Doing a visa trip to Laos
If you’re looking to extend your visa, or entry permit, for another 30 days by exiting and re-entering Thailand by land, you have a few different options available in Laos. These trips are often referred to as “visa runs”.
In the past visitors to Thailand could exit and re-enter the country as many times as they wanted to back to back, and some people lived in the country for years by doing quick trips out of the country every month. Currently foreigners can’t get an infinite number of successive entry permits, though you can do a visa run so long as you haven’t been in the country as a tourist for more than 90 days out of the past six months.
There are four official border crossings between Thailand and Laos and if you’re planning on crossing and coming back in a day at one of these borders, here’s what you need to know. You will need a couple of hours to wait in lines and complete all the paperwork required to leave Thailand, enter Laos, leave Laos and enter Thailand. Both countries’ immigration offices are open varying hours, and if you arrive when they are closed you will not be able to cross the border and/or re-enter.
Transport to Laos
You will need to make your way from the Hua Hin to Bangkok via minivan. All minivans from Hua Hin stop at Victory Monument. Once you get to Victory Monument, catch a Skytrain to Asok Skytrain station, change over to the MRT line and catch a train to Hua Lamphong train station. To view the MRT map click here.
Getting to Nong Khai
Nong Khai is close to Udon Thani, which is served by a small airport with multiple daily flights from Bangkok. The drive between Nong Khai and Udon Thani is about one hour and there are frequent shuttle buses available at the airport which make the trip. You can take an overnight bus from Bangkok to Nong Khai, with a connection to Vientiane. The trip takes about 10 hours. There are also three overnight trains between Bangkok and Nong Khai, which make the trip in about 12 hours. A first class rail ticket will cost about 1200 Baht. The train leaves at 8pm sharp every night. Note : if you want to buy a first class ticket, you will need to book a day in advance. The train should get to Nong Khai at 9 am the following morning. For more information on the Thai railway click here.
Nong Khai, in northern Thailand, is a border crossing close to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The border is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is the easiest place to cross in terms of convenience and efficiency, as it's a very popular crossing spot. Because there's a bridge in between the Thai and Laotian borders, you'll either need to walk or take a tuk tuk or shuttle bus between them. Even if you're only entering Laos to turn around and leave again, you will have to pay 1,400 Baht for a Laotian tourist visa. You can pay that in either Baht or US dollars if you don't have any Laotian Kip.Catch a tuk tuk to the border, do not pay more than 50 Baht for this. Once you get to the border go through customs and 'stamp out' of Thailand. You will then catch a bus over the bridge and into Laos, this bus will cost 20 Baht.
Getting to Mukdahan
The river town of Mukdahan in eastern Isaan sits on the Mekong and is across from Savannakhet, one of Laos largest cities. The border itself is about 2 miles outside of the center of Mukdahan, and there is a government bus that makes the trip frequently. As with Nong Khai, you will have to cross a bridge between the two borders either on foot or by car, bus, taxi or tuk tuk. Remember that Mukdahan is much less frequented than Nong Khai so even getting a ride from the center to the border can be difficult at times.
Getting to Nakhon Phanom
Another Mekong river town is Nakhon Phanom, across from Tha Khaek in Laos. The cool thing about this border crossing is that you have to do it by boat instead of bridge. Immigration offices, though, have limited hours so you need to arrive early in the morning to make sure you have enough time to leave and return in the same day.
Getting to Chong Mek
Chong Mek, just outside of Ubon Ratchathani in Isaan, is another busy, efficient land crossing between Laos and Thailand. It’s also a border market town so if you have some time to spare it’s an interesting place to walk around. Most people who cross into Laos here start in Ubon Ratchathani, and there are frequent government buses that make the journey to the border.
Your Laos and Thailand visa's
Once you have your passport back, catch a taxi to the Thai embassy in Vientiane and hand in your documents for your Thai visa. Do not spend more than 150 Baht for this taxi ride. Note : you will need to get to the embassy before 12:00 pm to hand these documents in. If not, then you need to come back to following day and hand them in then.
Once you have handed your documents in you can find a cheap hotel for the night. Get into a taxi and ask them to take you to 'The Fountain', this ride should not cost more than 150 Baht. In the main street is where you will find all the budget hotels. You do not need to pre-book book there are more than enough hotels and you should not spend more than 1200 Baht a night for a 3 star hotel.
The following morning catch a taxi back to the embassy and collect your visa. You will not be able to collect the visa before 1 pm. Note : remember to take your receipt with you; without this you cannot collect your visa.
Return to Thailand from Vientiane
Once you have your passport and are ready to return to Thailand, catch a taxi to Thanaleng train station in Laos. This taxi ride should take no more than 20 minutes and cost no more than 150 Baht. The train from Thanaleng train station leaves at 4:30 pm everyday, takes 10 minutes to cross the border (Mekong River) and cost 20 Baht. Once you get to the Nong Khai (the train station on the Thai side), you will need to clear customs and buy another train ticket back to Bangkok. A first class ticket down to Bangkok will cost you 1317 Baht. The train leaves Nong Khai at 6:35 pm every night.