If you find yourself in Laos and are planning on heading to neighbouring Thailand, what you should do will depend on how long you plan to stay in Thailand. You can get 15 days visa-free in Thailand on arrival by filling out a simple form at your port of entry; no trip to the consular section of the Thai embassy in Vientiane is required.
Once in Thailand, however, you will only be able to extend your stay in-country by seven days (meaning a trip to Immigration); then you will have to return to Laos, or another nearby country, to re-enter or get a visa — so plan your time ahead. This lack of spontaneity may dampen the romantic spirit of the more adventurous traveller, but it’s a small sacrifice to make.
Head to the consular section of the Thai embassy — at a different location to the main embassy, and commonly called the consulate — where you can get a 30-day transit visa for 800 baht, a 60-day tourist visa for 1,000 baht, a double-entry tourist visa for 2,000 baht, which is good for 60 days per entry, or a 90-day non-immigration visa for 2,000 baht. These are all single-entry visas. They also offer a multiple-entry 90-day non-immigration visa at 5,000 baht. You’ll need the appropriate paperwork, so do check their website; tourists will generally be seeking the 30-day or 60-day visa as for non-immigration visas you need a company letter. Both single and double-entry tourist visas can be extended by 30 days at immigration in Thailand.
The application form must be submitted between 08:30 and 12:00 and will be ready to collect on the next working day between 13:00 and 15:00. Download application forms here. The queues at 08:00 are tremendous, but getting there early can save an hour or two; if you don’t want to wait outside however, get there a little later. It’s possible the queues will have diminished by then but that hasn’t been our experience.
The consular section of the embassy is located at 15 Bourichane Road in Ban Ponesinuan. If you’re taking a tuk tuk, it’s best to ask for the neighboring institution, the Lao Singapore College (LA-o SEENG-ga-PAHW kaw-LEHD), mention ‘Thai vi-SAH’ and most drivers should know where to take you. Hope to pay 20,000-30,000 kip from downtown near Nam Phu, and around 15,000 kip from the Khua Din Central bus station.
Remember your passport must be valid for at least six months, and to include a photocopy of your passport as well as two passport-sized photos with your application. There are several places around town to get photos taken, including just outside the consular section. A number of photo shops are near the bus station too — six photos cost around 25,000 kip. Your photos will be ready in about five minutes and include a routine Photoshop touch-up, lightening your skin to the hue of a shiny pearl.
If it isn’t sweltering hot or pouring rain, the most convenient mode of transport to get your visa is probably a rented bicycle. From central Vientiane, ride down Setthathilath Road and turn left at the end of the Royal Palace onto Mahosot Road. This turns into Nongbone Road at the next corner by Khua Din bus station. Continue down Nongbone, past Dong Palane Road and make a right at the next traffic light by the big red, white and blue bank on the corner. Head over the small stinky canal and make your next left at Lao Singapore College.
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you find yourself surrounded by Korean restaurants; after submitting your application, try out some tasty Korean food at Seoul. Or if you fancy a pedal around town, go back to Nongbone Road, where signs will direct you to Patuxai and That Luang.
By Ivana Lexa-French
Last updated on 7th November, 2012.