After this trip I kind of feel like an expert on night buses, and the verdict is: after some initial doubt I kind of like them. I’ve never had a problem sleeping in a bus, but these are definitively more comfortable for really sleeping during the night. I like not wasting a day on traveling, and you get to see quite a lot of nice views and parts of a country you wouldn’t see from a plane. And you save one night of accommodation. It’s a win-win-win situation really.
I took a sleeper bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, from Hoi An to Nha Trang and from Nha Trang to Saigon. The first one was quite long, 24 hours and even if it went totally fine for me I guess some people might get bored out of their minds…
The only problem I encountered was that even if I’m not extremely tall (175 cm) it was a bit difficult to stretch my legs in some of the buses, but I could live with that. Taller people might get bigger problems though. There were plenty of tall backpackers on the buses and they seemed to do fine with not stretching out but sleep with their knees bent, so if you’re okay with that I guess it’s no problem.
Getting from Bangkok to Laos over land is a really easy and quite enjoyable journey. Wanting to save money I decided against flying and took the night train instead. There’s no train going directly to Vientiane or Laos, so you have to get the train to Nong Khai on the Thai side of the border.
I got to the railway station in Bangkok (Hualamphong) in the late afternoon and bought a ticket for the night train that departures at 8 pm. I paid somewhere between 500-600 baht for a top bunk.
The train was at the station early, so I got on maybe 30-40 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. And the train left on time by the way. A man working on the train came and made all the beds about an hour into the trip and it became a quite early evening for me.
The night was rather cold (damn AirCon) so remember to pack a jumper and socks so that it’s easy to reach. We arrived in Nong Khai in time, somewhere around 7.30 in the morning. At the train station in Nong Khai I bought ticket to the shuttle train that would take me over the friendship bridge and into Laos. It costs 20 baht and the train leaves at 9 am. Before entering the train you go through immigration and get the departures stamp in your passport.
On the Laos side of the friendship bridge you get to fill out yet another arrival and departure card and go through immigration. The cost for a visa is different depending on which country you’re from, but it costs somewhere between $30-45 (apparently it’s free for people from Switzerland), I paid in baht since I didn’t have any dollars on me.
After going through immigration I met an American solo traveler so we decided to share a taxi into Vientiane to make it cheaper. But apparently you pay per person so we paid 300 baht each to get the 30 minutes into town. The van dropped us off at a well known hostel. It was okay to pay in baht (even expected). I didn’t exchange any money into Laos Kip but waited until I could withdraw from an ATM (that were everywhere).
Overall it was a nice trip and definitively worth the money I saved on not flying (and it’s better for the environment as well!).
I’ve been quite bad at updating lately, but I’m busy on the road. Tomorrow I’m taking the bus to Hanoi in Vietnam, which will be a 24-26 hour trip. Not really looking forward to it, but I’m too cheap to book a flight. It’s a sleeper bus so it should be okay. I’ll get some time to write some posts about the last few days that I can post in Hanoi. Have to tell you more about this wonderful city of Luang Prabang. For now I’ll leave you with a picture though, I need to get started on packing.
In Sweden we’re kind of weird and celebrate Christmas today. But since I’m in Laos, they don’t celebrate Christmas at all. The hostel I’m staying at over the holiday is really nice though. They’re going to have some kind of celebration tonight.
Today I met up with the American girl I met in Vientiane the other day, so we’re going to head to the waterfall in a minute. I’ve met so many nice people on this trip already! I’ll tell you more about it later.