Need a Thai visa? A break from Thailand? A vacation in UNESCO-honored Luang Prabang? Getting across the border from Thailand to Laos is simple, but I thought I’d throw a few photos and tips up here just to make it clearer.
I arrived in Udon Thani from Bangkok with Air Asia. Cheap flights even at the last minute for Udon Thani are cheaper than a direct fly-in to Vientiane and significantly so in the case of Luang Prabang. Right outside the airport is a 200-baht minivan which will take you to the border at Nong Khai. Takes just under an hour. Penny pinchers may haggle their way to Udon Thani by taxi or tuktuk and then take a cheap and slower local bus, but I am not sure it’s worth it. (By the way, the train all the way from Bangkok now crosses down the middle of the bridge stopping for immigration checks on each side. One still needs a transfer into Vientiane, however. And in some cases Air Asia is actually cheaper and obviously faster than the overnight train and has fewer roaches in some cases. 😉
Exit Thai immigration and find the 15-baht bus across the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge. You CAN walk it (and I really wanted to) but it is far. The views of the Mekong River are nice and I had a great missed photo opp of two Buddhist monks in orange robes right out of the dye vat it seemed, playing with a couple of dogs along the rippled sands exposed by low water.
Windows are numbered so it really is pretty easy.
Window 1 gather visa form and see posted visa fees (Americans $35 cash, USD is best). Fill in form and return it to the person at window 1 (or perhaps window 2 when someone is actually working it.) Wait about 5-15 minutes for the full-page visa sticker (the smaller the country, the larger the visa, right?) and you will be called at window 3 around the corner.
Gather receipt, count your change if any, then go through the check-in booths. The guy just glances and lets you past. Same at customs. Then prepare for the mob of drivers. I circled the wagons with a fellow traveler and we each got 100-baht rides all the way to our respective hotels. (Thai baht is acceptable currency in Laos so you may not need to change money at the border though there IS a currency exchange at a window to the right of Window 3.) First offered price was 250, 200, then 150 from various others with vans, cars and tuktuks. This was a private car and the driver was jittery with excitement to nab 200 baht of work.
I checked into Avalon Hotel and have been very pleased. Under $30 via internet including simple breakfast (and Lao coffee!) and a lobby with English Lao papers that has just a hint of old-school hotel to it. My room has a balcony and the easy pace of life in Laos is slowly working away the tension of Bangkok as I sit with doors wide open, writing. (There are cheaper options and one can surely just show up and hunt for them door to door, but I looked for convenience this time and didn’t mind the $25 pricetag.)
Going the other direction? Sounds like you need Part Two