Room with a view at the InTouch Guesthouse, Vientiane, Laos 15 dollar room

How I Traveled From Laos To Thailand for Under Three Dollars

It was day 30. Time was up on my Lao stamp validity. The wonderful woman at the In Touch Guesthouse in Vientiane said she could get me a door-to-door drop off from the guesthouse, all the way to the customs office in Nong Khai, Thailand, for 120,000 Lao Kip ($7).

Her offer was tempting, but I decided to travel independently. Here is how I traveled from Laos to Thailand for under three dollars.

I researched alternative ways to reach the border, which led me on a 20-minute stroll to locate the central bus station. The woman there spoke enough English to tell me there was a bus at 10 a.m. every day. I would need to buy the ticket the same morning.

A bus ready to drive out Vientiane's  downtown city station.  In the post: how I traveled from Laos to Thailand for under three dollars.
Outside the central bus station, Vientiane, Laos.

I was running low on Lao Kip and trying to conserve them till the ATM in Nong Khai, where I’d get Thai Baht. This way I could avoid another ATM withdrawal in Laos, and being stuck with excess Kip. Apparently Lao Kip are not recognized outside of Laos. I only had 80 k Kip ($4.50), left.

Because I was traveling on a Saturday, a weekend day, the price of the ticket to Thailand cost 33 k Kip ($1.70). Had I traveled on a weekday, the price would have been 27 k Kip ($.33) cheaper.

At 9:06 a.m I handed the guesthouse key over and was out-the-door power walking to the station. I needed the dry run the day before not only to find out when the buses go and the cost, but so I knew exactly where I’d be swiftly moving my legs and feet along urban sidewalks to reach this convenient transportation situation.

A nice vista in Laos' capital city from the hotel room.  In Post: How I traveled from Laos to Thailand for under three dollars.
Room with a view on the fourth floor, In Touch Guesthouse, Cost: 250,000 Kip ($15), Vientiane, Laos.

With the amount of Kip I had in my pocket, a taxi or tuk tuk wasn’t an option. Regardless, since the station wasn’t far, I would have walked anyway.

If a station is within walking distance and it's feasible to carry your baggage on foot, then it's a great way to get exercise.

I arrived at 9:27 a.m. and waited one minute to buy the ticket. Shortly thereafter I boarded the bus with both my bags. It was half full.

At the border we needed to take our luggage off for the scanner, but the situation was so laid-back that no one scanned anything.

The bus departed Vientiane’s central bus station at 10:06 a.m. and arrived at the Lao departure office before 11 a.m., 20 km from the station in Vientiane’s center.

In Thai, then in sign language, we were instructed to get off the bus with all of our stuff. The whole ordeal took 40 minutes. After waiting in lines to meet with customs officials through their windows, everyone was back on the bus. We were off again.

The bus waits for everyone to take care of their border-crossing red tape.

The out-stamping process was fast and simple since my Lao departure was filled out properly. Did that matter? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way it’s a good habit to do things accurately when dealing with border bureaucracy.

One Caveat

Lao immigration asked for a 10 K Kip weekend fee or tip. In essence this is under the table money they request. If it is not a weekend, they’ll give another reason. The same processing fee was asked for when I crossed into Laos.

Since it’s only 10 K Kip ($.65), my recommendation is to make life easy and hand over the small, black-market sum. I have a feeling they wouldn’t be able to do anything if a person said no. But I can’t be sure, so it’s easier to pay the pittance and be grateful these guys aren’t trying to bribe larger quantities.

In my opinion, they’re going about it the right way by only asking for the equivalent of pocket change. I don’t know how many people cross the border daily on average, but the money helps the workers.

A vista of the wide river from the crossing point or vehicular bridge. In Post: How I traveled from Laos to Thailand for under three dollars.
The Mekong River between Vientiane, Laos and Nong Khai, Thailand.

We crossed the majestic Mekong over the Friendship Bridge and arrived in Nong Khai.

After a short drive we were at the big Thai customs area. I waited in line for 30 minutes before quickly receiving a 45-day tourist stamp for Thailand. The Brazilian who was on the bus got 90 days.

In line, I was handed an arrival card to fill out. I was sure to have it as clearly and fully completed as possible. This included the address and phone number of a guesthouse.

By getting everything filled out accurately, there's a better chance of moving through swiftly.

After everyone completed their passport-entry actions, the bus took us even further, to the bus station in Nong Khai. From there I walked around and easily found an affordable hotel room.

Hotel room containing chair bed, window, curtain, door to balcony, backpack and bottle of water. In article: How I traveled from Laos to Thailand for under three dollars.
Room, COST 270 Baht ($8.30), Pongvichit Hotel, Nong Khai, Thailand.

There was another foreigner on the bus, a Brazilian. After getting seated in Vientiane, I confirmed with him that this bus would take us through two customs points while waiting for us and then taking us into the city. He was under the same impression.

I thought:

This has got to be the most efficient land-border crossing experience I’ve ever taken part in. WOW!

Me with the very wide body of water behind me.  In Post: How I traveled from Laos to Thailand for under three dollars.
Selfie on the Mekong River, Nong Khai, Thailand.

Two hours after leaving the station in Vientiane, I arrived in Nong Khai. That’s when my initial thought was confirmed:

The border was crossed efficiently, inexpensively and swiftly. Other than $.65 for the Lao customs guys, there were no additional costs for taxi, tuk tuk, bus or mini-van transfers. It was the smoothest and cheapest land border crossing I’ve ever experienced.

Have you ever crossed a border so easily? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Set of photos from Vientiane.

Set of photos from Nong Khai.

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