Vientiane Visa Run
I have updated this to the new requirements to my knowledge from a Vientiane Visa Run completed Feb 2016, yes very recently! I wanted to try another method but timing and budget required this to happen quickly.
Here is an updated link of the new regulations, take note that the requirements for photos have also changed. New requirements from the Consulate –
New requirements from the Consulate
Some countries are not allowed to get any visas in Laos, so check this list and don’t try this Vientiane Visa Run.
As it happened!!! UPDATED FEB 2016
I am a busy and frugal person (volunteer) and did not want to waste too much time doing my Vientiane visa run, so I chose to use the AYA Service minivan to see how bad they really were. I had paid 1750 baht (1150 baht one way) and I wanted no hassles go straight to the Thai consulate in Vientiane and then back home to Chiang Mai(CM). I basically got it.
I left on Monday night being picked up right outside my door about 7:00pm and was taken across to the AYA office in Chiang Mai, to get the rest of our passengers. If you meet at AYA Service office it is almost opposite the Chiang Mai train station, be there by 7:30pm. We were going in an OK Toyota commuter van.
We left around 8pm for about a 10 hour drive to Vientiane, I got the front passenger seat which was pretty comfortable. The front seat is the most comfortable unless it’s full, and there was someone sitting in the middle seat also.
Anyway, we all chatted away with the passengers next to each other. Most were going for visa runs and some to continue exploring Laos and South East Asia. I was very keen to observe the driver and considering some of the horror van driver stories, our guy was very good, drove well, considerate and on time. After a short couple of naps, we made our first pit stop near Uttaradit (3-4 hours in).
Next it was more of the same, I tried to sleep more, but it was difficult, being in the front seat I would be the first dead one if we had an accident. Ah well, sleep came and went the next few hours, we made our second pit stop near Loie.
Here’s where things changed from previously(you used to get egg and toast for breakfast in a nice office). There used to be an AYA Office, but now they just meet you on the Thai side and give you a nametag. When we arrived, it was freezing and we had to wait about 15 minutes for the border to open. Getting there this early was much better than previously waiting until later. You will understand why very soon.
You basically complete your departure card, head through the border and get an exit stamp and meet the representative again and they direct you to the standard 20 baht border crossing bus. As we exited the bus, we met our Vientiane AYA representative and he showed us to the Laos Visa Application area.
Getting into Laos early and processed before 8am meant paying the US$1 “overtime” fee. The overtime fee is charged before 8am and after 4pm and on weekends all day. Visa fees for Laos are 1500 baht for everyone or in US$ different for all countries – please check the list. Australians – US$30 + $1.
It was pretty painless to get the visa and off to enter Laos, we were then transferred to another bus on the other side and taken and dropped right to the Consulate. We arrived to the consulate sometime around 8-8:30am and were told we would be picked up the next day about 4pm.
HERE IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE – VISA APPLICATION PROCESS!!!
We walked into the consulate and got the visa forms and started filling them out. No one was being processed yet. You have to complete the forms with exact living addresses in Thailand, so have some address available. Next some consulate people came to an outside table, not the standard windows, like before. The queue formed across the front row of chairs. They started processing and is was fairly quick. If you had everything, and were applying for a tourist visa, you were given your queue number and finished. If you were applying for other visa types, you were given a queue number and sent to line up at the other windows for more paperwork checking. IF YOUR PAPERWORK WAS NOT CORRECT, YOU NEEDED TO FIX AND TRY AGAIN.
*** MAKE SURE YOUR PHOTOS ARE WITH A WHITE BACKGROUND (UPDATED 8-12-2014). ***
I got queue number 36, lined up for my other check and was finished and submitted and out of the consulate by about 9:15am. SWEET!!! This is the number you have for pickup, but due to arrangements, it wouldn’t have been a problem to have number 250.
I went to find my hotel. It was just down the road like I expected, so that was easy. I had to wait until 1pm however for my room to be ready. I surfed the net in the foyer and it was all good. Got into my room just before one and had an amazing hot shower! Slept, relaxed, walked around the block, found and ate baguettes and some other breads and went back to the hotel and slept. Next morning got up and had the standard Asian buffet breakfast, slept again until checkout and then up to the consulate. Next time I will stay in the hotel foyer until 1:15pm.
SECOND BIGGEST CHANGE – VISA PICKUP!
Previously, you had to line up and get another queue number, but now, no, because you have the previous day’s queue number. It opens at 1:30pm, I walked in about 1:40pm and they were calling number 50. Well I just joined the queue and 10 minutes or so later, had my passport and visa back. It could not have been easier and no pushing or shoving or anger or anything, just everyone patiently waiting for their number. All the other van members from Chiang Mai were done before 2pm, so we just sat in the gardens for an hour relaxing, watching the people come and go. By about 2:45pm all had come and gone and they were shutting up for the day. Around 200 processed and little or no fuss compared to my last adventure 3 years ago.
Our AYA Service representative arrived at 4pm, we got on the bus and were off to the border.
We had no time for shopping or anything because we were all together. We got stamped out of Laos and then were forced to pay the 50 baht “exit fee” which used to just get pocketed if you did pay it. Now it is enforced. After that got a bus ticket and was out of Laos.
On the Thai side, I filled out the paperwork went to the counter and used my visa and got my 3 months, I was a happy camper.
Because there was no office, there was no waiting and we left around 6pm, with a quick pickup at the train station, we were headed home. A few familiar stops along the way and before you knew it, we were home. I was dropped back to my place about 4:15-4:30am.
Overall much better than last time, even if not that comfortable with two 1o hour minivan rides in 57 hours. But, in the end, I got my new visa and I had quite an experience and one I do not wish to repeat for a long time, thankfully I don’t have too!!!
The other methods may sound pretty easy, but for a few hundred baht more. I would go the minivan again, just with a different company, unfortunately there is no other, and actually with better systems, it is not that bad. That was my latest Vientiane Visa Run!
Vientiane Visa Run Costs
1750 baht Minivan return to Chiang Mai – door to door. Home to consulate and consulate to home.
1200-1500 baht Laos Visa Fee depending on $US or Thai baht.
200 baht – incidental fees, charges, taxes, cross border buses, exit fees, stupid fees.
500-2000 baht for accommodation.
300 random snacks.
1000 baht tourist visa or 2000 baht Non-immigrant visa.
Around 5000-7000 baht round trip. 57 hours!