bangkok to pakse fi

How to Go from Bangkok to Pakse, Laos

The route from Bangkok to Pakse is quite simple, although long and to travel to Pakse from Bangkok involves a combination of transport options.   Bangkok is, of course, the capital of Thailand and Pakse is in Laos, across the border from the Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani.  Most people visit Pakse only to head onto Laos’ 4000 Islands, or en route to the Bolaven Plateau.  We’ve taken this route from Thailand to Laos to end our trip in Laos with a visit to the Gibbon experience, near Huay Xai – and so researched all the options on how to go from Bangkok to Pakse.

How to Go from Bangkok to Pakse

There are several ways to go from Bangkok to Pakse – combining overnight trains, songthaews and buses, plus a tuk-tuk or the simplest way – a through bus, and of course, if you’re in a hurry, there’s always a flight for part of the way!

The Easiest Way to go from Bangkok to Pakse

The easiest way to go from Bangkok to Pakse is to take an overnight bus that leaves Bangkok Mochit Station at 1900 and arrives into Pakse at 0700 the following morning.  This bus service means you stay on the same bus, go through immigration at the Laos border and get back on the same bus.  The bus is NOT a sleeper bus but does have decent legroom.  This is also the cheapest way to go from Bangkok to Pakse.  You can book the bus from Bangkok to Pakse online here.   

If you don’t like overnight buses, then you can take a 3 part journey, but this does involve an overnight train (which we love!)

The SLOW COMFORTABLE WAY to go from Bangkok to Pakse

This is the route that we took – as we love overnight trains (and when we were travelling there was no overnight bus running (not that we particularly like overnight buses either!)

We’ll split the journey into 3 parts.

  • Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani
  • Ubon Ratchathani to Chong Mek – Vangtao (the border crossing)
  • Vangtao to Pakse

All are simple in themselves, it’s just putting together and working out the times to meet corresponding transport that is a bit of a pain!

How to go from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani

The first part of the journey involves getting from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani.   This is simple enough.  You can take either a bus from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani or you can take a train from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani.  If you’re feeling a little flush you can also fly from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani.

Both the bus and the train are overnight options and there are several buses and several trains to choose from.    Here are the options for going to Ubon Ratchathani from Bangkok

Ubon Ratchathani Train Station to the Ubon Ratchathani Bus Station

Ubon Ratchathani is about 100 kilometres from the Thai-Laos border.  The train station is a short distance from the bus station that links to Pakse in Ubon Ratchathani, so you’ll need to take a songthaew taxi to get there.

Take songthaew number 2 to the bus station. The songthaews here in Ubon are all numbered and colour coded. The number 2 is the only one that services the train station and it’s waiting for us as we exit the train.  It’s really easy to spot.  You’ll need to tell the driver that you’re going to the bus station for the Bus to Laos.  Cost 10 Thai Baht per person.

Songthaew in Ubon Ratchathani

There are two bus stations on Google Maps, the web page tells us that we want the bus station by the Big C shopping centre, so I tell the driver, the Bus to Laos.  35 minutes later we pull up at the Big C. There are no signs of buses.  There is, however, a tourist office information officer who used to work in Watford, North London (Thailand is so easy!) and she guides us to the VIP bus to Laos.

VIP Bus to Pakse from Ubon

Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse Bus

It leaves twice a day, 0930 and 330 for a three hour, 200 THB trip.  You can’t book this online at this time, but it shouldn’t be a problem.  And it’s kind of weird because you can actually book this bus online to go from Pakse to Ubon Ratchathani – Check here if that’s what you’re looking for

We buy tickets (at 200 THB each)  on the 0930, but first have breakfast in one of the two cafes at the end of the bus station, a good Pad Thai for 40 THB.  Fuelled on a bowl of noodles, coffee and juice we load our bags into the now waiting bus, and join our fellow passengers, all Thai and Lao apart from one Korean man.

Pakse to Ubon bus

It’s a comfortable bus.  Plenty of legroom.  The seats are NOT broken.

bus to pakse

There are a few stops for the police as we get closer to the border, we’re ignored, in fact, most people are. Then we arrive at the Thai border by 1115. Checking out of Thailand is easy, the only line is the one created by the people on our bus.

Border Crossing Thailand to Laos –  Chong Mek to Vangtao

The way to Laos is via an underpass to what looks like a building site, the only obvious signpost is for duty-free, but as we walk further on, over a makeshift plank bridge through the dust we spot the visa on arrival sign to the right and on the other side of the “road” from Duty-Free.

Thai Laos border crossing

So clutching our US$35 visa fee and a passport photo each we head to window 5, where we’re given two forms to complete – all the usual, where we’ve been, where we’re going, where we’re staying, passport details and a departure form, which will be clipped into our passport.

Visa on Arrival in Laos

The fee is handed over and we’re told to wait at window 6 around the corner.

It seems that for US$35 you get more rigorous checking of your visa application than the locals who we see handing over 100 Thai baht.

Visa on arrival Laos border

And so there’s no time to change any money at the Western Union building opposite the visa place, we’re back on the bus (which displays a “we allow 20 minutes for passport and visa” sign) and after a cursory check of numbers of passengers and their passports by someone wearing a uniform, we’re on our way. There are ATMs once you arrive in Pakse, but you’ll want to read our guide to Laos ATMs before you get there.

Thai Border to Pakse

30 minutes later we’re driving across the Friendship Bridge into Pakse, the Laos border town.

Sensibly the bus would stop here – i.e. in the centre, but it turns right and heads 8 kilometres out of town to the Southern Bus Station, which is also called the 8-kilometre bus station.  Because it is 8 kilometres from Pakse. And it’s here where we have no choice but to get into a songthaew pick up (although, it’s called a tuk-tuk here) to take us back the 8 km back to Pakse centre.

Our driver speaks no English. Luckily the Korean from the bus speaks Laos and English and tells us that yes we can pay in Thai baht as we have no Laotian Kip yet. The fee is 20,000 kip or 80 baht each (US$ 2.47) and the driver will drop us at our hotel.

Where to Stay in Pakse

There are loads of places to stay in Pakse – and loads you can book online We’d chosen the Nang Noi Guesthouse, which years later you still cannot book online, but they still get loads of great reviews.

The Nang Noi is an excellent base for Pakse. We hadn’t booked ahead but we’re travelling in the shoulder season. but if you’re looking at staying there (we recommend them) book ahead, they only have 8 rooms and are popular.

As I write you STILL can’t book online, but give them a call or email them.  The details are below.

Nang Noi Pakse

Nang Noi Guest House, No.24 Rd, Pakse, Laos
Telephone:  (856-30) 956-2544

Email:  [email protected]

In summary – Bangkok to Pakse

It’s a much easier trip today – just book the overnight bus here  – its much less hassle.  But we hope that by including the details of the train it gives you a different and more comfortable option to travel to Pakse from Bangkok.  We’re here in Pakse because we’re heading to the Bolaven Plateau (awesome), down to Laos’ 4000 Islands (chilled out) and then eventually up to the Gibbon Experience at Huay Xai.