Entering Laos - Some History

Eoin Christie

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I'm very much looking forward to when it is possible to head back up to Northern Laos and follow one's front wheel / nose (which ever is out in front at the time).
FWIW, Namibia's good - It'd be great on a bike. Now it looks like I can get back into Malaysia with one 2-week quarantine.
 

DavidFL

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Finally substantial progress: a reopening from the 9th May 2022

effective from 9 May onward:

All international checkpoints will be open for entry and exit by Lao citizens, foreign residents, tourists, and other types of visitors.

Citizens of countries that have bilateral or unilateral visa waiver agreements with Laos may now enter Laos without the need for a visa.

Citizens of countries that do not have a visa waiver agreement with Laos may now apply for a visa at a Lao embassy or consulate abroad or via the e-Visa online system. Visa on arrivals will also be reinstated at certain international checkpoints.

Fully vaccinated foreigners or Lao citizens carrying a vaccination certificate may enter Laos without any screening or testing for Covid-19 when arriving by land, air, or water.

Non-vaccinated citizens of Laos, foreign citizens, or residents aged 12 years and over must take a Rapid Antigen Test (ATK) not more than 48 hours prior to departure and present the results upon arrival.

Foreign arrivals in Laos that become infected with Covid-19 must bear responsibility for any and all medical costs involved in treatment.

Private vehicles may now enter and exit the territory of Laos via checkpoints as prior to the pandemic. Guidelines regarding this measure will be drafted and publicized by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Madame Thippakone said that ministries and tourism departments, as well as tourism businesses, must now be fully prepared to welcome foreign tourists.

At the same time, she announced the reopening of entertainment venues and karaoke bars, however, such venues must ensure they fully comply with Covid-19 prevention measures.


Source: Laos Drops Testing For Vaccinated Tourists, Announces Full Reopening - Laotian Times


The issue for some maybe be re-entering Thailand.
 

DavidFL

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Chiang Khong - Update 9th May 2022
Despite the grand news announced in Vientiane, nothing has changed in Chiang Khong at the 4th Friendship Bridge.
There are no agreements in place for other than cargo vehicles, crossing the border.
Chiang Khong is also not a designated port for a Thailand Pass entry, so whilst you maybe able to exit sometime in the future, you cannot return via Chiang Khong, while the Thailand Pass system is operating. You also need covid insurance to enter. The other bridges at Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom & Mukdahan are ok for Thailand Pass I was told, but not CK.
Until the governor of Chiang Rai & Bokeo, make an agreement on opening up the border with a clear set of rules, the bridge at CK remains in limbo.
No such meeting has been held yet, according to the immigration officer I spoke to at the bridge.
He was adamant there was no way they would let me out from the Thai side.
However he insisted everything would be sorted by the 1st of June.
Stay tuned for the next episode.
 
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Ian Bungy

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Any travel is still extremely disjointed and until the entire world gets some sort of coordination or agreement on requirements etc it will be far from a simple process? And even given all the information and statistics avalible there is still a division and prejudice between Vaccinated and those not vaccinated? Each country continues to have forever changing requirements? They need to work together if they actually want any return to normal? But that is the big question? Seems they like the control and restriction of peoples lives?
 

DavidFL

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Update Chiang Khong 18th May 2022

1652861934047.jpeg


The bridge @ Chiang Khong is open from today, letting people exit & enter across the 4th Friendship Bridge.
What the process is on the Lao side for bikes I don't know yet, but assume it was the same as before.
If you are entering Thailand, you need a Thailand pass, now valid at the Friendship Bridge, plus covid-19 insurance to the value of US$10,000.
 

DavidFL

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Chong Mek / Vang Tao is scheduled to open on 23 May 2022.

Chiang Saen / Golden Triangle was open on 18th May 2022.
1653106124335.png


Mae Sai / Tachilek is still closed as of 21st May 2022. Supposedly there will be a meeeting next week, in another attempt to thrash out an agreement on how to manage the thousands of daily border crossers.
1653106095333.png
 

DavidFL

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Update 24 May 2022 - Nong Khai / Vientiane Friendship Bridge 1
A farang rider crossed the FB1 from Thailand to Laos yesterday & had trouble exiting Thailand.
The Thai customs would not let him go, unless he had pre approved entry into Laos.
He was directed to J&T Express
who contacted an agent on the Laos side to prepare paperwork for an entry into Laos, for 2000 baht + 2 weeks temporary bike permit.

The contact on the Thai side
1653456614474.png



Good luck everyone.


Chiang Khong / Houei Xai 25th May
There's a farang rider crossing from Thailand to Laos this afternoon. Stay tuned for an update.
 
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DavidFL

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Update 24 May 2022 - Nong Khai / Vientiane Friendship Bridge 1
A farang rider crossed the FB1 from Thailand to Laos yesterday & had trouble exiting Thailand.
The Thai customs would not let him go, unless he had pre approved entry into Laos.
He was directed to J&T Express
who contacted an agent on the Laos side to prepare paperwork for an entry into Laos, for 2000 baht + 2 weeks temporary bike permit.

The contact on the Thai side
View attachment 147905



Good luck everyone.


Chiang Khong / Houei Xai 25th May
There's a farang rider crossing from Thailand to Laos this afternoon. Stay tuned for an update.

Update Chiang Khong 26th May 2022
The rider who crossed from Chiang Khong to Bokeo, on Wednesday 25th May says absolutely no issues on the Laos side.
+ no corrupt policeman asking for 2000 baht.

"Everything went fine. Took a couple of hours as they hadn’t done many foreigners lately. No unusual fees. No fees at all on the Thailand side and just a couple of hundred baht on the Laos side . Got stamped in with a visa and customs documents for one month."

Fantastic news. Let's hope it stays that way.


 

DavidFL

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My contact on Laos says that there are no issues entering Laos in Xayaboury province at Muang Ngern or Kenthao. No tour permits are required for independent riders. Let's hope someone is able to confirm this with a trip into Laos soon, entering at either of those two ports.
 

DavidFL

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Huak / Pang Mone Update 11th June 2022

Some Thai riders exited from Laos at Pang Mone & entered Thailand @ Huak in Phayao.
1655048474587.png


They entered Laos @ Bokeo on 6 June 2022.
Whether they had any extra permits I don't know, but the great news is the exit from Pang Mone to Huak on the Thai side.
Can you enter Laos at Pang Mone, I don't know yet.

 

DavidFL

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Bump for Richard Rodd asking questions.

Fuel in Laos is an issue - you can't always get it, or get enough.

This was a queue in Luang Prabang 6am this morning, where you were allowed 2.5 litres each.
1655272190683.png


My contact who was in the queue in Luang Prabang & sent the photo says "Most station are closed and blocked off."
Outside this you need to buy by the bottle from private entrepeneurs at double the price.
 

DavidFL

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Concerned about the annoying issues with different policies & fee entering Laos I sent off a proposal to the authorities in Vientiane.
The proposal was received at the top level in the tourism industry & ministry, but not long after this all the borders were closed because of covid-19 & no final decisions. Everything remains in limbo as before.

The GTR proposal 20th February 2020.

Thailand – Laos Border crossings by David Unkovich @ GT Rider www.thegtrider.com

With the opening of the new international Thai – Laos border crossing at Huak / Pangmone on the 1st February 2020, there are now 10 international border crossings between Thailand & Laos – 5 Mekong River crossings & 5 land border crossings

The Mekong River crossings are
1. FB1 Friendship Bridge 1. Nong Khai (T)/ Tha Deua (Vientiane).
2. FB2 Friendship Bridge 2. Mukdahan (T) / Savannakhet (L).
3. FB3 Friendship Bridge 3. Nakhon Phanom (T) / Tha Khek (L).
4. FB4 Friendship Bridge 4. Chiang Khong (T) / Houei Xai (L).
5. Bun Kan (T) / Pakxan (L). A Mekong ferry crossing. (To be FB5).

The land border crossings
1. Huak (Phayao – Thailand) / Pangmone ( Muang Khop – Xayaboury – Laos)
2. Huay Kon (Nan – Thailand) / Muang Ngeun (Hongsa – Xayaboury – Laos)
3. Phu Du (Uttaradit – Thailand) / Phu Dou (Pak Lay – Laos)
4. Nakraseng (Tha Li – Loei – Thailand) / Kenthao (Xayaboury -Laos)
5. Chong Mek (Ubon – Thailand) / Vang Tao (Pakxe – Champassak – Laos)

Why is it so difficult to enter?
One would think that each border crossing would have the same standard policy for motorcycles crossing the border, but the reality is that they all have different interpretations of a policy. Conflicting policies cause confusion & ill feeling to officials on both sides of the border, especially Laos.
It should not be like this & there should be a standard policy, one set of rules & fees that apply exactly the same at every border crossing. Laos should be encouraging riders to come, both private non-tour riders & tour groups.
Tour groups have a system that works, but the police fees often vary between border crossings. Private non-tour group riders get a different set of rules & fees at every border crossing; and this system needs to be sorted out properly for all parties. Then everyone is happy & more friendly.
I understand on a technical level motorcycles are banned from using the bridge, officials don't want scores of scooters going backwards & forwards across the bridge.
The Agreement for Management of the Bridge Cross Border traffic specifically excludes motorcycle = the rules do not apply to motorbikes; so there needs to be another separate policy and agreement for big bikes over 250cc, rather than multiple conflicting ideas.

GTR has ridden across multiple border crossings multiple times and has a feel of what is going on.
Here is a rough guide to the situation.

All border crossings: bikes under 250cc are generally not permitted to enter Laos, unless you have a tour permit arranged.

The Mekong River Crossings

1. FB1 Friendship Bridge 1
. Nong Khai (T)/ Tha Deua (Vientiane). Entry / exit from both sides is possible. You may ride across the bridge both ways. Tour groups need a permit to enter Laos. Note: sometimes changes in policy at FB1 mean you cannot enter unless you have a tour permit, requested by the police. (They need money!)

2. FB2 Friendship Bridge 2. Mukdahan (T) / Savannakhet (L). Riding across the bridge is an issue. Exit from Thailand is difficult & you need written approval from the Mukdahan provincial governor = you need a tour company to arrange for you. Entry into Laos with a motorbike is an issue without a tour permit in advance. Solo riding across the bridge may not be permitted. Exit from Savannakhet is tricky, although GTR has exited from Savannakhet 3 times, riding across the bridge after some lengthy negotiations. If you don’t want to put your bike in a pick-up for your bike to be carried across the bridge, simply ride from Savannakhet to Tha Khek & exit across the bridge at Tha Khek.

3. FB3 Friendship Bridge 3. Nakhon Phanom (T) / Tha Khek (L). Exit / entry works some of the time. The Thai side will discourage you from going, but it is possible with some patience. Once on the Laos side entry is easy. Exit from Laos is not an issue, you ride out across the bridge.

4. FB4 Friendship Bridge 4. Chiang Khong (T) / Houei Xai (L). Tour groups need a permit. No police escort vehicle for 500 baht is required to cross the bridge anymore, however entry to Laos has become a problem in late 2019 /2020.
The Lao tourist police at the bridge have a new policy harassing private non-tour riders for a tour permit, and requesting a payment of 2,000 baht per bike. The police claim that everyone must have a tour permit & no tour permit = US$2000 fine. You should decline this if you are not a tour group. If you have time, don’t be intimidated, stand your ground, & negotiate a fee lesser than 2,000 baht a bike with the police. Zero payment is possible. All money goes in the corrupt policeman’s pocket.

5. Bun Kan (T) / Pakxan (L). Mekong ferry crossing. (To be FB5). Entry / exit is OK both ways. You need to take a ferry across the river here. There is no Lao Visa on Arrival at Pakxan. Entry into Laos with a bike should still be OK, no tour permit required.


The land border crossings

1. Huak (Phayao – Thailand) / Pangmone (Muang Khop – Xayaboury – Laos).
Opened on 1 st February 2020. Exit is OK. Supposedly there is visa on arrival at Pangmone. Entry into Laos with a motorbike is an issue without a tour permit in advance.

2. Huay Kon (Nan – Thailand) / Muang Ngeun (Hongsa – Xayaboury – Laos). Exit is OK. No Laos Visa on Arrival. Entry into Laos is an issue without a tour permit in advance.

3. Phu Du (Uttaradit – Thailand) / Phu Dou (Pak Lay – Laos). Exit is OK. No Laos Visa on Arrival. Entry with a motorbike maybe an issue without a tour permit in advance.

4. Nakraseng (Tha Li – Loei – Thailand) / Kenthao (Xayaboury -Laos). The worst border crossing in Laos. Exit from Thailand is OK. Exit with a bike from Laos is not permitted, even if you have a permit in advance, the local officials will not allow you to exit. No Laos Visa on Arrival. Entry into Laos is an issue without a tour permit in advance.

5. Chong Mek (Ubon – Thailand) / Vang Tao (Pakxe – Champassak – Laos). Exit is OK. Laos has Visa on Arrival. Entry into Laos with a bike is an issue. You need an approved tour permit for a minimum of 6 bikes, no less. GTR has entered Laos at Vang Tao multiple times without issue, but in 2018 was refused entry because he was on a tour. I even had a one-man tour permit arranged in advance but was flat refused entry because a one-man tour did not meet the minimum 6-bike tour requirement. Absolute rubbish, my records were even in the computer for multiple trips in & out. Why do this?

Tour Groups

The “official policy”, if you’re a tour group is you need to enter via a tour company, with a Lao guide & police escort. Is it a genuine law or only a policy? In practice the police may not actually go with the group, but accept a fee for their service.

The definition of a tour group is not clearly defined & is open to interpretation. Generally less than 5 or 6 bikes is not considered a tour group & you could be allowed to enter without a guide or tour permit. However this is often at the discretion of the duty policeman at the time & he may insist on offering his services, for a negotiable fee. What is a tour group? This is where the problem lays – the police looking for pocket money to assist you. None of this money goes to the government, but into the policeman’s personal welfare fund.

Private non-tour riders should not be penalised entering Laos. If there was a simple standardised set of rules & fees, there would be no corruption, riders would be more happy to go. Riders happy to go would be spending money in all the little towns & places as they go, supporting the local rural population, in the small towns where it is most needed.


What could be done – a suggestion for Laos

Laos Tourism & Bikers.

A suggestion from David Unkovich @ GT Rider www.thegtrider.com
How to make it all easier, facilitate entry, promote tourism in Laos & still make money for Laos.

Free one month visa on arrival.
• More people will enter & spend money.
• Collecting visa fees from border crossings costs money, is problematic and money is being misappropriated.
• No Foreign affairs staff need to be employed at the border = save money.

Visa Extensions
• Maximum 2 x 1 month extensions, available only in provincial capitals. • Price US$100 per month per extension.
• Maximum 3 months stay then you must exit (& come back again?)
• Visa extensions are only available in the provincial capitals. Less chance of money misappropriated.
• In the end the price will be the same as with a paid visa on arrival. No money will be lost.
• It is important to facilitate entry & not put up barriers.
• More people will come & stay longer, because it was free to come in.
• More people will spend more money, more than the visa fee collected.

Motorcycle Entry
• One month on arrival cost 500 baht
• After one month extend for one month @ 1,000 baht.
• After two months extend for another one month @ 1,000 baht.
• Maximum 3 months then go out.

Tour Groups
• Define a tour group number. Don’t let the police do it at their own discretion!
• Up to 5 bikes is considered a private entry, unless a paid tour.
• 6 bikes and over you must use a tour company for permits.
• Cut the corrupt police out of lining their pockets with money that the government could be getting.

Insurance
• Have a minimum one month policy, maximum 3rd party policy, that all riders are required to take out.
• No one or two week policies.

Summary
GT Rider loves Laos, the Lao people & wants to promote Laos & help everyone.
Please standardise the system & fees to encourage more riders to come. They will be happy to travel in Laos & spend throughout the country in all the small places that need it most.
Make it easy to come in & if they want to stay longer, they pay for extensions & Laos – the government & the local economies – make more money. That is a win win for everyone.



Let's see what happens when the borders re-open.
Will it still all be the same with different policies & local fees at all the border crossings = continued confusion?
On Monday 5th September 2022 there is a ministerial meeting in Vientiane to discuss motorcycle entry into Laos and set up a standardized proceedure and fees at all border crossings.
The GTR proposal is being presented and hopefully we will have an acceptable standardized system and fees set in place, that is fair for both sides, not one that is up to the whim of greedy corrupt local officials.
Cheers everyone. Fingers crossed.
 

Dodraugen

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Fingers crossed! But free visa on arrival will never happen though. Im happy to pay the $ 40 as long as all crossings are smooth sailing for motorbikes.
 

DavidFL

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A brief update. A strong submission has been made by tourism officials to "open up the border" for bikers fairly for one & all, with standardized policy. The exact details I don't have, but a request has been made at ministerial level & is under consideration by the relevant government departments. Let's hope they can agree on a policy & course of action, that facilitates entry, cuts out the local corruption & local officials implementing their own conflicting policies.
 

DavidFL

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Some other local border crossings that are scheduled to reopen in the next few days, if not tomorrow 21st September 2022.

1. Ban Suan Dok, Village No. 8, Ban Saeo Subdistrict, Chiang Saen District Chiang Rai
2. Ban Hat Bai, Village No. 1, Rim Khong Sub-district, Chiang Khong District Chiang Rai
3. Ban Jam Pong, Village No. 5, Lai Ngao Subdistrict, Wiang Kaen District Chiang Rai
4. Ban Huai Luek, Village No. 4, Muang Yai Sub-district, Wiang Kaen District Chiang Rai
5. Ban Rom Pho Thong, Village No. 9, Tab Tao Subdistrict, Thoeng District, Chiang Rai Province
6. Chiang Khong Port, (Tha Bug) Village No. 1, Wiang Sub-district, Chiang Khong District Chiang Rai
7. The 3rd Chiang Khong port, (Tha Pha Than), Village No. 2, Wiang Sub-district, Chiang Khong District Chiang Rai