My original plan was to do the border crossing from Thailand to Laos coming from Lampang, Thailand. But the schedule of buses leaving Lampang made me decide to stay for a night in Chiang Rai. The main reason is that the last bus departing for Luang Prabang is at 4 PM. I don’t want to stay in Huay Xai for a night if I wouldn’t catch the bus to Luang Prabang.
Thailand and Laos have several border crossing points based on a map I saw at the Thailand – Laos border. Chiang Khong – Bokeo border is the northernmost passport control between the two Southeast Asian Countries.
I left Chiang Rai around nine in the morning with a bus to Chiang Khong. Non-air conditioned buses are available at Chiang Rai Bus Station along Prasopsook Road. Red buses leave to Chiang Khong from Chiang Rai every hour. When paying the THB65 fee, tell the attendant that you’re going to the border. The road to the border control is along the way and there is no more need to go to Chiang Khong center.
From the main road, tuk-tuks are waiting to bring travelers to the Thailand Immigration Border Control. If you’re traveling alone, the ride will cost you THB60 but only THB50 each for 2 persons or more. The ride is about five minutes to cover the almost 4-kilometer distance.
Once you arrived at the Thailand Immigration, go straight to the immigration booth with your passport and departure card. It will be a smooth one especially if it’s a weekday where the number of people crossing the border is not that high. Border controls on both sides are open from 06:00 – 22:00 daily.
Exiting the Thailand side, you can buy your shuttle bus ticket from a booth on your right. Please take note that pedestrians are not allowed on the Thailand – Laos Friendship Bridge. The bus ticket is THB20 with an additional overtime fee of THB5 if you happen to cross the border beyond the government working time, which is 4 PM. Wait for the shuttle bus that transports travelers from both sides every 30 minutes.
If you have plans of crossing the border at a later time of the day, please do note that there will be a limited shuttle service beyond 18:00. Based on what I’ve read, shuttle buses sometimes leave Laos side if there are enough passengers and the bur returning to Laos border can be used by people on the Thailand side.
Apart from the shuttle bus overtime fee, I heard that both immigrations require additional payment if your cross the border on a schedule beyond the government hours. Not sure though if how much each side charges.
The Visa on Arrival area is on the right side of the arrival hall in Laos Immigration Control. Filipinos can enter Laos for a maximum stay of 30 days, visa-free. Just look for the arrival card, completely fill in the form, and head straight to the immigration booths. The officer who accommodated me had several seconds laughing at my name, I had no idea why. He kept on saying “Ah Jay” and I just nod and smile every time. It was one of my longest immigration encounters I had but on a lighter and funnier side.
A money changer is on the left when you exit the arrival area. I decided to change my remaining Thai baht and some US dollars. But I recommend leaving at least a hundred baht because the tuk-tuk drivers sometimes ask for baht as payment. They’ll accept Lao Kip as well.
Struggle of Getting Out of Laos Border Control
The start of my dilemma started. I heard and read a lot of issues encountered once travelers entered Laos from the border. I was the only foreigner on our bus and most of the people who exited Thailand at that time either have their own vehicle or friends pick them up. A tuk-tuk driver I’ve asked gave me a rate of THB200 or LAK50,000 to get to Keo Champa Bus Station. It was steep so I decided to wait for few more foreigners entering Laos.
At last, I saw three Westerners coming out from the arrival hall. I approached them and asked if we could split the cost of the ride out of the border. The same tuk-tuk driver who gave me the THB200 rate said it will be THB400 for the four of us. I was pissed off and argued that he was only offering THB200 at first. We left the main building and headed to the highway. Another tuk-tuk approached us and offered the same rate. We walked down the road to get away with them. It’s not a big deal to pay THB100 for the ride but it was only five kilometers and plunging into this tuk-tuk set-up will authorize them to do this shitty scheme every time. We tried to haggle and arrived with THB60 each, I paid LAK15,000 since I already changed my currencies to Lao Kip.
Sleeper Bus from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang
After four hours since I left Chiang Rai, I arrived at Keo Champa Bus Station near Huay Xai center. Buses to Luang Namtha, Oudom Xay, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane leave the terminal once or twice a day. I purchased a 4 PM bus ticket to Luang Prabang for LKP120,000. The bus is a sleeper bus with two passengers lodging in a single bunk.
Lucky for me, the bus wasn’t full so I got to enjoy the entire bunk and had a good sleep. Arriving in Luang Prabang after twelve hours in a bus station around 4 in the morning and circling around Ban Pakham area to find my hostel is a different story to tell. And for the record, I’m now good at bargaining with these overcharging tuk-tuk drivers.