Overland Travel to Luang Prabang, Laos from Sapa, Vietnam: How To and How Much

There’s no direct bus going to Luang Prabang from Sapa. It will be a series of bus transfers and a very short boat ride in Mhuang Khua. If you want to minimize the overland transfers, you have the option of booking cheap flights to Luang Prabang from Hanoi. You can stay at Hanoi for the night. Hanoi hotel booking is made easy by travel websites. Or from Sapa, you take a bus to Lao Cai and then a train from Lao Cai to Hanoi.

For this trip, we booked our minivan transfer at Sapa Tourism Council which you’ll see near the open park. One ticket cost 240,000 Dong or approximately $12. The cost was pretty much the same as what the other travel agencies were offering.

Overland Travel to Luang Prabang, Laos from Sapa, Vietnam: How To and How Much

We were not that cramped inside the van and there were only around 14-15 passengers although we were not that comfortable either. Bear in mind though that I travelled (May 18) in the low season and you might experience a different situation if you travel during high season.

There were a lot of bags and other stuff that made it a little uncomfortable. Luckily, we were seated at the back and had more space compare to other passengers. The bus ride left at around 8AM and took around eight hours to reach Dien Bien Phu.

bus to dien bien phu(Pee Break)

Tip: Bring food and water but don’t eat nor drink much. You don’t want to stop the bus just to run to the nearest toilet (you’re lucky, if there’s any), do you?

Upon arrival in Dien Bien Phu, I immediately bought a ticket that would take us to Mhuang Khua in Laos. The bus ticket cost around 100,000 Dong or roughly $5 per person. The bus though departs every 5:30AM and we booked a hostel where we could spend the night.

We found a hostel in front of the station and booked a triple room (we were travelling with another backpacker we met in Hanoi) for only 150,000 Dong (50,000 Dong per person). The initial price though was 250K but we bargained hard enough explaining that we would leave the hostel at 5AM thus only staying for about half day.

Dien Bien Phu Bus Station Ticket Office(Dien Bien Phu Bus Station Ticket Office)

Tip: The ticket office is at the entrance gate of the bus station. If you’re only spending the night in Dien Bien Phu just to catch the next bus to Laos, look for other travellers that you could share the room with so you could save some money.

bus to mhuang khua(Bus to Mhuang Khua at 5AM)

The following morning we met a lot more travellers en route to Laos in the bus station. The bus didn’t leave on time and waited for more passengers and departed at around 7AM. After a couple of hours, we arrived at the Tay Trang Border and waited until everyone was finished with the exit procedure.

tay trang border
(Tay Trang Border)

The Laos border was approximately 4KM away from the Vietnam border and the road was not yet cemented. I could not imagine crossing this road if it’s raining. It would have been an impending disaster. The criss- crossing road was still not cemented as I’ve mentioned before and it’s prone to mudslides. Luckily, the weather was fine that day.

We took a couple of hours waiting for everyone to finish their entry procedure before heading to Mhuang Khua. Everyone paid for 2000 Kip for the temperature check and 3000 Kip for the entry fee.

Tip: They give poor exchange rates at the border. If you still have a lot of Dongs with you, might as well change it at the banks in Mhuang Khua.

We reached Mhuang Khua town at around 2:30PM and crossed the river (5000 Kip per person). We immediately asked if there’s a slow boat leaving at around that time unfortunately the boat departs only in the morning.

mhuang khua river crossing

We then proceeded to the town to exchange dollars to Kip and by the time we asked about the bus for Udomxay, it had left already. So we’re stucked in the town for the night. We met a guy who offered a room overlooking the river for only 25,000 Kip for the three of us (around 8500 Kip per person) which was so far the cheapest room I’ve ever been in this trip.

manotham guesthouse(Manotham Guesthouse)

Tip: The hostels near the docking area were a bit pricey (around50000 Kip/room), walk around and you’ll find rooms for around 30000 Kip. If you want to stay where I stayed, ask for Manotham Guesthouse, starting price at 30000 Kip (bargain politely). The last bus from Mhuang Khua going to Udomxay leaves at 3PM.

The following morning, we boarded a tuktuk (5000 Kip Each) to the bus station and paid another 35000 for the minibus to Udomxay where we took another bus (55000 Kip) that took us to Luang Prabang.

bus ticket price(Bus Ticket Prices)

Tip: Tuktuk inside the bus station charges 20000 Kip per person. Go outside the bus station and you can get it for only 5000 Kip per person.

It was tiring but passing through all those scenic routes made the trip worth it. This overland crossing took three days starting from May 18 (departure in Sapa ) up to May 20 (arrival in Luang Prabang).

Here’s A Summary of How Much I Spent for Transportation and Border Crossing

Bear in mind that this information might vary from the actual price that you might get on the road (depending on when you’re travelling).

Local CurrencyCost in $
Minivan from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu240000 Dong12
Bus from Dien Bien Phu to Mhuang Khua100000 Dong5
Health Check2000 Kip0.25
Immigration Entry Fee3000 Kip0.375
Boat Fee to Cross the River5000 Kip0.625
Tuktuk to Mhuang Khua Bus Station5000 Kip0.625
Bus from Mhuang Khua to Udomxay35000 Kip4.375
Bus from Udomxay to Luang Prabang55000 Kip6.875
Tuktuk from bus Station to LP Center50000 Kip0.625
Total$30.75

 

I also did not include in this list some items such as food, drinks, accommodation and other miscellaneous items because the price would definitely depend on your choices.

Feel free to share some new info and tips about overland travel to Luang Prabang.

 

Comments

  1. Very helpful post Flip! I wish I read something like this before we did the border cross. Keep em coming!

  2. I personally crossed from Hue to Savannakhet in 2008. I found this article interesting for the perspective of another route. I’ve found the Laos – Vietnam border crossing underdeveloped compared to other crossings in the region in the sense that it involves transfers, less availability, etc. I like how you break down the costs. I’m going to bookmark this for future reference.

  3. luang prabang is on my top list for places to go in the asean region. this isnt the usual route but is sure connects two very interesting places. a series of bus exchange is fine with me. this will do. i want to see the rice terraces of sapa.

  4. Hi FlipNomad,

    thanks for sharing. This info will be helpful as I’ll be doing this route in reverse. Can you tell me how the road conditions were? I get motion sickness :/ But I will be sure to bring lots of motion sickness pills and some bags just in case. Just wondering if I should expect the worst?

    Cheers.

    • flipnomad says:

      i think you should bring some motion sickness pills… there are some patches of rough road but most part of the road is already paved 🙂 im not sure though when it rains… some areas i think are prone to mudslides…

  5. planning to try vietnam-laos crossing sometime next year??? hahaha. thanks for sharing.

  6. I wanna experience border crossing by land again especially the one that involves long bus rides or train rides. i ‘ve only tried KL to Singapore route by land. Your whole experience made it look like it’s a whole adventure in itself 🙂

    • flipnomad says:

      its indeed an adventure 🙂 although it can be really tiring… be careful on the rainy season though… some parts of the road might be prone to mudslides…

  7. wow. i gotta say, that’s a lot of transfers and layovers. i’m curious. did you guys just figure this out on your own? the towns to stop to, the transfers, etc.

    • i did some online research on the routes… there’s quite a number of travellers that have also done this in the past and the reverse route too (Hanoi-Beijing)…

  8. Hi there, very helpful information. Can I get a Visa On Arrival for Laos at Tay Trang border?

  9. Oh… have some more questions; can transport be easily arranged? Did you just hire someone to take you from Sapa to the border? Or is it public transportation? Can it be done when travelling alone. I’ve heard that there is hardly any organized transportation. But you guys seem to be on ‘public transport’ like it is well organized. Is it?
    And what about accommodation; are there sufficient guesthouses and do they have these mosquito-nets. Are there sufficient ways to exchange money?
    Hope to hear from you.
    Thanx!!

    • Hi, Yes we took public transportation when we crossed the border. It’s not an organized trip though, each segment is taken care by different transport group. There are some money exchange centers in Mhuang khua. Hope it helps.

  10. Hey Flip! Thank you so much for your advice. I will be travelling that route in about a week’s time. However, I have read other websites that have recounted terrible experiences about this bus trip, such as most ppl vomitting from motion sickness and bumpy roads etc. What is your take on it?

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