If you’re ready to do a visa run from Thailand, this post will show you how to do a cheap and easy Thailand Visa Run to Laos.
A Visa Run to Laos option is the most common Visa Run used by tourists and expats wanting to extend their time in Thailand.
As this is based on my personal experience, it focuses on doing this Visa Run from Bangkok, although it’s just as easy to make this a Chiang Mai visa run or a Phuket visa run to Laos too.
Thailand to Laos is a Visa Run not a Border Run
First of all, I want to establish that this is a Visa Run from Thailand not a Border Run. These phrases get referred to as the same thing, but they are actually two different things.
- A Visa Run is when you leave Thailand and apply for and buy a Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) at a Thai Embassy/Consulate. The application process takes a couple of days, so you have to stay in that country until it’s been approved.
- A Border Run is when you literally cross the border into another country, turn around and come back in on another Thai Visa Exempt entry stamp or a Thai Visa on Arrival. This can be done in the same day and is the quickest option.
If you only need to do a Border Run or ‘Border Bounce’, read my post on how to do a Mae Sai border run from Chiang Mai in one day.
Also if it’s your first time in Thailand, check out my post here for the best Thailand Travel Tips for first timers.
Thailand Visa Run to Laos
We were just finishing a house sit in Bangkok when we decided to do a Visa Run to get a two month (60 day) Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV). After researching many visa run options to different countries, we felt Laos would probably be the cheapest option.
On our Visa Run to Laos, we took an internal flight from Bangkok to Udon Thani (which is the nearest Thai airport to the Thai/Laos border), then got a minibus from Udon Thani airport to Nong Khai the border town, got a Laos Visa on Arrival, crossed the border on foot and then got a ride to Vientiane in Laos where we stayed two nights.
Within those two days, we applied for a Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) at the Thai Consulate which got us another 60 days in Thailand (plus a 30-day extension if needed).
This Visa Run took three days, leaving on a Tuesday and returning on a Thursday and we stayed two nights in Vientiane.
The costs of everything we spent doing this Visa Run are at the end of this post.
Here I’ll show you a detailed step by step guide, on how to do this easy Thailand Visa Run to Laos and back again, independently without using a minibus service or agent.
Overview of documents required and costs:
- Thailand departure card (filled in) & pen
- 200 Baht for the Minibus from Udon Thani airport to the Thai/Laos border
- 30 Baht for bus ticket across the friendship bridge (15 Baht each way)
- 1 x photo for Laos Visa on Arrival form
- $30 – $35 for Laos Visa on Arrival at Border Control
- 2 X nights accommodation in Vientiane
- 2 X photos (3.5 x 4.5cm) for the Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) application form
- Photocopies of passport pages showing your bio page, exit from Thailand and entry into Laos
- 1,500 Baht for Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) fee (payable in Thai Baht only)
- 12,000 Kip for border exit token
- Some Laotian Kip currency for taxis or tuk-tuks
- Food and snacks for the journey
Important: Make sure you have enough pages in your passport as both the Lao visa and Thai visas are stickers which take up a whole passport page each.
Step 1: Thailand Visa Run to Laos. Day 1: Flight from Bangkok to Udon Thani
DAY 1 – TUESDAY
Most of the time, the cheapest way to get to Laos from Thailand is to take an internal flight to Udon Thani, then get a ride to Nong Khai the Thai border town, then cross into Vientiane, Laos on foot.
You can fly to Udon Thani from most airports in Thailand, we were in Bangkok so we flew from Don Mueang airport. Most airlines have cheap flights to Udon Thani, but Nok Air were the cheapest for us at the time. Nok Air are often the cheapest for internal flights, but it’s worth checking all airlines on Air Paz.
From our research we’d heard that Monday was one of the busiest days at the Thai Consulate in Vientiane, so we avoided that day and booked our flight on Tuesday leaving Bangkok Don Mueang airport at 5pm.
Our flights cost 750 THB per person, each way.
So on Tuesday we checked out of our accommodation and got a Grab taxi to Don Mueang Airport. We checked in for our Nok Air flight with only hand luggage as we were going to leave our large backpacks in the Luggage Storage at the airport. The Luggage Storage is open 24 hrs and it’s located on Level 2 walkway between T1 and T2.
It was 75 THB per bag per 24 hrs to leave our luggage in storage at Don Mueang airport.
This meant our flight was much cheaper as we didn’t have to pay baggage fees for two people and because our backpacks were our homes, it meant we didn’t have to carry everything we owned, to another country just for two days. Bliss.
Our flight was delayed slightly, we didn’t take off from Bangkok until 5:35pm so we arrived at Udon Thani airport at 4:45pm.
Step 2: Udon Thani airport to Nong Khai border town
As we had no checked baggage, we got off the flight and went straight out to departures. Udon Thani airport is pretty small so it won’t take you long to find where you need to go.
When you come out into departures, there is a row of desks right by the exit doors with ‘Limousine service’ or ‘Minibus Nong Khai’ written on. Go over to this desk and ask for a ticket to Nong Khai border.
The minibus tickets cost us 200 THB each.
The minibus was air-conditioned but slightly cramped and it will leave when it’s full, so whilst the driver is waiting for more passengers, that’s the time to go for a bathroom break if you didn’t get the chance before.
It’s a long transit day and you’re kind of on the go all the time, so go for bathroom breaks when you can and take snacks.
For us it was a 50 min minibus journey to Nong Khai border with lots of drop-offs on the way.
We arrived at the Thai side of the border at 8pm.
Step 3: Crossing the Friendship Bridge at Nong Khai
When you arrive at the Nong Khai border, the minibus will drop off exactly at the border, so exit the minibus and walk down the walkway into the Thai Immigration Border Control Building. Hand over your passport and departure card (filled in) and an Immigration Officer will stamp you out of Thailand.
It was just after 8pm when we were stamped out of Thailand and so it was pretty quiet. So after getting your exit stamp, walk straight ahead out of the building and immediately on your right, you’ll see a ticket booth and a waiting area in front of you.
This is where you buy your ticket for crossing the Thai/Laos Friendship bridge. It was 20 THB each for a bus ticket to get over the Friendship bridge, (it’s usually 15 Baht but it’s 5 Baht extra outside normal hours). Take your ticket and go wait in the waiting area for the next bus.
The buses going over the Friendship bridge are quite regular and we were only waiting 10 mins for a bus. When it arrives check with the driver that it is the bus that takes you over the Friendship bridge, it probably will be but it’s always best to check before you get on.
If it’s busy don’t worry about getting a seat, you won’t be on it for long as the bus journey over the Mekong River is only 10 mins.
The bus will drop you off right at the Laos Border Control crossing.
Step 4: Thailand Visa Run to Laos: Crossing the Laos border and getting Laos Visa on Arrival
Now to cross the border into Laos, you will need a Visa on Arrival.
WHICH COUNTRIES CAN GET LAOS VISA ON ARRIVAL?
Everyone can get Laos Visa on Arrival except for citizens of the countries listed below.
WHICH COUNTRIES CAN’T GET LAOS VISA ON ARRIVAL?
Travellers holding passports from the following countries are not eligible for Laos Visa on Arrival:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Jordan, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Syria (Syrian Arab republic), Swaziland, Tonga, Turkey, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Note: Passport holders of countries on the list above must get their visas at Lao Embassies or Lao Consulates abroad before entering Laos.
Note: All travellers are also required to have at least 6 months validity remaining on their passport.
The Laos Visa on Arrival is a tourist visa valid for 30 days and the cost depends on which passport you are holding. The price list is on display at the visa counter and prices are current as of 2018.
- For UK, USA or European citizens – $35.00 USD
- For Canadian citizens – $42.00 USD
- For Australia, New Zealand and other countries – $30.00 USD
Tip: If you arrive before 8am, after 4pm or on a weekend or public holiday there will be an extra $1 on the visa fee.
It will probably be very busy at Laos immigration, so when you get off the bus, head straight for Window 1 that says ‘Visas’. Ask for a Visa on Arrival application form, they will also give you a Laos Arrival/Departure card. Keep the Departure part of the card somewhere safe and go sit down to fill out the Visa on Arrival application form and Arrival card.
Tip: There will be lots of touts around asking if you want help filling out your forms or asking if you want a taxi to Vientiane. As there are lots of people around and you are focusing on writing, remember to keep an eye on your bags.
When you have finished filling out the Visa on Arrival form with your details, go back up to Window 1 (or Window 2 if it’s active) with your passport and the Visa form and hand them in.
You’ll be asked for the visa fee, for us the Laos Visa on Arrival fee was $35 USD for UK passport holders and $30 USD for NZ passport holders. We were able to pay together.
Next you go around to Window 3 and wait. When ready, your passport – now with the Laos Visa on Arrival inside – will be handed back to you, together with any change in USD.
Step 5: Getting from Laos border into Vientiane
To exit Laos Border Control, you need to walk through a gate and you’ll then be stopped to have your passport checked at desks twice on the way out. So on arriving to the Thai side of the border and exiting Lao Border Control on the Lao side, had taken us until 9:10pm.
Now you can leave Border Control and enter Laos into Vientiane. YAY.
We found a minibus taxi who said he’d take us into Vientiane. It was around a 30 min drive, we arrived at our accommodation, Souphaphone Guesthouse at 09:40pm.
We had forgotten to buy any Laotian Kip before we left, we naively assumed we’d be able to get some, somewhere on the journey, but so far there hadn’t been a chance to.
We had some Thai Baht but the taxi driver was reluctant to accept it as he would have to exchange it into Kip. But as we had nothing else, we managed to strike a deal with him. We gave him the change we received from our visa in USD and he was happy to take some Thai Baht plus the USD.
But lesson learned – exchange some baht for Laotian Kip before you go.
Our room at Souphaphone Guesthouse was amazing for the low price we paid, the room was so spacious and clean, had air conditioning, a TV and even had a window. Win!
It’s right by the Mekong River and the Night Markets too, so it’s a perfect location. Even at 09:40pm at night, many places were still open and we were able to dump our bags and go straight to the Night Market to get some food.
Step 6: Thailand Visa Run to Laos: Day 2: – Applying for Thai Tourist Visa at Thai Consulate in Vientiane
DAY 2 – Wednesday
Thai Consulate Hours
Monday to Friday
08:30am–12:00pm – Taking applications for Tourist Visas
1:30pm – 4:00pm – Distribution/Collection of Passports & Visas
The next day we woke up, grabbed some food and an iced latte from a nearby cafe and decided to go get some Laotian Kip for food spends and some Thai Baht for the visa fee. Our guesthouse was on Francois Night Road near Ban Wat Chan and if you turn right out of that street, then turn left, you’ll see a bank on the corner and a Currency Exchange ATM booth.
As most places in Vientiane accept Kip and Thai Baht for payment, we’d used up most of our Thai baht paying for things in Laos the day before, so we needed more Thai Baht to pay for both of our Thai Visa fees, but we soon found out we couldn’t use our NZ or UK debit cards to buy it.
The Currency Exchange staff told us we needed to take 340,000 Kip (which was 3,000 THB) out of the ATM next door, then exchange it for Thai Baht.
Tip: Another lesson learned – bring enough Thai Baht to Laos for your visa fee, because ATM fees suck.
After we were all set for money, then we looked for a tuk-tuk to take us to the Thai Consulate. It wasn’t difficult, they’re everywhere and very friendly.
Just go up to one and tell them you want to go to Thai Consulate, they all know where it is. It cost 50,000 Kip (for two) to get from Francois Night Street (by our guesthouse) to the Thai Consulate, by tuk-tuk. It was about a 15 min drive and most drivers are happy to wait for you, (as ours did) as they know the visa process, plus it’s an extra fare for them.
We arrived at the Thai Consulate at 09:45am and surprisingly, there weren’t many people there. I had heard horror stories about queues of hundreds of people – but not this day.
It’s like an open air waiting room, with numbered windows and an electronic number counter. There’s also a snack and drink cart but we didn’t buy anything from it as we’d already bought food.
Go to Window 1 to get your Thai Visa Application form, make sure the form you get is the right one, you can get both Single Entry Tourist Visas and Multiple Entry Tourist Visas here.
Fill out the form and now go into the building on the left that has a sign outside offering copying and photo services. In this building, you can have your photos taken if you didn’t bring them, you can also cut and trim your photos to fit and glue them onto the application form.
TIP: Make sure when you fill out your visa application, you write down a full address of somewhere you’re staying in Thailand, don’t just throw down a Guesthouse/Hotel name and city. Use Google maps for the full address if you don’t know it. Your visa application won’t be accepted without a full address in Thailand.
You also need to make 1 x copy of each of the following pages in your passport:
- Bio/Data front page
- Thai Exit stamp page
- Laos Visa on Arrival page
You’ll have to ask the staff to use the photocopier, they’ll do the copying for you, they also know exactly which pages need to be copied. It was 5 THB per photocopy.
Now get your completed form, attached photos and copies of your passport plus your 1500 THB fee and take them to the staffed table at the front of the open-air waiting area.
They will check your form, take your passport, your visa fee of 1500 baht and will give you a receipt and collection number.
You’re then told to come back to collect your passport and visa the next day, between 1:30pm and 4pm.
The whole application process took us from 09:45am until 11:40 am.
Now you’re all done for today, now all you have to do is wait until collection day. And as promised our tuk-tuk driver was waiting outside for us to take us back to our guesthouse.
Step 7: Thailand Visa Run to Laos: Day 3: – Collecting your Thai Tourist Visa at Thai Consulate in Vientiane
DAY 3 – Thursday
The third and last day was the day we were going to collect our passports and visa and also leave for the journey back to Thailand.
So we checked out of Souphaphone Guesthouse around 11am and they helpfully stored our bags there until later on, as our flight didn’t leave Udon Thani until 6:30pm.
Important: If you have a flight out of Udon Thani on the same day you collect your passport, make sure you leave enough time to queue, collect your passport, cross the border again and get to Udon Thani airport.
The day before, our loyal tuk-tuk driver said he’d come collect us at 12.30pm from our guesthouse to go to the Thai Consulate again, so after we’d walked around Vientiane a little and grabbed some lunch, we jumped in our chariot.
We arrived at the Thai Consulate just after 1pm and it was already very busy.
No staff were around so we went up to one of the windows and asked what we should do, we were told to just wait for our ticket number to be called. So we waited.
As mentioned before it’s an open-air waiting room and it only has fans, so it’s a very hot and humid wait with a lot of other people.
Once the ticket counter starts rolling and calling out numbers, things ran pretty quickly and smoothly. The ticket counter started calling out collection numbers at 1:30pm and our ticket number was called at around 2.15pm.
Important: At the Consulate you’ll be called according to your ticket number, so if you have to be done by a certain time make sure you go early on Day 2 when you submit your application.
The Immigration Officers will hand your passport over, show you the page your visa is in and get you to sign to say it’s all ok – so check to ensure the visa is for the duration you wanted.
Now you’re all done – you can go!
Step 8: Crossing the border back into Thailand
There’ll be touts outside the Consulate offering to take you to the border, but as we had a little more time to kill we got a ride back to Vientiane town. We did a little more exploring, bought some snacks for the return journey and went and grabbed our bags from the guesthouse.
Tip: Now is a good time to exchange any Laotian Kip you have left, as you can’t exchange it outside of Laos – it’s too a low value currency to Thailand and you’ll struggle to exchange it back into Thai Baht.
But keep a little Kip for a tuk-tuk back to the border. You also need 12,000 Kip to pay a small exit fee at Border Control if it’s outside business hours.
We found another tuk-tuk driver to take us to the Laos/Thai border and settled in for the 30 min journey. I watched everything whizzing by and found myself wishing I’d stayed a bit longer in Laos, I hadn’t really seen anything except a little of Vientiane.
When we arrived at Laos Border Control, it was around 4.30pm and it was very busy. It was difficult to see where we supposed to go and we eventually found out what to do, by asking another traveller. You have to queue at a small booth, show your passport, hand in your Lao Departure card and buy a border exit token, which you use to go through an electronic token gate.
The border exit token cost 12,000 Kip.
Once through Border Control, walk out and jump on the bus waiting to take everyone back over the Lao/Thai Friendship bridge. Jump off the bus and walk into the Thai Immigration building, get in the queue and hand over your passport and your completed Thai Arrival card.
You will now enter Thailand on your brand new 60-day Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV).
Once you walk through Thai immigration, exit the building and there will be lots of touts offering you taxis to the airport at inflated prices (900 baht – umm no).
But if you walk through the Nong Khai boundary post and about another 100m further down the street, on your left you’ll come across a small travel agency with a desk outside – go here for a minibus, it’ll be much cheaper than the prices the touts are offering you. We got a minibus to Udon Thani airport for 200 Baht each.
It’ll leave when it’s full, so the waiting made it a little tight for getting our flight at 6.30pm back to Bangkok.
We arrived at Udon Thani airport in just under an hour and went to find our flight.
It was another long travel process but at least it was spread over three days and we got to see another country for a couple of days. Worth it for another two months in Thailand, plus this visa is extendable by another 30 days at any Thai Immigration Office.
What we spent in 3 days and 2 nights:
(Prices per person).
- Flight from Bangkok (DMK) – Udon Thani – 750 Baht
- Return flight from Udon Thani – Bangkok – 750 Baht
- Luggage storage at DMK airport (for 2.5 days and 2 nts for 2 x bags – 200 Baht
- Minibus from Udon Thani airport to the Thai/Laos border – 200 Baht
- Bus ticket across the friendship bridge – 30 Baht (15 Baht each way)
- Laos Visa on Arrival at Laos Border Control – $30 – $35 USD (which is about 1000 – 1200 Baht but if you pay in Thai baht it will be more like 1400 Baht)
- (SETV) Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa – 1500 Baht
- Photocopies – 15-20 Baht
- 2 x nights in Dbl room at Souphaphone Guesthouse – 2 X nights at $26 USD p/night = $52 USD
- Food and drinks (based on eating street food for every meal plus couple of coffees & beers – 500 Baht or 130,000 Kip (for two people).
Happy and Safe Travels 🙂