The train arrives 3 hours late to Nong Khai the Thai border town for crossing to Laos. From the train to the border I recruit an Israeli sidekick to cut the tuk-tuk fare. I am reluctant to join backpackers to haggle pennies from penniless locals but am always willing to cut costs. We were then joined by two Dutch girls cutting prices again (final price 20 baht per person).
On the short trip to the border crossing (Friendship Bridge, Mekhong River) the tuk-tuk stops along the way at a VISA booth for advanced VISA stamps. Wary of potential scams we decline. Presumably they trade on margins. For many countries (uk, euro, us) it is $35 or 1,500THB for a Laos VISA. With current exchange rates 1,500THB is closer to $50. The VISA is therefore $15 more expensive when paying in Thai Baht as most travellers leaving Thailand do.
Friendship Bridge Border Crossing and VISA Info
At the border we pass quickly through the Thailand immigration. A 15baht fee for the bus takes us across Friendship Bridge on the Mekhong River and arrives at Laos Immigration. Direct to the VISA on Arrival counter, fill in the forms, hand them back in with payment for VISA (1,500baht). When handing in my forms the counter was closed and immigration officers disappeared for a 20 min break (maybe best to have accepted the advance VISA on the tuk-tuk drive). We can now enter Laos.
Minibus to Vientiane
There is now a 20km drive to find Vientiane. The same group come together on the far side. First myself, the Israeli fella and a new US recruit wangle a price of 50 baht each in the back of a minibus. The girls then arrive and get the same for 100 baht each. We didn’t tell them. I found later that the public buses (green) take you to Vientiane bus station for 20baht.
I was first to depart at my hotel, spoke and paid in Thai and off I went. In Laos most places accept Thai currency and speak Thai. I never got round to learning the Laos Kip exchange.