After the train arrives 3-hours late at the Thai border town of Nong Khai, I then have to forward for crossing to Laos. From the train to the border I recruit an Israeli sidekick to cut the tuk-tuk fare, and while I am reluctant to join backpackers to haggle pennies from penniless locals, I am always willing to cut costs where I can. We were then joined by two Dutch girls so again cut the prices further (the final price 20 baht per person).
On the short trip to the border crossing (Friendship Bridge, Mekhong River) the tuk-tuk stops along the way at a VISA booth for advanced VISA stamps. Wary of potential scams we decline. Presumably, they trade on margins. For many countries (UK, Euro, US) it is $35 or 1,500THB for a Laos VISA. With current exchange rates, 1,500THB is closer to $50. The VISA is therefore $15 more expensive when paying in Thai Baht as most travellers leaving Thailand would do.
Friendship Bridge Border Crossing
At the border, we pass quickly through Thailand immigration. A 15baht fee for the bus takes us across Friendship Bridge on the Mekhong River and arrives at Laos Immigration. We’re straight to the VISA on Arrival counter, fill in the forms, and hand them back in with payment for VISA (1,500baht). When handing in my forms the counter was closed and immigration officers disappeared for a 20 min break (maybe best to have accepted the advance VISA on the tuk-tuk drive). We can now enter Laos.
Minivan From Border to Vientiane
There is now a 20km drive to find Vientiane. The same group come together on the far side. First, myself, the Israeli fella and a new US recruit wangle a price of 50 baht each in the back of a minibus. The girls then arrive and get the same for 100 baht each. We didn’t tell them. I found later that the public buses (green) take you to Vientiane bus station for 20baht.
I was first to depart at my hotel, spoke and paid in Thai and off I went. In Laos, most places accept Thai currency and speak Thai. I never got round to learning the Laos Kip exchange.