Info and prices accurate as of February 2016.
Okey dokey, our first overland crossing in Asia was amazingly smooth. I mean, really, really smooth.
The old way of crossing into Laos used to feature a small boat however they have now added in a ‘Friendship bridge’ to make the whole thing supposedly easier. The crossing at Chiang Khong is Friendship Bridge 4 and more are being built all down the Mekong. Be careful reading old blogs telling you that the boat is still the process – it hasn’t been for about 2 years.
We made the wonderful mistake of arriving on a weekend so already we predicted that EVERYTHING would cost more. Well, it did and it didn’t.
We left the hostel in Chiang Khong (Thailand) and took a tuk tuk to the border which set us back 50THB per person. It was 8am and we didn’t really want to argue down much. The Thailand side of the border (friendship bridge 4) is located about 10km south of the town and so a tuktuk is necessary, even with tiny backpacks. The last Thai tuktuk driver dropped us off with a smile and we walked into the hauntingly empty building looking for a few signs as to where to go next. Within a minute another nice guy (looking a bit official) asked us to follow him. Always sceptical we did so slowly but he led us to a desk with stamps and paperwork so we figured we were in the right place. Without any problem he checked our departure cards and our visa, stamped us out of Thailand and asked us to come back soon and hoped we had had a great trip. (I’m really going to miss their hospitality).
“Oh, wait, do you have USD for the Laos border?”
“Oh no, we completely forgot!” (We really did but figured we’d just pay the 1500 Baht for Brits and loose a few $ in exchange).
He nodded and pulled out a wad of USD$ and did us a decent exchange there and then. As it was the weekend the money exchange on the Thai side at least was closed.
We thanked him again and walked to the next bit, paying for the bus to get us over the Mekong River to Laos. I assumed it was going to be 20THB each but as it was the weekend it was 25. Ah well. The bus ticket lady also seemed to be a weekend exchange counter and offered us a very good rate on Laos Kip which we accepted. Just enough to get us on and off the slow boat.
Waiting around for the bus we were joined by a lot of other travellers who all had tour stickers on confirming their prepurchase of slow boat tickets and the promise they will get through quicker. They were also given Laos visa forms to fill out ahead of time.
We were first off the bus on the other side as our bags were on our knees instead of under the bus (Yay for packing light!). We got to the Visa on Arrival counter and were directed to complete the forms the others had already done. We did so and handed them over with a passport photo to the guard. Our passports disappeared inside and within 10mins our names were called from the next counter, complete with visa and USD$36 (Inc $1 weekend) fee. Still amazingly ahead of almost all the other fast tracked prepaid group.
Off we went through the Laos immigration side to the waiting minibuses for the prepaid tours and the couple of tuktuks hanging around for the independent few.
We tried to argue the 25,000Kip fee per person but he wouldn’t budge. After pulling in 2 more travellers in the hopes of reducing the cost we gave in and headed the 15mins to the slow boat dock.
All in all the border experience was quick and simple, even for a weekend.
Please check with your country the cost of a visa for Laos. Our Canadian buddies had a price tag of $42 vs our $35 but a Swiss guy got through for free.
An easy experience all around without much hassle.
Tuktuk from Chiang Khong to border – 50THB
Bus over the bridge – 20/25THB
Visa – $36
Tuktuk to Huay Xai slow boat dock – 25,000Kip.