The crossing of a border always generates stress and a little apprehension. This is why we generally prefer to know what to expect. Our border crossing between Thailand and Laos via the city of Chiang Khong and the two days of slow boat on the Mekong went off without a hitch. I also suggest the various detailed steps and my advice if you intend to cross the land border between these two countries.
How to cross the border between Thailand and Laos?
We crossed the border from northern Thailand and more specifically the city of Chiang Rai. Almost unmissable step of travelers. To go from Thailand to Laos, several options are available to you. We opted for the most economical by avoiding all-inclusive packages. Here’s all you need to know for your Thai-Lao border crossing.
First step: the bus to Friendship Bridge
For this first step, two options are available to you:
Option 1: Take a bus from Chiang Rai to Friendship Bridge. These are the red buses to Chiang Khong. You will notice them quickly as the drivers will call you right away when they see you coming. He leaves one every half an hour. The first at 6am until 5pm in the evening. If you plan to take the boat, opt for a departure between 6 and 7 am to be on time at the pier. Allow about 2 hours for 65 baht (= € 1.60). Remember to report your destination to the driver even if it will most likely stop. Once off the bus, the tuk tuk are waiting for you to take you to the border.
Option 2: Spend the night in Chiang Khong. This is the option we have chosen and we recommend it if you are not in a hurry. The city is small and quiet, but we were taken advantage of a hotel with pool at the unbeatable price of 5 euros a night. So we made the bus ride the day before. On the D day, we took a minivan chartered by our hotel to go directly to the border post for 100 baht each.
Second step: get out of Thailand
Once filed by your driver, you arrive at the border post to leave the Thai territory. You will have to present your passport as well as the part of your visa concerning the exit of the territory. A stamp later, we’re out of Thailand! At this point, there is no choice but to take a bus. It will cost you 20 Baht per person. The journey is very short, it serves you only to cross the free zone between the two countries.
Third step: the entrance to Laos
On leaving the bus you will need to fill out two documents necessary to obtain your Laotian visa. Remember to take both, otherwise you will have to queue again (how does that feel the experience?). Once your documents are filled, also carry a photo ID, your passport but also US $ 30 (depending on your nationality). Remember to bring dollars beforehand, the rate is more interesting than bahts or kips. The visa is valid for 30 days. Note that if you arrive before 8am, after 4pm or at the weekend, you will have to pay $ 1 more..!
Contrary to what we had read the customs officers were quick to return our passports with our visa validated. All you have to do is cross the border post. It must have taken about twenty minutes. Here we are in Laos!
At the exit of Laotian border post you will find the famous tuk tuk, Laotian this time. They will accompany you to the pier for 10,000 kips per person! And yes change of currency and direction of circulation! But rest assured, all drivers accept bahts or dollars. However, you will have to wait for it to be full. It is not yet 10 o’clock, we are on time!
Fourth stage: the slow boat cruise on the Mekong
Again, for your crossing of the Mekong you have two options.
Option 1: The speed boat. If you are in a hurry and do not mind lounging on a boat for long hours, opt for this fast boat. For me, this is not the best solution. While you will arrive in 7 hours but the conditions of travel are anything but pleasant. You will have to wear a motorcycle helmet (yes yes), not so good to enjoy the scenery. Not to mention the deafening noise. Oh yes and it’s more expensive of course…
Option 2: The slow boat. You can imagine it’s the one we chose. Two days to go up the Mekong and relax for 1000 baht per person. Remember to refuel before departure. You will always find something to do on board but the prices are doubled and the choice is limited to beers, chips or other instant soups.
Comfort is rudimentary on the slow boat. This wooden boat is equipped with… car seats. The mixture is new but works well! Always better than the wooden benches we had heard about. But do not worry after two days sitting you will have anyway buttocks.