Laos Border Crossings

DavidFL

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Update on Chiang Khong border crossing (Thailand) and Na Meo crossing with Vietnam.

Around May 10, 2017 I crossed into Laos from Vietnam on a 120cc Detech win with VN plates. The border crossing was very easy on both sides, and probably took ~45min in total. On the VN side I had to pay an export form of around 150,000 dong or so. I think the Lao import form ‘tax’ was $3. The Lao visa for an American is supposed to be $35 but somehow they refused my insistence and requested $45. I had driven through the rain that morning & wasn’t in the mood to come to a standoff with the Lao authorities so I paid.

The road from the border to Viang Xai, the closest town of significance is approx. 60km. However, in the rain it took maybe 3-4 hours. Several areas of the road were underwater to the extent that they were very close to the ‘impassable on a motorbike’ point. The road itself is in bad shape and is quite bad when wet. Make sure you leave the border with a full tank of gas (filling stations on both sides) and plenty of daylight to get into town.

On May 19, 2017, I attempted to cross into Thailand at the Huay Xai/Chiang Khong checkpoint. When I got there the Lao side informed me that Thailand would not let the bike in. After talking through it, they agreed to let me leave the bike in Lao and go talk to the Thai’s without stamping my visa or me paying any money. They were actually pretty helpful as I think they felt bad. Eventually one of the Lao officers called the Thai border and asked them about it and confirmed that I would not be able to take the bike into Thailand. It was around 9am in the morning so I had to make the quick decision to take the slow-boat back to Luang Prabang to sell the bike and move on with the trip.

The slow-boat passenger tickets are 210,000 KIP and the bike fee was an incredible 240,000 KIP (~30 USD). It took some haggling with them but they knew I had to get on their boat. There was one other VN win motorbike (bought in Huay Xai, probably from a backpacker in a similar situation as me). I don’t know how much it cost for the other bike’s two day trip. I lucked out and met someone in LPG quickly to buy the bike for a decent price, but I would recommend against ending up in LPG wanting to buy or sell a motorbike – there just isn’t a market there for them.

Great update Wendell
Many thanks & sorry you could not get into Thailand with the new "<250cc rule" for border crossings between Thailand & Laos; but I bet the boat trip with the bike on board was an experience. If you have any pics of that you can send them to me & I will upload them.
 

Jodie

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Update on Chiang Khong border crossing (Thailand) and Na Meo crossing with Vietnam.
The slow-boat passenger tickets are 210,000 KIP and the bike fee was an incredible 240,000 KIP (~30 USD). It took some haggling with them but they knew I had to get on their boat. There was one other VN win motorbike (bought in Huay Xai, probably from a backpacker in a similar situation as me). I don’t know how much it cost for the other bike’s two day trip. I lucked out and met someone in LPG quickly to buy the bike for a decent price, but I would recommend against ending up in LPG wanting to buy or sell a motorbike – there just isn’t a market there for them.

This is my biggest fear in buying a bike to take between Vietnam and Laos. I guess your trip is proof that the cross is fairly common.
 

Jimenator

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Great update Wendell
Many thanks & sorry you could not get into Thailand with the new "<250cc rule" for border crossings between Thailand & Laos; but I bet the boat trip with the bike on board was an experience. If you have any pics of that you can send them to me & I will upload them.

The reason he couldn't enter Thailand was because his bike has VN (Vietnam) plates. Vietnamese bikes can only enter Thailand with pre-approval and a mandatory guide + lead vehicle. If he had a Lao plated bike, he may have stood a chance. Only Lao, Malaysian and Singaporean cars/bikes can easily enter Thailand. Cambodian/Burmese ones only near their respective borders. All others need advance permission.
 

DavidFL

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The reason he couldn't enter Thailand was because his bike has VN (Vietnam) plates. Vietnamese bikes can only enter Thailand with pre-approval and a mandatory guide + lead vehicle. If he had a Lao plated bike, he may have stood a chance. Only Lao, Malaysian and Singaporean cars/bikes can easily enter Thailand. Cambodian/Burmese ones only near their respective borders. All others need advance permission.

Indeed. You are probably well & truly right there. I stand corrected. TQ.
 

DavidFL

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Vang Tao (Laos) / Chong Mek (Thailand.)

March 2018
There appears to be a policy change on the Laos side & they are only letting in "tour groups."

  • 1-2 bikes cannot enter (maybe you ca get a one man tour permit?)
  • 3 bikes can enter if you go via a tour company.
  • Enter at Vang Tao must exit at Vang Tao (not sure how they enforce this?)

See also Entering Laos - Some History for history on the Laos border crossings
 
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edh

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February 2018 - PHU SANG (THAILAND) - BAN PANGNOM (LAOS)
we cross the border by car in HUAI KON (north from NAN) and turned left towards the border crossing in PHU SANG ( Google Maps ) , they told us in the village BAN KHOP that this border will open for international border-crossings in about 2 months (ca. april 2018) - does someone have news about?
 
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ThaiCyd

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Vang Tao (Laos) / Chong Mek (Thailand.)

March 2018
There appears to be a policy change on the Laos side & they are only letting in "tour groups."

  • 1-2 bikes cannot enter (maybe you ca get a one man tour permit?)
  • 3 bikes can enter if you go via a tour company.
  • Enter at Vang Tao must exit at Vang Tao (not sure how they enforce this?)

See also Entering Laos - Some History for history on the Laos border crossings

Any more info of this?

I need to do a Visa run soon and was hoping to enter Laos via Chong Mek-Vang Tao border and drive my 150cc PCX up to Savannakhet to make the visa.

I have tried to email Miss Noy tour/rental company in Pakxe to see if the can offer any options.

I was also thinking of doing a pre-run to the border on Monday to see if a solo crossing could be negotiated by way of an admin fee
 

ThaiCyd

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Any more info of this?

I need to do a Visa run soon and was hoping to enter Laos via Chong Mek-Vang Tao border and drive my 150cc PCX up to Savannakhet to make the visa.

I have tried to email Miss Noy tour/rental company in Pakxe to see if the can offer any options.

I was also thinking of doing a pre-run to the border on Monday to see if a solo crossing could be negotiated by way of an admin fee

Can confirm Vang Tao not letting in solo bikes.

Thai side told me everything was fine, did the temporary export.

Laos side said no , and would not move on that.

Another farang had same problem.

Disappointing.
 

DavidFL

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C


Can confirm Vang Tao not letting in solo bikes.

Thai side told me everything was fine, did the temporary export.

Laos side said no , and would not move on that.

Another farang had same problem.

Disappointing.

Thanks for the update on Vang Tao / Chong Mek.
Exactly when did you try to cross.
 

ThaiCyd

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Thanks for the update on Vang Tao / Chong Mek.
Exactly when did you try to cross.

It was yesterday (Monday 9th April 2018).

Eventually got talking to the girls selling Laos Insurance for cars and bikes entering Laos. I explained I wouldn’t need the insurance if I couldn’t bring my bike in.

One really helpful girl spoke good English. She phoned her ex tour business boss who explained bikes have to be part of an authorised tour group now and there was nothing they could do.

Remembering the other biker, I asked if we could combine to form a tour group.

She said had to be a Thai authorised tour group, and I would need to go back into Thailand to arrange it (which I didn’t understand, why require Thai tour group for a Laos regulation?)

Anyway, totally spoiled the trip. What should have been a relaxed trip from Pakxe to Savannakhet and back down for a 4000 islands loop is turning into a harassed race against the clock and extra costs.

Took me 8 hours to get to Savannakhet via local bus which made 30 stops (I logged them) and didn’t even take me all the way there.

Every stage of the journey now taking longer with extra costs and lots of inconvenience.

For example couldn’t hire motorbike because they insist on keeping passport, but I need passport to make Visa. Hence the bus trip, and that throws me out by a day due to the Savannakhet Thai consulate opening times. It all connects, or rather now it doesn’t!
 
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DavidFL

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Vang Tao (Laos) / Chong Mek (Thailand.)

March 2018
There appears to be a policy change on the Laos side & they are only letting in "tour groups."
  • 1-2 bikes cannot enter (maybe you ca get a one man tour permit?)
  • 3 bikes can enter if you go via a tour company.
  • Enter at Vang Tao must exit at Vang Tao (not sure how they enforce this?)

See also Entering Laos - Some History for history on the Laos border crossings

Confirmed the entry to Laos at Vang Tao is only for motorcycle caravans now.
No private entry & no one man tours / caravans, even with documentation provided by a tour company designating the ports & dates of entry - departure. For the record, the date of my attempted entry was 19th May 2018.

GTR- IMG_0699.JPG


Confident of the documentation I had - 3 sets of documents - for a motorbike to enter Laos on a set tour route; the Thai immigration & customs stamped me out.
Lao immigration saw the documents, issued a visa & stamped me. Then the customs stone walled me. Didn't care and would not budge - you are not a motorcycle caravan. You cannot enter. Multiple phone calls were made by the Lao agent to plead with people, plus offer some extra assistance, while I patiently sat in the office for 4.5 hours. I shared lunch with the Customs staff in their office & they gave me bottles of free cold water. But would they sign off on a one man motorcycle tour of southern Laos? No way. You cannot come in here. You can exit but absolutely cannot enter.

GTR- IMG_0701.JPG


I now have a copy of a letter from the police in Vientiane requesting that only motorcycle caravans be approved to enter Laos. No private entry or one man caravans. This letter was issued in 2017.
From what I can gather this new "policy - rule" is in place at Savannakhet & Tha Khek as well. Nong Khai & Houei Xai are still ok.
Now in Mukdahan, it was suggested I put the bike in a pickup to cross the bridge to Savannakhet. This was ok by me, but then we double checked & was told Savannakhet now has the same policy. No private or single bike entry. Motorcycle caravans only!

Sadly it does indeed look as if we are going backwards re entry & riding in Laos.
And the problem seems to come from accidents with private riders - not having insurance, and / or not paying sufficient compensation to the injured parties.
However having said that, as I talked with Thai immigration leaving Chong Mek, they said the problem came from a Thai rider killed in southern Laos???
Whatever, it cannot be stressed enough - ride carefully, be respectful to the locals & authorities in Laos. They are getting extremely annoyed at clearing up the mess from foreign riders in Laos. Foreign riders is not just westerners, but includes regional riders from Thailand & Malaysia & Singapore; there have been hundreds riding in Laos. So guys please use extra caution & be respectful negotiating any compensation. Don't mess up for everyone else as well.

GTR- IMG_0697.JPG
Even the sign are confusing, let alone the changing policies.
 
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jethro69

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Seems they get now fed up enough with Chinese money, that they don't need ours anymore. Just wonder if all those guesthouses think alike.
Although Chiang Khong crossing seems to remain open, I'll not do it anymore out of principle, last time they extort 700 out of me.
I did a couple of crossings in Golden Triangle, without bike. So far, I could not find anyone willing to rent me a bike. If they keep the passport and you're for a visa run, it's out of question anyways.
Left at the moment only the option to go along with the wife, she drops the passport and rent a Honda Wave. Or skip Laos at all, just back from Cambodia, and their driving seems to improve from year to year.
 

DavidFL

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Entering Laos at the Friendship Bridge 1 / Nong Khai is also an issue now,
If you are lucky the police will ring for a tour company to come and process some documents for you, charge you 2,500 baht for the papers, and then let you go on your way as if normal.
If you are unlucky, the they will refuse you entry & send you back to the Thai side.
 

matt939

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Just to share my crossing into Laos with a Thai registered bike, it was really an adventure! While having prepared also with the help of this forum I believed it would be a straightforward thing to go to Laos, but this was not exactly the case. Following the process coming from Nong Khai, I ended up at the Lao customs booth as a last step. Charging me 250 Bt and finally restarting their computer systems, they suddenly sent me over to customs office. There, they welcomed me by saying “We don’t want Thai bikes in Laos”. I had a chat with three of them for almost an hour because I didn’t know what to do and also didn’t want to give up with my plan. They made a number of phone calls and obviously were reluctant to do anything for me. Official policy in place is that apparently only groups can enter Lao with a registered tour company. I was trying to find out more, e.g. since when and if this applies to all border crossings. Their answers always avoided to be exact. I also must add that they were friendly, respectful, and fluent in English (unlike sometimes on the Thai side). After long discussions and being lectured, they finally agreed to help me with a tour company, emphasizing that this were an absolute exception and “the last time” for me.

I asked customs if an exit would be possible via Nam Hueang / Tha Li crossing and they confirmed. Kindly enough they highlighted that the Thai side put Nong Khai as importation port on the customs declaration form, which made me angry since I told the customs offer exactly where I want to exit. Unlucky me, I can’t read Thai. So I went back over the bridge and requested a change. In total the tour company charged me 2,500 Bt, but everything was solved perfectly, all documents were prepared for the planned exit and I could pass eventually after 3h at the border in total.

Arriving on departure day at Nam Hueang / Kenthao, I was rejected straight away. Same problem started again, immigration officer didn’t want to let any single Thai registered motorcycle cross into Thailand. He said in Xaraboury only tour companies can do that for groups. No discussion possible at all, he sent me back to Nong Khai. Easy thing for him, problem solved. While I had to take a 300km detour starting at 3pm, on some of the worst stretches I have ever ridden.

On the positive side, the ride along the Mekong is perhaps one of the most beautiful ones in Southeast Asia, especially during sunset. The last quarter or so even allowed for 6th gear and fast travelling. Since I made it to the border just before closing time (and being caught by a speed camera in VTE), the crossing was made in less than 20 minutes! No questions, no delays, no charges, just stamped out on both sides. Wished this would have been the case for entry, too!
 

DavidFL

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Just to share my crossing into Laos with a Thai registered bike, it was really an adventure! While having prepared also with the help of this forum I believed it would be a straightforward thing to go to Laos, but this was not exactly the case. Following the process coming from Nong Khai, I ended up at the Lao customs booth as a last step. Charging me 250 Bt and finally restarting their computer systems, they suddenly sent me over to customs office. There, they welcomed me by saying “We don’t want Thai bikes in Laos”. I had a chat with three of them for almost an hour because I didn’t know what to do and also didn’t want to give up with my plan. They made a number of phone calls and obviously were reluctant to do anything for me. Official policy in place is that apparently only groups can enter Lao with a registered tour company. I was trying to find out more, e.g. since when and if this applies to all border crossings. Their answers always avoided to be exact. I also must add that they were friendly, respectful, and fluent in English (unlike sometimes on the Thai side). After long discussions and being lectured, they finally agreed to help me with a tour company, emphasizing that this were an absolute exception and “the last time” for me.

I asked customs if an exit would be possible via Nam Hueang / Tha Li crossing and they confirmed. Kindly enough they highlighted that the Thai side put Nong Khai as importation port on the customs declaration form, which made me angry since I told the customs offer exactly where I want to exit. Unlucky me, I can’t read Thai. So I went back over the bridge and requested a change. In total the tour company charged me 2,500 Bt, but everything was solved perfectly, all documents were prepared for the planned exit and I could pass eventually after 3h at the border in total.

Arriving on departure day at Nam Hueang / Kenthao, I was rejected straight away. Same problem started again, immigration officer didn’t want to let any single Thai registered motorcycle cross into Thailand. He said in Xaraboury only tour companies can do that for groups. No discussion possible at all, he sent me back to Nong Khai. Easy thing for him, problem solved. While I had to take a 300km detour starting at 3pm, on some of the worst stretches I have ever ridden.

On the positive side, the ride along the Mekong is perhaps one of the most beautiful ones in Southeast Asia, especially during sunset. The last quarter or so even allowed for 6th gear and fast travelling. Since I made it to the border just before closing time (and being caught by a speed camera in VTE), the crossing was made in less than 20 minutes! No questions, no delays, no charges, just stamped out on both sides. Wished this would have been the case for entry, too!

Thanks for the update. Bloody confusing and a pain in the arse isn't it.
I maybe having another go in a couple of weeks.
 

Fritzltouw

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Are there any updates on this policy? I was planning on crossing the Nong Kai - Vietiane border in 10 days from now. I have a set plan in mind and meeting friends on the other side of the border and I don't want to risk the chance of being turned away. Any info would be helpful. I might give a call to the Laos immigration and customs tomorrow if I get the chance.
 

DavidFL

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Sadly I can confirm no private entry for Thai registered bikes into Laos across the friendship bridge at Nong Khai . Only 5 bikes and up motorcycle tour groups .

The head of customs was most apologetic in polite good English saying that it was a request from Vientiane. Even he said it was a confusing policy especially in the 2018 Visit Laos Year tourism promotion; but wait for a hopeful favourable policy change.

He gave a list of general reasons why the policy was instituted - bike theft, crminal activities by some riders (his exact words), stolen bikes from Thailand, accidents, riders doing a runner from accident scenes, but no one specific trigger for the policy change
The definitive answer for that is only available in Vientiane somewhere.

Now very fortunately for me I was able to be somewhat persuasive plus name drop so that I am in for this trip only. "Last one" I was told. But I would not be so optimistic for another trip across the 1st Friendship Bridge at Nong Khai until there is a significant policy change.

However on the positive side Chiang Khong / Huay Xai remains open as usual.

Good luck everyone .

I will be celebrating in Vientiane this coming week - the 20th Anniversary of Kopchaideu pub .
 
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hawaiianbrians

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Dear Laos Department of Tourism,

Thank you for your 2018 Visit Laos promotion. Unfortunately I will be unable to visit your country because of the stupid law that has been passed restricting motorcyclists from riding in your country. I guess Thailand will get to keep all those tourist dollars I was going to spend in Laos.

Good luck making money off Chinese tour groups!

Brian
 

DavidFL

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Brian
The Tourism Department is pissed off as much as anyone.
The directive is coming from the police & they are not being very understanding or flexible, until someone from above complains.

Otherwise Chiang Khong / Houay Xai is still normal & open as usual. So you enter at Houay Xai & exit at Vientiane.
 

hawaiianbrians

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Thanks David, Well my brother in law and his family live just down the road from Friendship Bridge #4 in Wiang Kaen so I guess we could go there first and then try a border crossing. I really do want to see what Laos is all about since I have heard so many good things about it. I have only been in Laos to Savannakhet two times years ago to go to the Thai Consulate there.

On another note, where in Pua is the July monthly meet up? I didn't see the venue listed. Maybe I can stop in there first and meet some other GT Riders.

Thanks again!

Brian
 

Fritzltouw

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David, thanks for the update. I'm afraid Vientiane is already far from BKK, let alone Chiang Khong so that effectively kills off my Laos trips for now.

The reasons cited are weak and in my opinion, preventing people from entering the country by motorcycle alone is not going to stop the issues they have mentioned.

To be frank, I can't help but see an ulterior motive in which the police and others have some form of interest in the motorcycle rental business and/or group tours.

I can only say it's a shame that in a time in which ASEAN is hyped in policies, member states lack any form of active implementation in actions.