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I'm trying to plan a trip route which include traveling from north Thailand to Vietnam. Since I don't have a strict time limitation, I thought that maybe instead of taking a flight I could travel by land through Laos. Now I'd like to ask if someone already done such trip? How much time such a route could take? What are the available transportations options? Is it safe?

Currently what I had in mind (according to some internet research), is to travel from Chiang Mai to Vientiane via Friendship Bridge (As I understood this is a Thanaleng crossing) and then continue to Luang Prabang. I've found few posts regarding the available routes from Luang Prabang to Vietnam here and here. So I guess I'll just have to choose one of them and hope that I'll be able to make all the arrangements when I'm there.

Any other tips\ideas are more than welcome.

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I haven't done the trip, but people do it, though not that often. Public transport is available, though the frequency depends on where you want to cross the border. – MastaBaba Jul 8 '12 at 10:09
@MastaBaba Thank you for your comment. This is exactly the information I'd like to achieve. What transport? From where to where? Where are the available border crosses? I'd like to mention that I'm not an experienced traveler and I want to see if this route is OK for a person like me or this is a hardcore way to get there.. – Eugene S Jul 8 '12 at 10:30
You might go through Vientiane, but if you're on your way to Vietnam, Luang Prabang is not on the way. Shortest path is Bangkok-Nakhon Phanom/Thakek-Vinh (and then either north to Hanoi or south to Hue). – dbkk Jul 8 '12 at 11:28
The bus to Hanoi is a adventure on itself. Beds are made for asians and too short for europeans. Although nice sceneries , I will do it again. – user7883 Aug 9 '13 at 10:05
Related: Traveling from Thailand to Laos to Vietnam – hippietrail Sep 18 '13 at 13:35

If you're going directly from Bangkok to Vietnam, shortest path is Bangkok-Nakhon Phanom/Thakek-Vinh (and then either north to Hanoi or south to Hue). Luang Prabang is definitely not on the way, Vientiane is quite a detour.

For casual touring, one interesting route may be to go from Bangkok to north of Thailand, cross over the Mekhong to Laos in Chiang Khong (Chiang Rai province), then take the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang (2 days with overnight stop, cheap, and quite an experience). From there, you can take a bus to Vientiane (with a stop in Vang Vieng for a few days). After that, you can go to Savannakhet and onwards to Vietnam (Vinh in Nghe An province is nearest to Laos).

I have done most parts of this, but not the Savannakhet-Vinh portion. Many interesting places along the way, but skipping long slogs in a bus may be worthwhile (e.g. flying Luang Prabang-Vientiane, often cheap if bought locally). Buses in Laos are infrequent, uncomfortable and slow, nothing like wonderful Thai VIP-24 buses... in Vietnam buses are slightly better than Laos, but still rather uncomfortable.

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Hi and thank you for your answer. However I wonder if there is a safe and convenient way to travel from Luang Prabang to the Vietnam side, for example to Sapa? Thank you! – Eugene S Jul 10 '12 at 7:59

I have travelled from Vietnam to Laos to Thailand overland. To be precise, Hue - Vientiane - Chiang Mai.

From Hue, there are daily open tour buses to Vientiane. The journey begins at 9.30am (there will be a pickup from your hostel/guesthouse) and you will reach Vientiane the next morning at around 8-9am.

From Vientiane, you have a choice of travelling to Chiang Mai or Bangkok. I chose to travel to Chiang Mai, of which was an overnight journey from Vientiane to Udon Thani on a public bus followed by a VIP seater bus journey from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai. I believe all overland travels from Vientiane to Thailand goes through Udon Thani.

All arrangements for the overland travels may be done through your hostel/guesthouse. Just note that there are two intercity bus terminal in Udon Thani and usually a bicycle taxi will transfer you from one terminal to the other. The pickup person will usually affix you with a coloured tape to help identify the travellers whose destination is to Chiang Mai.

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You can quite easily bus from Luang Prabang to Vietnam. You mentioned that you'd want to go over to Sapa. I'd recommend taking a bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, and from Hanoi going to Sapa.

The bus trip from Luang Prabang to Hanoi will take you around 24-30 hours, but really isn't that bad, as you'll most likely pay the extra for a sleeper bus with beds (room to lie down).

I'd also recommend finding a good travel agent in Luang Prabang and booking the bus there.

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Hi and thank you for your answer! This was exactly what I had in mind but I've just read tons of warnings regarding the Lao roads which tend to be pretty dangerous since most of them are just dirt roads and can get wet and slippery. It's good to know you had a better experience. Can you please mention the exact path I can take from Luang Prabang to Hanoi? Or is it just a direct bus? Maybe I can get to Sapa without going through Hanoi? Thanks again! – Eugene S Jul 27 '12 at 8:31
Knowing South East Asia there is defintely a way to go straight from Luang Prabang to Sapa - if the tourist wants it, the locals will find a way :) However, that's one of those things you'd be best to check when you're there in Luang Prabang. I'd really recommend stopping in Hanoi for at least one night to have a look around though. When I was there I actually went from Vientiane (capital city) > Hanoi. With Luang Prabang > Hanoi, I'm quite certain that it ends up going to Vientiane and then to Hanoi (in one trip), but I'll ask some friends that route for confirmation. – bryceadams Jul 27 '12 at 9:50
...(continued): The trip really isn't that bad. The roads in Laos are at their worst in between Luang Prabang > Vang Vieng (tubing) > Vientiane. To be honest those bus rides would probably be quite hard for someone who gets car-sick, so I'd recommend taking something to knock you out before the trip. Regardless, have a good trip and good luck :) – bryceadams Jul 27 '12 at 9:55

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