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Updated: May 20
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Visas for Laos are needed for all passports except Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Luxembourg and Switzerland. According to agreements made since 2005, ASEAN country citizens should be given free entry for 15 days. However, visitors from Indonesia and other ASEAN countries are being charged for entry into Laos. This may also apply at other ASEAN country border control where the free entry agreement has not been implemented or is being ignored.
* While most foreign visitors are eligible for a Lao Visa On Arrival, from October 2009, passport holders of 29 countries require a visa from a Lao Embassy or Consulate.
African countries that need a Lao visa BEFORE ARRIVAL from an embassy include: Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Other countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Nauru, Tonga, Surinam.
Generally, to save time and inconvenience when visiting many countries which require visas before arrival, it's often easier to get them before you leave home. You can apply to each country's Embassy (allow plenty of time) or get all your visas in one go at PassportVisasExpress who also process applications for Lao visas for US and Canadian passports.
If there is no Lao Embassy or consular office in your country, such as the United Kingdom (Paris is the closest), then unless you're from one of the excluded countries, just arrive at the Lao border with US$35 and a photo, and get a VOA. Click the image on the right to see, save or print out the Arrival Visa Form. Laos Embassy locator ==>
A one- or two-month (60-day) tourist visa is only available from Lao Embassies and Consulates. In Asia and the Asia-Pacific region these are in India, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor Leste, Brunei, Hong Kong, North Korea, South Korea, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Japan and Australia. See below for details on some Lao Embassies in Asia. The Lao PDR Embassy in Singapore is at the Goldhill Centre in Thomson Road.
The 30 day visa on arrival in the Lao PDR is available at all ports of entry in Laos including the airports of the main cities. Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse. You should try to have one photo. Visa cost ranges from $20 (China) to $42 (Canada). Sweden is $31, $35 for the USA, UK and most of Europe, $40 for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and $30 for Australia and other countries. The full list is on display at the Visa Application window. Japanese visitors to Lao no longer need a visa and ASEAN country passport holders should not have to pay for a 15 day entry stamp. But you don't argue with an immigration official, even if you think he may be putting the money in his pocket!
US dollars in smaller denominations can be used freely in much of Laos, so try to arrive with at least enough US$ notes for your visa. Thai currency (baht) can also be used in Lao, but paying for your visa in baht will cost you quite a lot more than the US dollar equivalent, due to the bad exchange rate at Lao Immigration.
Extending a Lao Visa. If you apply before the expiry date, visas can be extended for about $1 per day in Vientiane. The Immigration office is opposite Bangkok Bank in a road off Lane Xang Avenue, on the other side to the Morning Market. On the corner is the Joint Development Bank (JDB) head office which has ATMs for VISA and MasterCard. Further along the road is ANZ Laos. See Lao Banks & ATMs for detailed information.
By the way, if you're visiting Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) or Phnom Penh before your trip to the Lao PDR, you get US dollars from Cambodia's ATMs. See Banking in SE Asia. You should also apply for a Lao Visa in Phnom Penh if you are entering Laos by land from Cambodia, as a visa on arrival is not available. You can however exit Laos and enter Cambodia.
You can also obtain your Lao Visa in the USA in advance from an agency or from a Lao Embassy in your country. If you prefer to have all your visas in your passport before you arrive in the countries that require them, then visit the PassportVisasExpress website where you can also apply for a US Passport if you don't have one yet, renew, add new pages or replace a lost or stolen US passport.
Note that many travellers entering Thailand from the Lao PDR or other country will not need a Thai visa. Note also that the regulations changed in June 2009 and restrictions on entries to Thailand apply to tourists and foreign residents of neighbouring countries. Check our Thailand Visa page. After March 2010, Thai tourist visas were no longer free.
It's worth noting that Immigration can be slow and frustrating on the Thai side too. If you are in a hurry, best to avoid late afternoons, public holidays and weekends in either country, when both tourists and locals cross the border in substantial numbers.
There are Thai baht ATMs just before Thai Immigration, for VISA, MasterCard etc. The next are on the Lao side both at the Bridge and outside several factories on the routes into the city. They accept VISA and Cirrus cards, but dispense Lao kip, usable only within the Lao PDR.
WARNING: DO NOT USE A NONGKHAI AGENT TO GET YOUR LAO VISA AS LAO IMMIGRATION HAS OUTLAWED THE USE OF THESE SERVICES. Also be aware that certain hotels and guesthouses in Vietnam offer SCAM visa services.
Visa Services may still be offered by Nongkhai travel agencies, guest houses or hotels and other shops near the bridge when selling tours to Laos. You would pay substantially more than the visa fee and achieve nothing except a few minutes of time. The correct procedure is to apply for a 30 day Lao visa-on-arrival on the Lao side of the river, with usually a short delay unless there are a lot of people ahead of you. It's quite straightforward when you know how:
If you do NOT already have a Lao visa, DO NOT queue at the Foreign Passports Arrivals Booth. Ask for the two forms you need at the left hand Visa-on-arrival window at the front of the building.
First, fill in the simple Visa Application form and hand it back together with your passport, one photo and the fee (there is a list of countries and fees ranging from $30 to $42 – see above) in US dollars cash. On weekends and holidays there is often a $1 surcharge.
Second, take your time to complete both halves of the Arrivals/Departure form. Wait 10 minutes or so until your name (or something resembling it!) is called from the right hand window, collect your passport with its (previously 15 but now) 30 day visa, and proceed to one of the Foreign Passports arrivals booths, where you will be processed. Check to make sure you are stamped in for thirty days and not fifteen as previously.
If you have a two month visa, make sure they give you two months. Sometimes they put thirty days by mistake on the stamp.
Walk past Customs; they rarely stop foreign tourists unless they are carrying a lot of extra bags. At the Entry Fee booth pay 10 or 20 baht. The final stop is a uniformed official who briefly checks your passport and the entry receipts. Welcome to Lao!
If you want to stock up on imported liquor and cigarettes, you can buy them freely at the Duty Free shops on the Lao side. However, liquor prices are much the same as in town and very cheap compared to Thailand. Most people take a bottle of something when they go back to Nongkhai.
More information and other types of Lao visa for longer term stay.
Transport into the City
Vientiane city centre is about 25 km or 15 miles from Mittaphab (Friendship Bridge). You will be approached by drivers offering a taxi to the city for 200 baht. Tuk-tuks are 100 baht per person.
Other transport options from the bridge include the commuter bus which is usually crowded, but cheap at 4000 kip. The stop is outside the public car park. Sharing a taxi or tuk-tuk are possibly the best choices. Mini buses with their transport and tour prices displayed on a board in the arrivals area are available too. If you are in a group, this might be an economical option if you want to go somewhere specific.
Thailand-Lao PDR International Bus Service
Daily direct services: Udon Thani – Vientiane, and Nong Khai – Vientiane, via the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River, using 45-seat air-conditioned VIP buses. See our Lao Travel page for the timetable.
Foreign visitors already holding visas can use this service too, but as the visa on arrival takes some time, the bus may leave you at the Bridge. Travelling from Vientiane to Thailand is no problem as 30 day visits for most nationalities are Thai visa-free for these countries.
Thai citizens can travel using a 3-day/2-night Temporary Border Pass valid for visits to Vientiane, while Thai residents of Nong Khai province (many of whom have Lao relatives) can apply for an Annual Border Pass.
Lao citizens have similar facilities and can use a Border Pass for short visits. A passport and Thai Visa is required for travel beyond Nongkhai and Udonthani, and there are sometimes road blocks which check bus passengers' papers.
Departing Lao and arriving in Thailand (Nongkhai)
Leaving the Lao PDR to enter Thailand at Nongkhai via the Friendship Bridge is a simple procedure. Your passport will be stamped out. The Exit Fee does not apply to foreigners. Most travellers buy a 10 baht (or 2500 kip) ticket for the shuttle bus to cross the Mekong River and enter Thailand. You will be approached by touts offering taxis and mini buses to Nong Khai or Udon Thani. Ignore them unless you can negotiate a good price for a group (see below). The bus stops at Thai Immigration where you must present a completed Arrival/Departure Form. For unknown reasons these are never in sight. Ask at the desk next to the booths, but don't wait in a long queue to get one. Once you have the form, fill in both sections and hand it in with your passport to an open Entry Booth.
After being stamped in to Thailand for 15 days (30 days only for arrivals by air or with a tourist visa), you are entitled to continue to the nearby Bus Station in the shuttle bus or a song-taew (red pickup). Don't pay extra unless you want to be taken somewhere beyond the bus station. From there you can take a tuk-tuk into the city, train station, Lotus Tesco, or to your hotel. This will cost around 50 baht per person depending on the distance.
TIP: If you're returning to Nongkhai after your visit to Lao, try to get a blank Thai Arrival/Departure form before you cross the bridge to enter Lao. It will save you time and frustration when you come back. If you have a previously filled out form you can go direct to the Entry Booth, ahead of all the foreigners who haven't read this paragraph!
Thai Immigration law now discourages foreigners living, working or retiring in Thailand without the correct visa. Passports are checked for previous entry stamps within the past six months. If they show more than 90 days spent in Thailand, re-entry will given only to those with a visa obtained at a Thai embassy, until a further 90 days has elapsed. If this applies to you, be prepared before you leave on your next 'visa run'. If you return with a visitor visa you can apply for a Thai retirement visa which is available for those over 50 who qualify for the minimum income requirements. More information and options are described on our Thai Visa page.
Expat residents of neighbouring countries (usually identified by a Business Visa for another country in their passport) are not affected and should be given a Thailand entry stamp if arriving by land for 14 days or 30 days by air.
Notes for travellers to Udonthani (or flying to Bangkok or Chiangmai)
After being stamped in and walking past Customs, touts will offer you various rides into town or to Udon Thani. Haggling is the order of the day. Try to share with other foreigners going in the same direction. A 1200 baht minibus ride to Udon shared between 4 or more passengers is reasonably priced, convenient and more comfortable than the public buses. These cost between 30 and 60 baht, but run only from the main bus station on the Nongkhai-Udon highway. If you are flying from Udonthani to Bangkok or Chiangmai, you can also take the Airport Limousine (air-con bus service for 120 baht) which has several pickup points around town including one at a travel agency between the bridge bus station and Nongkhai. A tuk-tuk there will cost about 40 baht per person. The 'Limousine' service doesn't co-ordinate with all flights (there are several airlines now), so you need to check the times beforehand. The trip takes about 50 minutes and you should try to get there one hour before flight departure.
LAOS EMBASSIES IN ASIA
Thanon Darussalam Lot No. 19824, House No. 11
Simfang 480 Jalang Kebang Saan Lama 3786
Off Jalang MuaraBander Seri Begawan 3786
Tel: (+637) 02 - 345 666
Fax: (+673) 02 - 456 888
1517 Thanon Keomani
P.O. Box 19, Phnom Penh
Tel: (+855 23) 26441, 24781
Fax: (+855 23) 27454
Beijing, P.R. China
San Litun Dongsi Jie
Tel: (+86 1) 5321224
Fax: (+86 1) 5326748
Lao Consulate General Yunnan, P.R. China
Room 3226 Canellia Hotel, 154 East Dong Feng Road
Tel: (+86 871) 3176623-24
Fax: (+86 871) 3178556
Jalan Kintamani Raya C15 No33
Kuningan Timur, Jarkata 12950
Tel:(+62 22) 5202673, 5229602
Fax: (+62 22) 5229601
A-104/7, Maharani Bagh
Tel: (+91 11) 632 3048
Fax: (+91 11) 632 3048
3322 Nishi Azabu, Minato-Ku
Tel:(+81 3) 5411 2291, 5411 2292
Fax: (+81 3) 5411 2293
108 Jalan Damai, 55000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+60 3) 248 3895, 242 0344
Fax: (+60 3) 242 0344
Ikh Toiruu P.O. Box: 1030 Ulan Bator
Tel: (+976 1) 326440, 329898
NA 1 Diplomatic Quarters
Franser Road, Yangon (Rangoon)
Tel: (+95 1) 22482, 27445
Fax: (+95 1) 27446
34 Lapu - Lapu Street
Makati City Manila
Tel/Fax: (+63 2) 833-5759
179-B Gold Hill Centre Thomson Road
Tel: (+65) 250 60 44, 250 67 41, 250 60 14
520, 502/ 1-3 Soi Ramkhaheang 39
Bangkapi, Bangkok 10310
Tel.: 539 7341; 539 6667-8
Fax.: 539 3827; 539 6678
Lao Consulate General Khonkaen
19/1-3 Phothisarn Road, Khonkaen, Khonkaen
Tel: (+43) 223473, 223698
22 Rue Tran Binh Trong,
Tel: (+84 4) 254576, 296746
Fax: (+84 4) 228414
General Ho Chi Minh City
181 Hai Ba Trung, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (+84 8) 299275, 297667
Fax: (+84 8) 299272
12 Tran Quy Cap, Danang
Tel: (+84 51) 21208, 24101
Fax: (+84 51) 22628
Remember, unless you are from one of the countries ineligible (see top of page), it's easier to get your Lao visa on arrival at the border or airport.
Here are links to some more of our pages about the Lao PDR:
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