Sleeper Bus in Laos: The Most Affordable Way to Travel from Pakse to Vientiane

When I did my research long before I started my Indochina trip, I figured that Laos’s infrastructure and transportation might be a bit challenging compared to its neighboring countries.

I came across an article that outlined their long journey with a bus in Laos, which they didn’t thoroughly enjoy. Reading it made me second-guess whether I should take a long overland journey from Cambodia to Vientiane or Vang Vieng, so I decided to go to Pakse from Siem Reap instead.

While I only get a chance to travel around Pakse city center in Champasak, I was quite happy with my decision to stop there before heading to Vientiane. It gave me some time to travel slow and adapt to Laos’s daily life since I have to admit that Laos is slightly different compared to Cambodia or Vietnam.

Sleeper Bus in Laos

The day I arrived in Pakse, I had a hard time withdrawing money from the ATM.

It was only the day after that I found out that maybe some bank ATMs in Laos are not compatible with my cards even though they have either Mastercard or VISA logo on their machine, and the first ATM that worked with my card was with Lao-Viet Bank.

But today, I’m going to share my experience taking a sleeper bus in Laos to show you that I may have a different view when it comes to traveling on a bus in the country. I took a sleeper bus from Pakse to Vientiane, and I initially expected the bus to resemble the sleeper bus in Vietnam.

While I wasn’t 100% right, I have to say that I disagree with the article that I read on the internet during my research before my trip began. Minus the fact that I had to share my seat with a complete stranger, I suppose the journey and the facilities offered from the bus trip weren’t so bad.

Where to Buy a Bus Ticket in Pakse

On my first night in Pakse, I searched for some information about the bus ticket from Pakse to Vientiane through some platforms like Easybook or Bookaway. I did it to find out the average price for the route, and see if I could find the cheaper one when I went out in the city center. 

I figured the bus’s average price from Pakse to Vientiane would start from $18 USD, so I looked around to see if there’s an agency downtown that sells it for a lower price. 

I collected some flyers from different tour agencies in Pakse downtown. It was only when I passed by Pakse travel on my way to Wat Luang that I found one with the lowest price available for the route. At the time, the price for the sleeper bus to Vientiane from Pakse was only 150,000 LAK (around $16 USD). 

After strolling around the city center, I didn’t find anything lower than that, so I decided to come back and book a bus ticket for the next day. 

The process was quite simple, as the agent gave me a receipt and told me to come to the same spot at 7 PM since the bus will depart at 8 PM to Vientiane.

The flyer with the list of prices for the bus from Pakse to various destinations.
The flyer with the list of prices for the bus from Pakse to various destinations.

What You Need to Know About the Sleeping Bus from Pakse

When the agent told me to come to the office at 7 PM, I thought it was because the bus would depart from there. When the owner of Dream Resort Farm told me that there’s only one bus station in Pakse where all the buses depart from there, I insisted him to take me to the Pakse travel office instead. My bad.

As it turned out, he was right that all the buses from Pakse will depart from that one bus station in the city. The only reason why the agent told me to come to the office an hour prior to the departure was to provide a shuttle bus to get to the bus station.

The shuttle bus was a minivan, and it was super crowded not only because of all the passengers but also their bags and other belongings. I should’ve listened to Mr. Kim instead. 🙁

What to Do When You Arrive at Pakse Bus Station

When we arrived at the bus station, we couldn’t even enter the bus directly since we still had to replace our receipt with the proper ticket for the ride. The instruction wasn’t clear, and there were times when some of the passengers only stood around the bus as we didn’t know what to do next.

As I booked the VIP bus from Pakse to Vientiane, I went to the lady at the ticket counter at the bus station. You could easily recognize the ticket counter as the desk was shaped like the front of the bus.

I went there and told the staff that I wanted to exchange my ticket to Vientiane. The lady asked me how many passengers were traveling with me at the time, and she checked the seat arrangement when I said I was traveling alone.

The fact that we have to share the seat with a total stranger on the bus is probably something that makes her job harder than it really is. I ended up sharing my seat with a Lao girl who’s traveling with her other girlfriends.

What You’ll Get for the Bus Trip from Pakse to Vientiane

Once I checked in my baggage in the bus’s trunk, I entered by showing my ticket to the driver. I got the seat on the second level of the bus, as well as a plastic bag so I can take off my shoes and keep it there.

The difference between the sleeper bus in Laos and Vietnam that I immediately recognize is the vehicle’s design and layout.

In Vietnam, the design is more like a bunk bed, so you can find more open space and walk comfortably on the bus. Meanwhile, Laos’s sleeper bus is divided into two different levels, so you need to bend when you walk to find your seat.

That, and also the seat arrangement as the sleeper bus in Laos require you to share your seat with a total stranger if you’re traveling solo as I did.

Despite the inconvenience of sharing the seat with a stranger, the bus ride facilities were excellent. Each seat has electricity sockets with air conditioners that worked well. A blanket is also provided for each passenger, along with some snacks to enjoy for the trip.

For my trip from Pakse to Vientiane, I got a packet of soya milk and crackers. I didn’t get a chance to enjoy them until I got to the hotel in Vientiane, as when I was on the bus, I totally crashed and went to sleep throughout the trip to Vientiane.

Who would have thought that this would be the start of my illness on my Indochina trip? I’ll talk about this later in the next post!

Just FYI though, the snacks provided on the bus were actually delicious. I loved the soya milk, and the crackers were quite tasty to enjoy when you’re bored feeling snacky.

How Long Does It Take to Go to Vientiane from Pakse by Bus?

The journey takes around 10 to 11 hours from Pakse to Vientiane by bus. The bus departed at around 8.30 PM from Pakse bus station, and I remember I got off the bus in Vientiane at around 7 AM.

Review: Sleeper Bus from Pakse to Vientiane

Please mind that the journey was taken before Coronavirus hit the whole world. Also, know that I was sleeping throughout the trip, so I couldn’t remember whether there were some stops along the way from Pakse to Vientiane. I literally crashed on my way to the capital city as it turned out my immunity was decreased at the time.

I don’t know how VIP bus serves its passengers right now and whether they follow the recommended health regulation, but my experience of taking the sleeper bus from Pakse to Vientiane was quite good.

There were flaws for sure, but I figure it wasn’t as bad as some people experienced when they rode a bus in Laos a few years ago.

(+)

  • Once you get past the inconvenience of sharing your seat with the stranger, the bus ride was quite convenient, apart from affordable. The bus staff tried their best to make your trip convenient. 
  • I can’t complain about all the facilities provided during the trip. The electricity socket worked well to charge my phone when needed, and don’t forget the delicious packet of snacks that you could enjoy for your journey! 
  • It’s affordable, as it cost only around $16 for the trip. 
The bus from Pakse to Vientiane.
The bus from Pakse to Vientiane.

(-)

  • Their system is a bit scattered, with the shuttle bus that was too small to carry all the passengers to the bus station. 
  • Pakse travel didn’t give us clear instructions about what we need to do once we reached the bus station. This miscommunication could lead to unwanted events like missing out on your bus or taking the wrong one. You need to be proactive to ensure that you get on the right bus with the correct route as you booked.
  • They didn’t even notify us when we reached Vientiane. I had to ask around whether we were in Vientiane when the bus stops. I’m not sure where the final stop is for the bus as when I got off the bus, there were still some passengers left on the bus to continue their journey. 

Based on my personal experience, I’d still recommend the sleeping bus as a way to travel if you’re looking into the most affordable transportation throughout Laos.

However, I’d totally recommend you to do your own research about whether or not they follow the suggested health protocol with the current situation. It’s really not worth the risk if you’re only looking for the cheapest option available!

So, have you ever been to Laos? Did you get a chance to ride the sleeping bus within the country? Tell me about your experience in the comment, and cheerio! 🙂


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