Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by SilverhawkUSA, Oct 31, 2004.

  1. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    It sounded to good to be true. Just opened 2 days ago, Thai's and Laos can cross without visa for a limited time, and according to Chiang Mai immigration. falang can cross and get visa. WRONG!!!

    I made it from Chiang Mai to Loei Province in just over 5 hours. Past Phu Rua I suddenly see a sign "Louang Phrabang". Making the turn onto what is a beautiful road bypassing the town of Loei, there are numerous signs in English pointing to the Friendship Bridge or LPB.. I figure I will probably be the first Big Bike and Falang to make it across and have a great ride up the river to LPB.

    I GPS a rather circuitous but well marked (especially for Thailand) route. I get to the bridge which is actually in Nom Khaeng, not ChIang Khan as you would guess. Hey, there's a party going on! Dozens of vendors tents and beer tents, and Thai and Lao people partying all over. a GRAND OPENING and everyone should be in a good mood.

    Straight to Thai Immigration and I tell them "I want to cross and I want to take the Motorcycle". I get a quick and firm CANNOT! I give them a whole story, show them my papers from my last crossings, and do the best Jai Yen-Yen I can. Finally they say, go talk to Laos and if they say "Yes" it is OK!

    I walk to the bridge (which is only a standard road bridge about 75m wide). There they have a tent and table set up on the Thai side giving dozens of people free passes. I have mostly drunk Thai and Laos people trying to drag me across to party, while I tell my story to Customs and Immigration. CANNOT! More Jai yen-yen and they get me more officers to talk to. I am even offered a free pass, "Great, I need one for 2 weeks and my motorcycle" CANNOT!

    Make a long story short, the Laos side is not prepared to issue visa on arrival. If you have a visa from BKK or Nong Khai you can cross. Motorcycle, CANNOT with no explanation. They say go Nong Khai.

    After talking to everyone I can from both sides, immigration and customs, I go back to the Thai Immigration office which is just a portable office/trailer setup along with customs. The 2 officers actually were quite OK and asked me to sit down and talk. They explained the problem was Laos, which I already knew, and they said this crossing will be quite good maybe next year. Yeah right!

    We chatted about Chiang Mai as one of the guys came from there and then he said, "Oh let me see your passport". He kept talking as he went through every page. He found my 1 year, multiple entry visa and he said "Oh you can stay, until Oct 2005! Come and go as much as you want". I didn't need him to tell me that. That is why I paid the money in the first place. Finally, I don't know if it was curiosity or if I had just had a quick going over by immigration while we chatted. I think the latter.

    So 4 hours later I am in Nong Khai and will head for Vientiane in the morning. I'll update if there are any changes to that procedure.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
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  3. john

    john Ol'Timer

    Hi Dave, Now you are one of the Pioneer. Joe
  4. BobS

    BobS Ol'Timer

    Hi Dave

    What do you think about the possibilities of exiting Laos that way?

  5. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer


    I would think that would be possible. A good alternative. Like I said the Thai guys had no problem, I don't think they can do a visa however. If you already have one and are not doing a visa run it should work. All you need to do is turn in your departure papers to the Laos guys so I think it may be possible. Be ready for a long ride back though if it doesn't work.

    BTW when I came across at Nong Khai the girl in the Laos Customs office started to tell me about the new crossing. I told her I tried but could not. She agreed that it should be able to be done with a visa in advance. She wasn't sure about the bike however. More checking needed.

    When I meet up with David maybe we can ask some of his connections to check on exiting. Might be a good plan. Sure cheaper than hiring a boat to go to Huay Xai again.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
  6. ozzyboy

    ozzyboy Active Member

  7. ozzyboy

    ozzyboy Active Member

    I am an aussi bloke currently living in Chiang khan, and Ive just noticed your post on the new immigration crossing 40 odd k's up the road from here. Very intersting, as Ive been waiting for it to open to foreigners, but like many thai things, its a slow one. I too have a bike, which a few months back rode up to Nong Khai, and crossed the friendship bridge, into Laos. Wanted to go to LPB but only managed Vieng Veng, as the dude who organised the bike visa only gave me 7 days, and not being sure of things came back without extending the visa. Then found out its only 200baht/day fine if the bike visa has run out. You sure have had an interesting trip, and Im thinking of going again, but really want to use the new brige opening, so I guess I will just have to wait. Sounds like you are having fun in this part of the world.
  8. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Definately having some experiences. David and I are now looking into the possibility of coming out at the new crossing. David's connections here had to send some letters along with descriptions of the bikes and passport info etc.,and we are still not sure.

    When you enter and get your visa and bike entry permit at the Vientiane or elsewhere, all you have to do is tell them you want 2 weeks and pay the fee and there is no problem. We also got a permit for one month when we came in at Huay Xai but we had to do a little talking and persuading. I had no trouble on Oct 30 when I came in through Vientiane for 2 weeks. Takes a little time to jump through all the hoops but no one gave me any problems.

    If they would open that new crossing it would be great. We are talking to people here who say they are trying, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

    Keep you posted.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
  9. rosmci

    rosmci New Member

    Silverhawk, many thanks for this. You've just saved an Australian a couple of days!
  10. BobS

    BobS Ol'Timer

    Recent info:

    I was in Luang Prabang earlier this week, and saw a group of 15 Thai 4-wheelers on a "Rally To Laos". They had entered at the new crossing, and driven up to LP. They said that the road is not paved the whole way. So, it looks like vehicles can enter there - but I don't know if there was any special arrangement.

    When exiting at the Friendship Bridge, I checked with the visa office. They said that there is still no visa on arrival at the new crossing. There was nobody there with any info on whether or not bikes could enter.


    "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "...holy shit...what a ride!"
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    This crossing works & is a legal international one.
    I came out from Laos that way on Saturday 12th March.
    The port crossing on the Laos side is called Namhueng & on the Thai side the port crossing is called Thai Li.

    Below is the Lao immigration office at Namhueng.

    Note that to get into Laos you need a visa in advance - there is NO visa on arrival. I'm also not convinced that the Lao officials have the capacity / authority to approve a temporary bike import on arrival, although the guys at "the gate" said they can & I could come back in with my bike and a visa in advance.
    However exiting is certainly not a problem.

    Below is a pic of the Lao Customs office, looking towards the Thai side of the border.

    Note too, that I found the ride & 250 kms of dirt from Luang Prabang perfectly boring (apart from the odd elephant trundling along.)
    The road is generally flat to undulating and stony gravel.
    At the southern end from Pak lay to the border, the road condition is not in as good a condition as at the northern end - probably due to the number of logging trucks chewing up the road around Pak Lay.
    Also heading south, navigating several unclearly signposted road junctions in & around Muang Kenthao is frustrating to say the least.
    But even more frustrating was the attitude of one Thai immigration officer.

    On the positive side I reckon that you can do Luang Prabang - Chiang Mai in a day now!
    Ride hard & long: leave LPB at 6.00 am & you could be in Cnx by 7.00 - 8.00 pm with a bit of luck - no flat tyres or miserable surly border officials.
    Anyone want to have a go next dry season?

    Keep the power on
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Here's a bit of a misleading one from today's Bangkok Post

    Friendship Bridge still closed to travellers months after it was inaugurated

    Thai tourists hoping to travel across the new Thai-Lao Nam Hueng Friendship Bridge will have to wait.
    When the bridge opens, travellers can cross the bridge in Tha Li district in this northeastern province and proceed to Luang Prabang from there.
    But they will have to wait as Laos is not yet ready to let people use it months after it opened.
    The bridge linking Ban Na Kraseng of tambon Ahi in Tha Li district and Muang Mo Tai village of Kaen Thao district in Sayaboury, Laos, opened on Oct 28 last year.
    The immigration checkpoint at Tha Li has been upgraded to an international passage. Usually quiet and used only by local Thais and Lao people to trade, the checkpoint subsequently became a centre of interest for tourists.
    The Tourism Authority of Thailand started promoting tourism in that part of the country immediately after the bridge opened. It said that with just a passport and permit for international use of vehicles from the transport office of Loei province, tourists could travel in their cars to Laos and stay in the country for up to 15 days.
    But in February the prospect of travelling on a new and faster route to Luang Prabang suddenly vanished when authorities of Kaen Thao sent an informal message to their counterparts in Tha Li district to stop the flow of tourists to Luang Prabang via the bridge.
    Anupong Khamphukaew, an assistant district chief of Tha Li, said the message said Lao officials were not yet organised for the visitors.
    However, it did not say when they would be ready.
    According to Mr Anupong, the 363km road from Kaen Thao to Luang Prabang is made of laterite and gets muddy in the rainy season.
    Laos did not yet have officials manning the Kaen Thao immigration checkpoint although construction work is under way there on the checkpoint and a duty-free shop.
    Local Thai and Lao people can still cross the border for trade or other business, Mr Anupong said.
    However, as word has yet to get out widely, many tourists continue heading for Tha Li only to be disappointed.
    An official at Loei's TAT office said: ``Tourists chartered buses from Bangkok, wanting to proceed to Luang Prabang. They were disappointed and complained about the poor public relations.
    ``We could not say a word because we have never received an official message from Lao authorities about their problems.''
    An immigration official at Tha Li said despite the snag Thai tourists who really wished to travel to Luang Prabang could do so on the condition that they leave their cars on the Thai side and buy the tour services of Lao entrepreneurs for 3,000 baht a head.
    The new bridge has still provided increased convenience for local people, who no longer have to take a boat across the Hueng river or walk across it in the dry season to get to the other side. The bridge has also improved transport of goods.
    According to figures provided by Loei's commerce office, in 2004 Thailand's exports to Laos via the bridge amounted to 460 million baht and Laos' exports to Thailand were worth about 445 million baht. Thai exports included vehicles and parts, machines, electrical appliances, construction materials and fuel.
    Lao exports were mainly timber, farm products and minerals such as barite.
    On the negative side, the bridge has boosted smuggling of contraband including fuel and methamphetamines.
    ``It's a matter of grave concern. Our intelligence says there are many points for drug storage along the border with Laos. Up to 700,000 speed pills have been stored at spots across the border,'' said Mr Anupong.
    Another negative impact of the bridge is the flow of investors from other provinces to buy land to build guesthouses, commercial buildings and restaurants to cater to the future flow of tourists.
    The price of land at Ban Na Kraseng has increased tenfold to 300,000-400,000 baht per rai.
    The land price is expected to rise to one million baht per rai once a new immigration office, duty-free shops, a police station and a hospital are completed in the next one to two years.

    Keep The Power On
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Just back from Loei province (Thailand) & a run alonsgide the Nam Hueng river, that provides part of the border between Thailand & Laos.

    Below are some pics of the border area on the Thai side.

    1. The Nam Hueng "river" - just another small river?

    2. The Nam Hueng "river" yet again - its got some small rapids

    3. The road off to the bridge

    4. The road up to the Thai checkpoint (signposted with Lao towns!)

    5. The air conditioned "container" office for the Outward Thai Immigration/ Customs.

    Here's an "odd" one for. The checkpoint on the Thai side is called Nakraseng Boundary Post after the local village, but the port stamp that goes in your passport is for Tha Li. Confused? Nah, the signs are all there for you to read & follow. As clear as mud I reckon = Amazing Thailand!

    Keep The Power On
  14. kc

    kc New Member


    I would like to ride from LP to Tha Li crossing the Lao-Thai border near Tha Li. Does anyone know if you can get a visa upon arrival at the Thai border or you need to get a Thai visa in advance ?
  15. Peter Hooper

    Peter Hooper Ol'Timer

    I was hoping to do a Visa run to Loei on 23 Dec because I will be holidaying in Lom Sak. Is that possible or would Nong Khai be a safer bet.
    Any body done it lately ?

    "The Journey is the Destination"
  16. keess

    keess Member

    I was in kenthao this weekend, delivering a NZ volunteer who is going to teach English to the border officials there, may help future crossings. Anyway, a guy i met who works in the visa section there said visa upon arrival can be had for two weeks same as elsewhere. However, I didn't try it, since I was going the other way.

    Anyone here done it yet?
  17. 2Up Chiang Khong

    2Up Chiang Khong Ol'Timer


    We were just there yesterday (Monday the 13th) to check out what they would and would not allow.

    The offical on the Thai said:
    "It is an International crossing with people crossing both ways all the time. Visa on arrival".

    "Any properly licenced vehicle either bike, car or truck, can leave Thailand and cross into Lao".

    "Cars and trucks get into Laos with no problem".

    "Bikes have major problems on the Laos side so no one goes from the Thai side and then into Laos" - BUT he said that "Many bike groups have come out of Laos at this crossing". We were not able to get a definition for "many".

    That's all the info we got, since we were not actually trying to depart Thailand and enter Laos.

    David and Mai
  18. Murphy

    Murphy Member

    Hi what's the distance between Pak Lay and border crossing at Kaen Thao?
  19. beddhist

    beddhist Ol'Timer

    Stopped at the Nam Hueng crossing today to enquire about crossing into Laos here and was told by an English speaking official that I can enter Laos here with my bike and get a Lao visa on arrival.

    I didn't actually make the crossing, though... Maybe in 3 weeks time.

  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Wow! Almost too good to be true. Please test it out for us & report back.
  21. beddhist

    beddhist Ol'Timer

    Sorry, I just realised that I can't do that: I've got mail to collect in Chiang Khong before going to Laos. I don't think we'll be doing this route again, somehow.

  22. octabrain

    octabrain New Member


    does anyone know if it's now possible to enter Laos at this border with a Thai registered bike(in my name) and if they issue visas on arrival there?

  23. Changnoi1

    Changnoi1 Ol'Timer

    Marcus .... tell me more ... photos of the road? That is the trip that I would like to do but I am not sure if I and the bike are OK for the dirt, potholes and ruts. Overnight stops on the way?

    Chang Noi
  24. Changnoi1

    Changnoi1 Ol'Timer

    Thanks Marcus, sounds a bit too heavy for me & the bike but good to know but on the other hand ....

    Chang Noi
  25. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Thanks for this info..

    We are planning a trip early December over the 2 public holidays for a week.. This route was in the plan.
    Either going up or coming back.. Do you recommend the ride in any one direction or doesn't really matter.

  26. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Thanks for this info..

    We are planning a trip early December over the 2 public holidays for a week.. This route was in the plan.
    Either going up or coming back.. Do you recommend the ride in any one direction or doesn't really matter.


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