I just completed my Thai visa run yesterday in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, which is supposed to be the easiest and cheapest way to get a Thailand visa. I got a double entry tourist visa which gives me 2 months for each entry. This visa can also be extended for 30 days in Thailand for each entry, so in total I can stay for 6 more months in Thailand (with a quick border run to a neighboring country after 3 months).
If you know what to do, where to go, and what to bring then it’s a pretty straightforward process. This post should hopefully help those who are planning on doing a visa run in Laos. I’ll try to put in as much useful information as I can remember.
Also note that this is not the cheapest way to do a visa run as I decided to fly to the airport in the city of Udon Thani, near the border, instead of taking an overnight bus. The airfare is about 2-3 times as much as the bus fare (unless you book about 2 months in advance where you can get promo fares for less than 1,000 baht, which is about the same price as the bus).
Things to Bring
- Pen (optional but always good to have)
- Flashlight (optional but recommended if you’re staying somewhere in Vientiane without a generator as power outages are very frequent)
- Passport (of course)
- 3 passport-sized photos (1 photo for the Laos visa on arrival application, 2 photos for the Thailand visa application)
- 1 x photocopy of your passport’s main page
- 1 x photocopy of the passport page with the Laos visa and Laos entry stamp
- 1,500 baht or $35 USD for the Laos visa (note here that you’ll save $15 if you pay in USD)
- Cash in Thai baht for the Thai visa (1,000 baht per entry)
Note: There’s a photocopy machine at the Thai consulate (1,000 kip per page) and you can get your picture taken there as well. Of course, it will be more expensive.
What to Do
Here’s what you need to do to get a Thailand tourist visa in Vientiane, Laos.
Booking a Flight
As far as I know, only Nok Air flies to Udon Thani from Chiang Mai and vice versa.
Chiang Mai to Udon Thani schedule: 7:25am, 11:20am, 5:50pm
Udon Thani to Chiang Mai schedule: 9:15am, 1:00pm, 7:40pm
Airfare ranges from $2,000-$3,000 baht (plus taxes and fees) if booked only days in advance. If you book way in advance, say 2 months ahead, you could get promotional fares for less than $1,000 baht each way, which is about the same cost as taking the bus. So if you definitely know when you’ll be doing your visa run, then it’s highly recommended to book way ahead of time.
Flight time is about 1 hour 20 minutes.
Day 1 – Getting to Vientiane
1. Take a songthaew to Chiang Mai International Airport for 100 baht (try to flag an empty one). (15 minutes)
2. Fly to the city of Udon Thani from Chiang Mai. (1 hour 20 minutes)
3. At the Udon Thani airport, go to the “limousine service” right by the exit just outside of the baggage claim area and purchase a ticket for 200 baht to take you to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai. (40-60 minutes)
I arrived at the airport at around 12:40pm and there were only 2 of us passengers. So they switched us from a minivan to a regular car. The driver was speeding so it only took about 40 minutes.
4. Get your Thailand exit stamp at the bridge. (5-10 minutes depending on how busy it is)
5. Just past the Thailand immigration exit, buy a bus ticket for 15 baht to take you to the Laos side of the bridge (5-10 minutes).
6. Get a Laos visa on arrival for 1,500 baht or $35 USD (note that It’s cheaper if you pay with USD). They’ll stamp your passport when you get your visa at the window so no need to go line up again at the immigration line. Customs/immigration fee is also already included in the visa fee so just show your visa to the staff to enter Laos. (30-60 minutes total depending on how busy it is)
7. Take the local bus to the city of Vientiane for 6,000 kip, air-conditioned. You can also take a taxi, tuk-tuk, or minivan if you like but will be more expensive. (30 minutes)
8. The Thai consulate is only open until 12pm Mon-Fri for the visa application, so stay overnight in the city and visit the consulate the next day. I stayed at Vientiane Backpackers, which is a decent hostel. Very basic but good value. Around $5 USD/night (40,000 kip) and includes a basic breakfast. Dorms only (with air-conditioning) and can get crowded. Lots of people come and go everyday and most seem to stay for only 1 or 2 nights. Good hostel for meeting people.
Day 2 – Submitting Your Visa Application
1. Go to the Consular Section of the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane. Visa application office is open from 8:30am to 12:00pm Mon-Fri. The address is No.15 Ban Ponesinuan, Bourichane Road, Vientiane Capital (Google Maps link).
If taking a tuk-tuk, you’ll be quoted 40,000 kip but you can negotiate it down to 20,000 kip or less. Tell the driver that you’re going to the “Thai consulate for Thai visa,” they’ll know where it is (they may also have a list of popular destinations in English so you can just look at it and point).
2. At the consulate, get a number from the machine by the window, take an application form, fill it up, and wait for your number to get called. I was number 50 and they were only at number 6 when I got there. It took about 1 hour and 15 minutes for my number to get called.
3. Hand-in your application and photocopies of your main passport page and the page with the Laos visa and entry stamp.
4. Go to the payment area (inside the air-conditioned building) and wait for your number to get called again.
5. Pay your visa fee (you’ll be given a receipt), head back to your place, and wait 1 more day to pick up your passport with your new Thailand visa.
Day 3 – Picking Up Your Passport and Going Back to Chiang Mai
1. Head back to the Thai consulate to pick up your passport from 1:00-3:00pm (Mon-Fri only). I got there around 12:20pm and there was already a line. The gate opened at around 1:07pm. I ended up getting number 28 but it only took about 10 minutes to get my passport. Simply hand in the receipt you received the previous day and you’ll be given back your passport.
2. Walk to the bus station from the consulate (about 20 minutes) or take a tuk-tuk.
3. Buy a bus ticket for Udon Thani (which they spell as “Oudonthani”) for 22,000 kip. There were buses at 2:00pm (which would’ve been perfect but was sold out when I got there), 3:00pm, and 4:30pm. I ended up getting the 3:00pm bus. The bus will wait for you as you cross the border to get your passport stamped.
Depending on how busy it is at the border, the entire ride from Vientiane to Udon Thani could take 2-3 hours. In my case it took 2 hours 30 minutes to get to the bus station in Udon Thani.
4. Take a tuk-tuk from the Udon Thani bus station to the airport. The tuk-tuk lady asked for 120 baht, but I asked for 100 baht and she said yes right away, so could probably get it lower. (15 minutes)
5. Have a snack at the airport, relax, get on the free Wi-Fi and fly back to Chiang Mai.
6. From Chiang Mai airport take an airport taxi back to your place for 120 baht.
- Airfare roundtrip (including taxes and fees) – $197
- Taxi service from Udon Thani airport to Friendship Bridge – $6.80
- Bus to cross the Friendship Bridge – $0.50
- Laos visa on arrival fee – $35
- Bus from Friendship Bridge to Vientiane – $0.75
- 2 nights accommodation – $10
- Tuk-tuk to/from Thai consulate x 2 (I walked one time) – $5
- Thailand tourist visa (double entry) – $68
- Bus from Vientiane to Udon Thani bus station – $2.75
- Tuk-tuk from Udon Thani bus station to Udon Thani airport – $3.40
- Taxi from Chiang Mai airport to hotel – $4
Total Cost: $333
A Few Tips
- If you can, pay for your Laos visa in US dollars as this saves you around $15.
- If you book your flight about 2 months in advance, you can get a promotional fare for less than 1,000 baht, less than half the price of the regular fare.
- If you’re arriving in Vientiane late in the afternoon or at night, you might want to make a reservation as cheap accommodations do fill up.
- While both the Thai baht and the US dollar are widely accepted in Laos, you could save some money by getting Laos kip. There are many currency exchange counters that will give you the market rate. For example, 1 Thai baht was equal to about 265 Laos kip when I was there, but stores will convert 1 baht to 250-255 kip. Just make sure that you exchange back any remaining kip before leaving Laos as you won’t be able to exchange them anywhere else.
My visa run went pretty smoothly, but a bit tiring. Vientiane is a nice city, by the way, but a day or two was enough for me. Not much to really do there and gets really hot during the day. A lot of people seem to come here just to get a visa or make a connection to another city. Also be prepared for power outages as they happen quite often (though they usually only last for about 10-15 minutes, longest outage while I was there was just over an hour).
If you have any questions please feel free to use the comment section below.