We arrived in Nong Khai exhausted after the night train from Bangkok. Took an auto-rickshaw to Vientiane. There we hopped on the 10:30am (it was late to start) public bus to Nong Khai. The seats were rickety, it was full of locals who had covered the better seats with bags of vegetables. The remaining tourists were sitting on the floor in the aisle. BUT that wasnt the worst thing, the bus BROKE DOWN every time we went up a hill. HOURS on, we were nowhere near Nong Khai. People began to get off and hitchike. Finally a few of us were piled into minivans. Once we reached Nong Khai the minivan driver insisted we pay (on top of what we had paid for the bus already). TAKE a MINIVAN whenever you can, is my advice. We saw broken down buses all over the place. Took the minivan for 8dollars each for a very smooth ride to Luang Prabang the next day.
Getting to Vang Vieng is somewhat of an experience. Realisitically it should not take that long from Luang prapang but the roads where made to traverse the surrounding mountains. Everyone basically gets shoved in like sardines into mini buses and have to endure 6 hours of some of the most winding road in Laos.
Outside you get to observe some of the most beautiful moutian scenerey but it can all be a bit much on the stomach wiuth the constant winding and stopping.
The road has also been notorius for bandit activity from hmong rebels (which are very few in number). Fortuntely the government has amped up security along the way so dont be surpirsed if you see several men (look more like boys though) carrying sub machine guns and patroling the road.
When you finally arive after a taxing journey, you will probabaly want to kiss the ground
You can either take a minivan or VIP coach to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang. Taking the minivan is more expensive than the VIP coach. The schedules of the minivan or VIP coach are available from the guesthouses in Luang Prabang and they can arranged the tickets for you.
I took the VIP coach. Although its called the VIP bus, it's just like a normal aircon bus. It takes about 5 to 6 hours to reach Vang Vieng. The first hour of the road is so windy that anyone who is easily affected before the bus journey should avoid having any food before the journey.
Most people travel by van to Luang Prabang. If you are tall or big size- where most westerner do, dont travel in this kind of vehicles, you will fell extremely uncomfortable.
Wait for a VIP bus in Vang Viang bus terminal. There are a bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang every hour and the bus will stop at Vang Viang to pick up passanger. You can buy the bus ticket in the counter 55,000 Kips.
Notice that the VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Viang is 65,000Kips and the other way round is 55,000Kips.
When you step down from the bus in Vang Viang terminal, tuk-tuk guy will approach you and offer a tuk-tuk service. Well, the village is actually right behind the bus terminal. 5 or 10 minutes walk will bring you to different guesthouses with different rates. A 15 minutes walk will lead you the riverside guesthouses. Anyway, if you dont like walk, tuk-tuk is always available.
I took a local bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. As far as i remember, there were a 12:30 and 1:30 bus. It cost 40 000kip April 2008. THey scheduled to leave at 12:30 however we left at about 1pm. it was a 4 hrs ride, and there was a toilet break at the 2nd hr.
there wasn't any toilet found during the toilet break, everyone just did it in the bushes.
there was also one stop where there were hawkerstalls for us to buy food and drinks.
sexy lao gal mtv and Hongkong Jet Li show was played through out the Journey.
Once daily at 9.00 am there's bus (VIP of a local kind) to Phonesavan, Xieng Khouang province. It's okay if you buy the ticket by yourself at the station; in that case it's good to be there at least half hour before scheduled departure. Agenices in VV can also do the job for you and maybe you'll get free tuk-tuk service to the station if you book with them (for bit higher fee for their service). However, it may happen that you'll actually depart hour or more later as this isn't the bus starting point, so it depends how often will bus stop to pick passengers en route or traffic density (and accidents). It's long journey and it takes about 7 hrs to get to Xieng Khouang capital. Near Kasi, there's a lunch brake for about 30 min or so. Take some snacks and water along.
Price in 2009 was 85 000 KIP for a ticket bought at the station directly. Add about 10 000 KIP for a tuk tuk ride from Vang Vieng to the station.
The bus trip from Luang Prabang may be one of the most beautiful in my 'career', it's surely is one of the slowest too.
It took the driver 8 full hours for 168 kilometers.
The road is constantly turning from left to right and the other way round.
Bicyles can be rent for 10.000 Kip a day and are good for strolling around between the rice fields... Beware: the (sandy) roads are very bad and full of rocks and flat tyres are frequent.
The city centre is very small and can very well be done on foot.
The locals travel with carriages
If you book a mininus to Vientiane in your hotel (most likely 50000 Kip, 4 to 5 hours on a bad road) you get pickend up there, last stop will be at the National Museum in walking distance to many cheaper accomodations, it stops also near the Airport, about 500 m walking.
Bus is the only way to travel overland in Laos. Tickets are cheap but often tourists are crammed together in uncomfortable seats. I spent the three hours in a tiny space meant for baggage but with 6 seats fitted.
The buses on this line are usually a lot better and the roads are a lot smother.
this trip ususally takes about 3 and a half hours and cost be about $5.