How To Travel Around South East Asia by Land Using Bus and Train

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor August 18th, 2021 Posted in Asia Travel Blog, Travel Blog, Travel Guides No comments

South East Asia is one of the best backpacking trails in the world. It’s cheap and has a lot to offer, from amazing history and cultures to breathtaking natural views. You can travel here by place, boat, bus, or train. Land Transportation is one of the coolest ways. Here’s a Guide in Traveling South East Asia by Land: Bus and Train.

Here's a Guide in Traveling Southeast Asia by Land 01
Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd CC BY1.0

There are many ways to travel and cross borders in South East Asia. However, many backpackers prefer the cheaper way; using the bus or train. Though some will take hours or a day, the journey of getting from Point A to Point B makes it more memorable. Here are some popular bus routes you can use to travel countries via Land!

12go Asia

From Thailand

How to Travel by Land from Thailand to Laos
Photo by Clay Gilliland CC BY-SA 2.0


Thailand To Cambodia

One of the best routes on your SEA trip is Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam. You can surely travel South East Asia by land and visit many 3 in a week!

Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • There are direct buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Popular buses are Giant Ibis, Travel Mark Bangkok, and Nattakan Bus.
  • Tickets will start at USD 22. It will take about 8 – 9 hours.

Thailand To Laos

Here’s how you can travel from Thailand to Laos via Bus or Train. These are some popular routes:

Bangkok, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos

  • There are direct buses for this route costing THB 1,000 – 1,200 and will take more than 12 hours.
  • Another option is riding a train from Bangkok Railway Station to Nong Khai, which costs THB 250 – 1,250 depending on the class. It will take at least 9 hours.
  • From Nong Khai, you can ride a mini-van to Thanaleng (for immigration) then take another bus to Vientiane, which will cost THB 150 – 300.

Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos

  • There are direct buses from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal to Naluang Bus Station route costing THB 1,000 – 1,500 and will take 19 – 22 hours.
  • Another route is Chiang Mai to Chiang Kong (Thailand), costing THB 150 – 250, which will take at least 4 hours. From there, you can go to Huay Xai (Laos), which will cost about THB 100 – 150, then catch a minibus to Luang Prabang (THB 400 – 700). Travel time will take at least 13 hours.

Thailand To Malaysia

Although not as popular as the other routes as Malaysia are usually paired with Singapore, you can also check out this option.

Bangkok, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • You will have at least two trips here – from Bangkok to Padang Besar, the gateway, then ride a train to Kuala Lumpur.
  • Go to Hua Lamphon Railway Station in Thailand to catch a train ride to Padang Besar. Travel time is 18 hours costing about THB 850 – 1000.
  • From Padang Besar, catch a ride to Kuala Lumpur via train. It will take at least 5.5 hours and cost at least RM 75.
  • You can also stop in Penang before going to Kuala Lumpur by riding a train to Butterworth (RM 10 – 12)

Thailand To Myanmar

Though it’s not a popular route, you can also cross borders from Thailand to Myanmar. Going to their capital is another route, though, and a longer ride – so it’s better to fly than do land Travel. However, here’s an easy route if you want to get a glimpse of Myanmar in a day.

Chiang Mai, Thailand to Tachileik, Myanmar

  • From Chiang Mai Bus Terminal, you can ride a Green Bus to Mae Sai. It will take at least 5 hours, costing THB 250.
  • From Mae Sai, you can cross borders to Tachileik, Myanmar.
  • Please note that there are places in Myanmar you are not allowed to explore
  • You can explore Tachileik for less than a day.

From Cambodia

How to Travel by Land from Cambodia to Vietnam
Photo by George Bakos on Unsplash

Cambodia To Laos

Though Laos’s capital is so far from Cambodia, there’s a gorgeous tourist spot in the Southern part of Laos. 4,000 Islands or Si Phan Don is a place less-traveled but still stunning. Don Det is where travelers stay before going to visit the islands.

Siem Reap, Cambodia to Don Det, Laos

  • From Siem Reap, ride a minivan or a bus to Don Det. Asia Van Transfer is recommended.
  • It will take at least 8 hours to arrive and costs a minimum of USD 20.
  • From Don Det, you can get a boat ride to the islands.

Cambodia To Thailand

Please refer to the “Thailand to Cambodia” route as it’s just the other way around.

Cambodia To Vietnam

One of the most popular routes for backpackers is Cambodia to Vietnam. However, it’s usually only from Phnom Pehn to Ho Chi Minh City as Hanoi is too far.

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Bus companies that operate from Cambodia to Vietnam are Giant Ibis, Virak Buntham, Sinh Tourist, Kumho Samco, and Mekong Express.
  • The bus tickets start at USD 10. Travel time is at least 6 hours.

From Vietnam

8 Best Things to do in Ha Giang and North Vietnam
Photo by Thijs Degenkamp on Unsplash

Vietnam To Cambodia

Please refer to the “Cambodia to Vietnam” route as it’s just the other way around.

Vietnam To Laos

Laos is one of Vietnam’s neighbors. There are about 6 land borders you can cross. Some routes may take almost a day, but the journey will be worth it.

Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos

  • At Hanoi Nuoc Ngam Station, ride a Sinh Tourist bus or HTX Van Tai bus for Vientiane.
  • Travel Time is at least 22 hours, costing you a minimum of USD 30. The border is at Cau Treo, which opens at 7 AM

Vinh, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos

  • Ride Saysamon Transports bus to Vientiane
  • It will cost at least USD 20 and will take 10 – 12 hours.

Ngoc Hoi, Vietnam to Attapeu, Laos

  • If you are from Ho Chi Minh or Hoi An, you could cross the Bo Y border.
  • Bus rides are USD 20 – 30 and will take about 3 hours.
  • From Attapeu, you can go to Don Det and enjoy the 4000 Islands.

From Laos

How to Travel by Land from Thailand to Laos
Photo by nakhon100 CC BY 2.0

Laos is a landlocked South East Asian Country. 4 countries surround it; Vietnam to its right, Cambodia at the Bottom, and Thailand at its left, with a little bit of Myanmar. Learn how to cross borders here.

Laos To Vietnam

Please refer to the “Vietnam to Laos” route as it’s just the other way around.

Laos To Cambodia

Please refer to the “Cambodia to Laos” route as it’s just the other way around.

Laos To Thailand

Please refer to the “Thailand to Laos” route as it’s just the other way around.

Laos To Myanmar

  • There is not enough information to say that foreigners can directly cross Laos to Myanmar. However, you can go from Luang Prabang to Mae Sai in Thailand. Then from Mae Sai, cross borders to Tachileik, Myanmar.
  • Please refer to the “Thailand to Myanmar” route.

From Malaysia

7 Things To Do In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Photo by Esmonde Yong on Unsplash

Malaysia to Singapore

If you are traveling South East Asia by Land, Malaysia and Singapore are usually paired up as they are near each other. There are direct buses as well as stopping trains here. But I personally experienced the bus and recommend it, as trains have multiple stops and transfers.

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to Singapore

  • Many bus companies travel from KL to SG; TranStar, Odyssey, and Aeroline have luxury or coach buses. We actually used StarMart Express, and it was quite comfortable.
  • Bus ticket prices start at RM 35 and could take at least 7 hours.
  • When we traveled, it took almost 11 hours as some of the bus passengers got stuck in immigration for more than an hour.

Malaysia to Thailand

Please refer to the “Thailand to Malaysia” route as it’s just the other way around.

South East Asia by Land Popular Routes

Here are some popular routes for a short tri-country trip. You can mix it up to be able to visit all countries.

  • Bangkok, Thailand – Siem Reap, Cambodia – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
  • Bangkok, Thailand – Vientiane, Laos – Luang Prabang, Laos – Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Singapore – Batam, Indonesia (by boat)
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Phuket, Thailand – Penang, Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Luang Prabang, Laos – Chiang Mai, Thailand – Tachilek, Myanmar
  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Ngoc Hoi, Vietnam – Attapeu, Laos – Don Det, Laos – Siem Reap, Cambodia – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Sample Route if you want to visit 8 countries

Singapore – Batam, Indonesia by Boat – Singapore – Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPenang, MalaysiaBangkok, ThailandSiem Reap, CambodiaPhnom Penh, CambodiaHo Chi Minh, VietnamHanoi, Vietnam – Vientiane, Laos – Luang Prabang, Laos – Chiang Rai, Thailand – Tachilek, Myanmar – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tips in Traveling South East Asia by Land

  • Check if you need a visa before traveling.
  • You can buy tickets online.
  • Some buses may not have toilets, but I think it’s better to choose one with toilets, so it’s more comfortable.
  • Buy snacks and enough water during your travel; you may have limited time during your trip or get hungry.
  • Wear comfortable clothes during travel
  • Bring cash in case you need to pay fees – it’s also better if you exchange your money to local currency.

Transportation Tip: If you’re looking for the cheapest way to book the Trains, Buses, Ferries, Transfers on this route, we use 12Go.Asia to compare the prices!

Powered by 12Go Asia system
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About the Writer

Lyza Paloma

Hey, I’m Lyza! I once was a person who just imagined going to places “one day” but decided to pursue my dreams. My first travel abroad was in Japan, solo, last 2018, and fell in love with the experience. I aim to visit 10 countries before turning 30 and 2 new places in the Philippines every year. Besides traveling, I love organizing trips, taking pictures, reading, and making new friends. Follow my adventures through my Instagram.

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