SaPa to Luang Prabang
Although we endured an extensive 25 hour bus journey! This route is possible and saves going back to Hanoi to then cross the border over to Luang Prabang.
From SaPa town you can get a ticket from Athena guesthouse or 12goAsia in advance, direct to Luang Prabang.
First leg is SaPa town direct to Dien Bien. This is usually a sleeper bus and takes roughly around 9 hours.
Upon arrival at Dien Bien at approx. 5am there is a short wait until 7am before departing for Luang Prabang. Luckily there are lots of cafes and breakfast joints open in this small town just opposite to the bus station where you can get an early morning bite or snacks for the road.
At 7am the minibus will depart, from here it can take anywhere from the scheduled 8 hours through to 13 hours that is took us. We did have what seemed like ALOT of unscheduled stops, package drop off’s by the driver and his co-workers, pick ups of additional passengers, food and toilet breaks.
The drive isn’t the smoothest nor the straightest so if you are prone to car sickness perhaps forking out a little extra for a flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang is your best option.
Border control at Tay Trang itself is very organised and pretty seamless. Pass from one window to another as they fill out your ‘visa on arrival’ passport stamp. It’s is $35 for British and U.S citizens and a further $5 for the final stamp. (If you’ve read our border crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam article you will already know that these additional fees are not legal but somehow obligatory and usually end up in the workers pocket)
All in all it is a means to an end and the process is relatively simple. The buses are a much cheaper alternative to flying and once you’ve been in Luang Prabang for a couple of days the memories of endless winding roads soon disappear. Still if you can afford to fly, DO.