There are a number of ways to get from Chiang Mai to Laos, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Whether by plane, train, bus, car or boat, the choice usually depends on how much time and money you have, where in Laos you want to start and how important comfort is to you.
The overnight bus journey took us to Vang Vieng, a backpacker hotspot famous for its tubing activities down the Nam Song River. If you’re considering catching the bus from Chiang Mai to Laos, be prepared for an uncomfortable, bumpy, nauseating 12 hour journey down windy roads, on seats that don’t recline. And for those who are queasy about bugs as I am, I will warn you that the toilet stops are pretty grim. In fact, one particular bathroom we visited was covered in so many bugs that the floor was black and appeared to be moving. As I was crouched below a mass of large black winged beetles that were clinging to the wall, I decided to leave the door wide open, as I didn’t want to see what was behind the toilet door.
Before reaching the boarder, we disembarked at 6am, at a restaurant overlooking the picturesque Mekong River. As we ate breakfast here, our bus driver took our passports and visa applications including fee. Despite having paid for a direct bus to Laos, we were directed onto a double-decker bus which took us to the boarder where we awaited the return of our documents. At 9am we found ourselves on what I can only compare with a cardboard bus, its seats crawling with ants.
Finally, we were deposited at some sort of a bus station seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and waited for an overcrowded tuktuk to take us to the Vang Vieng town.
Which Bus Company To Use
As you would expect there are a number of companies offering bus services from Chiang Mai to Laos, and there are also many horror stories involving thefts, backpackers being left stranded in the middle of nowhere, bad bus companies, drivers demanding more money, amongst many others. So it can be pretty difficult deciding which tour company to use. Here, I’ve put a list together of some of the more reputable companies that many backpackers use, but it’s important you always keep your wits about you. Keep your valuables with you at all times and bear in mind if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Travel Hub Chiang Mai: Tours, Trekking & Travel