How to get easy from Bangkok or Chiang Mai to Pakse in Laos and than to Don Det or Don Khong

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 travelers that did it very complicated or paid way too much. Taking one or two Minibuses to the border and another one 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.

Update

Since I wrote that post things changed! Now you can get a joint ticket Bus/Bus or Van/Bus from Bangkok to Pakse as well. Makes it more easy for you. Unfortunate I could not find a way to book it online. So you have to book with a travel agent or go to the Chatuchak bus terminal and get a ticket there. The last information was that you should get it 3 days in advance to ensure a seat on the bus!

Get the ticket at the windows 22 – 25. This is, of course, a night bus that leaves at around 19:00. Be sure to have your passport, cash and the pictures for the visa on you. Usually, the hold stays closed till after the border. Be aware that this bus stops 8 km outside of Pakse and you have to fork more cash to get a Tuk Tuk into town.

Or you do the trip like me:
I have the times from 12go down in the box. You can also book your ticket there! (Affiliate link – you might contribute towards a beer for me if you book here!)

Bus Bangkok - Ubon Ratchathani $ 13.68–22.86 8h 50m – 11h 45m
  •   Express 07:00, 08:00, 14:30, 16:15, 19:10, 19:30, 20:00, 21:00, 21:10, 21:30, 21:40, 21:45
  •   VIP 18:00, 19:15, 19:50, 19:55, 20:00, 20:05, 20:25, 20:30, 20:50, 21:10, 21:30, 21:35
  •   VIP24 06:50, 18:00, 20:00, 20:30, 21:15
Train Bangkok - Ubon Ratchathani $ 18.84–55.64 10h 20m – 12h 15m
  •   2nd Class AC seats only 21:30
  •   1st Class Sleeper 20:30, 21:30
  •   2nd Class Sleeper AC 18:55, 20:30, 21:30
  •   Class II Ladies Only 20:30
  •   2nd Class Fan seats only 15:20
Flight Don Mueang Airport - Ubon Ratchathani $ 54.47–164.04 1h – 1h 15m
  •   Economy 06:10, 07:45, 07:50, 09:30, 10:10, 11:00, 12:05, 12:30, 13:20, 15:20, 15:30, 18:00, 18:50, 19:15, 19:30

Laos 2013
This is the ticket counter

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 minibuses that go to the border as well but then 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 an underpass – 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.

Visa on Arrival

If you want to 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 ready 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.
Do not be stupid!
If you have a new passport it looks just the same as the other one. Especially the European ones. I saw a post in a Facebook forum once where one girl got her passport only to find out it was the passport of a French guy that was long gone. They do not really look who is outside of the window all the time. So you better put a sticker at the front and back of your passport. This way you see if somebody gets your passport or you know which on is yours if the wrong one comes out of that window. (If they still do the window thing nowadays)

On the other side 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 were a millionaire? Here you are right after you get your cash from the ATM!! And it is a better rate than all the money changer on Don Det will give you. I saw an ATM on Don Khong – there is none (at the time of writing) 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 then 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 center – it should be 10.000 Kip. Inside the market, there is an area of 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! Then 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!
Make sure that the bus driver confirms the right island. I ended up on the “wrong” one which was also nice as I could take a boat to the other on the next morning and the view from the restaurant on the river bank was great!

Laos 2013
Ubon bus station

Laos 2013
I was way to early so I had to wait and wait and wait and the coffee shop did not open….

Laos 2013
Songthaew to the bus station

Bus to Don Khong
The first Beerlao after the border at the market: 10.000 Kip

Don Det
A bus at the station

Laos 2013
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 would 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!!

Laos 2013
The “engine” of the ferry

Laos 2013
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

Laos 2013
Finally on Don Det. After a few days I wanted to be back on Don Khong again. Well well

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A few Pictures from Pai

Somehow it seems that i do nothing but than where did the time go?? Meeting friends every day – chillaxing, having beers and talk. And a lot of fun as well. More and more friends are on the way!

Pai 2013
In the Bus up from Chiang Mai to Pai

Pai 2013
My bag makes even a nice pillow

Pai 2013
Lazy Paicat in the Morning

Pai 2013
My “Welcome Back” Khao Soi

Pai 2013
At Mike’s Place

Pai 2013
The new Blah Blah Bar

Pai 2013

Pai 2013
Hello Pare

Pai 2013
View from the Bungalow

Pai 2013

Pai 2013
Sleep well Rabbit

To give you an idea about the bus trip up from Chiang Mai to Pai i took a short video. One of the last busses where the door stays open all the time. Sitting on a big bag of rice – off to Pai we go. 5 hours of looking out the door and listen to musik.

A few Pix from Chiang Mai and the Ride to Pai

What a fantastic day – today. Went to bed at 3 in the morning and had a really fun night. Got up at 9 – well that is not really nice. Breakfast and some internet. Than i wanted to visit Chris – like last time he wanted to come to my place and we did meet in the middle. He was on the way to give back the motorbike so we went back to my place and took the gasoline. I can use this to go to Lapilu for the Lisu New Year. Than quick to Aya to return the bike. The plan was to go to his place and say Hi to the girl. Ha! It took us over one hour to get to the bridge. 1st stop at Num and Weo to get the bicycle. Than we die meet the swiss guy before the 1st corner. At Good Live there was the rest of the crew – so talk to everybody for a few minutes. Than we walked 20 meters – the Catalans where coming – a few minutes later and a few meters later the German guy with the hat was coming. A few minutes later as we passed Yellow Sun Tee did sit there. Than we did meet Mike but he was in a hurry so that was fast.

Finally we managed to get to Shangri La. Went for a coffee with Lara. We did not find the Japanese place but another nice one. Had a nice chat with a guy from Canada over coffee.
On the way to the road we did meet the old Italian – ok lets have a papaya salad. Than i took off to visit Mike in his house. There was the nice French girl that sings so well. We had coffee, bread with salted butter and guacamole.
Than she even gave me a lift home – what do you want more??
Soon the crew will meet at the Happy Table and the TGIF evening will start!

Chiang Mai

Eli and Ivan – they did not come to SE Asia for 2 winters but now they are back. Allways a pleasure to meet them 🙂

Chiang Mai

Coffee with a smile – Thailand!

Chiang Mai

Off to AYA Service to get a bike

Chiang Mai

More than 700 bends to Pai – a lot of Thai can not handle that

Chiang Mai

Fuck – i did manage to pick the only day when it rained. And i do not talk drizzle – i talk heaven opened the gates kind of water from the sky. Of course i was soaked after a few minutes.

Chiang Mai

What a nice way to bring your dogs with you on a trip