Step by Step Experience report on how to transfer from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang with Bus.
After lots of questions, and promises, we booked the 9 am VIP bus transfer from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang for 80,000 kip (approx. €9; USD$10) per person. Pictures were shown of a huge coach bus with reclining seats and a washroom along with reassurances of VIP comfort. The sales lady actually got a little angry at the fact that we were not trusting her!
They lied! We were picked up late and driven to the “bus”. The “station” was 15 minutes out of town, basically in the middle of nowhere. Our VIP transport was a crappy little bus which was already packed full, leaving us the middle jump seat and a wheel well bump seat. Due to the location, we had little choice but to bite our tongue and sit down. We later discovered everyone on the bus had paid different prices and booked anything from van to bus to VIP bus and told it would take anywhere from 4 hours to 8 hours.
Our first stop, for 1/2 hour, was at 11:30 am. You could, if you chose to, buy something to eat, go to the washroom and stretch your legs. I definitely needed to stretch my legs, as they were stuck in my neck from the cramped position on the bump. After double relief, we reluctantly crawled back onto the bus as the driver started beeping the horn, signalling time to leave.
The bus slowly snaked it’s way up, down and twisting around the mountains, as too many fellow passengers slept and watched movies, oblivious to the beauty around them. I caught myself holding my breath every time we passed a slower moving truck, gasping in awe at the incredible, breathtaking scenery. Tiny villages built on stilts perched precariously on the sides of the mountains, kids walking and riding bicycles carelessly on the side of the narrow road, dust and dirt mixing with the occasional nauseating smell of tar where road sections were being repaired. Bumping, grinding, winding up, down and around the mountains. Not a place for those with motion sickness!
The next stop was at 2:45 pm at some questionable place which demanded 2,000 kip (.25 cents) for the very disgustingly dirty toilet. We bought 2 sandwiches for 30,000 (15,000 each / USD$1.75) and the bus hit the road again by 3 pm. The driver informed us (or so we all thought) it would take about 2 more hours.
Pretty much as forecasted by the driver, we arrived in Luang Prabang at 5:30 pm. We negotiated 20,000 kip (USD$2.50) per person (pre-pay) with a local for a tuk tuk to town, and were subsequently led to our transportation which was filled with people and were off. In retrospect, we should have walked out the gates where there were a lot of tuk tuks and we probably could have gotten a much better price – live and learn. Hind sight is fore sight!
?Tip: several people told us there is no VIP bus, so keep that in mind
After note: We bumped into pack friends later who had taken the mini van. They said it took 4 hours, but almost everyone was sick... they felt it was the combination of windy, bumpy & fast = sick?!