I made the decision for myself and my travel buddy that we wouldn’t use the cushy way to get into Laos. We could have paid 1550 baht (41.86 euro) to a travel agent who would collect us from our hotel and organise all our transport along the way, including helping fill out our visa forms and handing in all our documents at the border. Basically being spoon fed.
Instead, I got talking to a older Australian man at our guesthouse, accompanied by Thai girlfriend of course, and decided to join them on their journey. I figured a Thai-speaker and a man who’d been to Laos many times were just as good as a tourist organised operation. I wanted the challenge rather than the easy option.
This is how the journey to the slow boat panned out:
Local bus from Chiang Rai to border town Chiang Khong – 65 baht (1.76 euro)
We were told at our guesthouse that we needed to catch the first local bus at 6 am to be sure that we’d make the slow boat at 10 am in Huay Xai. It was a five minute walk in the dark with odd sounds coming from buildings around us. In the words of my friend, the bus was quite ‘Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry’. It was a rackety old thing with no leg room and enough space for 1.5 people on the bench type seats.
It took two hours to get to Chiang Khong, the border town.
Tuk tuk to border control – 50 baht (1.35 euro)
We got dropped off on the middle of a highway where a line of tuk tuks were waiting to bring us to the border to get stamped out of Thailand. We saw a Tuk tuk handing some money to the bus driver (probably as a way of thank you for dropping us off at their Tuk tuk establishment).
It was a few minutes journey and not worth the money but it’s how it’s done.
Bus over bridge into Laos – 25 baht (0.68 euro)
After border control there were buses waiting outside to bring us across the bridge that divides Thailand and Laos. Apparently it used to be easier a few years ago when you crossed by boat over the border further north.
Apply for Laos visa – 35 US dollars (30.80 euro)
We got into the building, rushed to get a form to fill out the ‘Arrivals’ section along with about two other similar forms and handed them into a guy at a hatch. We waited as our visas were processed by a person who never saw our faces. We had to wait for our names to be called with a fresh visa inside. It can be the luck of the draw if your passport gets to the top or bottom of the pile to process.
As far as I saw visas cost either 30 or 35 euro depending on nationality. They only took one passport photo, not two. But I’m sure this could change from day to day. I think scamming can also happen at times but I’ve found being there early in the morning helps rather than late afternoon.
Tuk tuk to slow boat – 100 baht (2.70 euro)
The tuk tuks were lined up and waiting to take us to where we wanted. We waited a few minutes to let it fill up. We heard him quote us something different until some locals got in and the price went up.
Slow boat ticket – 950 baht (25.70 euro)
As it’s a well-used border area, bahts are still used and accepted. We thought the time for the slow boat was 10 am. It had a sign up stating 11 am and we left after 12 pm.
1190 baht = 32.18 euro
360 baht = 9.83 euro
These transportation prices in baht were true as of 19 November 2014 and the euro exchange prices were correct as of 27 February 2015. The visa price was for an Irish individual travelling by land from Thailand into Laos on 19 November 2014.