How to get between Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos by bus, train and plane!
One of the most common things I get asked about my trip round SE Asia was how I got between the countries.
There are a fair few ways of doing it; the simplest (and most expensive) is definitely to fly, but this was way out of my budget! I mainly got buses, with the odd flight!
My route took me starting in Hanoi, down to Saigon - from which I crossed into Cambodia, arriving in Phnom Penh. From Cambodia I headed into Laos via Thailand.
1. SAIGON TO PHNOM PENH
We took a bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Crossing borders overland could be confusing and tricky - judging by the articles online. We opted for the slightly pricier but simpler option of using 1 company for the whole trip. You can do it cheaper and take 2 separate buses with separate companies, but the price difference for us was negligible.
Crossing the border basically involves getting a bus to the border. You are then given a sticker to wear which allows the company to identify you on the other side and direct you to the correct bus. Before the border the bus takes your passport and visa’s are processed for them all. You then get them given back. You have to walk through the border with your passport, where they check your visa. You walk to the other side and someone tells you which bus to get on. The next bus takes you to Phnom Penh. Yay!
Check what visa you need and make sure you have the correct amount in USD before arrival!
2. SIEM REAP TO LAOS (VIA BANGKOK)
Firstly, to get to Laos you have two rough options - depending on your route in Laos.
If you’re looking to head up Southern Laos to the 4,000 islands for example, then you can get a bus from Siem Reap to Don Det.
If you’re shorter on time and are planning to skip the southern bit, you can head straight to Vientiane. We found the easiest and cheapest way was to go through Thailand. (So if you’re planning to head from Cambodia to Thailand then you are in luck).
Get a bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Cheap - $12, day or night bus options, takes 10 hours.
You’ll need to cross the border half way - but don’t worry, crossing the Thai border is significantly easier than crossing the Cambodian border. You get dropped off at one building, go through, get back on the bus the other side. For UK citizens you don’t need a visa for Thailand and you can enter/re-enter as many times as you want. We did this about 3 times in the 7 weeks.
Once in Bangkok, if you are ready to travel around Thailand then yay, you have arrived!
If you’re still heading up to Laos, you have two options:
Get a flight from Bangkok to Udon Thani (in Thailand) - pretty cheap, lots of flights for about £10.
From Udon Thani, get a bus to the Laos border - named the ‘Friendship Bridge’. Very easy to spot, very well signposted in the airport.
The bus will take you to the border. Here you will need to pay for a visa (bring photos with you) and walk across the bridge.
From the other side of the border you can get a taxi to Vientiane - they do try and con you though, so be prepared to massively negotiate. There are loads of taxi drivers at the border waiting to take you to Vientiane.
From Bangkok you can either get the overnight train to Chiang Mai, day train, or fly. I would personally recommend the train because it’s super comfy, slow enough that you get a decent sleep, and best of all - the restaurant carriage turns into a disco at 10pm serving alcoholic drinks - bizarre and brilliant at the same time.
From Chiang Mai you can get a bus over the border to Laos.
3. LAOS TO THAILAND/VIETNAM
You can get a bus from Hanoi to Laos, however it is a very long journey and I read a number of reviews online saying it was pretty miserable!
We decided to get a reasonably cheap flight from Luang Prabang to Bangkok - and you can get an equally priced flight to Hanoi too.
4. BANGKOK TO HANOI
I'm not sure why I put this last as it was actually my first journey - but by far the best way is to fly - you can get incredibely cheap flights with reputable airlines - around £15.
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