Chiang Khong - Houei Xai Border Crossing

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by HTWoodson, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. I'm need to make a visa run next week, and I'm planning on crossing at the Chiang Khong - Houei Xai border for a roundabout trip down to the capital. Not my first trip to Laos, but my first trip on my own bike.

    I don't like posting stupid questions to this forum that have been asked many times before so I did some searching and read some great threads:

    "Thai/Laos Border crossing Notes"
    David's basic instructions on the GTR main site.

    Thread mostly about the Nong Khai - Vientiane friendship bridge, with a lot of dead links.

    "Laos the EZ WAY! Who needs adventure......"
    Great thread

    "Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang - Vientiane"
    David's most recent trip report crossing at Chiang Khong (that I could find)

    "Chiang Mai - Vang Vieng"

    "My "LITTLE" Adventure Up North"

    All good threads, and the only reason I post them all here is to offer a consolidated search to anyone else that is trying to research the same topic as me.

    Most of these threads are vague about the specifics when crossing at Chiang Khong - Houei Xai. I usually don't worry; my attitude is "It'll all work out", but this thread by BarryBBQ make me a little nervous:

    "Losing My Laos Cherry"

    Yea, that made me a little worried. So now I'm wondering, is there a detailed ride report about crossing at that border that I missed? If not, would one of you grizzled vets be kind enough to give an overview of the procedures when crossing here? I can find many detailed reports about crossing at Nong Khai, but not much about the Chiang Khong crossing.

    My specific worries are:

    1. Where to get the insurance that David recommends in the first link:

    2. Where are the necessary documents for crossing that used to be on this site? All the links are now dead.

    3. What is the cost of the ferry, including my bike?

    4. Hours? I read in one of the threads that you can drop off some of the paperwork the night before and get an early start the following day.

    5. Uh... Can't think of it at the moment. If someone kindly has the time, just a brief overview of the crossing procedures would be greatly appreciated. And I'll post back with an update with picks when I do it later this week.

    ps. I guess I should say, just to avoid redundancy, that I live in Chiang Mai, own my bike, and know that I need to bring my green book with me to cross.
  2. HTWoodson

    Sorry for the Houei Xai confusion, but

    It's easy..

    1. Get your Thai customs temporary export papers from the office in town.
    2. Go to the port & ferry landing.
    3. Get stamped out of Thailand by Thai immigration.
    4. Go to the customs office next to immigration at the ferry landing to again register your bike export in the book.
    5. Queue up for the car ferry or take your chances with a small boat & argue with the Mekong boatmen thieves about loading & unloading fees. The fee should be 500 baht for either boat, plus loading / unloading on the "dinghies."
    6. Cross the Mekong.

    7. Ride off / lift off from the boat. Enter Laos, ride up the ramp 50 metres. Park on the left.
    8. Walk up the steps on the right hand side to the customs office & do your temporary import paper. Should take 45 mins max. Cost free or 200 baht with a receipt.
    9. Walk over to the left 60 metres to the other white office at the top of the stairs & get your insurance plus show the police your import papers.
    10. Then ride up to the top office & get the final stamp on your import papers.

    And then your bike is in,

    but NOT you!

    11. Ride up the ferry landing to the main street. Turn right. Ride downtown on the right hand side on the road.
    12. Reach the soi to the pax ferry-landing, park your bike.
    13. Walk down to the immigration office Mekong riverside; apply for a visa on arrival, then get stamped into Laos for a month.

    Not all difficult, except the first time at Houei Xai it is unclear which of the buildings you should go in first to start the process. But they are not more than 200 metres max apart, so remain cool & it is not difficult. The Lao are much more friendly & helpful than on the other side!

    Just remember no vehicle crossings on the weekend or public holidays - you have to cross on a regular working day.
    And Customs on the Thai side will no longer let you do your paperwork the day before. It has to be done on the day & go straight in the computer, "so they got you." Methinks (knows) one or two guys have been cheating at the border!

    Enjoy the trip. Use a GT Rider map & (cringe) maybe even wear a GT Rider polo shirt sometime.
    Your trip report should be a good one - the first ER6N Kawa ride in Laos? Lucky man!

    Take your time, return the "sabaidee" calls to all the kids as you ride past & take lots of photos.
  3. Thank you Fearless Leader!

    I had the 2nd edition before...


    but picked up the new edition yesterday at Gecko Books.


    Only 2 questions:

    Question #1.
    I'm assuming this is easy to find?

    Question #2. Where do you get the Allianz Insurance that you recommend on the main site? ( I don't think my Falcon Insurance covers me in Laos.

    I'll print this out and try to post pics after I make it through.

    Don't have a GTR Polo yet, but I'm wearing my obscenely hot Aerostich RoadCrafter suit anyway because it's rainy season. I look like Santa but at least I never have to worry about rain.

  4. And yes, I love red because everyone knows it's the fastest color!
  5. I'm assuming this is easy to find?[/quote:3udq90gc]

    Sure is, it is on the Chiang Khong city map on the GT Rider Golden Triangle map. :) :) Going into town from the North, on the left hand (river) side after Wat Luang Chai Sathan. There's a blue? sign on the corner of the soi.

    AGL Insurance is the one to go for, usually available at the port, right at the top of the steps that you walk up & turn right off to go the office where you do your temporary import papers. There are 2 sales reps in the office, one for AGL & one for Tokyu? Insurance. I think the Tokyu sign stands out more & the AGL one is hard to see. Max 3rd party insurance costs me approx 1,500 baht for 12 months. A month should only be a couple of hundred baht.

    Don’t worry, the hardest part is finding the right office 150 metres from your bike. Then going to the next one 50 metres away, then the next one 150 metres away. Go with the flow Lao PDR = People Don’t Rush.

    Enjoy & take care in the wet (Sept is the wettest month). Laos is awesome fun.

    Lots of grizzly love. :lol: :lol:

    MotoRex plans to cross over at CH / HX next Monday or Tuesday if you need a riding buddy.
  6. Did you forget step 1B? :? After finishing at the Customs office in town, you must go to the Immigration Office IN TOWN, next to the police station at main intersection, before going to Immigration at the boat docks. More papers, then continue to step 2.

    Also before beginning, make a couple copies of your ownership page in your Green Book and Passport picture page. You will need them at step 1B. I also recommend extra copies of everything, including passport, to carry with you. You never know when something may get lost.
  7. Arh, 1B! Bloody hell forgot about that one & somewhat important too. For awhile you could do this at the ferry landing, but no more it has to be done in town. Thanks for the gentle reminder Silverhawk. HTWoodson please take note of step 1B - your immigration TM2 & TM4 docs.
  8. Will do, thanks you guys for all the great info!

    Thanks, I'll send him a PM. Was tentativly planning on spending Monday night in Chiang Khong and crossing on Tuesday, so that might work out perfectly.
  9. Have a great ride Liam, maybe you can be the guide for the next visit

  10. Excellent useful info.

    Looking through it, I wouldn't call it easy, but yes, keep the cool, then after having done it once maybe I'd call it that.

    Thanks very much to all of you.
  11. Do all the steps above applicable motorbike from malaysia. Still new bos..
  12. It's been about a week since I went across, and I'm starting to forget some of the details so I thought I'd better get on here an put up this post before it slips from my mind forever.

    I met up with Moto-Rex in Chiang Khong and he helped me get through the steps. I don't know how on earth I would have found some of these places without Rex.

    First stop: Chiang Khong Customs Office. This office is on the GTR Golden Triangle Map of Chiang Khong, in the middle of the town near a Wat. Fairly easy to find.

    Here we picked up the Simplified Customs Declaration Form. Notice on this form that the valued my bike at twice it's true value, and it also says that if I don't bring the bike back to Thailand within 30 days I have to pay a fine of 1,050,000 baht. Yes, that's over one MILLION baht. Let's hope I don't total the bike or something that would prevent me from bringing it back.
    Day4-3. ]

    Next stop, Chiang Khong Immigration. I don't think this office was on the GTR map. It's just off the main road through town, a few blocks south of the first office.

    Here we picked up the Information of Conveyance form. You will later need a copy of this form, so we asked the girl at the desk to make us a copy and she did. If you don't you will need to find a copy shop in town.

    Next stop was outgoing immigration. It's on the GTR map, but in a slightly wrong place. It's on the boat ramp, last building before the water on the left, as you are facing the river. The incoming immigration is on the opposite side of the road. Get your passport stamped out here.

    Last stop on the Thai side of the river is the building next door. Here you give them one of the forms you got earlier.

    Hurray! The ferry was pulling up just as we finished. Unfortunately there weren't any cars or lorries so Rex and I waited almost 2 hours in the sun before they would let us board. I had a nice farmer tan/burn that day.

    If you want you can load your bike on one of the small boats instead of waiting for the car ferry. Good luck.

    Finally we got on, around 1100 am I think. Fee was 500 baht for each of us.

    When you arrive on the Houei Xai side of the river, you arrive at the ferry ramp for cars, which is different than the ramp you would arrive at if you took one of small boats like all the backpackers crossing there do. The GTR Laos map has only the non-car boat ramp marked on the Houei Xai map, so don't get confused. You arrive at the car ramp which is a few blocks north of the ramp shown on the map.

    First stop is the Houei Xai Customs House which is not on the map, but is just to the right side of the ramp, on a hill. Go to door #7 which is the one on the left.

    Here we picked up the Customs Declaration for Temporary Imported Passenger Vehicle. I think there was a 50 baht fee.

    Near to the Customs House is the office for Alliance Insurance, but it was closed so we had to come back later. I'll come back to it later.

    Next up we had to go to some little shack, I have no idea what it is called or what it was for. All they did was give us a signature on the import form without even looking at our bikes. This place was hard to find, lucky Rex was there. It's not on the map, but it's just a few blocks south of the car ramp on the right side of the road down a little alley. It didn't seem to be marked so you will need to drive slowly and keep looking right to spot it.

    Everything was now closed for lunch so Rex and I had lunch, then at 1300 we went to the Houei Xai immigration office. This is on the GTR map. It's hard to find from the road but it's where all the small boats take the backpackers first.


    The guys here are thieves and tried to rip us off. The fee for visa on arrival is 35 dollars, but if you try to pay in Kip or Baht the officer there will charge you 20% or more extra with his F&@ked up conversion rate.

    There is a currency exchange booth right there, with bad rates but better than the immigration official was working out on his calculator, so I refused to pay the inflated rate and went to the exchange booth. The guy in the exchange booth initially refused to exchange money for me! He kept telling me to just pay with baht or kip at the immigration counter, obviously he was in on the scam with the immigration guys. I politely refused to leave and insisted that he exchange my money. Finally he did, but then wanted to exchange it at a rate much worse than the one posted on the wall. I pointed out to him that his math was wrong and insisted that he exchange at the rate published rate he had posted. He seemed really pissed and upset but finally did. I paid for the visa with 35 US Dollars and saved quite a few dollars in the process. Rex got ripped off. This whole thing kind of pissed me off because it is such a blatant scam. Is it too much to ask for just a shred of professionalism from these guys?

    Finally, we went back to the Alliance Insurance office next to the Houei Xai Customs House. The building isn't marked but is only a few meters away.

    Rex looking happy to be almost done.

    Finally, the last bit of documents, the insurance papers from Alliance. I bought 1 month of insurance for about 380 baht.

    We started at 0830 and didn't finish until about 3 pm. We were sunburned and tired so we ended up staying the night in Houei Xai, at the Oudomphone Hotel.


    Thanks to everyone for the tips and especially to Moto-Rex for the help. This would have been incredibly difficult without him showing me where everthing was.

    To anyone trying it for the first time alone, you might want to scout out Chiang Khong or Houei Xai the day before, depending on which side you're coming from, just to find the offices. Once you know where they are it's not difficult at all, but figuring out where to go the first time would be pretty rough. Good luck to all!
  13. Liam,
    Many thanks for the very clear report, the pictures make it very useful. I suspect there will be a few of us printing off a copy for future use.
    Have a great trip, looking forward to some reports from Laos.
  14. Great report Liam, thanks for that and the helpful pictures.

    Great stuff man...
  15. Liam

    That is what they have in book in USA "idiots guide for custom & immigration"clearance, very clear

    I found one funny thing,,,that is A lot of Tipex they porvided for you to Blank all the sport's in forms before you made picture of them...LOL
  16. Liam
    Thanks for the updated Chiang Khong / Houei Xai border procedure guide, that's a first class contribution on how to do it. Well done.

    As you know now the hardest bit is finding the right office / room. Fortunately they are not far apart. But you can almost guarantee that in another 12 months it will change - new location of immig offices / staff / documents, ITP / no ITP, vehicle stickers. However you get used to it & just go with the flow, whatever the exchange rate. :shock: :roll:

    I hope your trip has gone ok & you're having a good time - can't wait to see some photos & trip report.

    One question: on the Thai side did you get the customs form from the customs office & the immigration forms from the immigration office or the other way around as the photos & info seem to suggest otherwise?
  17. Outstanding job Liam!

    For those following Liam's adventure, I heard from him a few days ago and he says it rained non stop for the past week and he's stuck in some little town somewhere as the roads have all turned to mud!

    I'm very much looking forward to exploring Laos in the DRY SEASON and Liam's detailed report and pictures are going to make a crossing at Chiang Khong a lot easier!

    Thanks Liam!

    Hope you can get back on the road soon!

    Ride On!

  18. Yes of course i'll print it and meke use of them in my future ride to Laos.
    Thanks a lot Liam for the picture report on how it's to be done at the border. :D
  19. Thanks everybody.

    You're right, I had them backwards. Just corrected it. Thanks David.

    I'll post a ride report when I get somewhere with better internet. I'm in Luang Prabang and the 6kb per minute transfer rate is too frustrating to post many pics. The ride from Oudom Xai was pretty rough. It was so muddy and wet and sport bike tires have no traction at all. Dropped the bike twice and then just north of Luang Prabang a kid on a bicycle came out of nowhere at me and took me out. Sent me flying off my bike into a ditch. Luckily the ground was wet and soft and neither of us were hurt bad except for some bruises. My bike got pretty torn up but I got it running again after about 2 hours on the side of the road with my tool kit. I've been in Luang Prabang for a few days because my leg and shoulder were pretty sore. I'm going to have to make another stop for a couple of days at Kawasaki in Udon Thani though when I cross back over.
  20. Thank god you are safe. Hope you'll get better soon.
  21. Damn Liam!

    Sorry to hear about the wreck but glad you and the kid are ok!

    I keep reading these Lao ride reports about bikers getting taken out by small scooters and bicycles. Seems Laos can be a pretty dangerous place to ride. Sounds like the locals are even more clueless than rural Thais when it comes to right of way and looking before they go.

    What kind of damage did your bike suffer? Hopefully the repairs won't set you back too much. Fortunately the Kawasaki parts are DIRT cheap.

    Give me a call when you get home- sounds like an epic trip and I want to hear all about it!

    Ride On!

  22. Liam
    Sounds like you're having a real adventure ride - dropping the bike twice, then getting taken out by a cyclist. All good luck I reckon - 3 spills & no serious damage! Well done, it could have been seriously worse - a high speed get off / vehicle collision or some cyclist seriously injured in hospital. I also believe spills / accidents come in threes, so you've done your bit & should be safe for a while. :)

    LPQ is one of my favourite towns to chill out in. Enjoy it while you are there - happy hour by the Mekong. Superb fish / chicken larb, spring rolls & a Luang Prabang salad at the Soudaphone. Close to heaven for me. Plus brekky at the Scandinavian or Joma. Arh, I’m incredibly jealous of you in LPQ right now.

    Take your time when in Laos
    • Just potter along, going with the flow.
    • Don't rush as it might be awhile before you get back there again, so do it properly.
    • Relax & savour that "indeed life is good feeling" you always get when touring the Laos PDR.

    Take care, ride safe & get lots of photos.

    If you're at the Oudom Souk guesthouse in LPQ, please say hello from David.
  23. 16 September:
    How's the trip report going - any progress?
  24. nice ride bro..carefull raining almost every day know..
    medical is dificult in laos..
    hvnice and safety ride :arrow:
  25. I read this thread over and over, and memorising the pictures as well. It is really a detail explanantion from HTWoodson on what is on both borders. Felt sorry for Woodson to have had a fall whilst on the road. Wish you speedy recovery, bro.

    Just a question to clear my doubts. Is the fee of USD35 for visa on arrival imposed on all citizenship? I m a malaysian, and will travel to Laos from Chiang Khong next month.

    Thanks in advance

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