Getting to Vientiane via Nong Khai, Thailand
Many overland travellers to Vientiane catch big comfortable air-conditioned coaches or the train from Bangkok. A stopover stay in hotel accommodation near the Friendship Bridge in the city of Nong Khai overnight is recommended, before and after crossing the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge. The bridge was funded by Australia and built by Australian companies. Some expats from as far away as Chiang Mai fly to Vientiane via Luang Prabang or park their car in secure parking at nearby Nong Khai before their "Thailand to Vientiane visa run". Signage near the Thai side of the border names the bridge as the "Thai Lao Friendship Bridge" whereas signage on the Lao side near the bridge names the bridge as the "Lao Thai Friendship Bridge". The nearest town to Vientiane is our home town of "Si ChiangMai", 400 metres directly south across the Mekong River from Vientiane, in the Thai border province of Nong Khai. I've had many romantic sunset dinners at restaurants on the bank of the Mekong River at Si Chiang Mai, listening to Lao music drift across the Mekong and watching long tail boats, cargo boats and the Vientiane dinner cruise boat ply the mighty Mekong.
Visa Run Thailand to Vientiane
Many tourists and expats in Thailand from as far away as Chiang Mai fly to Vientiane via Udon Thani or park their car in secure parking at the Thai town near Vientiane of "Nong Khai" to start their "Thailand to Vientiane visa run". The nearest Thai town to Vientiane is Sri ChiangMai, 400 metres directly south across the Mekong River in the Thai province of Nong Khai. About 4 kilometres west of Wattay airport at Praphutthabat is a small Thai border crossing checkpoint for ASEAN citizens ONLY.
Youtube video of this small Sri Chiang Mai, Mekong River Port near where the proposed high speed train is to cross over the Mekong from China/Lao to Bangkok, Thailand and on to Singapore.
Photo By Ben Grummels of cheap 20 baht (66 cents) bus fare Friendship Bridge Crossing Bus embarking Nong Khai Thailand and then over the Australian built Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River to Vien Tiane.
How to Get a Visa at Thai Consulate in Vientiane. Prepare your Thai visa application documentation:
- Download your via application form and one page instruction The instruction says "All types of visa are issued according to the stated PURPOSE OF VISIT". Tony in line just before us was upset when he'd travelled all the way from Khon Kaen to Vientiane for a 1,000 bhat tourist visa. He was advised by the reviewing immigration officer that because he was married to a Thai, and even though he only wanted to be a tourist, that he had to apply for a 2,000 bhat marraige visa, Non-O visa (Non-Immigrant, category "O" ough) and had to show his original marriage certificate which his wife had to bring up from Khon Kaen the next day. I also was only to be in Thailand for less than a month with my Isan Thai wife on a family tourist holiday in Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Samui on the way to our home in Perth. Luckly we had our original Australian marraige certificate and Australian embassy stamped Thai translated copy with us. We had to leave the visa appliation receivals window to photocopy these documents and link up again. Then we were told more copies were required. After lining for a third time, the embassy imigration officer told my wife that the light copies were not good enough, to which she replied politely that it wasn't our problem and to complain to the embassy photocopy office upstairs from the visa application submission window office. A simple line about HAVING to apply for a Non-O visa if you're married to a Thai, would save a LOT of missery for visa run expats and tourists coming far away from Vientiane.Hopefully an electronic visa system in October 2014 will come with an online application form with a path such as "if married to a Thai click here". If you're a drug dealer do not pass go, go directly to jail"
- Your passport with at least 6 month validity left in it for travel.
- An alternative to downloading this visa application form is to have a visa run tour guide in Thailand or Lao roadside clerks with photocopiers do all your paper work for about 200 baht. All you need do is check and sign.
- Two passport photos need to be glued on to your visa application form.
- Other original supporting documentation such as marrage certificates, children's birth certificates etc. Last year we presented documents translated into Thai language and stamped by approved noteries. Eg
- Thai, marrage certificate but in 2014 our Australian marrage certificate without translation was fine.
- Thai wife's Thai ID card and
- Thai property papers.
- Letters of support from Thai employers.
TRAVEL TO VIENTIANE BY PLANE AND OR BUS
The most popular visa run method by bus is outlined below with bullet point step by step method. If you only want a two week visa for Thailand, simply cross the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong from Nong Khai. Get your passport stamped in Laos. Turn around, go back over the bridge and get your 14 day Thai visa on arrival on the Nong Khai, Thailand side of the Mekong River.
VIENTIANE VISA RUN BY BUS PAPER WORK and STEP BY STEP PROCEDURE
Pay Lao "visa on arrival" fee of 1300 bhat ($43) to Lao immigration:
- When leaving Thailand hand in your passport and departure card. Your passport will be stamped with the date of departure from the Kingdom of Thailand.
- Look right, towards the road, for 20 baht bus ticket sellers, just after exiting Thai imigration checkpoint to buy your 20 baht bus ticket.
- Hand your bus ticket in as you pass throught the stainless steel gate to get on the Friendship Bridge bus.
- Cross the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River to the Lao checkpoint.
- In 2014 I headed to window number 2 for embarkation card. With crossed out by hand poor signage you'll have to have your witts on in case different window functions change again. Outside window 2 I asked an Asian which window they got their embarkation cards from. Their missinformation of window 3 cost us an extra 2 hours wait. After waiting at window 3 for 5 minutes a traveller advised to knock on window number 2. The dark tinted window slid open and visa on arrival application form and embarkation/disembarkation forms were handed to me.
- At window number one, after the forms were filled in I joined the window queue holding:
- 1,300 baht.
- One page Lao visa on arrival application form.
- Two photos
- Embarkation form.
- Unfortunately the Lao border control staff batch process Lao visa on arrival, so we waited for 2 hot hours, standing without water or going to the toilet for fear of loosing one's place in the queue. When our line started moving Lao queue jumpers with American passports were processed first.
- Some Lao tour drivers who want a job to transport you to Vientiane, get for you embarkation formsand hold your bags when you get off the bridge bus.
- At window number 3 about 3 metres from window number 2, wait about 10 minutes. A Lao migration officer's hand hold's your passport for collection. Watch window 3 carefully to make sure no one makes off with your passport and money change from your visa payments. (While the Lao currency is Kip, Thai baht is welcomed in Vientiane. The ANZ Bank ATM near our $30 per night hotel displays Lak which is equal to Kip.)
- Travel from the Friendship Bridge Lao checkpoint to the Thai consulate in the Vientiane CBD or to your Vientiane hotel is by bus or air-conditioned 500 baht taxi / mini bus. We hired a good driver and air conditioned mini bus tour van for 2.5 days sightseeing and Vientiane / Bridge transfers for 1900 baht.
- If you're driving to Vientiane, road signs display Vientiane spelt "Vien Tiane" Click the blue photo for Friendship Bridge tolls for self-drive vehicles in the KipLaos currancy. On the Lao side of the Friendship Bridge the tourist bus crosses over to the right hand side of the road. Small motorbikes, pedestrians and bicycle are excluded from crossing the Friendship Bridge. A friend of mine was permitted to drive his 250cc motorbike over the bridge.
- Our taxi driver who dropped us off at our Vientiane hotel tipped off a clerk who visited us at breakfast time with an offer of 6,000 bhat for a complete visa service saying it would all be done without us even leaving the hotel but we didn't want to hand over our passports to a stranger.
- A sign near the first stage Thai consulate window stated "No urgent Visa" yet:
- My wife was offered a same day visa for me @ an extra 2000 baht
- An Asian standing near the first stage documentation window was collecting queue numbered tickets from a group of Russians.
Visa At the Kingdom of Thailand Consulate Vientiane
- DAY ONE: Arrive at the Thai consulate Vientiane well BEFORE passport receivals close @ 11:30am. Some visa runners line up outside the Thai consulate gates at 7am. By the time the consulate gates open at 8:30am, it can be quite hot so bring an umbrella if lining up in the street or have a nice iced coffee in the restaurant over the road from the Thai consulate while you wait for a bigger queue number.
- If you don't receive a number at the Thai consulate front gate, go to the door near passport receivels window to get a number on a piece of paper.
- Take a seat under the hot tin roof or if your hearing is good at listening to called numbers, the beautiful Thai consulate gardens are cooler. There is a green, drink vendor as shown in this photos where you can buy drinks while you wait or drink complementry water from near the passport collection window.
- When your number range is called, step up to the queue. Hand in your passport with two photos stuck to your downloaded visa application form. Thai consular visa clerks will check and advise you if there are more documents needed.
- Get a receipt for your passport along with your ..
- Queue number
- When the doors to the bigger consular building 5 metres away open, take a seat in the cold air-conditioned waiting room.
- After previous day visa applicants have had their names called and cleared off with their passports stamped with new visas for entry to Thailand.
- Wait for your number to be called and or if the LCD screen is working watch for your number and go to the cashier counter when it is your turn. Show the cashier your passport receipt and pay your non-refundable application fee, the amount of which varies depending on the type of visa you're applying for. The clerk will give you a receipt for your visa application fee. Put your receipt in a safe place ready for day 2.
- Catch a tuktuk back to your hotel, have a shower and wait for day 2.
- DAY 2: Next working day the time of gates opening in the afternoon at the Thai consulate in Vientiane is 1pm. Arrive before then and you'll be lining up in the hot sun outside or in the cool cafe near the Thai consulate with an iced coffee or "BeerLao"
- Get a numbered ticket at the front gate
- Wait under the hot metal roof or beautiful shaded garden which is a smoking zone. If you're early watch the morning visa applicant submitters for the next day, leave the big front door. Then watch the doors locked for about half an hour to open at 1pm
- When the big front doors open, go in and tak a seat in the freezing room.
- Watch for your day 2 ticket number to be called/displayed
- On Friday 3 Oct with the LCD screen off, there was a systems failure with incorect names being called and MANY absentee, mostly Russian names being called. One Spanish tourist had her first 2 latin names with a Russian surname called. The chances of one Latin name and a Russian, not common but two correct Latin names in order and a Russian name, highly improbable. While about 100 absentee, mostly Russian names were being called, a group of about 13 waited for 2 hours in the freezing room. Some responded to the roll call with "not here" and "died waiting". It was a farse. Some ideas for system improvement are to:
- Call out or display queue numbers and or passport numbers. That would save consular staff on the microphone struggling with name pronunciations.
- Separate out big groups such as Russian groups which some how got one day visas and were not present to answer day 2 role call for visa / passport collection.
- Go to the counter to collect your passport and visa for entry into the Kingdom of Thailand. People with children were asked to come to the counter first.
- Tell consular staff your first and last name. They then search hundreds of passports on their desk, so maybe stating the colour and country of your passport would be a good idea.
- Check your visa dates / conditions before you leave the Thai consulate building in Vientiane
Flights to Vientiane from Bangkok, KL, Luang Brabang, Hanoi or Ho Chi Min City etc are common as shown at the bottom of this page. Tourist visa upon arrival at Wattay Airport costs about $40. Prices vary according to nationality. The first time, I caught a flight from KL to Vientiane's Wattay International Airport near the centre of Vientiane with AirAsia for an air fare of about $50
The photo at the top of this webpage shows the author's Isaan wife boarding a Mekong River cruise boat under the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai. On this special Songkran festival day, the boat did cruise in and out of Lao without border controls by neither Thailand nor Laos. At this stage travel to Lao from Nong Khai is not an option. Isaan is the language and culture of Nong Khai and Vientiane.
DECLARATION of more than 750,000 baht is required if traveling into Thailand. Crossing the border could be punishable by death.
DRIVING BY CAR FROM THAILAND TO VIENTIANE
- Most car drivers will be north from Bangkok via Korat, Udon Thani and Nong Khai.
- Some drivers would travel from the west on the scenic, highway 211, along the Mekong River via the all wooden town of Chiang Khan.
- Drivers from the east might be via Sakon Nakhon.
If you're driving to Vientiane by car, don't let the road signs spelling of Vien Tiane put you off. Locally it's pronounced "vien chun". (VienChun)
Toll fees for crossing the Friendship bridge from Nong Khai depend on the size of the vehicle crossing the bridge.
LIST AIRLINES VIENTIANE
Below is a list of airline companies operating at Wattay International airport, Vientiane:
- Vietnam Airlines in Vientiane.
- Lao Skyway.
- Lao Airlines.
- Smile airways.
- Thai airways.
- Bangkok Airways.
- Air Asia