What I learned, what I planned and how it eventually happened - about my bus trip from Danang to Laos in May 2018.
After reading much on the internet, I still was not sure how to do the trip. So many different statements about prices and the timetable... And no guarantee that all that pile of information is not obsolete.
My Danang hostel staff knew nothing about buses Da Nang - Savannakhet but the hostel main guy said I must go to the Danang bus station (on the map https://goo.gl/maps/tYopj87Zww62) to catch a bus to Lao Bao, a Vietnamese border town, then cross the border and then take a bus to Savannakhet. He said: "So many buses go from Danang to Lao Bao!"
I really wanted to get a direct bus so I decided to keep this scenario as a plan B.
I visited a tourist information center (in the Han Market block) to ask about the schedule of Danang - Savannakhet buses and about prices. The info girl busily wrote an address on a free city map and stretched out it to me. "Is this a bus company address maybe?" - Nope. "Go bus station!" Maybe she was right but I still didn't want to spend much time for going so far.
I saw a travel agency signboard then and came in to ask if they could arrange a bus trip to Laos.
There was a young woman sitting on the floor or something like that.. watching me with her mysterious eyes from under the table... (I guess she was pooing into her night pot - my coming was a surprise for her). "Yes, possible. 1 million dong".
50 dollar for a bus ride?? Too much. (Some web pages report about direct buses Danang - Savannakhet for 800 000 dongs so .. prices can be like that).
When I had been in Savannakhet, I saw a timetable in Savannakhet Bus Station --- buses Savannakhet - Danang, 110 000 / 150 000 kips (13-18 USD)... And now they asked me 40-50 bucks!
As a result... I think the only smart thing is to go to Danang Bus station a day before and ask... Yes, this is time-consuming .. But no other way to be sure. As I learned, the cheapest way to go to Da Nang bus station is to take a yellow public bus #1 Hoi An - Da Nang that emerges around every 30 minutes near Cho Han market (from around 5:30 to around 17:30) - a bus stop is in front of the market right on the embankment, on the river side of it, search a blue bus stop road sign, the price of a ticket is not more than 20 000 dongs. (But it was too late for me to go by bus to the bus station.)
(UPD: One more option is a yellow bus #3 Da Nang - Ai Nghia, check free DanaBus app for details on all bus routes).
So the time came for implementing the plan B, namely:
- Danang - Dong Ha bus, around 3 hours, many buses between these cities. The price around 100 000 dongs, as stated on the internet
- Dong Ha - Lao Bao bus, around 1.5 hours, many buses between the cities. The price of the trip is around 50 000 dong.
- Crossing the border on foot
- Searching a bus or a songthaew on the Lao side (Dansavanh / Dansavan townlet) for a ride to Savannakhet... It is said on the internet, the trip from Dansavanh to Savannakhet takes 5.5 hours and costs around 40 000 kips... And there was a weak place of my plan -- the web says that last bus Dansavanh - Savannakhet leaves around the noon ... So I was not sure I could arrive at the place in time...
Honestly, I had a Plan C as well, saying "go to Hue that, as the web says, has a regular connection with Savannakhet (at 7 or 8 a.m.)" .. But .. It was too late for me for this crap..
Next morning I woke up at 5:00 !! (after having a sleep just for a couple of hours) and spent a half of hour for attempts to get out of the sleeping locked hostel until the boss, thanks god, arrived. Around 6:15 a.m., I came to a major street to take a taxi.
"How much to Danang Bus station?" - "This is a meter sir!"
20 minutes later at the bus station, there were 96.000 dongs on the counter of the taxi. I paid 100.000 dongs and showed with a hand gesture that the driver could have the change for himself. This day, I decided to be a bit generous.
"Do you have 6000?", he asked. He wanted 10 000 dongs as tips for himself...
Maybe some official rules ... As always.
The taxi driver brought me to a bus station location where Dong Ha buses usually can be found... I saw one and one more bus next to it, a sleeping bus Danang - Lao Bao for just 150 000 dongs... New, comfortable. It was a great relief.
The bus departed at 6:50... I slept most of the time. We had 1 or 2? stops for toilet .. my memory dimmed..
The price was announced by some staff of the bus and they didn't charge me for a while so I was nervous they would ask more money at some moment (I had had bad stories in Vietnam). But ... everything was fine. They didn't ask local people to pay as well so .. the time of paying would come later, I realized... The last night was sleepless...
Around 12:15 we arrived in Lao Bao town. A couple of moto drivers asked if I wanted to have a ride to the border cross. A woman asked to change Vietnamese dongs into Lao kips. Say "no" to everybody, this is what I learned from the web.
The walk to the border cross took around 15-20 minutes. Mostly empty wide road, little traffic, and no travelers (in May)... No scammers, no touts. Just a thoughtful walk together with a French, the only other foreigner in our bus. There was a Y-place on our way where we chose to go to left -- this was a right decision.
After I finished formalities on Lao border, I noticed a bus Hue - Savannakhet. I approached and asked the price. 50 000 kips. Quite fair!
It was an old sitting bus with the aisle filled with sacks of rice and limes. At the end of it, there was a large pile of backpacks, bag and sacks.
There were several available seats in the bus. And 4 foreigners already.
Right after the border, the bus had a long dinner&toilet stop. Everybody was happy.
The bus departed at 14:00. We achieved Savannakhet at around 18:00. During a toilet stop in the middle of the way, we saw locals selling tied monitor lizards and a civet twirling in a net sack...
This was my trip from Danang to Savannakhet, Laos. If I want to go from Central Vietnam to Savannakhet again, I will have a sleep in Dong Ha city and, the next morning, I will take a bus Dong Ha - Lao Bao (1.5 hours or so to go, it is said they depart every 25 minutes). It is easy to be on time since the last bus from Dansavan to Savannakhet departs at around the noon, as it is stated in the web... So this is my conclusion and this is my advice... Take care!
And! If you are going to Danang city and still have not booked a place. I really recommend Otium Hostel I stayed in. New, clean, the cute interior design, very friendly staff, a cozy street, cheap&tasty eateries and coffee around. Read reviews on booking.com!
Thanks for reading and have a good trip in Southeast Asia!