Now getting to Vientiane by budget travel is via AirAsia, the no frills airlines in Malaysia. There is currently one flight a day to/fro KL and Vientiane - on certain days only. Check out the details in the website.
If you choose to travel by bus from this city to Luang Prabang you'll have a really tiring voyage.
Buses leave from the northern bus station and the journey takes about 12 hours. I travelled using a local air-conditioned bus, but the refrigerated worked only the first hour! Maybe I advise you to use a VIP bus which costs only a little more.
From downtown Vientiane to northern bus station, a tuktuk ride costs around 30000 kips.
Local buses fares:
Air-conditioned - 100000 kips.
Non air-conditionated - 90000 kips.
While the Laotians need only pay 3000 kip for a tuk-tuk, foreigners should be expected to pay 20, 000 kip per trip. Don't get conned if the tuk-tuk driver insists that each person should pay 20, 000 kip. That's bollocks.
Even a trip to National University of Laos, which is a 30-40 minute bus ride from our hotel, costs 45, 000--50, 000 kip per trip.
We took the bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane - largely because our trip was a little bit too flexible - arrived in LP to find it was much more of a tourist mecca than the previous year, and planes were booked out for several days to depart the city. It actually took us 2 days to be able to get a bus anyway! We chose the 1st class bus, which was barely more expensive than the next one down - and rightly so! It looks good, but it was hot and stuffy, and the ride was VERY slow - by virtue of the heat and the very mountainous conditions. Trip was roughly 8 hours - and we were very pleased to get to Vientiane, and get off the stuffy thing!
Along the way, at a comfort stop, I *happened* to notice a plain clothes person getting off the bus with an AK47 - and was subsequently told that there had been attacks on the tourist buses over the previous few months! I had not been aware of the soldiers placed along the road - but became more acutely vigilant for them! We did not really feel at risk, but it definitelyu pays to be aware of the local news before making travel plans.
Cost was roughly $12.
There's no shortage of these little vehicles to get around Vientiane - and its ideal, as the distances are not large within the city. We did find that many of the drivers have little English though, and it was often difficult to communicatre where we wanted to go. Therefore, its a good idea to carry a map to show the drivers your desired destination.
I began my trip to Laos from Singapore. My plans were to fly to Bangkok, then from Bangkok to Udon Thani in northern Thailand. From Udon Thani, I took a bus to Nong Khai, where I would then catch the Nong Khai-Vientiane.
SIN-BKK flights are aplenty. I chose to fly Air Asia, one of the budget airlines serving the region, to arrive in BKK late in the evening.
My BKK-UTH flight out was scheduled early morning on the day following my arrival in BKK. Air Asia canceled the flight the last minute, but they were able to put me on another flight operated by Nok Air, a Thai budget carrier.
Both Air Asia and Nok Air fly this route and there are flights in the early morning and in the late afternoon. Air Asia originally put me on the late afternoon flight to UTH, which was what I didn't want, as they couldn't contact me about the cancellation of the earlier flight. Fortunately, I went to their office at the airport and managed to get myself onto the morning Nok Air flight. If this happens to you too, there's no harm trying to contact the airline directly, as they probably would have made arrangements with other airlines to fly the affected passengers out around similar hours.
To get from UTH-VTN, there are mini vans that can bring you to either downtown Udon Thani or Nong Khai. I took the van to downtown Udon Thani to catch a bus to Nong Khai. Like to mention that the mini van doesn't bring you to the bus station where buses to Nong Khai depart. I had to find out from the locals and catch a tuk tuk to the bus terminal.
Once at the Nong Khai bus station, it suffice to get a ticket for the bus to Vientiane and the rest of the journey was a breeze. There are some cheap mom and pop stores around the bus station selling simple but nice cooked food. A good place to have lunch and hang out while waiting for the bus.
This luxury bus is the best overland connection with Bangkok. It costs 650 Baths (about 15 USD), leaves at 19:30 and arrives at Khao San Road (Bangkok) at 6 am the next day (well, in fact, the time I took it, it arrived at 4:30!), but it can also stop at BKK airport under request.
You have to change buses at lao-Thai border and pass customs, but there is also a friendly crew accompanying you, so you won't get lost.
The ticket includes a dinner in the Thai side (noodles and some rice, drinks not included).
They show movies and the seats are comfortable.
The bus station is located next to Tat Salao market/ morning market. It cost 80b from mon to sat and 85b on sun and public holidays for the bus fare. It has a few timings. The journey takes about 2 hrs to get to Udon Thani. This is very convenient and cheap and pretty comfortable way of traveling across the border. They also sell tickets to Nong Khai, cost about 55b.
I travelled to Vientiane in 2005 from Thailand. You may well find that the "taxi" is no more than someones battered old car, however this is part of the experience. The "taxi" I hired actually ran out of petrol half way to the town centre and we had to pay some money up front so that the driver could go and buy some from the local petrol station (which in this case was what looked like a local market stall) Great fun if not alittle worrying at first. On a more serious note the Tuk-Tuk we arranged to take us later that night from the bar tried to change the price once we had arrived at our hotel. After some complaining from myself I paid something in between the two prices, be careful! Always remember to take small currency, in our case 20 to 100 baht notes. The Thailand baht is worth abit in Vientiane.
Tuktuks are by far the best way to get around Vientiane cheap (if you don't want to walk). These little vehicles look a bit like motorcycles with a seating area in the back. Not incredibly comfortable and the ride in the tuktuk can get a bit smelly (exhaust gases of other cars and mopeds) and maybe even dusty, but it's well worth the money.
The tuktuk drivers usually charge you way too much, so bargaining is essential!! You should pay approximately US$0.25 per kilometre, as long as your total trip is less than 20 kms. So basically, for a trip around Vientiane, you would never pay more than approx. US$1-2.
Unlike Bangkok where you must avoid these people at all costs, tuk tuks are a good way to get around in Vientiane. It will cost two or three dollars to get from one place to another or you can negotiate an hourly price for a tour of the city - I paid 6 USD/hour (the asking price) the one time I did this which I am sure is too expensive but I just couldn't bring myself to bargain for such a small amount of money.
My favorite thing was to walk until it was just too hot and I was too exhausted to go any farther and then just get a tuk tuk back to the guesthouse. They are everywhere and no they will not take you to the gem factory (there isn't one) nor will they take you to some dodgy tailor shop. Vive Vientiane.
Sabaidee bus service was excellent! Bt890 at my hotel front desk (Inter City). Driver picked me up promptly as requested and dropped me off at Talat Sao bus station with my tickets. Bus to Lao customs took about 30-40 minutes. Cleared customs (Bt20 departure fee) and then to Thai immigration. 1st class bus to Udon Thani took about 1 hour. Car and driver met me at the station to take me to the other bus station on the other side of town. Very nice gentleman with excellent English. Took care of my tickets and even returned an hour later when the bus arrived to make sure I got on ok. Very satisfied with this service!
I took the #69 night train from BKK - upper sleeper Bt688. Train was running late as it took 13 hours to get to Nong Khai. Bt20 for mini-bus to Lao immigration. Visa process was quick and painless. Paid Bt1550 (or USD31), the extra buck is the "weekend fee". Entry fee of Bt20 and then off to the taxi area. Took about 15 minutes. Taxi into town cost Bt300 which is expensive for VTE but hey, the day before I was in BKK!
(last date took the bus - Dec. 17, 2004)
Vientiane, Laos - Bangkok, Thailand
Sabaidee VIP Bus
Bus fare - 650 THB
Mala Travel Agency
Luang Prabang, Lao
Note: bought the bus ticket at Luang Prabang, Lao
Departure time: 5:40 p.m.
Arrival time: 6:15p.m. (Friendship Bridge Immigration)
Exit fee: 2,500 kip
Immigration : 6:15 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Entrance fee to Nong Khai Immigration, Thailand : 6,000 kip
There are a few ways to do it, but this is how I got across the firendship bridge into Laos:
1. Take a bus to Nong Khai. Tell the driver that you are going to go to Laos so that he will drop you off at the right place. The bus fare from Udon Thani is about 80 baht and it takes just over an hour.
NB - There are buses directly to Vientiane, but the schedule is limited and you can only travel straight through to Laos if you have obtained a visa in advance.
2. There are tuk tuk drivers at the drop off point. You can either go from there to the border yourself or go to a visa agent. I went to a visa agent.
3. There are numerous visa agents along the highway near the border. They will fill in all of your immigration forms for you and then escort you in the tuk tuk to the border.
4. At the border, the visa agent will submit your documents for you, pay the visa fee and get you through immigration faster (i.e. you don't have to line up). After you pass through Thai departures, you board a bus with the visa agent across the friendship bridge to Lao arrivals. Again the visa agent will line up for you and sort everything out. After this, you're in Laos and the visa agent returns to Nong Khai. The whole process, from getting off the bus in Nong Khai to entering Laos takes less than an hour. The tuk tuk, buses, visa fee and services cost USD44 total. The do-it-yourself cost is $30 plus tuk tuk plus bus. Money well spent I think.
5. Once you're over the border, there are the typical negotiations to get to Vientiane. Walk past the taxi stand at immigration (as always). About 200 baht / 30 minutes. There is also a bus, which takes longer and is cheaper.
Good luck :-)