How to get from Thailand to Don Det or Don Khong in Laos if you do not want to take a tourist bus all the way from Khao San Road or you are somewhere else in Thailand and do not want to go to Bangkok before heading to Laos. I did meet so many travellers that did it very complicated or paid way to much. Taking a Minibus to the border and another to Pakse, got ripped off by taxi drivers and so on. So i decided to write down the easy way! There is for sure a cheaper one but this is the right mix of comfort and price.
How to get fast and cheap from Thailand to Don Det or Don Khong in Laos
From Bangkok or Chiang Mai take a Night Bus to Ubon Ratchathani that get you to the bus station before 08.50 in the morning! From Bangkok you can also take the night train if you like.
At the bus station in Ubon Ratchathani you buy a ticket for the International Bus to Pakse for 200 bath. There are mini buses that go to the border as well but than you have to find another one on the other site and you never know how much they charge you and how long it takes for them to leave. Usually they wait till they are full!
The first bus leaves at 9 in the morning. So it does not really make sense to be there very early. The counter opens at 8.30 – before they do not sell you a ticket anyway!
The bus stops at the border and you go to the Thai immigration. After your stamping is done leave the building and you see a under pass – on the other site keep walking straight till you see the Laos immigration. If you have your visa you fill out the form that is given to you in the bus and give it with the passport to a hand that reaches for it from inside the immigration office.
If you want do do a Visa on Arrival bring a passport picture and check the internet how much you have to pay!!! It is not the same for all countries! You want to bring US $ to do that (there is a 1 US $ stamp fee on top of the visa fee!!). If you pay in Thai Bath be prepared to pay 100-200 bath more than the guy in front of you that paid in US $. Now you turn right and go 4 meters to the end of the building. Turn left and wait till your passport gets handed out of another window by another hand. It might be the same that took it but that is hard to tell.
On the other site of the Immigration Office are a few shops, Duty Free and a bank with a working ATM!! They charge you 20.000 Kip fee so you should get a large sum at a time. Hey – when was the last time you where a millionaire? Here you are right after you get your cash from the ATM!! And it is a much better rate than all the money changer on Don Det will give you. I saw a ATM on Don Khong – there is none on Don Det. There is also a Bank with ATM and a Money Changer at the market in Pakse if you go there. But why not get cash right here as you have to wait for the other passengers that get the visa anyhow??
Once in Pakse the bus will usually not stop at the Bus Terminal – it stops at the office of the company somewhere in Pakse. You should ask the bus driver if they continue to the Bus Terminal to save yourself another trip in a shared taxi. If not than you take one from the street. It was 10.000 Kip in 2013 and of course they tell you it is 20.000 or even more. Do not pay more or get another one that drives down the street. There are motorcycle taxis for up to 2 people Pick-Ups and small busses converted into taxis. The Pick-Ups and busses are called Songthaew in Thailand and Laos.
If you are hungry and want the best food – take a shared transportation to the market in the city centre – it should be 10.000 Kip. Inside the market there is an area with food. All the long term farangs i talked to told me that this is the best place to get food in Pakse if you are on a budget or want “real” food! Than take another shared transportation to the bus station. Should be 10.000 Kip again.
Ask at the Bus Station for transportation to Don Det or Don Khong – 30.000 to 40.000 Kip to the ferry that brings you over to the island. You should get the bus from Thailand at 9 in the morning as you need almost a full day to get to Don Det from there!
Ubon bus station
This is the ticket counter
I was way to early so i had to wait and wait and wait and the coffee shop did not open….
Songthaew to the bus station
The first Beerlao after the border at the market: 10.000 Kip
A bus at the station
I went to Don Khong for one night – guess the bus driver did not really understand or he simply lied to me. We did reach the ferry quite late and the only transport that night would have been a motorcycle that ould have been 50.000 to the Don Det ferry. If there would be ferry service at that time in the night? I do not think so!!
The “engine” of the ferry
The next morning i did meet Hélène. She read on facebook that i was on the “wrong” island and came to visit me before i had the boat down to Don Det
Finally on Don Det. After a few days i wanted to be back on Don Khong again. Well well
GHTime Code(s): nc