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Visas and border crossings

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Trip Report: Siem Reap to Vientiane

Posted by cheeco on 15/12/2009 at 15:19

Hi everyone,

My husband and I just made the trip from Siem Reap to Vientiane through Thailand.

We did this because we did not get our Laos Visas when we were in Phnom Penh, and didn't want to go back to get them. Therefore, we would not be allowed to cross the land border between Laos and Cambodia.

We also did this because flying was really out of our budget.

It may seem like a long post, but I tried to be as detailed as possible. It was so simple to do, I would recommend it to anyone.

Here we go:


1)6:00am Hired a private taxi (day before) to take us to the Thailand border from Siem Reap (Poipet). Cost: $25 Time: 2 hours

2)8:00am Arrived at the Poipet border crossing. The taxi dropped us off by a large round-about. To your left there is the Departure Office for the Cambodian side. Make sure to fill out your departure card. You will get a departure stamp in your passport. Took us about 5 minutes to get through- the line was not long.

3) Walked through to the Thai side- we just followed the crowd. The Thai immigration is on the left hand side of the road. Make sure to enter the very left door of the building- where foreigner must go. The right side is for Thais.

4) Filled out a Thai arrival and departure card (available at desk 6). Waited in line for about 10 minutes. The Thai immigration officers were very polite and there were no questions asked.

5)We walked out of the Thai immigration building and continued to follow the crowd. We then saw a sign that read "Tourists and Foreigners Turn Here", so we did. We were able to withdraw money from a Thai ATM, and hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the Aranya Prathet bus station (the tuk-tuk drivers will assume that's where you are heading. Price of tuktuk: 80baht without bargaining

6)8:50am we arrived at the Aranya Prathet bus station. We just told people where we wanted to go (Korat), and they pointed us in the right direction. We were able to buy tickets to Korat for 9:10am for 190baht each.

7) 9:10am we borded a very nice bus- big seats, very clean, and even included crackers and water!

8) Arrived in Korat at 1:30pm- at a very big bus station. Got off and asked the driver where to go to get to Nong Kai- again everyone was very helpful. A guy inside the terminal helped us buy our tickets and took us to the bus. One ticket to Nong Kai- 210baht.

9) Departed from Korat at 1:40. This bus was definitely not as nice as the last one- more of a local bus, a little dirty, seats a little uncomfortable, but certainly bearable.

10) Arrived in Nong Kai just after 8pm. We could have gone through to the border (closes at 10pm), but we decided to stay the night and face the border in the morning. We took a tuk-tuk to Mut Nee Guesthouse for 80baht (I should have bargained!). However, the guesthouse was unfortunately full, but they helped us find another place.

** Advice: If you know that you will stop in Nong Kai for the night, definitely book a room/dorm bed at the Mut Nee Guesthouse!! It is a beautiful place located right on the Mekong River. All nice places we looked at were full, so we had to settle for an awful room across from the Ruan Thai guesthouse. This room was not sealed at all= mosquitoes everywhere! And we had to pay 200b for it! Do yourself a favor and book a room first!

DAY #2:

1) Hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the bridge. Price: 60baht. He stopped us at a travel agency and told us this was the way to go. The travel agency wanted to charge us the correct price of $42pp for the Laos Visa (we are Canadian), but then there was a 400baht charge each for transportation from the travel agency right to Vientiane. If you are in a really big hurry, and don't mind paying extra, then this will be ok for you. However, there was no way we were going to pay that much, so we politely said no and asked the driver to take through to Laos immigration.

2)We hopped on a nice charter-style bus over the friendship bridge for 15baht each.

3) Laos Visa: Ask for the papers at the ticket window- don't just stand in line and wait to get the papers, because you will end up standing in line 2 times. We filled out the paper and had to give one photo. Then we had to wait close to 1 1/2 hours for our visas to be ready.

4) Walked through immigration, scanned our bags. On the other side we were approached by way too many people asking us if we wanted taxis into Vientiane. Skip these guys completely. Instead walk to the right of the round-about and you will see a bus stop. We never did see the bus, but instead hopped into the back of a pick-up truck with other locals for 20baht each! They dropped us off at the market in Vientiane (sorry, I don't know which one). From here it was easy to find out way to the river- using our LP guide-book map.

We did it! And for a great price. In total, we spent about $30 each to get from Siem Reap to Vientiane (including one night in a guesthouse)! In Siem Reap the tour agencies sell bus tickets that go to Bangkok first on one bus, then you have to transfer to a night bus to Nong Kai- for $55!! Plus, you would have to spend the night on the bus! This was a significant savings for us.

Despite the length of this post, this route was very straight forward and painless!

Thanks to everyone who helped me with information to make this happen!

#1 cheeco has been a member since 22/4/2009. Posts: 29

Posted by ljm52 on 11/3/2010 at 22:19

Just wanted to update this post as we just followed the advice and took a similar journey. We used this guide as a basis for our trip so thought that others might appreciate knowing that it's a really easy journey!

Day 1

Took a Capitol Tours bus to Poipet which left Siem Reap at 8.30am (meant to leave at 8am, cost $3.75 each). Arrived at the border at Poipet at 11.00 and crossed through the Cambodian border in a few minutes, avoiding the touts trying to sell us over-priced tickets to Khorat. Walked through the border, past the casinos, and entered Thai immigration which also took only a few minutes.

Once through, walked over to the ATM, withdraw Thai baht, and hopped into a tuk-tuk from just outside the ATM to Aranya Prathet bus station for 80 baht.

Told the tuk-tuk driver that we were heading to Korat and so he took us to that section of the bus station where we bought 2 tickets at 190 baht each onwards. The person who sold us the tickets said that the bus would leave at 12.00, but actually arrived at 12.15 and left at 12.20 and was as good as the previous commentator noted - first time we've had free crackers on a public bus!

As we were arriving into Korat at 4.30pm we decided to stop there for the evening. The bus comes into the town around the centre of the city (very easy to recognise as you travel around a moat which is marked on the LP map of the city) so we jumped off before the bus station and had a 5 minute walk to the Sakhol Korat Hotel. Pleasant if slightly nondescript hotel with very friendly staff and we organised a fan room on the top floor for 150 baht (in hindsight would have upgraded to the aircon room at 400 baht as it was incredibly hot in the room).

Korat itself is a really pleasant town and very cheap - we paid just 20 baht each for a delicious chicken and rice dinner from a stall by the market.

As we hadn't been to the bus station, we spoke to the friendly staff at the hotel about the best way to get onto Nong Khai , and he suggested the train as a more convenient and cheaper option, and as it took the same time as the bus we decided to follow his advice. He checked the times with the train station (we think!) and the first train the next day was at 6.20am, so we also organised a tuk-tuk at 50 baht to collect us from the hotel at 5.30am at his suggestion (although we probably could have walked).

Day 2

Picked up from the hotel at 5.30am and arrived at the train station at 5.45am. Bought tickets at 63 baht each for the next train to Nong Khai which was meant to leave at 6.26am. In the end the train was about 30 minutes late arriving so we left at nearly 7am.

The train itself was fine with fairly comfortable seats although no aircon or amenities. However vendors regularly pass up and down the carriages selling everything from water to fruit to roasted chicken on a stick! The other benefit over the bus is that you can get up and walk around which is needed for such a long period of time.

After many stops (and an incident where the train seemed to get stuck and the guards had to go outside and prod the underside of the train!) we arrived into Nong Khai station at about 1.30 - about an hour later than it should have been. Overall, the train is a fairly pleasant way to travel and is considerably cheaper than the bus, but it isn't the quickest and the constant stops can get a little frustrating!

On arrival into Nong Khai, we were greeted by a tuk-tuk driver who said he could take us to the border for 60 baht. Not having a map of Nong Khai, we thought that this sounded an ok price and agreed, but the journey itself was less than 5 minutes so if we were doing it again, would get a map and simply walk. The tuk-tuk driver also tried to take us to a travel agent and then introduced us to a tout who offered to take us to Vientiane for 600baht for 2 of us! We ignored him (as suggested in earlier post) and walked up to Thai immigration.

Easily crossed through Thai immigration and then paid 15 baht each for the shuttle bus across the bridge to Laos immigration. Laos immigration went incredibly smoothly and we had our visas within 10 minutes of completing the form!

Walked through immigration to be greeted by many people offering tuk-tuks and pick-ups to Vientiane for 50-400 baht. Followed the original posters advice and walked round the corner to the bus stop. There were many pick-ups there, but they wanted 50 baht each for the journey so instead got onto the public minibus number 14 for 20 baht or 5,000 kip each which shuttles between the border and the Talat Sao bus station in Vientiane.

The Talat Sao bus station is right in the centre of Vientiane, and we were able to work out where we were immediately and simply walked into the centre to find a guesthouse.

Overall, this was a really easy - if long - journey to make and cheaper than the alternatives at around $20 each for the whole journey. Would definitely reccommend to others looking to travel from Siem Reap to Vientiane. Thanks to the originaly poster for the excellent advice!

#2 ljm52 has been a member since 11/3/2010. Posts: 1

Posted by Muggles01 on 19/8/2011 at 23:28

Thank you Cheeco - this trip report was invaluable! We followed this and also managed to get to Nong Khai by 8pm. Although it was a long day it was really worth it, firstly for the money saving and also because you get to see a lot of Thailand, that you probably wouldn't normally get to see. Just some advice for anyone else wanting to go this route:
The bus to Korat leaves at 9.10 so you really need to leave Siem Reap by 6am if you want to make this one. Otherwise the next one is at 12pm or thereabouts, which means you'll only get to Korat around 4pm, as per the post above.
The bus then arrives in Korat just before 2pm, and the bus for Nong Khai leaves at 2pm (I'm not sure if there are later ones?) so it's a bit tight, but at least there's no waiting around. As per the above posts, this bus isn't quite as luxurious as the first one!

We weren't sure that we'd make it all the way to Nong Khai on the first day so we didn't book as cheeco recommended, however we did manage to get a room at the E-san guesthouse, which I can recommend, it's very cheap and quite charming! There are still a few tuk-tuk drivers hanging around the bus station at that hour so you can get a lift to a guesthouse, but bargain hard!

Just a note - we had to change buses at Udon Thani: so if you get there and the bus suddenly empties, that's probably why...

The Laos border crossing also went very smoothly - the tuk-tuk driver did mumble about needing to get our visa first but we told him to take us to the bridge, which he did. We only waited about 20 minutes for our visas on the Laos side, so must have been a good day.
I will admit though that we lost the plot a bit right at the end, and ended up taking a hideously expensive taxi into Vientiane! But at least that was the only bit that didn't go according to plan.

Thanks to both posts for great advice, and I'd definitely recommend this route to anyone who has more time than money!

#3 Muggles01 has been a member since 15/7/2011. Posts: 18

Posted by maleante on 30/6/2013 at 08:56

Hi, usually I only use the internet to my advantage and don't write anything myself to help others out, but last week we did this trip with my GF and it went pretty well, so here it goes.
First we took the bus from Siem Reap to Poipeth for 4 usd each (3 hours) at 8am arriving around 11:30am at the border. Went through cambodian check then walked to thai check, and once on the other side ignored the guys offering bus tickets to Khorat for 500 baht. Walked to the bus station asking directions here and there. (Also u can take a tuk tuk to the bus station for probably 30 baht).
At the station we asked for a bus to Khorat, and they said we just missed the 12 o clock one (so if u go through the border fast enough u could take the 12 o clock bus) So we waited till the next one at 3pm and they said it costs 210 baht. So we waited for a couple of hours, ate some cheap path thai and hopped on the bus, which was quite ok and lots of free space, best of all we had to pay for the tickets on the bus and to our surprise it was only 165 baht each (6 usd). We arrived at Khorat at 7:30pm, where we had two options for Nong Khai: a bus at 9pm or one at 12 pm, (both sitting bus, 6 hours), so we took the one at midnight for 295 baht (10 usd) each cause we didn't want to arrive at 3 am. Arrived at NK at 6am, took a tuk tuk to the border for 50baht (1,6usd), then bus over freedom bridge for 20baht (0,6usd) and from the laos border to Vientiane a public tuktuk for 50baht (1,6usd).

So altogether it took us about 24 hours and 24 dolars each to get to vientiane. Needless to say, the travel offices at SR asked for 50 dolars each to Vientiane for the same amount of time (and probably same buses), so its much cheaper if u do it on your own. Good luck

#4 maleante has been a member since 30/6/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by MADMAC on 30/6/2013 at 11:22

If I did that with my wife, I'd be killed. No trial. No Jury. Straight to execution. Overnight to Bangkok pegs the fun meter. Out of curiousity is there a reason you didn't spend the night in Khorat and relax a bit?

#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by mimcee on 28/6/2015 at 20:32


Do you need a Thai visa for that? I'm also planning on doing SR>Vientiane via Thailand.

Thank you

#6 mimcee has been a member since 28/6/2015. Posts: 1

Posted by Muggles01 on 30/6/2015 at 06:07

It depends which country you are from - many nationalities get a 30 day visa exemption if arriving by air and a 15 day exemption (again - depending on your country of origin - I think some may get 30) if arriving by land border (ie - the Poipet border crossing which I assume you'd be using). If this applies to you, and you're moving straight on to Laos and not hanging around Thailand for more than the allotted time, you won't need a visa. But please check up on this - there's information on this site and you could also check out thaivisa.com

#7 Muggles01 has been a member since 15/7/2011. Posts: 18

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