My ride to the border fell through and I found out nearly an hour after we were supposed to leave. Neurotic about missing planes, trains and buses I had already built in enough time for setbacks but nevertheless Missed Flight anxiety moved up to Threat Level Orange.
I took to the streets from my hotel and tried to look disinterested to the first tuk-tuk driver who hailed me. My body language had to say “I am perfectly willing to walk 20 km with this bag, so don’t think I will take the first price you offer, fella.”
He spoke a different body language apparently and I ended up paying 380 baht for the 40-minute drive (about $12). Not bad really, but not the 100 baht I paid to arrive. I could have taken the local bus for pocket change but had to either walk to the station (he said 2 km, so about 1 km) or take his ride for 80 baht, wait for the next bus, etc. etc. I’m not backpacking on $5/day, so why bother?
Along the way he said something and I asked him to repeat it about 6 times before giving up. He indicated something ahead. No idea. “Around fifty tlamng” I heard. Or something like that. I started to worry this was the hidden part of our deal. 380? Oh, that was just for the first segment before the highway or some such nonsense. I’ve heard my share of them. (And in fact I write 380 here but I was 90% certain we had agreed on 330. Maybe I misheard.)
The “Aroun’ fifty tlamngkjlfa thing” turned out to be “Beer Lao factory”. We passed the brewery and its grain silos on the way.
So here’s what you need to know at the border. At the immigration exit booth just hand the passport and the departure slip (still there from your arrival) and off you do. Easy peasy. Right after that is customs and a booth that says Exit Fee. I adopted the Don’t ask don’t tell policy and just walked past. No one told. Likely a claimed goods thing.
Then comes all the bullshit offers of getting you from here to anywhere. One guy offered 300 baht all the way to Udon Thani airport. Not bad, but I didn’t like his eyes. Shifty. I took the 4000 kip (or 2500 kip and a Thai coin apparently works) ticket at a booth and then boarded the short bus to the other side. Be sure to push and shove and ignore the queue. When in Rome. Or Laos. Or Thailand. Or China. Or Egypt. Or…(Ad nauseum)
On the other side collect the immigration form, stand in line, pass into Thailand, repeat bullshit offers part. Now this is a little trickier. At least when I was there it was not clear who was legit or where one should go. Find THIS company:
Prasitchok Transport charges 200 baht for a shuttle to Udon Thani or its airport. Or 50 baht to Nong Khai. Taxis will start at 1000, work their way down to 700-800. Not a bad deal if there are 3-4 of you. But there is only one of me. (Most would say that’s a good thing.) The drive to the airport is 1 hour.
Free WiFi trial is available at the airport, plus some coin-op terminals (10baht/10minute)
Air Asia/Nok Air/Lao Airlines/Thai Airways are all present.