrs.
About 50 metres west of the main bus station is Savansai market and the songthaew stand where large songthaews depart for destinations within the province.
Buses to Thailand
Mukdahan: departs 08:15, 09:00, 09:40, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30, 17:30, 19:00. Costs 14,000 kip or 50 baht and takes 1 hr. You'll get off the bus to pass Lao immigration, hop back on to cross the Friendship Bridge 2, get off again for Thai immigration, then get on once more for the 15-minute ride to the bus station in Mukdahan, from where buses depart regularly for Bangkok and many other destinations in Thailand.
Buses to Vietnam
Savannakhet is a major departure point and pivot point for buses to Central Coast Vietnam. In addition to dreadful local buses, there are a handful of scheduled VIP bus departures, still dependent on demand. Inquire at the bus station to see what’s available/book ticket in advance. After passing Vietnamese immigration, don’t be surprised if you’re put onto another bus.
Note that local bus services (ie buses that leave Savannakhet in the afternoon or early evening), arrive at the border at around 03:00, so passengers have to wait/sleep until the checkpoint opens at 08:00.
Da Nang sleeper bus: departs Thursday & Saturday at 09:00. Costs 150,000 kip.
Da Nang local bus departs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday at 21:00. Costs 110,000 kip and takes 13 hrs.
Hue VIP bus: departs daily at 08:00. Costs 110,000 kip and takes 8 hrs.
Hue local bus departs Thursday & Friday at 21:00. Costs 90,000 kip and takes 13 hrs.
Dong Ha VIP bus: departs Mon-Fri at 08:00. Costs 110,000 kip and takes 8 hrs. You must buy the ticket one day before. This is the same bus as the above services to Da Nang and Hue, you just get off earlier.
Dong Ha local bus: departs Thursday & Friday at 21:00. Costs 80,000 kip and takes 10 hrs.
Alternatively, the bold can just go to the Lao Bao border and catch a continuing bus on your own.
Lao Bao border: departs at 07:30, 09:00, 12:00. Costs 35,000 kip and takes 5 hrs.
The ferry across the Mekong between Laos and Thailand is not open to foreigners/is only open to borderpass holders. There are no regular passenger services up or down the Mekong.
Savannakhet isn't huge and those in town for their Thai visa often choose to stay near the bus station and consulate, without ever leaving that triangle. It’s a pity because riding around town is a pleasant diversion and the town’s few sights and restaurants are a sufficient excuse to explore.
Renting a motorbike or bicycle is the best way to get around as tuk tuks aren’t readily available and floating around like they do in other Lao cities. They are mainly parked at the bus station, the Royal Thai Consulate or market. Guesthouses like Sala Thongyon and Leena Guesthouse rent bicycles and motorbikes. Expect to pay around 10,000-15,000 kip a day for bicycle, 70,000 kip a day for motorbike. With Savannakhet’s tourism scene languishing, if your guesthouse doesn’t offer rentals, ask around at a few cafes where we noticed posters and business cards for bike rentals. The cafe can probably point you in the right direction.