Making The Laos Visa Run from Koh Samui, Chiang Mai or Phuket

In the last sixteen years living in Thailand, I have collectively made over eighty visa runs in 3 different US passports. Having said that, there are two places i would recommend to make your visa runs; Vientiane, Laos or Kota Bharu, Malaysia. This short article will talk about going the laos way. It's actually not really that bad of a trip but will set you back 8000-10,000 THB. Here we go...

Plan your Trip

Go to the Thailand website and be sure to check the holiday schedule of the consulate to avoid extra stay in Laos. Do not go on a Friday as your passport won't be returned until the following Monday. I also suggest don't go on a Monday either as there will be a million people in line in front of you. Best days are Tuesday and Wednesday. Also make sure you have all your paperwork in order as they are very strict here and want to see every document. I have been rejected before here for missing a single document.

Book your flight
Can fly many carriers to Udon Thani. I have taken Airasia out of Phuket and also Nok out of Chiang Mai. I like to fly to Chiang Mai
first then take the Nok flight to Udon. The sky really is the limit here. Check air plane flights as they can often be cheaper then Train or bus. Why kill yourself when you don't have to. Here is a picture of my plane that went Surat Thani to Chiang mai.

My Trip
On my trip I drove to Raja pier, took the ferry to Don Sak. Drove to Surat Thani airport and flew to Chiang Mai. From there I rented a hotel downtown and hung out in Chiang Mai for a few days before making my way to Udon. 

Bus way
I don't recommend taking a bus but if you do you will need to get from the Udon bus station to the Nong Khai border. This is tricky but can be done and I have done it in the past. You can grab a taxi from Udon Bus station to Nong Khai border but will be 300-500 thb depending on how many people are sharing the ride with you. You can also grab another bus and then a tuk tuk but will take a little bit longer.

Take THB and USD With You
While at the airport i suggest to go buy 40-50 USD. Paying in USD
is easier and a little bit cheaper then paying in THB at the border in Laos. They will be looking for 35-36 USD at the Laos border for Lao visa. Also remember to Take about 5000 THB with you. Your visa will be 1000-2000 THB and you will need to pay for your room. The ATM's In Laos are not 100% reliable so its better to take some cash just in case. I have had problems getting ATM cards to work in Laos in the past. Also they will dispense Lao kip which is not the best currency to get hung with in.

Flying Chiang Mai to Udon
I took a Nok air flight for like 690 THB for the one way Chiang mai to Udon Thani. They fly this route 3x a day. Plane is a prop job but the flight is uneventful.  

Arriving in Udon Thani
Either by car, bus, or plane into Udon Thani this is where we
usually start the trip of heading into Laos. I'm going to cover the plane way. You fly into Laos and grab a van to the border. Don't get there too late as you can run into problems at the border if you try to cross past 9:30 Pm. If you arrive around then just grab a cheap room in Nong Khai and cross in the morning. Guesthouses by the border are around 500 thb for a evening. Van from Udon Airport to Nong Khai border is 200 THB. Its air conditioned and takes about 45 mins to 1 hour depending on traffic. 

Thai Immigration
Be prepared to pay 500 THB overstay if your over on your white card date. This is a real hassle and can be avoided by not waiting to the last day to cross. If your not on overstay, leaving the country it is free. Enjoy that. Just give your passport to them after you wait in line and they will stamp you. Then you have to take a old crappy and crowded bus to Laos. It will cost 20 THB and takes about 10 mins.

Laos Immigration
When you get off the bus you have to go to the window and get
your paperwork. Sit down and fill everything in the best you can and give them everything back. Pay your 35-36 USD and wait to be called on around the side. They will also be looking for a photograph of you. Best to get a bunch made when you do it in all sizes with a white background. After you get your paperwork you have to hustle to get to Thai Consulate in Vientiane.
Tip: Be early as if its past 11:00 AM right now time you get there they will tell you to come back tomorrow.

Thai Consulate

Will set you back 200-300 THB to go from the border Laos to Thai
Consulate. There are as least 5+ guys waiting around Lao immigration offering every white skinned farung they see a ride somewhere. Best to just pick one and go. Can buddy share a ride with a few others if your trying to save a few coin. Ride takes about 30-40 mins depending of traffic. You want to be there no later than 11:30 am or they may turn you away.

When you arrive, get a free form inside and then go outside and get
in line. If other then tourist you will need to wait in the second line by counter 1 or 2 and let them review your paperwork. After you get all done, you have the day to kill. You can either go sightseeing around town or go get a hotel and crash. You need to come back the following day at around 2 PM and get your passport back with a new Thai visa.

One thing i really enjoy about Laos is the food and street food. Don't be shy to try one of the many restaurants thats available in Laos during your short stay. I got this very delicious Philly cheese steak sandwich from a little place for peanuts. There are many western food places to pick from. There are also many massage places in Laos and grabbing a massage and trying to talk with the Laos girls can be challenging as well as fun.

Laos At Night
When it comes to meeting girls i think it's best to do online before you go. Can do it using Tinder or another social app if this is your thing. A guy i met on the bus one time got himself a Lao girl. There are also places the taxi's know and can take you.  I am not going to expand on this too much here. Plenty of bars and pubs to hang out in along the river. Remember to watch your Dong is Laos and Vietnam !

Next Day - Visa Collection
Today you get to pick up your new Thai Visa and head for the border. Something wonderful about this whole process. Head back to the consulate after your hotel kicks you out at noon. I usually walk by this time as finding your way around this town isn't actually too hard. If you stay near the River, just head north past the big Lao man statue then turn left just past the president's palace and head toward the consulate.

Visa Pickup
Consulate reopens at 1 pm after lunch break and start to hand out visas at 1:30. Look at your Q number and this will tell you how much time you have to wait. If your 1-100 be there around 1:30. If your 100-200 2-2:30 pm. 200+ 2:30-3:00. They do stop handing these out past 3:30 if i recall. Now you need to make a mad dash back to the border.

Grab a tuk tuk or Taxi and head back to border.
Stamp out of Laos and then take the crappy bus back to Thailand. There is a Van you can take that will cross the friendship bridge from the Lao side and then take you to the Airport. Just check the condition of the van before you buy a ticket as a few of them are in poor mechanical condition.

Thai Immigration
Go back through Thai immigration and get your entry stamp and now your good to go the next 60 or 90 days. Head outside and get a van to the Udon airport, train or bus station. Nok air has their own van or pick from a independent van company.

Going Home
I went back to Chiang Mai on Nok airlines but from Udon you can fly to Bangkok almost every hour or Phuket. You can also fly to Bangkok and then do a connector on to your location as well. 

Here is what i know you can fly:

  • Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueng
  • Chiang Mai on Nok and AirAsia
  • Pattaya on AirAsia
  • Ubon Ratchathani on Nok
Trip Conclusion
Taking a Chiang Mai detour for a few days before making your visa run can be both fun and a nice break from wherever your living. The people of the north are nice and friendly and surely will put a smile on your face. If you have a few extra days, take chiang mai in before your trip to Laos or catch it on the way back for a day or two.

Different Visa Photos
Here are some of my visas i have gotten over the last two years from Laos.

Laos Visa on Arrival (35-36 usd)

Thai Stamped Non Immigrant B visa

Thai Non Immigrant B visa

Thai 60 day Tourist Visa

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