Sleeping the miles away

by Poi on March 23, 2011

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Before arriving in Laos we’d heard all the stories of how dodgy public transport was. By the time we had got to Vientiane we had only made a few short journeys by minibus and not had any big problems (other than pot holes introducing our heads to the vans ceiling).

The next journey was to be our longest here, the trip between Vientiane and Pakse, an overnight sleeper bus. We booked the trip for 165,000 Kip per person which included transport from our guesthouse to the bus station, some water and a portion of fried rice to keep us alive.

Loas Sleeper BusVery Cosy

We’d heard the sleeper bus had double beds and weren’t quite sure how to take that. It turns out here are basically two levels of single sized  (maybe a few milometers more) flat beds running down the entire bus. Each (slightly bigger than single) bed is home to two people for the journey. They’re no the most comfirtable but a blanket and pillow are provided.

This set up works brilliant for couples or two close friends but for a solo traveller….. Be Warned: Unless you book two seats you’re going to end up making very good friends with someone over the next 12 hours.

I’d say this bus was comfier than the Vietnamese sleeper buses, but that could be because I was able to invade a lot of Kirsty’s space to fit. The length of the bed is probably about 5ft 5, perfect for Kirsty but a little on the short side for me.

Once we got the sleeping arrangements sorted we both slept quite well, only waking up a few times either through the heat or the drivers obsession with driving fast and breaking hard. On the whole the roads did not seem half as bad as I was expecting, maybe we got lucky?

Vientiane to Pakse by Sleeper Bus – The Details

The bus sets off at 8:30pm from the bus station in Vientiane and arrives in Pakse between 6:30 and 7am. If you have only booked to Pakse just walk left out of the bus station and into town, don’t be tricked into getting a tuk tuk into town, it’s a two minute walk into the centre (we learnt the hard way.)

If you’ve booked transport to the 4000 islands you’ll be loaded into a waiting minibus to complete the final two hours of your trip.

If you haven’t booked to the islands but want to continue there straight away (why didn’t you just book like everyone else?) there will be plenty of people around to sell you a ticket, somewhere between 50,000 & 70,000 kip. Buses leave around 8am near Nazims Indian Restaurant on the main road through town, it’ll be the only busy place you see.

Have you made this journey recently? We always appreciate hearing how it’s changed over the years.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

South America ME March 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Wow, Imagine if you only book the one seat and then have to share the “bed” with another.
Anyway, it looks like it’s a lot better than just trying to sleep in a chair.
South America ME´s last blog post ..Puerto Varas Cart – Photo of the week

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

So much better than a chair – we thought there might be enough room for people to have a bed each but no – of course it was packed.

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Monica March 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Oh I remember these ‘beds’. I was a little unsure at first too but being fairly small and only 5’3 I slept really well! It would be pretty awkward if you had to share with a stranger though!
Monica´s last blog post ..Blog for NZ

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

You must have fit perfect – height benefit!

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CanCan March 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Some people go for luxury and buy both seats for themselves. 🙂

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Poi March 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

I’m sure it would be a great nights sleep by yourself!

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Erica March 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Wow… that is a seriously small sleeping space. At least Kirsty is short! I think even if the beds were normal sized Shaun would still take up my space….
Erica´s last blog post ..Travel Photography – The Grand Canyon

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 9:57 am

Not on – fight him! Although with these size beds I had to give Poi some more space.

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Natalie March 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I think it is great that they provide beds. I hate falling asleep on buses and waking up with neck ache because I have fell asleep in a chair.
Natalie´s last blog post ..The Golden Sunset Of Kusadasi

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

All of the night buses we’ve had in SE Asia have had something close to a bed so it’s been great – those long day buses are tough though.

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Aisleen March 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Aww, this brings back so many memories for us! We went the opposite way to you guys – from Pakse to Vientiene! Yes, we didn’t get any sleep – RIchard took up most of the double bunk and I swear I nearly fell out 3 times throughout the night but was an experience I will never forget! The local people we shared the bus with were great – highly amused at watching us try and get comfortable!

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 10:01 am

haha it’s amazing how quickly the locals fall asleep, they were all completely put by the time we left the station – not like us

We were on the bottom bunk so the risk of falling wasn’t quite as high.

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Ashley February 13, 2014 at 6:28 am

Do you have any information regarding the bus trip in the opposite direction? Pakse to Vientiane??

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Poi February 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Hi Ashley, It was so long ago I’m afraid anything we did know would probably be out of date now. It’s a well travelled route so I’m sure you’ll be able to find some information out quite easily. Cheers.

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guy March 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm

I thought this was going to be a bus horror story… glad it wasn’t so bad!
Scott – Quirky Travel Guy´s last blog post ..Am I the only one who finds Kerouac’s On the Road boring

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 10:03 am

So did we! I’m so glad it wasn’t.

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Ayngelina March 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Wow I´m impressed it looks really comfy.
Ayngelina´s last blog post ..Learning to insult with Peruvian slang

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 10:04 am

Still got nothing on the soft sleeper trains in China – better than most the beds we’ve had in hostels.

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 25, 2011 at 2:19 am

Awww I think it would be kinda romantic!?!
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures´s last blog post ..The Bahamas- Day 5 Part 2

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 10:05 am

Sometimes Poi and I aren’t even friends on travel days let alone romantic haha

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Wandering Trader's Travels March 25, 2011 at 3:05 am

Lol. This would be really awkward if I had to share a bed with a man who’s a stranger to me. But you know, I think sharing a bed with a woman stranger would be even more awkward hahaha. At least I know now that I should book two seats on this sleeper bus if I’m traveling solo 😀

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

Thats half the problem – if you could line everyone up before the bus set off and choose who you wanted to snuggle with it wouldn’t be that bad!

I might pitch that to them?

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Wandering Trader's Travels March 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm

No, wait. I think it’s just a quarter of the problem. Lol. What if the person that you choose to be your “bed buddy” doesn’t want to BE your “bed buddy”? Hahahaha. That would be really disappointing :))

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Poi March 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

True then you’ve just embarrassed yourself in front of everyone and have to share the bed with someone who knows they weren’t your first choice haha

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Ali March 25, 2011 at 9:07 am

Hmm…I’ll be solo….not sure how I feel about sharing one of those with a stranger. Maybe I’ll meet another traveler before I get to that point who wants to share with me. It looks odd, but I’m sure it’s better than trying to sleep sitting up!
Ali´s last blog post ..Adventures in Flight Booking

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Kirsty March 25, 2011 at 10:09 am

It’s defiantly worth it but it’s a bit of Russian roulette with the partner – who will get the freak?

We were talking to two lads who met at a guesthouse about an hour before the bus left and decided to share a bed – I don’t think they were speaking when they got off haha

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Dan Collins March 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Is that Poi looking stunned from the flash in the reflection of the window? haha.

The beds look better than the chairs that recline in to a “bed” – one of the girls on our bus ended up lying in the isle to get some sleep!
Dan Collins´s last blog post ..Boat Tours- Bus Rides and Lady Boys – Bangkok

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Kirsty March 26, 2011 at 1:00 am

haha yeah it is – he told me to stop taking photos as it was blinding him! I prefer a flat bed, but not sure how much sleep I would get next to a randomer!!

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Jeremy March 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Oh man, I would welcome that bus over some of the ones I’ve had on my trips in Asia. Overnight buses are the worst in my opinion (From what I have done). I’d be completely freaked out if I had to split the bed with someone though.

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Kirsty March 26, 2011 at 1:00 am

Exactly I felt for anyone travelling solo that night!!

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Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am

Haha I traveled solo on one of those buses! Had to share my bed with this VERY tall British fellow who wasn’t too pleased with the arrangement. We got along fine though and it turns out he used to live in the same city as me (NYC)!

When I did this a year ago, not all bus lines arrived at the same station in Pakse and, in my situation, the center of town was NOT two minutes away.
Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures´s last blog post ..Say What Travel Photo- Fear Factor

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Poi April 2, 2011 at 8:48 am

haha there’s always gonna be someone who ends up with the tall guy, good you managed to get along with him or it could have been a lot worse.

Oh right, there is a small bus station now, basically a car park, where all the buses turned up.

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Charles McCool April 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Looks fun, depending of course on your bunk mate.
Charles McCool´s last blog post ..Currency Trading

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Shaun December 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I would not mine sharing the bed with a hot member of the opposite sex 🙂 Although I might not actually fit in the bed as I’m 6’4 lol

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Simon P March 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Just killing time in a cafe in Vientiane before embarking on the same trip. I’m freaking out. I’ve already had two completely sleepless nights on Vietnamese sleeper buses. Fortunately we do have a double bed and my girlfriend is quite a bit shorter than me – maybe there’s hope for me yet.

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Jon January 31, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Need to ask you… Is it true that if I am traveling alone from V to Pakse, I have to pay double for the bed, or that the bus company would help me to get another person to share the bed with? Or do you have any suggestion on how I could get a travel partner for the bus – e.g., any help from hostel?

Do I need to stay one night in Vientiane? Is there anything much to see there?

How much did you pay for the pre-book seat for the van to 4000 islands?

Thank you/
Jon´s last blog post ..Backpacking in Myanmar: Yangon – Inle Lake – Mandalay – Bagan – Yangon

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David Miranda September 18, 2016 at 3:19 am

I probably had the worst experience, i bought my ticket 15 minutes before departure of the bus, and i ve got one bed shared with 5, yes, 5, and “sleeping” bitween two unkown people, which, after all the turns we end up one over the other ans obviously with no sleep at all, so, good experience, but if you have a few extra bucks, go for a fly ticket

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