Thailand's northern neighbour Laos is a mountainous and landlocked country which was forgotten by tourists for a long time. Nowadays the tourism in Laos grows significantly as the country attracts visitors with its laid-back lifestyle and beautiful landscapes. As flights from Thailand to Laos can be a bit pricey, many tourists opt for overland border crossing and the most popular option is Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge from Nong Khai to Vientiane.
Going from Thailand to Laos
There are few options for reaching border town Nong Khai from Bangkok – flying to Udon Thani airport and then taking a bus, taking a train on northeast line or taking a bus. Taking a night bus is convenient enough and budget friendly option if you wish to be at the border as early as possible, so we opted for it. More information about taking a bus from Bangkok to Nong Khai can be found here: Bangkok to Nong Khai by Bus.
Nong Khai Bus Station to Border
After spending all night on the bus, we arrived at Nong Khai bus station in the early morning. It didn’t take long and we were offered a lift to the border by some tuk tuk driver. It took just about 10 minutes to get to the border from the bus station and it cost 100 baht for two of us.
On Thailand side, everything is easy (if you are not overstaying your visa, for sure) as you just walk to Thai immigration checkpoint, show your travel documents with a completed Thailand arrival/departure form and get stamped out.
As no one is allowed to cross the Friendship Bridge by foot, there’s a bus service provided on the bridge. A ticket for the bus must be bought from the counter which can be found on the right just after leaving Thai immigration.
The fare is 20 Baht (15 Baht for bus ticket + 5 Baht for overtime fee).
The bus crossing the bridge goes frequently so we had to wait just few minutes until being tightly packed in a crowded bus. It takes only few minutes to cover the distance of 1.17 km between the two immigration checkpoints.
If you need Laos Visa on Arrival
- Once the bus stops at Laos Immigration, head to the Visa on Arrival office (it’s clearly marked). Ask for visa on arrival application form and arrival & departure card there and fill in.
- Give the completed Visa on Arrival form, 1 passport photo, passport and money to the same window where you picked up the forms and wait around the corner.
Fees vary depending on the nationality (Visa cost ranges from 20 USD to 42 USD) and the time of arrival (extra 1 USD is charged if arriving out of working time). Most of the countries need to pay 30 USD, as did we. The fee for the visa should be paid in US dollars as it’s the cheapest option. If only possible, you should avoid paying in Thai Currency as the exchange rate is weird at Lao immigration. Paying in USD can save you more or less about 10 USD if compared to paying in Thai baht.
- Your name will be called or passport photo waved around to get the passport back.
Thai passport holders (visa isn’t needed, just an entry-stamp)
- Get into the line to buy a border pass "One Way Ticket" for 5 baht (or 1,000 kip).
- Ask for arrival/departure form and fill in.
- Get into the line at Laos immigration, give the passport with the completed arrival/departure form, and get stamped.
- Walked out and insert "One Way Ticket” card into the ticket machine.
The Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge is open every day from 06:00 until 22:00.
From Laos Border to Vientiane City
The Friendship Bridge is about 20 km away from Vientiane and there are many options to get there. The cheapest option is to take the green and white air-conditioned bus #14. The fare is 40 baht (cheaper if you pay in Lao Kip). The bus is running to the city every 20 minutes and it takes about 30 minutes to reach Vientiane’s central bus station (Talat Sao or Morning Market). It is possible to take a tuk tuk, taxi or a limousine, but obviously the price is higher.
You can also book transportation all the way from Bangkok to Vientiane instead of transferring by yourself. Bus and train tickets for traveling between Thai and Lao capitals can be booked here: Transportation from Bangkok to Vientiane.
If you don't want to waste your time on a bus or train, just book a Flight from Bangkok to Vientiane.