Pakse (Pakxe) is the capital city of Champasak province of Southern Laos, and the forth largest town in the country, serving as a major transport and commerce hub for southern Laos. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau, Wat Phou, Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands), the Xe Pian National Protected Area, or Lao Ngam and Tad Lo in neighboring Salavan province. Pakse is an ideal base with its relaxing atmosphere on the Mekong and Sedone Rivers, friendly locals, ubiquitous riverside restaurants and bars, and numerous massage clinics.
Visa extensions are possible at the police station on Th. 10, just down the road from the Salachampa Hotel and Restaurant. The cost is US$2 per day plus a 5,000 kip “form fee.” The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and two photos, fill in a form, and come back in the afternoon for your extension.
The regular slow-boat service to Don Khong is no longer operating, but you can arrange for a private charter from the hotels and travel agents but it's very expensive. Quoted US$250 so ideally shared with others and negotiate hard to lower the individual cost.
There is an ad-hoc boat service opposite the Inthira hotel in Champasak, 30km south of Pakse, price on application and can be arranged from the hotel. It is much more expensive than overland travel, expect to pay US$100+ per boat, seats approximately 6 people with luagage.
Chitpasong Bus Terminal (aka VIP bus terminal; 15.118067, 105.796653) is the most likely bus station you'll arrive at or depart from if you are traveling between Pakse and Vientiane, which is next to the Sedone River and close to the old French Bridge, near the Champasak Shopping Center (supermarket is at 2nd floor), and in the town center. Tickets to Vientiane cost 170,000 Kip (October 2014), but keep in mind this is for half of a bunk that is shared with another person. If you want a bunk for yourself you will need to purchase two tickets (in the low season 300,000 Kip). You can buy the bus ticket from the 3 ticket counters in the bus station, please choose the middle ticket counter for bigger & more modern sleeper bus (October 2014).
Kriang Kai Bus Terminal (aka 2km bus terminal; 15.117385, 105.820559) has older sleeper buses to and from Vientiane (170,000 Kip for shared bunk), and is the arrival point and departure point for the international bus from/to Ubon Ratchatani (3 hours 200 Baht) or Bangkok in Thailand. Samlors and tuk tuks will transport you to the town center for about 15,000 Kip.
The Northern Bus Terminal (serving locations north of Pakse) is located about 10 kilometres northwest of the city centre (15.1700 105.7600). Transportation via songthaew to the northern bus terminal is sometimes available at the northeastern side of the market opposite the shopping center (please find out what days/times).
The Southern Bus Terminal (aka 8km Bus Terminal) is mostly used by locals, with slower local buses, and is located 8 km to the east of the city center (15.113957, 105.875482) (30,000 kip by moto to the centre, or 10,000 kip in shared tuk-tuk). Songthaews to Si Phan Don 40,000 kip per person.
Transportation via songthaew to destinations outside of Pakse is available at Dao Huang market and the 8km market.
Most of the services you will use as a tourist are in walking distance from the city center, including the restaurants along the river front, pool halls and the bowling alley. Further destinations within town will require a tuk-tuk ride or renting a motorbike. Tuk tuk rides charge per person and are about 3,000-5,000 kip for short rides and 10,000 to the further bus terminals. Songthaew transport within Pakse is almost non-existent.
As of April 2014, the main street (13), is undergoing major roadworks while a new sewer systematic is installed. The streets can be muddy in parts where the work has not yet been completed, however all traffic is currently using just one half of the carriageway bidirectionally. Intermittent wooden planks offer access to motorbikes to businesses located on the uncompleted stretch. Walking around is not a problem but be sure to have appropriate footwear in wet weather and to take care in avoiding heavy machinery.
Wat Luang, the biggest and most beautiful temple of Pakxe, and home of Buddhist Monk School. It is the best place to see a monk alm giving ceremony as you may be one of a handful of watching tourists as opposed to the multitudes at a similar ceremony in Luang Prabang.
Wat Phabad is the oldest and largest temple of Pakxe. It is believed to have a Buddha Footprint, from which its name is derived .
Ban Keosamphanh, a former French army camp, has the most beautiful green rice field of Pakxe and is home to the oldest market of Pakse.
Mekong Bank is the most popular place and night centre point of Pakxe.
Big Buddha. In Aug 2011 a 'Big Buddha' temple complex was built across the river, adjacent to the Japanese bridge. More than a few steps to the top, a great view of the river and city. there is now a concrete road to the top easily driven in a car.edit
Pakse is a good base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau where coffee fields and waterfalls galore await, the idyllic river islands of Si Phan Don, also known as 4,000 Islands, eco-tours, trekking and village stays in Sepian National Protected Area, the Angkor temple complex Wat Phou, and to the indigenous villages and waterfalls of the Tad Lo area of Lao Ngam district, Salavan province. Pakse itself makes for a great staging point for archeological tourists in this part of Laos for two reasons: 1) it is where the Champasak Provincial Museum is located as an introduction to local archeology, and 2) it is an alternative to Champasak city as a staging point for those wanting to see Wat Phou. Wat Phou is a designated UNESCO site and boasts of as Laos’s counterpart to Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom: its the finest of its type outside Cambodia.
The museum is located close to the new market, 500 metres north of the banks of the Mekong.
It’s possible to organize a day trip to Wat Phou near Champasak, where you can also stay easily.
Rent a motorbike and head east toward Pak Song (Paxxong). The ride is pretty, and there are heaps of waterfalls to stop by near Pak Song. The Champasak Provincial Tourism Department puts out a nice few nice brochures including one on the Bolaven Plateau that details these including Tad Fane, Tad Champee, Tad Ueang, and Tad Pha Suam. Admission tends to be the same at every place: 5,000 kip per person and 3,000 kip for a bike.
One waterfall not mentioned in Tad Sae, which is located off of Route 13 at a fairly large T-junction with a bunch of fruit sellers lining the road. Not as large as some of the others, it nonetheless offers a beautiful place to stop and eat or hang out for a while. (Note that if you search for Tad Sae on the Internet you will be directed to the one near Luang Prabang which is not the same one here.)
These are several Internet cafés on the corner near Nazim’s Indian restaurant. They charge around 6,000 kip per hour. The smart new Tour Lao Café on the southern end of the market plaza has WiFi.
Miss Noy Motorbike Rental & Internet Cafe located on the main street rents out reliable motorbikes from 50.000 kip/day and provides you with free maps and lots of information in Englisch and French about how to get to the waterfalls and to Champasak. They can also give you many up to date details about the Southern Swing (2-5 day motorcycle loop in southern Laos). Free baggage storage available.
As in Vientiane, there is also a proper bowling alley located in town. A 15- to 20-minute walk away from the centre or a short tuk-tuk ride away head down the main road and turn right toward the big white building in the distance. It is not far away from the river, so if you are over there already you can walk along there to find it. Be warned, though, that if you want a ride home you should negotiate a tuk-tuk to stay since you won’t find many patroling there, especially later in the evening.
Pakse is a great place to get massage as there are a variety of places. Most of the massage places are aggregated just south of road 13 near the shopping mall.
Style Massage. Style is pretty run down but one of the few places in town that explicitly offers head neck and shoulders. There's often a girl with a pink shirt out front. They do not wash your feet before traditional massage as most places in town do.35,000/hr traditional 50,000/hr head neck and shoulders. edit
Thanida Spa. Thanida massage has pretty good ambiance but pretty weak masseuses. Expect texting and even phone conversations during your massage. Also expect soy milk, a funny tea, and a cold moist towel post-massage.35,000/hr traditional. edit
Dok Champa. Dok Champa is on the official Laos tourist authority map so it's easy to find. They have great ambiance and are very professional. You can choose a masseuse or masseur and they explicitly state no sex massage. This place actually seems to provide decent training for their staff so arrive with good expectations and you won't be disappointed. For deep-tissue ask for a masseur.40,000/hr traditional 50,000/hr foot and head neck and shoulders. edit
Keo Oudone. This place is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. It's located about 100 meters off of Road No. 38, on the same road that leads to a golf course.35,000/hr traditional and 20,000 Kip to use their traditional sauna. edit
Green Discovery Laos is Laos' pioneer in Adventure Travel and Ecotourism since 2000. They offer far more than 100 unique tour programs all around the country, involving trekking, kayaking/rafting, cycling and rock climbing.
Enjoying the Mekong
There are several riverside restaurants/pubs, many playing live music in the evenings, lining the Mekong River that many visitors to Pakse unfortunately don't visit.
BCEL Bank (on Th 11, just next to Wat Luang in the town centre) changes money, cashes traveller's cheques, and does cash advance on credit cards. There is also an ATM in front of the building that now accepts most foreign cards. There are a lot more ATMs in Southern Laos these days. When heading south this used to be the last ATM until Stung Treng in Cambodia although food stalls on the Cambodian side of the border will gladly change dollars,kip, and Baht at unfavorable rates. There is now an ATM in Attapeu. All ATMs charge a 20,000-kip fee per withdrawal with a 1,000,000 kip per transaction maximum.
The Lao Development Bank to the north of the city can exchange kip to dollars, vital if travelling overland to Vietnam. Across the road, directly opposite the bank is an ATM that accepts international cards such as Cirrus. There is a limit of 700,000 kip per transaction, although you can withdraw numerous times. Those who are heading to Cambodia should gather a few riels to tide you over for your first few hours in Cambodia from the Lao Development Bank at No.13 Rd. They close at 3:30 pm.
There is a Morning Market that lasts most of the day. It can be found 500 metres south of the town centre near the Sedone River.
The huge Talat Dao Heuang (New Market) is about 2 kilometres south-east out of town on Road 13 near the Japanese bridge over the Mekong.
The are several restaurants along the river front, some offering live music and four floating on the Mekong. These are all local outfits and offer mainly Thai/Lao cuisine and cold beer. Guide books and Internet sites focus on the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge, and many visitors miss out on the river front experience.
Western Food Restaurants
Champady is located in the town center, half a block off of Road 13 on the same road that passed next to Jasmin Restaurant. They serve a variety of Thai and Lao food and some western options, including hamburgers (12,000 Kip) and plates of chips/french fries (11,000 Kip). They also serve coffee and other drinks. The service is good as well.
Daolin is on the main road No. 13 next to Sang Aroun Hotel. It is one of the the most popular options in town with the backpacker set and offers Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, and Western dishes for 20,000-50,000 Kip. Daolin also serves ice cream, coffee, including espresso, and pastries from Lao Vida.
Delta Coffee is on the main road No. 13 across the street from the Champasak Palace Hotel. It is one of the best Western food options in town, although it also has good Thai food, with a full range of pastas (25,000–35,000 kip), pizzas (50,000–65,000 kip), sandwiches, hamburgers (20,000–30,000 kip), and desserts baked onsite, in addition the their fine coffee; prices are reasonable, service varies. They are open seven days a week, from 8am-8pm; they stop taking orders early, at 7:30pm.
Vida Bakery Cafe, ☎ 031 254 188 (email@example.com). Open Monday-Friday from 6.30 am, closed on weekends. opened in 2014 and located north of the main street in Thanon 12, opposite Phonesavanh Guesthouse. A really nice small cafe and bakery with a European style breakfast and lunch menu, espresso coffe, cakes, delicious pastries, fruitshakes and fresh bread plus free Wi-Fi.edit
Pizza Boy, Th. 13 (Next to the Lan Kham Noodle House). Italian restaurant with pasta from 30,000 kip, pizzas 45,000–70,000 Kip, espresso coffee at 7,000 Kip and ice cream at 5,000 Kip for a large scoop. This place also serves up good western breakfasts (25,000 Kip), including french toast, which come with bacon.30,000-60,000. edit
Le Panorama alt="Pakse Hotel" address="Bane Watlouang, Street N°4" directions="" phone="+856 31 21 21 31" url="www.paksehotel.com" hours="16.30h - 23.30h" price="40,000–85,000 kip" lat="" long="">The only rooftop restaurant in Pakse. On the 7th floor of Pakse Hotel, with a beautiful view over the town and the Mekong. Western, Asian, and fusion dishes. Not cheap, but the view makes up for it.
Na Dao is on the corner of Road No. 14 near the Japanese bridge. This is one of the fanciest restaurants in town, and was famous in Vientiane before the owner moved it to Pakse in late 2012. The restaurant serves French cuisine, and while it is fairly expensive by Laos standards, it is significantly less expensive than what it would cost back in France. If you're celebrating a special occasion or just looking to splurge one night this is the place. They're open Monday-Saturday, 10-13:30 and 16:00-22:00.
Khua Pakse Lao-Thai Food is on the main road No. 13 next to the Champasak Palace Hotel and across the street from Delta Coffee. It is a good option for inexpensive and tasty Thai/Lao food (most dishes around 20,000 Kip).
Restaurant Touy is located on the corner of Road No. 38. It is easiest to find if you take Road No.13 heading east of the town center, and then turn right at the street just before the Toyota dealership (two blocks past the roundabout). This restaurant serves good Thai food fast and cheap (most dishes around 20,000 Kip).
Along the Mekong River are several restaurants serving Thai/Lao food and cold beer. A few have live music at night. Some are even floating restaurants, directly on the river.
Northeast Asia Restaurants (China, Japan, Korea)
Lao-Korea Restaurant is on Road No. 38, halfway between Athena Hotel on Rd. 13 and the Dao Heung Market entrance on Rd. 38. This Korean-owned restaurant serves authentic Korean food, such as bibimbap (40,000 Kip) and even Korean barbecue options such as samgypsal and bulgogi (starting at 120,000 Kip per plate for two). Fun and delicious.
Jinya Japanese Restaurant is the only Japanese restaurant in Pakse, and is located next to the Champasak Shopping Mall (near the Mekong River) and down 10th Street from the Sinouk Cafe.
Hasan Indian Restaurant, Thanon 24 (Just north of main Road 13), ☎ 020 5555 5624. Standard Indian menu, with vegetarian dishes costing 13,000–15,000 kip, meat and seafood 28,000–35,000 kip, bread 5,000–10,000 kip.(+15° 7.19',+105° 48.6')edit
Jasmin Restaurant (Indian Food), Road 13 kitty corner from Royal Pakse Hotel. Jasmine is an Indian food restaurant that serves vegetarian dishes for 10,000 kip each. It is on road 13 and is very popular with foreigners. edit
Nazim Restaurant (Indian Food), Behind Phi Dao Hotel and across from Royal Pakse Hotel. Nazim is an Indian food restaurant that serves a variety of vegetarian dishes for 8,000-18,000 Kip each and meat dishes for 20,000-25,000 Kip each. edit
Cafe Sinouk (Cafe Sinouk), No. 11 Rd (Very close to the Champasak shopping centre), . Cafe has free wifi for patrons and fancy frappe drinks, cakes, european and local cuisines. Enjoy a signature premium Sinouk coffee while in this coffee growing region of Laos.edit
Baguette stalls and noodle soup restaurants can be found all around town. A small paté baguette costs 5,000–6,000kip and a bowl of noodle soup costs between 15,000-20,000 Kip.
Enjoy the sunset with a beer Lao at the Mekong River. Go to the French bridge and then head south along the Mekong. After having passed the wat you come across countless places to have a drink.
Louk Sai La, On the Mekong River about halfway between the bowling alley and the Japanese bridge.. 5:00pm to 11:30pm. Live music most nights, sitting on the Mekong River with great views of the Japanese bridge lit up at night, and almost always packed with locals. Along with plenty of beer, they also serve food.edit
Victory Hi Tech. Loud and dark local night clubs a couple of kilometres out of town down route 13. Packed with locals most nights and is about the only place in town you can kick on at until midnight. Beer Lao is 15,000 kipedit
2B Travel - Bar This small bar just opened its doors. It's close to the Vietnamese consulate and Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse and Thaluang Guesthouse and near Route 13. This small bar offers free travel information and has a small menu with snacks, breakfast and sandwiches. Beer Lao is 10,000 Kip. Beerlao (standard, Gold and Dark), Nam Khong Beer, Tiger, Heineken, ABC Draught, Huda and Carslberg available.
Most hotels and guesthouses in Pakse can be found along the main street between the French bridge and the roundabout or a short way into its side streets. Prices in Pakse are high compared with the rest of the country, even with Vientiane.
Alisa Guesthouse, Road13 Lukmueang village ((Opposite of Saeng-a-loun hotel and next to Bolaven cafe)), ☎ 031251555. checkin: 2:00PM; checkout: 12:00PM. Double or twin bed 120.000kip , Tripple bed 150.000kip and Family room 200.000kip. The hotel is recently constucted and rooms have Aircon, TV with several channels in English, French and German plus hot showers and free wifi. New genuine honda motobikes for rent 60.000kip for Honda wave and 100.000kip for Automatic motobikes with discounts for longer periods. You will need to leave your passport as security but these are securely stored. If you're a first time or novice rider, well worth spending more on an automatic bike as the road and traffic conditions around Pakse does take a reasonable amount of concentration so if right foot braking and left foot gear changes are not second nature, it's wise to go for the simplier option. Bus tickets available and laundry 15.000kip/Kg. Staff have a wide range of English language sills from OK to nonexistent.edit
Nangnoi Guest House, (Close to Road 13 (one block block behind this main road on road 5)), ☎ 030 9562544. Clean standard rooms, complimentary water and coffee. Dorm rooms for 30,000 kip, private rooms (single) with fan and hot shower 50,000 Kip, double room with hot shower and fan for 70,000 Kip. Free WIFI, motorbike rental and bustickets for sale. Friendly staff. edit
Daovieng hotel 2, 13 & 35 Road phonesay village, ☎ (031)214331, . Clean rooms with air-con, fridge, and cable TV, all of which only work when your room key is in the power slot. Single rooms are quite small. Wifi is available in the lobby. Single/Double/Twin rooms were 100,000/130,000/150,000 kip as of 1/1/2013100,000–150,000 kip. edit
Lan Kham Hotel, on road 13 opposite the Lao Development Bank, is clean. Twin room with fan, toilet, and shower for 90,000 kip. Twin/Double with aircon, TV, and fridge for 100,000 kip, Free WiFi but only at reception. Has been made popular by travel guides and other places offer a better standard for less cash. They offer motorbikes for rent but potentially because of the popularity of the place and the fact that they draw a younger backpacker crowd, most are well used. Check your bikes tires, handling and brakes before agreeing a rental. As of April 2014, the only place to rent bigger 250cc dirt bikes, not normally out front but parked at the back of the hotel. All old and well used, not worth the 380,000kip per day fee.
Lao Chaleun Hotel, Th 10, ☎ 251333. Staff are accommodating, and single rooms, although tiny are immaculately clean.from 80,000 kip for a single with cold water attached bathroom. edit
Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse, turn north off the main street at the crossing near the Green Discovery office. It’s the only guesthouse in town with dorms (very basic). The shared showers have hot water. They also have basic rooms. 30,000 kip for the dorm; 45,000–60,000 (40,000 for a single in low-season) kip for single or double rooms. WiFi an extra 10,000 kip per day, no laundry service and motorbike rental anymore. (warning: bedbugs)
Sedone River Guest House, Th. 11 (left immediately after the bridge, first street betweeen Th. 13 and Th. 21, right on the Se Don), ☎ 212158. This guesthouse has friendly staff and a pleasant garden overlooking the Se Don. 50,000 kip for a fan room or 70,000 kip for an air-con room with hot water. These prices cover up to two people; you can pay 15,000 extra for a third. The air-con are large if a bit shabby. Cleanliness is middling; this isn’t a spic-and-span modern guesthouse but has a bit of a shabby character. Unfortunately due to the location by the river and the insufficient insect netting there are a lot of mosquitos.50,000–70,000kip. edit
Thaluang Hotel, Street 21, Bane Thaluang (Near intersection of Street 24), ☎ (856-31) 251399. checkout: 12pm. good location, helpful and knowledgeable staff, rooms are fairly old and could use some renovating (July 2011. Air-con and hot water available, the most expensive room has four beds60,000–150,000 kip. edit
Soutchai Travel, (From the downtown stoplight on Road 13, go one block east (away from the bridge) and turn right (Daovieng 2 is at this corner), then take the first left and go two thirds down that street. About a 10-minute walk), ☎ 212921. checkout: 12 pm. This small guesthouse has six upstairs rooms with ceiling fans that seem too hot during the daytime (although you can pay more to have air-con) but are very pleasant in the evening. Free Internet and WiFi. Laundry service. The bathroom with hot water is shared and on the ground floor.40,000 kip. edit
Pakse Hotel (near the Champasak shopping centre) offers a broad range of rooms. A great hotel with nice rooms, good service, helpful staff, and a lovely rooftop restaurant. Room comes with good buffet breakfast. An economy room with ensuite bathroom is 200,000 kip. They can arrange tours to nearby sights.
Arawan Hotel, Salakiew St (turn right at the Mekong Bridge, 500 metres down the road next to secondary school), ☎ (856)3126034550 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Good location, right on the banks of the Mekong River. Stunning views from the outdoor pool. Cheaper rooms are US$35, but the deluxe rooms are worth the money.edit
Champasak Palace Hotel, the former royal palace on road 13.
Mekong Pakse Hotel, No. 62 Khemkhong Rd. Pakse village (On the Mekong River, about halfway between the old French Bridge and the newer Lao Japan Friendship Bridge), ☎ (856) 31218445 (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). Good location, right on the banks of the Mekong River. Rooms with a view of the Mekong River are US$28.28. edit
Champasak Grand Hotel, Lao Japanese Bridge, Mekong Riverside Rd., ☎ (856) 31255111 (email@example.com), . Probably the most upmarket option in town.Rooms start at $45. edit
Places to visit from your base in Pakse include:
Bolaven Plateau - rent a motorbike. All roads are in good condition by Laos standards, no need for an off road or performance bike, a Honda Wave is easily enough even with a passenger. All places that offer motorcycle rental will provide maps. Average time to complete the loop is 2-3 days, but it could be done in one if you don't plan to visit the natural wonders along the way.
Tadlo - A village in Lao Ngam district, Salavan province. Mainly comprised of guests houses catering to those doing the Bolaven Plateau loop. Laid back place with quite a number of 'traditional' backpackers who went for a night and never left. Several good waterfalls in the area and some trekking opportunities.
Si Phan Don - Also known as 4,000 islands, is less than 3 hours away. Relax here for a few days by the Mekong river.
As of April 2011, a ticket to and from Vientiane cost 210,000 kip per person when a one-seater bus is available (Kieng Kai bus company only), 170,000 kip to share a double with another stranger or 340,000 kip for double with lone occupancy if a one-seater/sleeper is not available, or you don't mind spending the extra Kip for the comfort. Chitprasom buses tend to be newer as Kiang Kai has been around longer and has not updated its buses. When traveling from Pakse to Vientiane, you might consider taking the Kiang Kai buses, as they will drop you off in the Vientiane town centre where their corporate office is located—a 2-minute walk from the Cultural Hall. All northbound buses, however, do stop at the Vientiane bus station, which is 9 kilometres from the town centre. If you are coming from Don Det and have not bought a through ticket, you can either get off at the Kiang Kai terminal and buy ticket there, or wait and get dropped in town and buy your ticket for Chitprasom.
Laos Airlines have a regular scheduled flights from Pakse to Vientiane, check their website for days and prices. Considerably more costly that a night bus but only takes 1 hour 15 minutes. Very small airports which results in a fast and efficient service.
There are several buses everyday to Attapeu (5 hours - via Sekong) leaving from the KM 8 southern bus station. Some useful morning buses are 8am, 10am.
Cambodia - Travel onward to Cambodia from Pakse is now possible (as of March 2011), with visa-on-arrival facilities now in place at the southern border with onwards travel to Strung Treng, Kratie, Phnom Penh, and even Siem Reap. Check transport providers carefully as some travellers have been reported being left at one destination, when they were booked for another.
Aug 2011, a single bus ride on VIP coach from Pakse to Phnom Penh, 13 hours, the fare is now 210,000 including tuktuk pick-up from hotel via agent (Laos Adventure travel www.laoadventuretravel.com). For thise wishingto arrange themselves: the bus station is more than 5 km to the east, which costs 20,000 kip by tuk-tuk and the bus fare is $US27. There is only one departure time which is at 8:00 am (although stated in the ticket as 7:30 am). However, others report the cost starts at 300,000 kips for the direct bus, but can be nogatiated to 260,000.
20 minutes on the last stop to the border, a fairly neatly groomed man will appear together with other foreign passengers. Holding a stack of passports collected from the foreigners that he tags along as he gets in the bus, he walks the aisle, announces that the border is near and those who have no visa should ready their $US30, distributes the Cambodian entry card and instructs everybody to fill it up. Those who already have visa should still ready their $US6 (reasons unknown but it may be the price of the departure stamp on the Laotian side, the entry stamp on the Cambodian side plus the Cambodian immigration card to be filled up included in the passport). This expediter instructs everybody to stay in place in their seats unless they want to unwind and stretch. As soon as he collects them and the bus stops, off he disappears just the same way as he appeared. After 40 minutes, he comes up and returns the passports stamped, with the visa sticker for those who have none, and the immigration card stamped and stapled. One can actually do it by himself, however it is impossible to inquire about the wheeling and dealing going on due to communication problems, it is best to shut up. It would be wise to leave the processing to the agent as it means worry & hassle free.
Warning: For those proceeding to Cambodia by bus and making a pit stop at Pakse, dazed and just rudely awaken from sleep, do not ever be convinced to buy VIP bus tickets right away upon setting foot at the bus station. Guiltless tout/drivers will sales talk you to buy them at $US 75—a blunder that should have covered the cost of air ticket from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. Or if you have the stamina to walk with your luggage for about 500 metres north where agencies line their main Street, you can proceed to buy the ticket or, better still, directly flag a tuk-tuk to the bus station to where the Cambodia-bound buses depart, and eke out an additional 13 hours of cramp-inducing trip.
Better still, if you have one day available, stay for the night (for 100,000 kip) and leave early morning. The best offer so far is by Laos Adventure Travel at Road 12, off their "Main Street" after a few blocks east of the bridge, (Bhan Lak Muang) for 210,000 kips or $US26 compared with the rest of agents starting at 230,000 kip and above.
There are two ways to get between Pakse and Ubonratchathani (Ubon - also spelt Ubol).
International VIP bus
From Pakse there is a direct VIP bus to Ubon with two departures per day from Pakse 8:30am and 3pm. The bus departs from the International bus terminal at KM2 bus station, costs 60,000kip or 200baht and takes about 3 hours to reach Ubon.
Minivan to Vangtao/Chongmek border
While not as convenient as the international bus, if you are planning to catch the 12:45 NokAir flight from Ubon the international bus is a bit tight and the minivan option will enable you to get the airport in plenty of time. Minivans depart from the roundabout near the Pakse New Market by the bridge over the Mekong River and depart when full. Minivans start very early from around 6am. To make the 12:45 flight, a minivan departing Pakse around 7:30 should give you plenty of time. The minivans on the Lao side will take you only to the vangtao border and cost 20,000 kip. Minivans depart when full but generally don't take long to fill up.
Once you arrive at the border check point it is a 5-10 minute walk to Lao immigration. If you have a lot of bags you can hire men with carts to carry your bags all the way to the Thai side of the border. They will walk with you all the way until you reach the Thai immigration and then they'll meet you at the exit point. The cost for a cart is 80baht. Immigration on both sides is fairly straight forward. Once you get through you can hire a private van to take you direct to Ubon (for about 800-1200 baht), or you can get a tuktuk from the exit to Thai immigration to the Chongmek bus station - about 1km down the road - for 20 baht per person. Public minivans from Chongmek to Ubon bus station cost 100 baht and leave every half hour. Plan 2:30-3 hours by minivan for the full trip from Pakse to Udon.