Travel Diary,  Asia,  Destinations,  Laos,  Trains, Planes & Rideshares

From Luang Prabang to Phonsavan by minibus

While Phonsavan isn’t on the usual backpacker route, I wanted to go and see the megalith sites out there, so I decided to make the journey. There are a few ways to get to Phonsavan from Luang Prabang, including flying or hiring a private driver. I prefer going by land when I can, so I decided to chance a bus journey rather than go by plane.

I booked a bus ticket to Phonsavan through my hostel (Tony Central Hostel) which gave me a 5,000 kip discount and included a pickup from my hostel.

From the hostel, a (VERY CROWDED) tuk tuk picked us up and brought us to the bus station, where the driver then bought our bus tickets for us. I was the only one from my hostel going to Phonsavan, but there were five other backpackers in the minibus, and everyone else was a local!

Instead of a large intercity bus like I’d been expecting, we were going in a minibus— basically a large passenger van.

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All the foreigners got shoved to the back row, which unfortunately is the WORST place to be in a minibus in Laos.

The roads here have potholes upon potholes, and the back of the minibus gets to hit every one. If you have a delicate stomach, avoid long bus rides in Laos– the lady next to me threw up the whole time.

The minibus had enough room for something like 16 people (plus the driver) but they tried to fit 22 people in.

I must’ve been sheltered by my previous minibus/passenger van experiences in Asia, because I wasn’t expecting them to try THAT hard to shove an extra four or five people in. They only gave up when one of the older backpackers told them to fuck off, and then a few people got off presumably to wait for another bus to come.

Thank goodness for that man, because they were trying to shove all the new people into our row. We were already packed in like sardines, so an additional 2-4 people were NOT going to fit.

Besides that little debacle, the ride actually wasn’t too terrible (except for the poor carsick lady in our row). We stopped regularly for the toilet and we had a longer lunch break around 1:00 pm. Eventually we got to Phonsavan around 5:00 pm, for a total trip time of 8 hours. Cost: 265,000 kip / $13 USD.

I booked a few nights at Pukyo Belgian-Lao Bed & Breakfast, a bit of a splurge! but a necessary one. Cost: $25 USD/night or so. It’s a lovely B&B run by a Belgian expat and his Laos family, (relatively) recently opened and on a quiet residential street. The owner does food but will also drive guests into town for dinner, and he can arrange tours to the Plain of Jars and other sites.

I booked a private tour for the next day, had a dinner with some friendly fellow American guests who were on a private tour of the entire country, and then went to bed.

Asia 2023 Travel Diaries

Journal date: October 13, 2023

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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