You can - Nong Khai is at the Thai end of the the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge joining the two countries.
If you are taking the train you can either walk or do what most people do and take a tuk-tuk to the border. Negotiate hard on your tuk-tuk (it's literally a 2 min drive - I think I paid 20B) and you'll probably end up sharing it as they try to squash as many people on as possible and often won't go until it's really full!
You exit Thailand and then catch a bus over the bridge (I can't remember if there is a small charge for the bus or not) to the Lao border. You can obtain a Visa on arrival for 30 days. Once you have got your Visa, had your passport stamped and paid a small charge for a pink customs ticket you have arrived in Laos. From there you can catch a minivan or taxi to Vientiane - fixed costs for each with a ticket purchased from a seller.
I think there may be an international bus that goes from Nong Khai to Vientiane too but I've never used it.
Hope that helps!
#3 khema has been a member since 11/8/2008. Posts: 3
Laos wants $30 American at the border.
#4 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
If you are staying in Nong Khai, then the international bus that tails101 mentions is another option. Pick it up from the bus station in town. It is a pretty good deal, as it takes you to the bridge, waits for you to clear immigration and customs, then takes you all the way to the Morning Market in VTE. Get there early however, as some have pointed out that the bus fills up and you don't always get a seat.
Also, the fee for the visa-on-arrival is like neosho says, and they definitely prefer US dollars. But I've seen people who just couldn't come up with the US currency manage to pay in other currencies, although not at a very happy exchange rate. There is also an extra fee of a dollar or so if you arrive outside of normal business hours. Cheers.
How many days do you think I would need to explore just Vientiane only? I don't have the luxury of time... I will be at Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, for 3-4 days (13Oct to 15 or 16 Oct) and I hope to travel to Laos before I head back to Bangkok to catch the evening flight home on the 19 Oct. I am trying to work out the timing, hopefully I could stay a night in Laos before I make my way back to Bkk.
However, if the timing is too tight for a good exploration of Vientiane, I'll probably go with PLan B to explore other province of Thailand and leave Laos to next trip. That probably sounds like a better idea yah?
#6 khema has been a member since 11/8/2008. Posts: 3
vientiane is pretty great and often under-rated and overlooked. i've enjoyed several stays there and each time have discovered something new and worthwhile there. there are several good temples like wat phra keow and that luang, good food, great beer lao, culture shows, at least one good museum, and fun public park spaces like the big arch. you could knock this out comfortably in three days/two nights but i think an overnight would be rushing it.
you also mentioned that you'd be in ubon ratchathani, which is a fair distance from vientiane. have you considered popping over to southern laos instead? you'd be much closer, which would mean less travel. this might better fit your existing itinerary.
if not, then a slow trip back to bangers checking out the old khmer temples along the way would be another excellent choice. cheers.
Could you tell me a little more about the international bus? I have been in the bus (can of sardines) that waits just past immigration and stops at the laos side then returns. Is the bus station close to the railyway station?
khorp jai lai lai,
Thanks Exacto. Interesting otion, but accommodation looks a bit sparse. Any recommendation?
#11 LancasterLad has been a member since 13/9/2006. Posts: 62
Yes, accommodation selection is a bit sparse. I'm pretty sure it's still only Tim Guesthouse. That's a favorite of mine because I first stayed there nearly 20 years ago now, and Sri Chiang Mai still feels more like the old backpacker Thailand than other places.
Tim isn't the Ritz, and don't know if the spartan rooms and hard beds will meet your needs or not. Best wishes.