The Na Maew/Nam Xoi crossing opened in 2004 and for those coming from Vietnam it offers convenient access into the bookdocks of Laos' Hua Phan province. It is a short ride from the border to Sam Neau. To get there, we caught a bus from Sam Neua at 06:20 (although it didn't leave until 07:30) which ran all the way to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam (100,000 kip) arriving there about 16:30. There are lots of local buses north to Hanoi (three hours, 40,000 dong) from Thanh Hoa. In theory there should be a more direct way to Hanoi but it wasn't evident from the bus. Not sure if the bus runs every day - it is definitely the only bus that goes all the way through.
There are songtheaws to the border from Sam Neua for 21,000 kip but there isn't much on the Vietnamese side to pick you up.
The bus doesn't go into Vieng Xai so if you choose to stay there (not a bad option in my opinion - it makes more sense than doing a day trip if you are heading over the border) you would need to wait for it on the main road outside of town.
Nam Phao / Cau Treo
Convenient to the Lao town of Lak Xao and the large Vietnamese city of Vinh, this border is the crossing of choice for most overland travellers. Coming from Laos, the border is 34 km east of Lak Xao -- you can catch a bus to the border and then walk across to the other side, 500m away, and after entering Vietnam, find a connection to Vinh, about 100km away on the Vietnamese eastern coast, and from there to your city of choice in Vietnam. You'll need to have your Vietnamese visa in advance, of course. The border is open from 08:00 to 18:00 (or later, if the border guards don't feel like going home) and it 'closes' for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00, but they still sometimes process people during lunch just for the heck of it. Stamping out of Laos costs 2,000 kip during regular hours, 12,000 kip after 16:30 and on weekends and holidays. There is an exchange booth on the Laos side open during operating hours where you can pick up some dong at unattractive rates. Best to just pay in dollars on the other side (baht are harder to get rid of) and if you happen to pass through Pakse en-route, check out the Lao-Vietnam bank for a much better rate on dong.
PaulJaymes reports from 4th August, 2006: Vietnam border guards were very thorough with my passport and I nearly didn't get in. Transport is challenging but cross-border traders hanging around the bus station in Lak Sao will run you into Vietnam after filling up the rest of the bus with a lot of random cargo. Agree a price first but don't hand over any money until you're sure you're in Vinh or Hanoi (or wherever you're supposed to be going).
Dansavanh / Lao Bao
This was the first land border between Laos and Vietnam to open for international travellers, it was for a long time the most popular, but many now opt for the more northern crossing near Lak Xao instead. This crossing is convenient for Hue in Vietnam and Savannakhet in Laos.
NamCan / Nam Khan
Convenient to the Lao town of Phonsavan and the large Vietnamese city of Vinh, this border is the crossing of choice for most overland travellers. Coming from Vinh there are buses to Phonsavan departing at 6:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, costing 142,000 VND (100,000 Laos kip). The trip is 403 km and should take about 12 hours. Through buses to Luang Prabang leave at 06:00 as well, on Wednesdays and Sundays only. The 690 km journey costs 325,000 VND (216,000 Laos kip). Vietnamese passengers pay less (but then again, they pay taxes and you don't!) Lao visas on arrival are available.
dragon reports from 7 January 2007: There is a regular bus from Phonsavan (Laos) to Vinh (Vietnam) which leaves at 06:30 on Tuesday,Thursday, Friday and Sunday and takes about 13 hours to recah Vinh, costing 110,000 kip. It leaves Vinh the next day for the trip back. Expect all your bags to be checked on entering Vietnam.
Despite what you might hear elsewhere (especially from Vietnamese embassy officials) the border at Bo Y is wide open to foreigners, and now provides an interesting, if somewhat challenging, way to enter Vietnam. Of course, as ever, you'll need to have obtained a valid Vietnamese visa before hitting the border.
This entry point makes the most sense if you are winding up your Laos visit in the southeastern provinces of Salavan, Sekong and Attapeu, and you don't fancy making the ridiculously circuitous trip to the Lao Bao border via Savannakhet. You can also get to Attapeu from Pakse -- show up at the Southern Bus Terminal at the 8-kilometre market any time before 09:00 and something will be leaving eventually, usually before 10:30 -- price 30,000 kip. In that case, you probably won't be able to make it to Attapeu and cross the border in the same day, and you'll have to overnight in Attapeu. Better yet, plan several days -- Attapeu is a good little town and there are a number of interesting things to do.
In Attapeu, mini-buses for Bo Y leave in the morning from in front Thi Thi Restaurant -- the Vietnamese place near Thanh Nga Guesthouse, which the locals call "Ban Pak Khun Viet". Makes sense to spend the night there because mini-vans leave in the morning -- the first departure is at 07:00. There should be departures until 10:00, but don't count on it and arrive early. It's all very loosey goosey right now since the service is primarily used by Vietnamese migrant workers and everybody knows the drill. They also leave packed to the gills: there were 15 people in the ten-passenger van when we made the trip.
The price to Bo Y is 80,000 kip. It's 119km from Attapeu to Bo Y -- a nail-biting ride on incredibly twisty mountain roads which the drivers like to take as fast as they can. The scenery is beautiful, but if you're prone to motion sickness, take something for it. Two of the Vietnamese passangers lost their lunch on our trip (out the windows, thankfully!)
The border process is fairly straightforward, and there are no regular fees levied on either side. Once everyone is processed (which can take forever) the vans continue on to the town of Ngoc Hoi, 18km on the other side of the border. The entire process from Attapeu takes about three hours. Transport options are available from in Ngoc Hoi to just about anywhere you want to go, but many morning departures will require another overnight stay. There are plenty of places to stay right near the bus station, with very acceptable double rooms for US$10. Internet is located 300m west of the bus station on the right.
The nearest spot on the tourist trail is Kon Tum, 68km east of Ngoc Hoi -- there's only one bus in the afternoon, and it leaves at 17:00, 30,000 dong, takes 2 hours. It drops off in Kon Tum at the bus terminal 2km from the centre of town. This same bus continues to Saigon (150,000 dong).
Sop Hun / Tay Trang
This border has finally opened to international travellers. Khop chai lai lai to Matam for the following report who crossed the border in late July 2007:
To get into Vietnam, a bus leaves three times a week from Muang Khua on the Lao side for Dien Bien Phu on the Vietnamese side. The bus leaves at 07:00, and costs 40,000 kip. You cannot get a Vietnamese visa on arrival -- you must get it beforehand -- you will need to do it before hand in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng or Vientiane. In the opposite direction buses leave three times a week from Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua. I don't know the time scheduele or what exact days, nor the price -- ask at the bus station in Dien Bien Phu. However, you can get a Lao visa on arrival at the border.
Cambodia / Vietnam
Bavet / Moc Bai
This was the first crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam to open to foreign travellers and it remains easily the most popular. Daily buses regularly ply the Saigon - Phnom Penh route and the service is both fast and affordable.
Kaam Samnor / Ving Xuong
This very popular riverine crossing links from Cambodia to the Vietnamese town of Chau Doc. This crossing can be done on an organised deal by boat from Phnom Penh to Saigon, or you can do it piecemeal.
Phnom Den / Tinh Bien
Not far south of Chau Doc, this crossing is open to foreign travellers, though we've not crossed there in person. Luckily, sooeyes reports:
We crossed from Tinh Bien in Vietnam to Phnom Den on March 28th, 2007 and the Cambodian border official informed us that foreigners can now arrange a visa on arrival at this crossing. He didn't say how much it would cost. As far as getting to the crossing, we took mototaxis from Ha Tien (US$10) or you can take the bus, but the bus takes almost twice as long. Transport on the other side to Kampot is a little sparse, may be easier to get to Phnom Pehn. You can take a mototaxi or have one of the officials call a taxi from town. We paid US$55 to get to Kampot, but we had a Khmer speaker with us.
Prek Chak / Xa Xia
Yes, the Cambodia/Vietnam coastal border crossing is open and travellers with a valid Vietnamese visa can enter Vietnam at the Prek Chak / Xa Xia crossing a twenty minute motorbike ride from Kep. A moto to the border from Kep costs around US$7 and onwards transport to Ha Tien in Cambodia is available.
Le Thanh / O Yadao crossing NEW!
Left Pleiku at 8am, arrived Ban Lung just before 2pm, so this trip is just under six hours door to door. Border crossing on the Vietnamese side is called Le Thanh. The crossing on the Cambodian side is called O Yadao. In the Vietnam to Cambodia direction, the Cambodian Immigration officials insist that a visa for Cambodia is available upon arrival at O Yadao. I did not need to get a visa for Cambodia at their Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. In the Cambodia to Vietnam direction, as usual, a visa for Vietnam must be in your passport before heading for the border crossing.
At the bus station in Pleiku, two of the moto drivers who hang around out front speak English and are aware that this crossing is now open to foreigners. However, they want about 300,000 dong for a ride to Le Thanh from Pleiku. Alternatively, take a yellow local bus to Duc Co from the central market in Pleiku for about 15,000 dong and then a moto from Duc Co to Le Thanh. It is about 60km from Pleiku to Duc Co and then about 20 KM from Duc Co to Le Thanh. The road is paved and smooth all the way -- on the Vietnamese side. There is a huge new immigration building under construction at Le Thanh but for now, the old shack is still in use. It is just behind the new building. Vietnamese moto drivers hang around in the market just in front of the border station for a ride to Duc Co or Pleiku respectively.
Once past the Vietnamese Immigration officials, walk about 100 meters to the Cambodian Immigration station, where you will need to wait until someone offers a ride to Ban Lung. The front seat in a share taxi all to yourself is US$15 one way, which is the luxury way to go. A ride on the back of a moto is US$10, but be advised that the road on the Cambodian side is under reconstruction and is really dusty and bumpy all the way to Banlung. It is about 70km on this road so a ride in a share taxi really is the only way to go. In my case, one of the friendly Cambodian Immigration guys just happened to be going to Ban Lung in his car so he drove after stamping my passport. Four wheel drive trucks also do this run from time to time and a ride in the back would be cheaper but very miserable given the state of the road on the Cambodian side.
In Ban Lung, for the trip to Pleiku, there are a number of options. Firstly, simply visit the bus station / share taxi stand just in front of the main market to ask if anyone is going to O Yadao. A visa for Vietnam must be in your passport beforehand. Alternatively, stay at Nordic Guest House, just up the road from Yeak Laom Lake, where the management is up to date about how to get to O Yadao. Or contact Mr Lim, a tour guide in Banlung who takes people to the border crossing after showing them the countryside around Banlung. Contact him from inside Cambodia on either (012) 237 462 or (011) 578 458. When calling from overseas, drop the first 0 and add 855, the country code for Cambodia.
Vietnam / China
Mong Cai / Dong Hung
Mong Cai Border Gate is in the northeast of Quang Ninh Province, 176km from Halong City, 327km from Hanoi. From Halong City, along the highway 18 to Mong Cai Town, and then across the Mong Cai Border Gate to China.
Open till at least 18:00
Pauljaymes reports from 13th August 2006: The guy at the Vietnamese side didn't seem too bothered about anything, particularly details like taking my departure form and even stamping the forms of new arrivals. Make sure you get all the stamps you need. The Chinese side of the border is a building site and the huge immigration building with X-Rays and escalators looked brand new, but deserted and again no-one seemed particularly bothered about much. No visa on arrival was available.
Touts change Dong into RMB at reasonable rates once you pass through the arch on the Chinese side. I'm guessing when you're coming the other way you need to do this before you cross. As far as I could see there were no ATMs or banks anywhere so the touts may be your only option (and Dong and RMB are both unexchangeable so you'll be pushed to find any before you get there). A taxi to Pingxiang cost me 30RMB and a bus to Nanning was 50. Once in Nanning you can get a local bus for 2RMB into the city and there are plenty of ATMs/banks/moneychangers etc. So get a minimum of 100RMB per person at the border if you're heading for Nanning.
Coming the other way getting to Hanoi is likely to cost you about 100,000 dong. Shared taxis run from the border to Lang Son where you can pick up a variety of buses or the train to Hanoi. You'll probably need at least another 40,000 dong to get from the bus station in Hanoi to wherever you're staying in Hanoi, though taxis/motos will happily detour to ATMs if you need them to.
Lao Cai / Hekou border
Open daily 07:00 to 22:00
The closest border crossing to Sapa and Kunming, some nationalities, including Australians and some Europeans, can buy one-month Chinese visas on the spot on the Vietnamese side of the Lao Cai / Hekou border for US$45 -- processing takes an hour. But Brits, Americans and a list of others have to get visa'ed up in Hanoi. Be sure to check with us before you arrive at the border, and it probably makes sense to arrive with a visa in your passport in any case. Going the other way, of course, no visa on arrival is available.
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