After a few lovely days spent in Chiang Mai, it’s time to leave Thailand. I’m going from Chiang Mai to Vientiane, Laos capital, by bus.
I found only one bus company that does this trip from Chiang Mai to Vientiane. It is Orsuksa and the conditions on board are pretty good. The bus departs from Chaing Mai at 8.30 pm and costs 890 baht. I bought the ticket online because they weren’t selling this trip at my hostel’s reception. In fact, they couldn’t even tell me a company that would go from Chiang Mai to Vientiane. And in fact, there isn’t one, you need to buy a bus ticket from Chiang Mai to Nong Khai.
From Chiang Mai to Nong Khai
As I was very amused at the Chiang Mai’s night bazaar, I almost forgot about the time of this bus departure, but I got there just in time. I called a grab bike from my hostel to the bus station and my Grab driver was super nice and helped me to find the place where this bus is. The bus station is big!
Onboard, we have a blanket, a small water bottle, take some extra with you, and plenty of snacks. Many and tasty snacks. There is a toilet on board so we don’t make many stops. We arrive in Nong Khai early morning. The bus journey takes about 12 hours.
Please note that there are no direct buses from Chiang Mai to Vientiane. The last stop is in Nong Khai, a place bordering with Laos. That means that you need to cross the border from Thailand to Laos on your own. But that is easy.
So, having in mind that there is no direct bus from Chiang Mai to Vientiane, this bus is the best option for a land crossing between Thailand and Laos. The bus stops at Nong Khai, still in Thailand, but not very far from the Thai-Lao friendship bridge. Be sure to have some Thai bahts with you as you will need them to get to Vientiane. Don’t worry, they still accept Thai bahts in Vientiane so you can get rid of your bahts in Laos. Make also sure to bring enough NOT FOLDED dollars to pay your Laos visa. You might have to face some trouble to get USD here, so better bring them with you already. I made sure to mention not folded because I saw a lady struggling because they weren’t accepting her USD notes.
From Nong Khai to Laos
Once in Nong Khai, where the bus stops, I see that there are two other foreigners on board of this bus, so we joined to cross the Thailand- Laos border together. There are enough tuk-tuks to take you to the Thai Lao friendship bridge, so don’t worry about it. The journey from Nong Khai bus station to the friendship bridge takes about 5 minutes and costs 50 bahts. The tuk-tuk driver was asking for 80 bahts but I knew beforehand that the fare price is 50 so after bargaining a bit we have a deal.
When you arrive at the Thai-Lao friendship bridge there are some taxi drivers trying to take you to the Laos side. But we have a way cheaper option, the bus, so we decline the offer. Here you simply follow the crowds, get your stamp out of Thailand and after it, there is a table where you can buy the bus ticket that will take you to the Laos side of the Mekong river. We paid 15 bahts for the bus ride and waited no more than 5 minutes to depart. The bus departs when full, and as there are so many people in there you will never wait for too long.
Already in Laos, you need to head to the visa area. I did my visa on arrival and it was pretty easy and faster than what I was expecting. They will give you some papers to be filled. Then you just hand them over, pay (I paid 30 USD for 30 days visa), and proceed to the exit and officially enter Laos. This is a country I wasn’t expecting to visit, but I decided to come and wait here to see how the COVID situation develops in China. I don’t regret visiting it.
From Thai-Laos border to Vientiane
Basically, when you cross officially the border, you will be harassed by may Laos men trying to sell you a way into Vientiane city. They offer you, van rides, tuk-tuk, cars, there are more than enough options. We chose the cheapest one, the tuk-tuk. Later on, I found that there is actually a local bus connection the friendship bridge to Vientiane city. It is the bus number 14 and the bus stop is just there where everybody is gathering. We paid 70 bahts from the border to Vientiane city center and the driver left us in our hostel. The bus costs 8000 kips and I’m not sure for how long you would need to wait for one if none is there. But I’m sure that not more than 20 minutes. This local bus stops at the Vientiane central bus station.
It is still quite a ride from the Thai border to Laos capital, but we have the tuk-tuk for the three of us. Once at the hostel we have some rest before going out to explore the city itself. Usually, I need to sleep a few hours after a night bus journey, but the streets in Thailand are so good that I managed to sleep very well on board.