Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
First published 18th January, 2007
Of all the border crossings in the region, the overland crossing between Cambodia and Laos has been one of the most changeable. In some ways, Dom Kralor has all the ingredients of a pain in the posterior crossing -- corrupt border officials, inconsistent travel advice and of course wildly varying traveller tales. Read on to find out the best way to cross this ever-changing border.
Note: This story has been updated following our research in the region in the first half of 2009 -- the boat crossing between Laos and Cambodia is now CLOSED. read on for further details
For a long time the border between Cambodia and Laos could only be travelled by boat -- from Veun Kham in Laos to the Khmer town of Stung Treng. Now, the only crossing is by land, at Dom Kralor. Occassionally, boats still go to Veun Kham, but because the immigration office has closed there, if you travel to this crossing by boat, you must then transfer to a minibus to take you, while still in Cambodia, the 10-minute drive to the Dom Kralor crossing. Hence, it makes sense to save your boat travel until you're in Laos. A bridge just east of Stung Treng completed in 2008 means the entire trip can be done by land.
There are two ways to cross this border -- as an organised package (Don Dhet or Don Khon to Stung Treng / Kratie / Kompong Cham / Phnom Penh -- and the reverse) or to do it independently. It is FAR easier and less expensive to do the actual border leg as an organised trip. While we're almost always in favour of travelling independently, in this isolated case, it makes a lot more sense to organise your trip through a travel agent.
Lao visa-on-arrival is now available. It is NO LONGER NECESSARY to get a Lao visa in advance. Cambodian visa-on-arrival is available.
You may be expected to pay a small "handling fee" (bribe) to the immigration authorities -- normally $1 to $2 per person at both the Laos and Cambodia checkpoints. A tourist visa into Cambodia costs $23 or 250,000 kip (about $30), so pay in dollars if possible.
There used to be two crossings -- one by boat and one by land. Now there is only one. The boat crossing at Veun Kham (also spelt Veunkham and Veung Kham) is now closed, although you can still take a boat up to the border there, than travel to the minibus crossing at Dom Kralor (also spelt Dongkralaw).
An important note
Both Cambodian and Lao visa-on-arrival is available at this crossing. If you are planning on heading south to Stung Treng by boat using the Veun Kham crossing you'll have to cross at Dom Kralor, then return to Veun Kham, and either book a boat ahead or risk that none will be waiting there to catch the occasional tourist when you arrive.
By travel agent
Any travel agent in Pakse, Don Khong, Don Dhet and Don Khon will be able to sell you a through ticket to the Cambodian town of your choice. Prices may seem a little high, but when compared to what it will cost you to cross the border independently, the rates for the border crossing segment are a bargain. Note travel further afield is cheaper if done by booking a ticket to one of these locations -- Stung Treng in particular -- then booking separately from there. Sample tour prices include: Stung Treng $11, Ban Lung $21, Kratie $18 , Kompong Cham $21 , Phnom Penh $23 and Siem Reap $28.
If you're travelling to Siem Reap, it makes sense to book independently, since through tickets usually stop overnight in Phnom Penh first, and the price of a guesthouse is not included. If you book a through ticket to Siem Reap, make sure it stops and transfers that day to a minibus in Kampong Cham. If you want to get to Siem Reap from Laos within a day, a better idea is to buy a ticket to Stung Treng, then find the share taxi station next to the market, and barter a ride to Kampong Cham (about $10 per person), then from there, barter another ride to Siem Reap (about $15 per person).
All the buses from various locales in Cambodia heading to and from the border stop in Stung Treng and usually transfer passengers to a different bus. This often includes a few-hour wait for the bus to show up. Starting in 2010, sources in Stung Treng say, there will be a bus that goes directly from Phnom Penh through to Pakse, without transfers.
Getting to the borders
Transport can be arranged from Nakasang to Dom Kralor for $4. The crossing is about a dozen kilometres from Nakasang. If you book a ticket to the border, you'll be on a minibus with people who booked through tickets. Don't expect to find motorbikes waiting in Nakasang to take people to the border, though by asking around you can probably find someone to take you for about the same price. This is a good option if you go in the afternoon, since you can only get the $4 price for a minibus by booking with a travel agent at least the night before and by leaving the following morning. Travellers trying to get to the border in mid-morning or the afternoon should expect to pay $15.
Crossing the borders
From Veun Kham to Stung Treng by boat, Mr. Thea at Riverside is your only option, and even he says he goes there by boat very rarely now.
A longtail takes two and a half hours and costs $50 for the boat or $5 per person (if you have a group of ten or more).
The speedboat takes just an hour, but costs $140 for a maximum of six people.
There are rumours of a slow boat, but they're just rumours as far as we were able to divine.
Bear in mind that you still have to cross at Dom Kralor then get a ride to the river at Veun Kham. Since this route is now so inconvenient, if you're planning to do it, you'll have to book ahead.
Just about all the boats running from Veun Kham are run by Mr. Thea (T: (012) 447 775) in Stung Treng. If you've got a bunch of people together it may be worthwhile calling him directly to organise a boat trip south to Stung Treng. If you don't have a telephone ask a travel agent to assist.
From Dom Kralor to Stung Treng, minibuses leave the Cambodian side of the border when full (around 12 people qualifies it as full) and costs $5 per person. When you arrive in Stung Treng, try and transfer to a big bus and not another minibus if possible. Minibuses along this route are impossibly crowded (it's unlikely you'll have your own seat) and for such a long journey, you'll be acutely aware that you've left the smooth, paved roads and efficient transport of Laos.
See it's easy!
It's a short crossing -- just a few hours from Si Phan Don to Stung Treng, yet this crossing between Cambodia and Laos has generated more than its fair share of heartache and confusion. Pop into a travel agent, take the minibus and save yourself the frustrations (and cost) of doing it solo.
Related readingExploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
Southern Laos by scooter
The Death Highway
Kompong Cham escape
Read 52 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (17)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (9)
- Cambodia (23)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (14)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- Pasola, Sumba
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (19)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Luang Prabang for kids
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Weaving and textiles in Luang Prabang
- What to buy in Luang Prabang, Laos
- Malaysia (10)
- Singapore (10)
- All stories
- 10 great hostels in Singapore
- Singapore on a budget
- Singapore's best happy hours
- Singapore's Hip Haji
- Singapore: Escape the urban jungle
- The best hostels in Singapore: 2013
- The best places to stay in Singapore
- The Festivals of Singapore
- Top 10 Hawker Centres: Part 1
- Top 10 Hawker Centres: Part 2
- Thailand (81)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok craft villages
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Day trips from Bangkok
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (33)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Ha Long Bay or Sapa?
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (16)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.