Getting to the border
In our Asia tour we planned to go from Luang Prabang to Hanoi. To save some money and have the experience we decided to take the 24 hour overnight bus. It is a special bus, instead of two rows with seats the bus has three rows with narrow bunk beds which makes the ride actually quite comfortable.
We thought we had everything prepared for the trip. We got our evisas approved several days before, printed and filled out all the required documents and had two passport photos ready. So we started the journey without any worries on our minds. The bus arrived after 11 hours at the Laos – Vietnam border.
At the Vietnamese border
After waiting for two hours in the bus we could exit Laos and during this process we started to get a bit worried because the officials told Ale that she first has to check with the Vietnam immigration before she can get her stamp to leave the country.
After walking to the Vietnamese side we had to wait about an hour until all nationals were processed. The other two Western tourists got their visas stamped and it was just us left. First the officer told us that they can’t review our visa status because they have no electricity and couldn’t print the visa. After about another hour the power was back but at the same moment we were approached by another officer who told us that we can’t get our visa stamp because the evisas only get verified at the airports. We tried everything possible for the next 30 minutes but in the end we gave up and walked back to Laos. We couldn’t believe it.
Back at the Laos border
At least the immigration officers there were very friendly and helpful. We were lucky that a tuk tuk was waiting to bring other people to the next main town where we could figure out what to do. Four hours in a crammed vehicle later, we arrived in Phonsavan and could organize an overnight bus back to Luang Prapang and a flight to Hanoi for the next day. The bus back to Luang Prabang was the cherry on the cake. It was a mixture between a normal bus and a mini bus. The company totally overbooked the bus which meant fitting five people on four seats and to add more excitement to it, the road was an incredibly winding one which meant people being sick in the already smelly bus, this memorable experience lasted 8 hours, what a dream, right?
From Luang Prabang to Hanoi
At least the bus arrived at 2:30am and we found a dorm that was actually empty, so we got some sleep.
No matter where you enter Vietnam, we would highly recommend that you organize your visa stamp beforehand. In Luang Prabang for example, you just go to the Vietnamese Consulate and after three working days they process your visa and put the stamp in your passport. Even in Hanoi airport we had to wait for about an hour to get the evisa sorted. Save yourselves the hassle and get your stamp before!