Getting to Vang Vieng from Thailand

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Getting to Laos from Thailand. This post is about the journey from Kanchanaburi Thailand, to Bangkok, to Nong Khai on to Laos, Vientiane, and on to Vang Vieng.

Thailand to Vang Vieng journey and photos.
The journey from Thailand (Kanchanaburi, then Bangkok, the sleeper train to Nong Khai (Thailand) and the tuk tuk to the Laos border, then the minibus to Vang Vieng. While Vientiane is closer to the Thai/Laos border, on this trip we wanted to head straight to beautiful Vang Vieng.

We had to get out of Thailand, we loved Kanchanaburi and were very happy just chilling there, but our visa was running out and we needed to move. We decided on Laos, to the north. If you want more information on Kanchanaburi and things to do there, we have that.

Getting to Laos (Vang Vieng) from Thailand

There are quite a few routes into Laos from Thailand these days. Travel in Thailand is generally pretty easy for backpackers or tourists. From Kanchanaburi we needed to get back to Bangkok and then take a sleeper train, either to Chiang Mai or Nong Khai, we picked Nong Khai. We’ll come back into Thailand later, on a longer visa and do the Chiang Mai area (one of our old-favourite parts of Thailand) and take a road trip to see Northern Thailand’s highlights. including the long neck villages near the Burmese border.

27 Hours of Travel with 2 Children Went Surprisingly Well!

The best way to book travel in Thailand and Laos is to use this website, but bus, train, taxi, minivan, even flights.

The stages of the journey into Laos are as follows.

1. Minibus from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok, 130 Baht each, 3 hours of hair-raising driving. Overtaking on the inside, on the mud, was a particular highlight!

2. Taxi from Khao San Rd. Bangkok, to Hua Lamphong Train Station, 51 Baht (the taxi driver used his meter)

Sleeper train to Laos from Thailand
The Bangkok to Non Khai sleeper train.Somebody makes the beds up once everyone has finished eating and drinking, in the morning they convert them back to seats again, it’s all really civilised!

3. Train from Bangkok to Non Khai, The train to Non Khai was an 8pm departure Hua Lamphong station, Bangkok. With a 9.30 am arrival at Non Khai, 2 hours delayed. We went 2nd class A/C. 2nd class non A/C is cheaper, but we didn’t like the idea of all the open windows with the current Dengue fever mosquito problem here. Both classes of Thai train are perfectly comfortable and great fun. Washrooms were clean. You can buy food and beer (there is now no alcohol on these trains) on the train, we bought breakfast for the children. I love trains, generally, everything from The Trans Siberian Express to the little train to Kanchanaburi, it’s a great way to see a country and relax as you go.

Food on the train from Bangkok to Laos
Breakfast on the train from Bangkok to Laos.

4. Weird motorbike tuk tuk from Non Khai station to Laos Border The tuk tuk to the Laos border cost 200 Baht. Because the train was delayed, which it often is, we’d missed the train to the border, there are plenty of tuk tuks waiting for the train to arrive.

Laos border crossing from Bangkok Thailand
Motorbike tuk tuk to the Laos border from Non Khai station

5. Shuttle bus from the Laos / Thailand border over the bridge into Laos The shuttle bus cost us 60 Baht (our younger child was free)

6. Tuk Tuk into Vientiane The tuk tuk to Vientiane cost us 200 Baht. We’ve been to Vientiane before, we know there’s not that much to do there (but the Monster of Concrete and COPE museum are cool) and the traffic fumes were terrible, so we shot through ASAP. We’ll have to go there anyway on the way back to get the 60 day Thai visa. The main Dengue fever outbreak seems to be around Vientiane.

7. Mini bus to Vang Vieng   The mini bus to Vang Vieng from Vientiane cost us 770 Baht for 3 seats. with our younger child free. The bus took 3.5 hours (about $29 AU). There is a regular bus that would have been cheaper, but it takes 5 hours and wasn’t due to leave for over an hour, we wanted to be in Vang Vieng before dark. The mini-bus guys hang around the bus station looking for customers, we had to negotiate a price and they let the 2 boys count as 1 person. The scenery was absolutely stunning, and watching rural life in the villages was fabulous, the children loved seeing the rice fields where people were busy working by hand and dodging all the livestock on the road.

Getting The Laos Visas at The Thailand / Laos Border

The children are great when we’re actually moving, they look out of the window, chat, read and sleep, it’s waiting and standing around that doesn’t go too well. Particularly standing in barely moving queues wearing heavy packs. There is a lot of paperwork involved, I stood in the queue while The Chef filled in the forms. Do the same, you’ll save a lot of time.

train to Laos from Thailand
A 2 hour wait at Hua Lamphong Train Station, Bangkok. D (9) is reading all the Narnia books on my Kindle, he’s happy. Boo found another little boy to play with.

Pay for the Laos visa in US dollars, not Baht, we saved about $100 for the 4 of us, it’s much cheaper. There is a place to exchange money on the Laos side of the border. We have a 30 day Laos visa, which we can extend if we want to stay longer.

Vang Vieng Laos from Thailand
Beautiful Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is a lovely riverside town in Laos, once famous for riotous drunken river tubing, now cleaned up by the Laos government after a number of tragic deaths. Vang Vieng is still beautiful  A sleepy little town, it’s full of guest houses and eateries now.

The chef and I went tubing in Vang Vieng 20+ years ago, the drunken part hadn’t really started then, it was just about drifting down the river on an inflatable tube, the riverside bars catering to bikini-clad tubers came later. I’m glad it’s stopped, rivers and drinking don’t mix, but I wonder if all the businesses that have sprung up on the back of the tubing crowd will survive, everywhere is very quiet here.

The river is really fast flowing at the moment, I don’t think we’ll take the children tubing, kayaking is probably a safer  bet. (We did take them tubing, and caving twice in the end because it was so much fun the first time.)

It’s pretty, it’s quiet, and the accommodation is cheap and good ($16 for 3 beds, TV, air-con, en suite and WiFi), so I think we’ll stay in Vang Vieng a while. Read our post on things to do in Vang Vieng here. Or go to our Laos travel page.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

14 thoughts on “Getting to Vang Vieng from Thailand”

  1. We’ll have to check out Vang Vieng, sounds pretty good. We’re leaving for Thailand tomorrow and should be there for 3 months, spending about a month up in Chiang Mai. Then we’ll be heading off to the surrounding countries. Laos is high on our list too.

    • We should overlap in Chiang Mai by a couple of weeks, see you there! We’re learning to love Luang Prabang, too, it was hard to adjust to, but after a week it’s really grown on us. Don’t miss Laos, it’s wonderful!

  2. That train looks pretty cool! So sorry to hear that Boo has been sick. Poor guy.

  3. PS: I also wanted to ask you: did you & the kids wear repellant while you were touring around BKK? any type/brand you recommend?

    • Hi Lyndel, I just Googled the Dengue situation in Laos and got a nasty shock, 20,000 cases at the moment I believe. Bad all over Thailand and just about everywhere at the moment too, worst year for 10 years. It looked to us as if Vientiane and the south were the worst hit parts of Laos so we didn’t bother stopping there. Not too bad here and no cases reported for Luang Prabang. All we used before we left Kanchanaburi was natural citronella/ tee tree stuff, we bought it with us. We picked up some DEET there which we used for the train day. Now I’m back on the natural, I don’t like DEET at all. Every 7-11 in Thailand sells repellents, plus there are plenty of pharmacies all over Thailand that sell stuff. You may struggle a bit in Laos, but I haven’t looked. We haven’t been very careful at all, we hardly saw a mozzy in Bangkok or Kanchanaburi, a few here. I always carry a can of spray in case any get into our room, nuke the room and go out for a while, particularly under beds and curtains. D picked up 1 bite on the train, through his shirt, so I’m a bit anxious about that. Yep, the Laos government are very cool indeed the way tourism is organised, it seems that every guest house is required to charge the same price and have the same facilities, 12000 Kip for a triple, it’s the same everywhere! We’re taking a twin bed room for the next few weeks to take it down to 90,000. The beds are huge! Good luck with your trip, hope to run into you!

      • Alyson,
        Thanks a lot for your reply. very helpful. DEET sucks but we are so worried about the bites. yes, hope to run into you too. If you stay in Chiang Mai for a while, we will be there early November.
        Take care

        • Hi Lyndel, today Boo has a typical Dengue fever rash, is a bit off colour, quiet, off his food a little, last night he complained of pains in his arm. He may have had a slight fever yesterday, when we were kayaking, but I wasn’t even worried enough to get my thermometer out. I’m 99.9% certain he has Dengue, if so, he’s got it very mildly.He hasn’t had one mosquito bite that I know of, his brother has had quite a few.I’m a little bit relieved, it’s not the devastating sickness I was expecting, a little bit more worried, it’s further exposures that are more severe. I thought you’d like to know. According to Wikipedia 80% of people with Dengue are asymptomatic, I’m wondering if the severe headache, nausea and fever I had for one afternoon in Bangkok was my dose.

          • Alyson,
            thanks for your follow up as I am very interested in all of this. I am sorry to Boo is sick–have you thought of getting a blood test so you can know for sure? If he is positive, that means the 2nd time can have complications, right? and that is tough if one is asymptomatic, bc you could have had it and then get the more serious variety next time. Keep me posted on his recovery, and I hope your other one does not fall ill as well. who knows, with all of our traveling pre-kids, we may have had it and did not know it. I can tell you 10- 15 years ago, I was NOT thinking about Dengue or anything else dangerous for that matter….
            thanks again

            • Not worth sticking needles in him Lyndel, I’m sure enough he has it.There is a small hospital in Vang Vieng, we saw it yesterday, but if anyone was really sick we’d be heading back to Thailand. I was really surprised when I Googled the Dengue rash, it looks like pimples, pretty distinctive. We live with Dengue in Australia, plenty of people we know have been really sick with it ( so they say, or maybe just wanted time off work?), I wonder how many have had it and just haven’t realised? We didn’t know about Dengue last time we travelled like this, either, I’m pretty certain we didn’t even use mosquito repellent.

  4. Thanks for this post! I am wondering how you are staying up to date about Dengue. SInce we arrive in VN in about one month and will definitely be all over Thailand, I would love to know your source. The CDC here in the US is not always to the moment.
    I am glad to know that the tubing has stopped in VV. I too was there 10 years ago before the craziness and I was sad to hear what had developed there. Good choice, Lao government! Love that place. happy travels!

  5. Can’t get over how much your older boy looks like you! It all looks really lovely and I’m sure you’re glad to have some adult company, now The Chef has rejoined you. I assume he wrapped up Australia successfully?

    • He’s a clone Kate! It’s really quite nice. Yep, chef is here and everything was wrapped up back in Port Douglas, other than the house rental, it’s still on the market unfortunately.

  6. That photo above with the river and mountains looks absolutely glorious.

    Can’t wait to hear more about Chiang Mai – my partner wanted us to live there a few years ago.

    Enjoy it all – I’m starting to get very jealous the more I read.



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