Crossing the Border from Thailand to Laos

Crossing the Border
Chiang Kong, Thailand, to Houayxai, Laos

 

NOTE: The information in this post was written in 2009. In the years since, a modern bridge and immigration facility has been built in northern Thailand/Laos. As such, the border crossing featured below is a thing of the past.

Six hours after leaving Chiang Mai by bus, we arrived in the small border town of Chiang Kong, located on the shores of the Mekong River. A quick tuk tuk ride later we were standing in a line to get our passport exit stamps from a small booth on the side of a dusty road.

Once stamped, we headed down a hill to a dock area, bought a ticket from a tent for double what the locals pay and boarded a dinky wooden speed boat.

Once another dozen people got on board, the boat departed Thailand and made the two minute journey across the Mekong to the shores of Houayxai: the Laos border town. Some passengers had to step in shin-deep water to get off the boat.

I jumped the few feet onto the shore and had Carrie pass our bags over. We walked up a small barely-paved road for around 25 feet before hitting the arrival section, which was nothing more than two small office windows and a few tables with benches to write on.

 

A tuk tuk ride from the bus stop to Chiang Kong and the Thai-Laos border
A tuk tuk ride from the bus stop to Chiang Kong and the Thai-Laos border

 

Approaching the Thai-Laos border at Chiang Kong
Approaching the Thai-Laos border at Chiang Kong

 

Getting an exit stamp from Thailand in Chiang Kong
Getting an exit stamp from Thailand in Chiang Kong

 

Buying a boat ticket to cross the Mekong River and enter Laos
Buying a boat ticket to cross the Mekong River and enter Laos

 

The boat between Chiang Kong, Thailand, and Houayxai, Laos
The boat between Chiang Kong, Thailand, and Houayxai, Laos

Welcome to Laos

Unlike other countries where you must have your visa before leaving home, Laos offers visas on arrival.

For $35 per person, payable in US dollars or Thai Bhat (for a $10 surcharge), the Laos government gives you the legal right to stay in the country for 30 days without leaving (aka, a single-entry visa). Want to go check out another country and come back? Another $35 please.

We filled out the forms, provided the passport photos that we’ve been carrying around since NYC, paid the cashier and moved onto the adjacent window for a passport stamp.

With all paperwork taken care of, all that was left to do was finish walking up the small hill, show the one police officer at a guard post that we had our stamps and visas and enter Houayxai.

Carrie and I were joking that we couldn’t imagine a border anywhere with one single guard. What happens if someone runs by? Do they chase after him/her and leave the border unguarded? Do they just shrug their shoulders and say meh? Who knows!

 

The docks at Houayxai, Laos
The docks at Houayxai, Laos

 

Getting a visa on arrival at Houayxai, Laos
Getting a visa on arrival at Houayxai, Laos

 

Once you have a visa, you visit this booth to get a stamp in your passport
Once you have a visa, you visit this booth to get a stamp in your passport

 

Houay Xai, Laos, border crossing
Passing by the single security guard, who makes sure that everyone enters Laos legally