Hello again guys, we hope you’re ready for some more great travel tips!
At the moment we are spending some time in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang in Laos. Since Laos is one of the popular destinations for backpackers traveling through Asia, we thought we would share some tips on how to get here. One of the most popular backpacking routes is to cross the boarder in to Laos from the north of Thailand in Chiang Khong over to Huay Xai, and that is exactly what we did.
As mentioned, we were traveling to Laos from one of our favourite cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is situated in the northern part of Thailand, about 6 hour away from the Lao border. The easiest way to get there, is to take one of the so called “Green Buses” over to Chiang Kong, the city right by the border. We booked our tickets online on a website called 12.go.Asia, which is one of the best websites to be familiar with when traveling through Asia. You can book everything from bus tickets to plane tickets online, and it works pretty much all over southeast Asia.
The “Green Bus” left from the busterminal 3 in Chiang Mai around 8.00 am and arrived in Chiang Kong around 2 pm, which means roughly 6 hours of traveling. The bus ride went smoothly, although it might be good to know that the road might be tough for people with motion sickness, so it might be good to bring some motion sickness pills just in case.
Since the bus arrives in Chiang Khong in the afternoon, it might be a good idea to spend one night in Chiang Khong and cross the border early in the morning the next day. The border opens at 6.00 am, and the mandatory shuttle bus across the friendship bridge starts at 7.3o am. If you’re taking a boat down the river, the slow boat sometimes leaves as late as 11.30 am so you should have plenty of time to cross. We stayed at Day Waterfront Hotel, and we couldn’t recommend them enough. They give you all the paperwork you need to fill out for the visa application, and they explain how everything works by the border, and they even order you a tuktuk for the next morning so you basically don’t need to worry about anything. The owners speak really good english as well, and they were so sweet and caring.
A good tip to make the crossing as smooth as possible is to fill out all your visa forms before arriving at the border to save some time. You also have to bring a passport photo for the visa application, but if you forgot to bring one, you can make a copy of your passport by the border for 1 USD. The cost of the visa depends on where you’re from, but usually it’s around 30-35 USD, but it’s a little more expensive for some. You can pay the visa fee in USD, Lao KIP and Thai Bhat.
Something we didn’t know before making the trip over to Laos, was that during 2018 most of the countries in Scandinavia and a couple of other countries get free 14 day visas. We were only going to stay for two weeks anyway, so we actually got in for free which was a nice surprise. Apparently the tourism in Laos has gone down a bit the past couple of years, so they changed the visa rules to get more people to consider adding Laos to their travel route.
If you’re going to the the slow boat down the river, be prepared to spend many hours on an overbooked and crowded boat. Apparently they try to jam as many people as possible on the boat to make as much money as possible, and sometimes people end up having to stand up without a seat for 6-7 hours. Oh, and the so called “seats” on the boat are old uncomfortable carseats, from what we heard. Luckily we heard about this while we were in Chiang Mai, so we actually booked a more “luxurious” version of the cruise with a company called Shompoo Cruises, but there is a separate blogpost coming up about the whole cruise experience, so I don’t want to spoil anything just yet.
I hope this answered some of you questions about the border crossing from northern Thailand to Laos. But if you have any more questions, just write a comment below or send us an email and we will be happy to help you out with more information!
Picture of the beautiful sunrise view from our hotel balcony in Chiang Khong!