How to get from Kon Tum to Pakse by bus (2024)

The trip from Kon Tum in Vietnam’s Central Highlands to Pakse, the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau in Laos is rarely done by backpackers.

It’s a rare route that mostly just locals use. The road crosses the Bo Y – Phukeua border, which is way less popular than the one 400 km north between Lao Bao and Dansavan.

I struggled to find first-hand practical information online and so now I’m paying back the community. The community being a tiny number of odd travelers going from Kon Tum to Pakse by bus.

The Logistics of the Kon Tum to Pakse Bus

Let’s start with the misnomer here: the bus doesn’t actually start in Kon Tum.

All buses that go to Pakse begin in Pleiku, some 50 km south of Kon Tum in the Province of Gia Lai. They then pass through Kon Tum picking up passengers who’ve called to book beforehand.

The minibus that I used to get from Kon Tum to Pakse
My minibus from Kon Tum to Pakse

This means that if you don’t call, you won’t get picked up and will be waiting in vain at the bus station in Kon Tum.

Call to reserve a seat

What you need to do instead is have someone who speaks Vietnamese call one of the bus companies to reserve your seat. Your hotel/guesthouse will be able to do that.

  • Mai Linh: 0328 300 360 or 0209 830 2222 (the one I used)
  • Dung Vi: 0349 757 777 or 0795 551 444
  • Vietlao: 059 382 6259

Don’t bother trying to reserve more than a day in advance – they will tell you to call again the day before because they “can’t remember that far in advance“. Not a joke.

A sign of the bus company Mai Linh with their contact numbers and route starting in Gia Lai (Pleiku) and ending in Pakse
A Mai Linh bus sign with contact numbers


I paid 450.000 VND (~18$) for a seat from Kon Tum to Pakse.

Tet markup had just ended and the prices were back to normal. I later saw buses doing the same journey the other way around for 550.000 VND, so I think the price I paid was a good deal.

If you are only going to Attapeu, the price is 260.000 VND (10.5$). I initially considered that option just to split the long journey in 2 but ultimately decided against it. Reportedly, Attapeu is humdrum in the worst ways possible and what little I saw during the lunch break there only supported that view.

Pick up location

I had to wait for the bus in front of Kon Tum Bus Station, on the other side of the road. I was given its license plate number and the fact it was green.

Ask whoever is reserving your ticket to make sure of the exact pickup spot. The hotel employee who did it for me first told me to wait at the Bus Station. Later I asked another employee to double check and it turned out that I had to wait in front, on the other side of the road.

What’s the bus like?

The type of bus most likely depends on the company you book with. As far as I know, Vietlao uses sleeper buses – the ones where you lie down and if you’re shorter than 1.80 m – have a relatively pleasant journey.

I used Mai Linh and it was a standard seating minibus. I was pleasantly surprised that there was plenty of legroom – it was quite comfortable even.

Inside the Kon Tum to Pakse bus
Inside the bus from Kon Tum to Pakse

The minibus was full of cargo. Both on top of the bus and inside. The last 2 rows of seats were reserved for cargo. We stopped frequently to offload packages. It’s a hard day of work for the driver and attendant.

There’s free cold water on the minibus. The windows were clean enough to enjoy the views. The blinds worked and you can block the strong sun around midday.

The minibus is air-conditioned.


The trip from Kon Tum to Pakse took exactly 12 hours. This includes the border formalities, the lunch break, all the stops to offload cargo and pick up local Lao commuters, as well as the additional 20-minute trip by minibus (or tuk-tuk) from the 8 km Bus Terminal to Downtown Pakse.

  • I got picked up in Kon Tum at 7:40
  • Arrived at the border around 9:40
  • Stopped for lunch in Attapeu around 14:00
  • Arrived at the 8 km Bus Terminal around 19:15
  • Hopped on a minibus to Pakse and arrived at 19:40


The bus from Kon Tum to Pakse stops a couple of times for convenience and a couple of times for necessity.

  • A stop at Bo Y – Phukeua border crossing
  • A stop for lunch in Attapeu
  • 2 other toilet breaks
  • At least 10 short stops to offload cargo
  • Short stops in Sekong, Thateng, and Paksong to take more passengers

The Bo Y – Phukeua Border Crossing

The Bo Y – Phukeua border does NOT issue Laos visas on arrival and does NOT accept Laos e-visas!

Laos Visa

I got my visa from the Laos Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. It took less than 45 minutes and was as simple as filling out a form. I paid on the spot (45$ though I paid in VND) and got a visa in my passport just minutes later.

The Laos Consulate in Da Nang and the Embassy in Hanoi process visas with the same efficiency.

Border Crossing Process

Queuing to get an exit stamp from Vietnam at the Bo Y - Phukeua border crossing
Queuing for an exit stamp on the Vietnamese side

The border was very calm and quiet. The process was quick and easy and unlike other land borders in Southeast Asia (looking at you Krong Poi Pet), there was no pushing, shoving, cutting the queue, or any shenanigans.

I read reports of people asked for bribes, stamping fees, exit fees, entrance fees, overtime fees (it was Saturday), etc. I was ready to stand my ground and refuse to pay anything but to my delight, none of the border guards (Lao or Viet) tried anything.

I saw some locals handing 20.000 VND bills together with their passports, which I assume is an unlawful but open-secret stamping fee.

The bus driver accompanied us through all the checkpoints. His motive was to speed it up but I felt that in a way, his presence prevented the border officials from asking too many questions or demanding bribes.

Other bus routes connecting Vietnam and Laos

Owing to their 2150+ km long border, Vietnam and Laos have many border crossings, and plenty of buses connect cities on both sides.

A border of greater interest to backpackers is the Lao Bao – Dansavan crossing as it’s the only one where Laos issues visas on arrival.

Buses from Da Nang and Hue bound for Savannakhet, Vientiane, and Pakse cross at Lao Bao.

If you’re traveling from Da Nang to Pakse, you shouldn’t worry about getting a visa for Laos beforehand as you can get one on arrival. The bus will not pass through Kon Tum and will get you to Pakse in one go.

Kon Tum to Pakse by bus Pinterest Image

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