Crossing a land border always seems like it could be a lot of hassle and take a lot of time. Doing your research and reading a guide on how to cross your particular border crossing of concern is the best way to know how to prepare. Recently I crossed the Thai/Laos border and it was so much easier than expected, so this is a simple guide for you.
There are two different Thai/Laos border crossings, the one I’m referencing in this post is Chiang Khong/Huay Xui (the most common for international travellers). This will mean you start your Laos journey North of the country.
The most popular place from Huay Xui is Luang Prabang and the most common route is via a slow boat. For 2 days you can choose the public boat (a cheaper but very crowded option) or a luxury boat (one of the best experiences I’ve ever had). You can more about how I travelled from Huay Xui to Luang Prabang in my Luang Say River Cruise post.
The Thai/Laos border crossing journey took 4 hours in total from door to door. Time goes so quick after changing buses and going through border check points it will feel like not long at all.
From Chiang Rai you will depart on an open air bus to the immigration office just outside of Chiang Khong. The journey will cost you 100THB (£2.50) if you wish to get dropped outside the immigration office, or 65THB (£1.65) if you’re happy to travel from Chiang Khong centre by yourself via tuk tuk. The second option will actually cost you more (the tuk tuk drivers charge 50THB, which will total 115THB – £3.70), so I recommend paying the 100THB on board the first bus.
This journey will take 2 hours. It is quite cramped as the seats are very small but your luggage is safely stored at the back. Make sure to grab yourself a drink/snack and going to the toilet before jumping on board as there are no toilets, snacks or stops along the way.
When you arrive at the Thai Immigration Office in Chiang Khong you will be greeted by border control where they’ll check your passport, stamp you out and take your departure cards.
You buy a 20THB (£0.50) bus ticket to cross the bridge. There will be coaches waiting to leave every 10-15 minutes and from departing, it takes just a few minutes to cross the bridge.
Arriving at the Laos Immigration Office is the only part that takes some brain energy. Everything is pretty effortless and simple. Here, you will need to fill out a visa form and your arrival card with all the necessary information. You hand the forms, your passport and a passport size photo over to the officials who will process it and hand it back to you once approved with a slip of paper for you to pay for your visa at the exit gates.
After collecting your passport and payment slip, don’t forget to make sure you have your Laos departure card. I always tuck this into my passport for safe keeping.
You’ll go through passport control and then onto the final gate where you pay for your visa.
A 30-day tourist visa cost $35 (£26.90) being a UK citizen. The price varies depending where you’re from and can cost more depending on the time of day you choose to cross. If you cross the border after 4pm on weekdays or choose to cross at the weekend, you will be charged a small “overtime fee” of $1-2 depending on how to border officials are feeling.
Choosing to pay in US dollar is the best option as it gives you the best exchange rate. If you pay in Thai Baht it will cost you or 1500THB (£37.90). Paying in USD saves you a good £8-12/$10-15.
You can also pay in EUR, THB and Chinese Yuan.
After paying for your visa you’re officially in Laos!
The tuk tuk drovers were once known to overcharge tourists massively to get into Huay Xui, now the prices seem reasonable. We paid 20,000kip (LAK) each which is £1.70 for a shared air-conditioned mini-van. The journey into town took around 15 minutes and the driver drops you at your accommodation.
There you have it. The border crossing is as simple and stress-free as that. It seems like a lot of information to take in (trust me, I’ve been there). But when you’re doing it and have arrived in your Huay Xui accommodation, you’ll realise just how simple it is.
Next stop, Luang Prabang via the Luang Say River Cruise.