As good backpackers that we are, we didn’t really plan the from Cambodia to Laos by bus to the minutest details. The only thing we knew was that we had a flight ticket on the 23rd July from Vientiane in Laos to Bangkok in Thailand. How to get there? We had no clue whatsoever. But it’s part of the adventure, right?
The journey between Cambodia and Laos is NOT straightforward. In addition to the difficulty in logistics, there is acute shortage of pointed and updated information about traveling from Cambodia to Laos by bus. This is why I’m sharing this with you, hoping someone will find it useful.
Taking a bus from Cambodia to Laos
We were in Phnom Penh after an amazing week in Cambodia and we wanted to make our way to Laos. It was a Friday, and the CamboTicket team told us that the bus operators could not confirm their service was actually running until 24 hours before travel time – and this is the standard procedure for all operators plying this route. It is not easy to plan your life in Cambodia, is it?
The super helpful CamboTicket team informed us that there is no direct service to Laos until Sunday, but thankfully proposed us an alternative. There was a bus to Stung Treng the next morning, which is a Cambodian city very close to Laos. Once there, we could try to find transport to cross the border. We researched online, and apparently we were not the first ones to do this. But there was no way to know what, when or anything about the transport that would (god willing) take us to Laos.
We had come to South East Asia looking for adventures, so we didn’t think twice.
The journey begins…
Cambodia to Laos by Bus – traveling from Phnom Penh to Pakse
We took the 7.15 am bus from Phnom Penh to Stung Treng after spending the whole night in the pubs & clubs of Phnom Penh. Important note here: we are Spanish. We slept almost all the way, and after 10 hours and several stops, we reached Stung Streng at 17.45.
It is a very small city. First impression wasn’t too good, as it was raining, and the city was pretty much only a market. However, we were happy to get to know the “remote Cambodia”. The only foreigners that appeared in Stung Treng were the ones heading for Laos, like us three.
Once there, the first thing we did was go to the bus ticket office. We asked if there was any way to reach Laos in the day. As all of the Cambodians that we have crossed paths with, they were super nice and friendly. They also spoke basic English, so there was no problem. Unfortunately, after insisting for a good hour, they told us the only solution was getting a minivan leaving at 12.30 pm on the following day towards Pakse. Once there, we would have to get on another bus at 8:30 pm to get to Vientiane on Sunday at 6 am. The ticket cost was USD 40 each, but he allowed us to pay the next morning just in case.
Once transport was sorted out, we went to find a place to sleep. The first hostel was fully booked, which was very surprising, as we didn’t see any tourists in the street and we were the only ones who got out of our bus at that stop. In the end, we found a hostel in city center, where the three of us stayed in a private room for 10 dollars in total.
At 7 am in the morning the next day we woke up to someone slamming our door. It’s the guy from the bus from yesterday, who says the bus time has changed and is leaving at 9 am. The man had looked for us in all of the hostels in town until he found us. Amazing isn’t it?
The minivan ended up being only for ourselves so it was very convenient. There was no problem at the border, other than having to pay around USD 40 each in visas+taxes.
Once in Laos, the minivan picked up about 5 locals. We got to Pakse at 13:00 and had some time to kill until 8pm, so we went to have a stroll around the city. Pakse doesn’t have a lot to see, and they’re probably not very used to seeing westerners, as everyone stared at us smiling and waving all the time.
We were pretty insistent in terms of not sharing our beds in the sleeping bus if there was no need, given that each bed is for two people. In the end, they were super nice and let us sleep in a big bed at the end of the bus all together. The road was filled with bumps so we each took a sleeping pill and we were off for the whole journey. We got to Vientiane at 5.45 am and went straight to the hostel. We had reached our destination! All in all the trip from Cambodia to Laos by bus was super exciting and we hope more travelers take this route.
Translated from Spanish to English. This write-up was written by Maria – a traveler from Spain who is backpacking South East Asia with her friends and submitted this article as part of CamboTicket’s traveler memoir section. We wish Maria and her mates the best of luck for this trip and wish them more exciting adventures in times to come. Buena suerte