Visa trip from Nakhon Ratchasima to Vientiane

April 3, 2014

Now that my studies have come to an end also my visa has come to an end. At first I was planning on getting an extension of stay based on marriage but time was running out quickly and I was unable to visit immigration in Bangkok together with my wife on time. The second best option would be to go for a normal tourist visa giving me 60 days for a single-entry which can be extended by another 30 days at immigration.

The border between Thailand and Laos: this is what we are aiming to reach.

The border between Thailand and Laos: this is what we are aiming to reach.

You can only apply for a tourist visa outside of Thailand so a trip abroad became a necessity. Since I wanted to get this over as quickly as possible I was not planning on a short holiday by plane to a neighboring country and just wanted to quickest route to a Thai embassy and back. Some online research told me that the embassy in Vientiane, Laos, would be the best option both regarding distance and problems experienced by other travelers. On some forums people recommended to arrange the trip yourself by booking public busses or trains and finding your way around at the border and in Laos, but experience told me to better book a completely arranged tour to save hassle; at least for the first trip there.

Unfortunately there are no visa run companies going from Nakhon Ratchasima, but studying the map shows that there is basically only one highway going from Bangkok to Vientiane. So if all visa run companies going from Bangkok pass Nakhon Ratchasima, they could also stop here for 2 minutes to let me board.

The visa run services website.

The visa run services website.

Based on reviews I booked a trip on www.thaivisaservice.com and on Sunday the 30th of March I was standing ready near The Mall to be picked up at around 11:00PM. The van left at 8PM in Bangkok and when they arrived here there was one spot left in the back for me. And from here on a long trip which almost completely consisted of waiting starting.

Visa run vans grouping up at the gas station.

Visa run vans grouping up at the gas station.

There was not much to see from the van in the dark so I tried to get some sleep to no avail as I always have trouble sleeping when not lying down completely. After about 2 hours we stopped for a toilet break at a gas station which seemed popular with other operators as a total of 5 other vans filled with foreigners pulled up soon after we arrived. From there on we drove as a group to the border where we arrived around 4:30AM. Here the waiting continued since the border does not open till 6AM.

Visa on arrival at the Laos border: 1,550 baht.

Visa on arrival at the Laos border: 1,550 baht.

After standing in line at the border we jumped on another bus which took us to the next line to get a visa on arrival to get into Laos. And then smaller vans picked us up to take us to the Thai embassy where we could wait in line till we could apply for a tourist visa. All together it took till about 10:30AM till we could finally go to the hotel for some well-needed sleep.

The Nahornesack hotel in Vientiane, Laos. Located in the middle of the capital where there is nothing to do or see.

The Nahornesack hotel in Vientiane, Laos. Located in the middle of the capital where there is nothing to do or see.

At the hotel breakfast was waiting for us and check-in went extraordinary fast. After some sleep it was soon time for dinner at the hotel and more sleep. The next morning we had till noon for check-out after which we took a van back to the border.

The hotel rooms were very basic but as long as the AC works I am fine with any soft bed.

The hotel rooms were very basic but as long as the AC works I am fine with any soft bed.

Our passports were being picked up by the tour company meaning we did not have to return to the embassy to wait in line and that gave us some free time to shop at the tax-free area near the border till 2PM. And then we went back in line to exit Laos and enter Thailand. On the Thai side of the border our van was waiting for us to drive us all the way back to Bangkok, or in my case Nakhon Ratchasima. Traffic was a bit worse on the way back and some of the Thai driving style of the driver popped up. On the way to the border I was quite pleased with his driving at it seemed very safe but now there were some moments where he could better keep a bit more distance.

Spending the afternoon in the hotel to recover from a sleepless night. Watching the English language movie channel on TV.

Spending the afternoon in the hotel to recover from a sleepless night. Watching the English language movie channel on TV.

All together the whole trip came at a cost of 5,400 baht: 2,850 baht for the trip, 1,550 baht for the visa into Laos, and 1,000 baht for a single-entry tourist visa for Thailand. Most other costs were included in the trip: the hotel, the breakfast at the hotel, dinner at the hotel, the transfers in Laos, and the bribes to pass the police checkpoint about 150km before reaching the border. The worse costs of this trip were the inconvenience and the time. I left Nakhon Ratchasima at 11PM on Sunday and it wasn’t till 8:30PM on Tuesday till I was back at The Mall again after spending hours in a small van and waiting in many lines.

A single-entry Thai tourist visa which allows me to stay another 60 days in Thailand (with the possibility to extend my stay with another 30 days for 1,900 baht at immigration).

A single-entry Thai tourist visa which allows me to stay another 60 days in Thailand (with the possibility to extend my stay with another 30 days for 1,900 baht at immigration).

Looking back I am happy I did not tried to make this trip by myself. I doubt it would save me money or time, and it would be a hassle to find out how to go and to negotiate down every necessary ride to reach the next destination. Many people on the van had already done this same trip many times before which also means something: if they thought they could do it better, cheaper, or faster alone they would have done that by now.

Finally I also noticed a real VIP bus (with 3 seats in a row) stopping at the border coming from Bangkok. This might be a nice option also for people wanting to make the trip as a large bus is often safer and more comfortable for a trip this far.

For questions/remarks you can contact me at: eric@stuckinthailand.com

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