I checked today. I can not drive my chopper into Laos. At least not at the Friendship Bridge II. The bike is in my name, I have a Thai drivers license valid in all ASEAN countries... no joy.
Does anyone know if you can enter Laos from Thailand at another point legally on a bike?
GT Rider is probably the #1 web resource for motorcycling in Asia -- it's an excellent resource.
#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,706
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Good resource, especially for road conditions, interesting travel attitudes. These choice quotes from ride in Phongsali.
"As I raised my camera the girls waved their hands in protest and I am sure were saying �No!�. What the hell, press the button anyway, they won�t know the difference. Damn! I thought I had turned the flash off!
"The leader of the pack ran toward me waving her machete and shouting expletives that, although I couldn�t understand, I knew were not good. She slashed at me and the bike, not trying to actually hit me but still in a menacing manner. She moved to the back and slashed at my bags and top box. The others joined her and no matter how much I smiled and tried to look friendly, the insisted that I move on. They hovered around me waving arms and frowning. I did my best to put my gear on in slow motion but they were not going to change their demeanor. As I rode away I thought of a number of other trips and these other photos I had taken where the subject did not look too happy�.
Then he goes on to post a bunch of photos of bare breasted middle aged Akha women. Guy has a heck of a sense of humor.
Well, aside from the author's rather odd view of things, there are some great pics in that story.
#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,706
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If you walk around bare breasted, don't be surprised if someone takes a photo of you. I don't buy the "you have to ask permission to take someone's photo" nonsense. If they're in public, they're fair game. Just like I am. Photos are basically non-intrusive. Simply capturing a moment and place. It would be different if you were skuling around their garden or installed a hidden camera in their bathroom.
Now idiots who grab my arm to slow me down and try to sell me someting - that's FAR more intrusive. Yet I would not attack said individual with a machete because of it.
Friendship Bridge II - as in Mukdahan-Suvanakhet right? Yes there have been reports that foreigners can't ride their motorbikes across this bridge. Exactly why who knows. You should be able (with a little help) to roll it into a songthaew for the trip across then do your Laos paperwork and start riding.
I've taken my Thai-registered motorbike (110cc Suzuki actually) into Laos twice this year (and ridden back across the Friendship-1 bridge)- one entry at Chiang Kong/Huay Xai and again at the more obscure Huay Kon/Muang Ngeuan border (Nan province into Xayabouli). Minimal paperwork and pretty quick, good idea to bring at least a couple extra photocopies of everything (relevant pages in book, purchase receipt) and complete the 1-page customs declaration form (they'll usually do everything except your signature). Of course many accounts of taking a Thai bike to Laos on the GT-Rider site.
You should remember Madmac that you are a guest in another country. If you don't want to abide by their laws and customs you shouldn't go, or if you do and you ignore them don't whine about the consequences. What you think is right or normal is of no consequence. Try to keep that bike upright.
Don't let this be you
I left the US in 1985. I have been living abroad for 25 years. Never had a problem I couldn't solve. I've been to Laos on numerous occassions, never had a problem. Don't see why I should this time.
Just because I don't think Laos is God's gift to mankind, or that I don't hold their government in high esteem, doesn't mean that I can't move around there without a hassle.
I don't engage in the kind of activity that they really hate (drug trafficking, violence (at least not there), etc.) And I don't have a problem keeping my bike upright, because I drive a real bike.
Oh and the feet thing. OK, no stepping over food or people. No kicking someone (unless your a dance instructor and trying to move someones foot). This is true in Thailand. But I have observed MANY Thais sitting with the soles of their feet exposed. Before I came here I read this in dos and don'ts only to find out it was overblown crap. I asked my friend about it and he said the exposure has to be deliberate to be an insult. In Laos are they more sensitive about this than Thais, or is it overblown crap there too?
I remember once renting a 250cc dirt bike in Chiang Mai instead of the usual Honda Dream 90 or whatever that is usually available. That was a great time. It must be fun having a real motorcycle to ride on day trips to That Phanom and such.
One of my favorite things about places like Thailand and Laos is that rules are generally relative. I thought this motorcyle issue was a great example of that kind of thing. It isn't okay to drive your motorcycle across the Friendship II bridge, but you can put it in the back of a truck as cargo and take it across that way. Great. A minor hoop jump, and there you go. You might need to go from point A to C before getting to B, but there is always a way to get there. Works for me.
i crossed on a motorbike in northern vietnam. the vietnamese side is named dien bien phu. i have a ri\ussian minsk 125 that is registered in vietnam to the original owner.as per the papers. i have an australian drivers licence (licence is not required).
the crossing is easy and there are standardised fees. arround $10 on the vietnamese side and $5 on the laos side.
the temporary import export lastes the length of your visa for laos.
you can exit to other countries (ie i continued on to thailand) or return to vietnam.
i only have experience at this border but if you show up at any border i beieve you could get through....potentially witha few $20USD notes at appropriate times.
hope this helps. from someone who has actually done it...not just heard about it!
#15 kynanr has been a member since 15/1/2010. Posts: 7
A lot has been said about crossing into Laos from Thailand. I hand once crossed ito Laos on a Malaysian registered bike. We crossed at Chiang Khong . There was no hassle at all. With proper documents, Lao insurance a group of 6 of us are already on Lao road within 1.5 hours.
I dontk know about the friendship bride crossing, I hadnt try. But to me crossing at Chiang Khong into Huay Xai is realtively easy to do,
yeah thats the border i crossed in the oposite direction. no problems.
#18 kynanr has been a member since 15/1/2010. Posts: 7
Just a little more info of crossing at Chiang Khong.
There is no bridge, but a ferry service instead. The ferry is large enough to take in 2 lorries on one go. It cost 500 bh per bike.
On return into thailand, we took the same crossing, but this time a little wiser,.. instead of taking the ferry, we took the long tailboat. It cost only 250bh each. As we travel on lighter bikes, 150cc,.. thus 2 bikes can go at a time.
wow madmac, March? Isnt that the time when the rain has started to come? Lao roads can be treacheorus when it rains,.. The best time to do it is between november to january, cool dry season. Anyway, with the rain, you may see or experience a different scenario altogetrher, and add some adventures as well. I wish to do on rainy season too later.
Whatever your decision, I wish you all the best and have a pleasant ride. Take it slow, take alotr of pictures. The road from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha is already pretty bad dnow. Once, it was a fabulous highway through jungles and mountains, perfect for motorbikes built by the Chinese govt. But due no maintennance by Lao side, the road is deteriorating fast.
Driving a bike in Laos is great for the adrenalin rush
#22 Danlo has been a member since 1/3/2010. Posts: 21
Hello, I ride a Vietnamese registered 110cc bike, with the original registration and a notarized (Vietnamese stamp and seal) bill of sale from the original owner. I crossed into Laos from Cambodia (there's only one crossing) without incident in 2008. I exited to Viet Nam at Na Meo crossing, again, no problem. I crossed from Viet Nam into Laos at Lao Bao crossing in 2009 with some minor resistance from the IMMIGRATION officials, who felt I probably shouldn't be crossing. They finally sent me back to customs, who just shooed me on across the border. I exited later at the crossing near Dien Bien Phu. In October 2010 I was firmly turned away by the Lao at the Lao Bao crossing from Viet Nam. There was no sign of interest in a "negotiated fee" or "deposit" or any such nonsense. Just a firm refusal to let a 3rd party national enter the country with a Vietnamese bike. It fouled up my Vietnamese visa when I turned around, but I eventually got my "used" visa extended again, though it took 10 days for the paper work to round trip from Hue to Hanoi and back. The Lao official who turned me away said he had no objection to my touring Laos on a bike, but it couldn't be a Vietnamese bike. He said to take a bus to Savannakhet and rent a bike there. Sigh. I go to a lot of trouble to keep my Vietnamese bike in proper shape for the road and I don't want to take chances on a rental in the remote areas.
#23 kenpreston has been a member since 7/1/2011. Posts: 1
I just had the same experience as kenpreston at the Lao Bao border. The Vietnamese officals told me I could cross if I went and asked the Laos officials. However, the Vietnamese held onto my visa as I crossed and asked the Laos people. The Laos guy told me: no, I couldn't bring the bike into Laos. I asked if I could pay. Looking back, I probably should have offered him some money.
Still I'm confused about the Vietnamese holding my pasport. I guess they have to give me an exit stamp after the Laos officials approve the bike....
I like hearing about this songthaew idea. Do you think I could put my bike on a songthaew at this border, and avoid trouble? Or is going back with a bribe worth another shot?
I'm going to try again in the morning.
#24 mhecht has been a member since 19/1/2011. Posts: 3
how you ended up eventually?
sucessfully crossed the boarder at lao bao?
do any of you guys think I will be encounter the same problem if I pick the northern boarder on a Vietnamese registered bike?
#25 sos9394 has been a member since 21/2/2011. Posts: 5
A rational hope is that the officials at the crossing near Dien Bien Phu may be more agreeable, since they routinely run a "you have committed a violation and the fine is X0,000 kip" sort of side business, though if it's a national directive they may be firm no matter. If you got through there however, it could turn out to be a mixed blessing. The first 65 km of the road over the Lao border there was truly horrendous in 2009 and some of the streams probably are not ford-able except in the dry season. You could end up mired down, or your bike drowned out a very long ways from anywhere!
The gentleman who turned me away at Lao Bao, whose English was quite understandable really, told me that the traffic police would stop me in any event, riding the bike in Lao with the Vietnamese plates. I definitely didn't have the feeling that he was looking for a bribe. He also emphasized that I could take the bus to Savannakhet and rent a bike there and ride all over Laos. The "bus and rent a bike" advice might be the best we can do for a while.
#27 kenpreston46 has been a member since 21/2/2011. Posts: 6
Great links. I love seeing things like this. Thanks for sharing.
#28 chrisrarmstead has been a member since 29/12/2010. Posts: 3
hey, im thinking of heading to saigon in july and would then like to go through laos and cambodia and finally thailand.. though it could get longer or shorter depending. the thing is i was planning to this on a vietnamese registered bike and now it seems a problem. i have a european licence plus idp and a vietnamese licence but i havent been there in a while and dont want to rock up to the border with nothing but a smile and a fiver.. any advice?
also.. ken preston, do you live permanently in vietnam? if you dont mind me asking..
Based on my luck at Lao Bao, I'd say you want a multiple entry visa to Viet Nam (or wherever you're leaving from) so at least you can go back and try again. I ended up stranded for a while as an illegal alien in Viet Nam, having stamped out and crossed "into" Laos but not being allowed to proceed, didn't get a return visa. It took ten days more or less grounded in and around Hue waiting to get things straightened out by an agent in Hanoi, since Immigration in Hue wouldn't touch the problem. If I'd had a multi-entry visa I'd just have stamped back into VN and gone and tried elsewhere. Or not I suppose.
No, I don't live in Viet Nam full time. I visit about 2 months each year for the past 5 years, ride about 6000 km in the two months, lose 25 pounds and 20 points of blood pressure, then turn around and go back to Seattle and back to work for ten months and foul it all up again. Sigh.
Cheers and good luck!
#30 kenpreston46 has been a member since 21/2/2011. Posts: 6
I had planned to get the multiple entry visa but not for that reason, its a good point so I'll definitely get it now. The plan is a little shaky so far, it came into being after a few the other night, we're going to head to Saigon and pick up the bikes which will be registered in a mates name with the forms for permission to take them abroad. I found the docs for entry and exit of Nam and Thailand and it seems that Cambodia can be picked up at border, not sure I like this idea, but I've no idea about the entry and exit forms for Laos or even if its possible but if not we'll head for somewhere else then hop the border by bus and get rentals. That's about it. We'll see what happens.
If anyone has definite info on border crossings I'd be much obliged.
Ken, I'll let you know if I find a legit way into Laos.
Just to clarify a few things. I have a house in saigon and an apartment in pnom penh At my apartment is a viet registered susuki gn which i rode from saigon. I have also taken that bike into bangkok. All this was done on a viet bluecard which is in the previous owners name not mine. It is best to have a viet reg bike because you can not get others into vietnam . If you cross from vietnam into cambodia do it down in the mekong its lot easier. I am told laos is a problem at the moment both for viet and thai plated bikes but some people i know went into laos on viet bikes via cambodia . How ever they did get stopped by laos treaffic police and had to part with 50 usd
Hope this helps JOHNY
#32 johnysac has been a member since 25/10/2009. Posts: 71