OUR JOURNEY

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam - travel planning logistics

Logistics

Logistics for our trip (Nov 2019 to Feb 2020) hopefully it will be useful for your trip.

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Thailand

Bangkok airport

After passing through arrivals we descended one level following the signs for buses. As we exited the building and crossed the road, there was a sign in front of one bus saying express bus - Khoa San Road (amongst other places). We boarded and waited for about 20 minutes before the driver and ticket lady arrived. We purchased our ticket (60 bhat) per person on the bus. It was an old bus, but had air conditioning. It filled up quickly and some people were sat on the floor. We were dropped near the junction to Khoa San road. Bus stop location

Money Bangkok

Loads of ATMs
Best rate we found for money exchange was on Khoa San road. Exchange places seemed to open from around mid day onwards.
ATM cash card withdraw fees 220 bhat

Our Hotel in Bangkok (we recommend it)

We stayed at a hotel a few blocks from Khoa San road that had a Pool. We paid about £18 for a double room per night.
Mango Lagoon Place Hotel

Train Bangkok to Chaing Mai

We purchased our tickets before arriving in country. The only (but great option) appeared to be 12GO agency. You reserve via their online platform and state the seats/bed option etc lower/ Upper bed etc and what option to take if those tickets are not available. We asked for lower beds (the system only showed 9 beds available on the entire train) but we started we would accept upper bunks. We paid for lower bunks but were give the difference back when we picked up the tickets as only the slightly cheaper upper bunks were available. We picked the train tickets up from the 12go office, conveniently located opposite Bangkok train station. The 12go offices had free coffee, water and sweets! 12Go website

Catching the train. We waited in the main waiting hall, sat on the floor - limited seating. Our train arrived 30 minutes before departure. Departure boards and screens in the waiting hall (in English) clearly mark platforms and departure times.

On arrival in Chaing Mai, there weren't tuc tucs but red pickup style taxis. We were offered Bhat 50 per person but got it down to Bhat 30. We were staying just north of the old city in a hotel with a beautiful pool. We paid about £15 for a double room. Changpuak Hotel - we recommend it.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Visit
Taxis leave from here They wait till they fill up before leaving, or give you the option to pay more to leave sooner. The trip takes about 45 each way. The taxi waits for you for 90 when you arrive. bhat 60 per person one way.

Bus Chaing Mai to Pai

Leaves Chiang Mai bus station 2 (opposite bus station no. 3!) Location there is a small building on the corner of the compound. Company Prempracha Transport, tickets Bhat 150 one way. Allocated seats, several small minibuses on each departure. Book early (day before) unless you can be felixible on timings or seats. Note: 762 curves in the road. If you don't travel well book early and get front seat. https://premprachatransports.com/

Pai Hotel.

A nice hotel about 1.5km from the centre. They have a pool. Double room with air con, fan and fridge for about £10 a night, cheaper rooms and dorms available. JJ&J Garden - we recommend it.

Pai Excursion

Half day sightseeing tour cost us Bhat 300 per person. Included the White Buddha, Bamboo bridge and Canyon at Sunset amongst others.

Money In Pai

ATMs loads on main street and elsewhere.
Saw at least two exchange places. Both opened after mid day.

Bus Chaing Mai to Chaing Rai or Chaing Khong

Bus station no.3 (next to bus station no. 2 (see above)

Greenbus Thailand - download the Android or iOS app for times and prices. We took the cheapest service at 13:15 as we were travelling from Pai. It was 'A' Class. Comfortable seats did some reclining.It doesn't have a toilet but sops every couple of hours for a break. It does have air conditioning though :)

Border Crossing

Notes on Chiang Khong to Huay Xai border crossing Thailand to Laos)

Border open from 8am
Don't change Tai money for Laos money on the Thailand side - poor exchange rate.
Walk straight to Thai immigration counter and present passport with immigration card (note there is a sign about filling out a form - ignore it)
Thai immigration will take photo and scan you fingerprints.
Make sure you recieve a Thai exit stamp in your passport.
Immediately after immigrations you can purchase the bus ticket for the transfer bus across the bridge. It costs Bhat 20per person (+ Bhat 10 for large bags, + Bhat 5 if you travel before 8:30am or after 4:00pm)

Journey is only a few minutes.
Alight the bus and head to the right to 'Visas on Arrival'
You will pass a bank/exchange: change money here if you wish.
Visa on arrivals. There is a box outside window '1' with 2 x immigration forms. Complete both.
Remember a pen.
Once both forms completed, present to window '1' with your passport an 1 x photo (you don't pay visa yet)
They will take your photo and tell you to wait at window '2'

At window '2' your passport will be returned with half of the one of the forms you filled out, plus a bar code to scan to pay your visa.

Your passport will now have your visa inside.

Proceed past immigration counters (unmanned) to the bank behind with your bar code to scan.
Pay your fee: (UK citizens us$35). Pay in us$, change given in us$

Once paid, you will be given a receipt with another bar code to scan to get through the barriers.

Immediately on the other side is another bus counter for arranging transport to bus station/Huay Xai. Prices are displayed on a board.

We went through the border at 8am. It took us just over one hour for the whole process.

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Laos

Laos Money

ATM's all over the place
Comission:
KIP 20,000 for KIP 1,000,000 withdraw with JDB ATM. transaction
KIP 50,000 for KIP 1,500,000 transaction with BCEL

SIM Card

Various companies, I used unitel
SIM card KIP 1000 plus
Credit KIP 50,000 with 5GB Data, lasts for 30 days. Other packets available. Put you SIM card in at the place you buy it and get them to help you set it up.

Lueng Namtha

Bus station is actually 8km from centre of town. Can only buy tickets for day of travel, not days in advance.

Lueng Namtha Hotel

Thoulasith Guesthouse. Double room with ensuite and Aircon KIP 150,000 night

Bikes can be hired to cycle the Luang Namtha valley route - about 35 kms.

There are two bike hire places on the main street, prices range from KIP 15,000 for a basic single gear bike to KIP 30,000 for a trek mountain bike - but bikes are in poor repair! Helmets available, but again chek them carefully. We were provided with a lock but no puncture repair kit. Bike Route Map

Logistics 2 Laos

Mekong River Cruise

Our two day slow boat Mekong River cruise with Smile cruises between Huay Xai, Pak Beng & Luang Prabang.

The trip cost us$ 30 each and included the boat, side trips, and lunches. Not included was the nights accommodation in Pak Beng. We were lucky that there were only 13 people on this trip do we had plenty of space on board.

We booked on the promotion with Smile Cruises. They were really quick to respond to emails and the booking process was really easy. Their promotion dates can be found here: http://www.mekongsmilecruise.com/2-day-promotion-mekong-cruises-downstream-huay-xai-to-luang-prabang/

Luang Prabang

We flew from here to Hanoi with Lao Airlines, purchasing our ticking from their booking office in Luang Prabang.

Vietnam Visa.
We purchased our visa from the consulate in Luang Prabang.
Same day visa us$80
Next day visa us$65
48 hours visa us$55

Open 8am to 11.30 & 13.30 to 17.00 Monday to Friday. Closed sat and sun.
The process was quick, it took us less than 30 mins. Remember to take passport photo. There is free WiFi in building, free map and toilet.

Vietnam

(For visa see Luang Prabang - Laos, above)

SIM card

I purchases on in Hanoi with Viettel, I went to their sales office in the Old Quarter in Hanoi paid us12 forv15gb valid for 1 month, they will set the card up for you. Excellent service.

On arrival at Hanoi airport we took the no. 86 bus which dropped is off on the main bypass about 5 blocks from the Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter lake. Tickets 3500d, purchased on the bus. Scam - others buses close by and drivers have clipboard with no. 85 bus 4000d, they will say they are the no. 86 bus. They are not. They dont actualy have a number on the front of the bus. Look for the official signed bus stop.

Hotel in Hanoi: https://www.booking.com/hotel/vn/graffiti-house-old-quarter-ha-noi.en.html?aid=1723280&no_rooms=1&group_adults=1
The entrance is via a paint shop! Highly recommended, we would stay there again. modern, clean rooms and terrace with kitchen facilities on the 7th floor. No lift!

Sapa

Inter bus has daily services but be aware some seat belts faulty and our driver spent an excessive amount on time on the phone while driving.