Crossing into China from Vietnam or Laos

Travel Forums Asia Crossing into China from Vietnam or Laos

1. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi everyone,

Just wondering who can help with the following:

Im going to have about 4 months in Asia and I would like to try and see a little of SOuthwestern China.
How easy is it to cross into China from either Vietnam or Laos?
WHat are the travel options?

Is Lijhang close by?
How long might it take to travel to Kunming for example?

Sorry for the rapid-fire questions. Basically, any advice or tips are most welcome.

Thanks :)

2. Posted by wtanaka (Budding Member 44 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Easy from either. Vietnamese border town is called Lao Cai. Laos border town is called Boten. Some info about Boten border crossing here

Kunming is about 20-24 hours away on the roads from the Laos border. Lijiang is another 6-8 hours north of Kunming.

Distances are similar from Vietnamese border, as Kunming is roughly in the middle of Yunnan province.

[ Edit: Edited on Feb 11, 2007, at 5:28 AM by wtanaka ]

3. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hey Eve, good to hear.

Both are easy. I've done Lao-China (at Boten) in both directions and China-Vietnam (Lao Cai southbound, and Dong Dang northbound).

All were straight forward, although at Dong Dang i had my coffee confiscated (long, silly story), and crossing north at Boten all 4 of us foreigners on the minibus were given some thorough checking although only 2 were really causing problems due to 2 things which shouldn't affect you as (a) you aren't Israeli, and (b) your unlikely have a long beard with a passport photo showing you as clean shaven....


  • You can get to Lao Cai from Hanoi by train or bus, (or from Sa Pa, an hour away, by bus), and you then cross by foot and get an overnight sleeper bus to Kunming, which took about 14hours from memory.
  • There is a train 3 times a week between Hanoi and Nanning (and onwards to Beijing) which crosses at Dong Dang, and you can also get buses through.


  • The only crossing legally open to foreigners is at Boten. There is a daily sleeper bus going all the way through from Vientienne to Kunming, but thats a long trek (40 odd hrs). Your best best is to get one of the daily buses (they leave from both at around 7.30am) from either Oudomxay or Luang Namtha through to Mengla. This crosses the border at Boten, and means that the bus waits for you... It's about 5 or 6hours end to end [unless the highway under construction North from Boten is now complete], and in Mengla you can either get one of the many sleeper buses [7 or 8 a day] to Kunming, about 18? hours, or get a bus to somewhere like Jinghong and explore Xis'bana which is a pretty cool area, before heading on to Kunming.

Be aware that the border is only open something like 8 to 4, and they are in different time zones.

On our way south, we got the early bus from Jinghoing, to Mengla, then another one to Boten. Crossed the border by foot (about 1km), then hitched in the back of a pick up to Luang Namtha. Such possibilities are there, as are Sawgnys on the Lao side, although there is very little on the Lao side of the border, so be prepared to haggle/wait if you cross by foot.

Also, on neither crossing did i meet anybody on the Lao side of the border exchnging money, although there was on the Chinese side. If you don't have any kip, change 5 or 10usd in Boten before you cross to Lao (1usd = 10,000 is standard rate, anything more is better), which is what we did, and were happy for it, because payment for lifts from the border to Luang Namtha was only accepted in Kip, not Yuan or Dollars [although at a push, they'd probably accept dollars].

Also, if crossing North, be aware that there is nowhere in Boten that accepts foreign credit cards or exchanges travellers cheques, so if you don't have a ticket through to Mengla, you will have to excahnge money at the border, (shops right next to the border will offer, as will hawkers). The rates are actually very reasonable, and they will accept both USD or KIP, but make sure you have checked the offifial rates beforehand so know what you should be getting.

NOTE: If you have Kip left and aren't returning to Lao, get rid of it before you leave Lao (easy in Lunag Namtha for USD) or at the border, because you won't be able to elsewhere. Similarly, try and get rid of any Dong before you leave Vietnam.

Lijiang is about 6hours from Kunming by bus (day or overnight) and theer are lots of buses. Dali is slightly over half way and also more than worth the effort to visit, so you could do Dali in one direction and direct in the either [or continue past Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge]. Note that trains Kunming to Dali finish in New Dali, and the overnight one arrives about 4am. The bus normally costs only 1rmb, but the taxi ride is quite expensive as it's about 15km to Old Dali. If you are going between Dali and Kunming, it's a fair bit cheaper to get the frequent local bus to New Dali, and bus from there instead of the direct buses.

If you want to know anymore, just holler.

4. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Wow! That's comprehensive Rich! great stuff - thanks a lot. You've told me just abotu everything I needed to know.

Thank to you too wtanaka. ;)


5. Posted by wtanaka (Budding Member 44 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Last summer (last time I took that train), if I remember right, there were different overnight trains between Kunming and Dali, and they leave and arrive at different times. I don't remember arriving at 4am. There are trains during the day and many busses.

Also, to add to the list of the normal backpacker spots, there's also Shangri-La (aka Zhongdian) where I live. It's roughly the same distance north of Lijiang that Dali is south of Lijiang.

6. Posted by Sophie_hdm (Budding Member 3 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi, you can go to China from Vietnam. There is a train and bus from Hanoi to Nanning, (tha capital of Guangxi province). It's very convenient and easy to get into China. And I think you can not miss Guilin, Xian, Beijing when you come to China.

7. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Great, thanks for the info :)