Laos Friendship Bridge No Entry

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by filip-gsa, Feb 10, 2006.

  1. Today I wanted to cross the friendship bridge in Nong Khai to Vientiane with my Thai registrated bike. At the Thai side there was no problem, they gave me all the papers and stamps I needed, but at the Lao side the trouble began. The girl in room 6, Khampean, was very polite but she told us we could not cross boarder because from februari on they were not allowed to let pass Thai registrated bikes, from other countries was no problem. She would like to help us and asked her boss to let us pass the boarder but he was'nt able to give the permission. He sent us to the Ministry of Communication and Transports to get a paper with a written permission of the general director. That man was not friendly, the answer was just NO, he said there was no more an agreement between Thailand and Laos to let Thai registrated bikes through. After two hours we were back at the boarder with Khampean of room 6, she was very sorry for us and her boss too. They both were very friendly and polite to us. Khampean told us if we cross boarder in the North we would not have any problem. So, we started in Nong Khai at 08.30 and we were back in Nong Khai at 13.30. Be warned if you have a Thai registrated bike and want to cross boarder do it at Chiang Khong.
  2. Thanks for the warning.
    This all seems a bit odd, but perhaps they have just decided to enforce the rules yet again - and someone got out of bed on the wrong side that morning.
    I spoke to Miss Khampean on the phone this morning (Frid 10th Feb) & she was very apologetic.
    "They" are trying to sort this out for us farang on Thai registered motorbikes.
    I am in Chiang Khong at the moment, & about to enter Laos at Houei Xai in a few hours & will let you know how we go.
    Regarding riding from Nong Khai to Chiang Khong to enter, I would recommend you go south & try the 3 border crossings there. If Chiang Khong does not work, the your stuffed & got nowhere else go. At least in the south you've got 3 chances…..good luck & thanks for the tip (plus phone call last night.)

    Keep The Power On
  3. david, did you get into laos? i got bored with ponsavan and am now in lpb. call me when u get here.

  4. Filip
    No trouble getting into Laos at Houei Xai.
    The situation there was normal & took about 40 minutes on the Laos side to process the paperwork for a 2 week temporary import.

    1. From the car ferry boat landing, go up the steps to the Customs office.

    2. Enter room # 7 "The Computer Room" on the left. Complete the bike import papers in about 15-20 minutes if you're lucky.

    3. Go back down the steps to the staff under the umbrella & get the papers validated - stamped & signed - then "your in" & on your way.

    Simple - welcome to the Laos PDR.
    Wonderful country & wonderful people!

    Keep The Power On
  5. Update 16 Feb 2006.
    After visiting the boss at the bridge on 16th Feb I can confirm that indeed there has been a policy change - a telephone order from the Ministry of Transport in Vientiane - NO Thai registered bikes are allowed into Laos from Nong Khai.
    All other border entry points are ok.
    The boss at the Friendship Bridge is not happy about the situation & would like to help, but until he gets a new order from Vte, then all Thai registered bikes will have to enter Laos at another crossing.
    Note (1) Non Thai registered bikes are still allowed to enter Laos at the Friendship Bridge. Only Thai registered bikes are affected.
    Note (2) it is no trouble to exit Laos from the Friendship Bridge, Thai or other rego.

    My take on this is that it will be a temporary "thing" (spat?) for a few weeks / month or two at the max. Stay tuned.

    Keep The Power On
    Just back from an hour at the bridge & the news is NOT good.
    They have now received a letter from The Ministry of Transport in Vientiane advising that NO bikes, regardless of country of registration, are allowed in without prior approval from Vientiane.
    This applies to ALL bikes, not just Thai bikes, as originally thought at the bridge.

    My guess is that this is a re-assertion of official policy in Vientiane, as three? years ago this was the situation. You needed approval, gained via a registered tour office, before you could get in. It had to be setup in advance, a minimum of 48 hrs, & usually cost 1,500 Thai baht.
    The staff at the bridge are not happy about this, so don't complain to them, but Vientiane & The Ministry of Transport.
    I will attempt to verify the situation at the MoT on Monday. Should all this be unfortunately correct, then I will suggest a couple of tour offices to use for the permits.
    Supposedly other border crossings are still ok, & you don't need prior approval.
    Now should you get stuck, just grin & bear it. Ask for a tour company to get approval for you & pay the fees. Eventually I would hope that it will return to "normal."

    Of note today too, was a suggestion from "the bridge" that "we" use the Pakxan (L) / Phon Pisai (T) border crossing, which customs claim is international. Pakxan is about 100 kms south of Vientiane. I thought that this one was only a local border crossing, but a customs officer from Pakxan was there at the Friendship bridge, & said yes it was ok for foreigners. This is all news to me, so does anyone want to have a go there?

    Keep The Power On
  7. "use the Pakxan (L) / Phon Pisai (T) border crossing"

    David - my Thai maps show that Phon Phisai is about 90 km west of Bung Kan - the town directly across the Mekong from Paxxan.

    Since you are there right now, you might want to confirm the actual name and location of the crossing.

    Also, is visa on arrival available at this crossing?


    "The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right."
  8. Hi Guys, I am a new member. My name is Jo from England. That news about the friendship bridge is a pain in the arse. In may this year my best friend and I are overlanding from Bangkok to Brighton (UK) in a thai tuktuk for the mental health charity Mind. We were planning to cross into Laos at the Friendship Bridge. Our tuktuk is Thai registered and I guess that may prove a problem- I hope they have changed their minds by mid may.
    Can anyone tell me about route 13 in Laos, as we will be following it north to the Chinese border at Boten?
    P.S. I tried to email david, but the email was returned?
  9. I was in Bung Kan about 2 weeks ago. There was an immigration office but as it was sunday it was closed. However, they are building a new customs house over there as there is quite a bit of wood coming in from Laos - saw about 10 big trucks with Lao number plates on the Thai side. Anyway, I'll be going to Laos on 8 and I'll ask the immigartion people in Nongkhai about Bung Kan. Apparently (according to you can get a visa on arrival in Bung Kan.

    Travelfish on its website says this about Pakxan:
    Bueng Kan / Paksan
    Open 08:00-16:30
    This border, while open to foreigners, is not really convenient to anything much, though Paksan is a scenic enough riverside spot. There is a small fee for the ferry crossing and a Lao visa on arrival is available.

    Anyway, will try to followup next week

  10. Hi Funkyferret,

    Last March a Tuk Tuk went from Bangkok to Germany - But did not pass through China for they could not get papers/permit...

    We met them in Boten where they were doing a shake down run on their new Tuk Tuk. They bought it new in Bangkok from the factory that gave them a large discount, toured Northern Thailand and then did Central and Northern Laos. They then returnd to Bangkok where they shipped it to Japan. From there it was a ferry across to Russia. They would have arrived Germany last October.

    They originaly road their bicycles from Germany to Thailand, having previously road them the length of South Amercia...

    A cyber search might provide more info if you are interested.

    David and Mai
  11. BobS
    1. Confirmed the town across from Pakxan is Bung Kan. Bung Kan is 135 kms downstream from Nong Khai. Phon Pisai is much closer to Nong Khai. (So you got me!)
    2. NO Laos visa on arrival.

    Not many (if any) farang have crossed here before.

    Pix above: Bung Kan imigration overlooking the ferry landing

    I had an interesting 45 minute tussle with the two Thai immigration officers at the border post, before we "agreed" to go & see the boss (Inspector) in Bung Kan town, 5 kms away.

    Pic above: Bung Kan Immig HQs with a smiling polite officer. He even offered to take photos of me outside the office! Excellent service.

    The Inspector was a perfect gentleman, spoke excellent English & clearly understood what my multiple entry 1 year Thai visa was. This was in stark contrast to the two border staff, one of whom had seriously impaired lateral thinking, & the other who proclaimed with supreme confidence, but in weak English: I know everything & you don't know." Indeed it took a mere 1 ¼ hrs to Thai immigration at Bung Kan! I was not impressed, especially considering I was the only customer.
    Customs in comparison was easy & straight forward, although they too had never seen a farang crossing there with a big motorbike before.

    Pic above: Bung Kan customs overlooking the ferry landing.

    As you can see from the photos, the offices overlooking the ferry landing are not exactly a modern high tech set up & currently hardly used by foreigners as an international crossing. But it is. Give it a go sometime, just for the experience.

    My next crossing at Bung Kan could be interesting. You've been warned, so tread carefully.

    Keep The Power On
  12. Hi David - I am hoping to enter Laos at Savanakhet about 19 or 20 March, so will let you know if there is a hassle. Your pictures of the Pakse trip are great - as you know I was there this time last year. Reckon I will try out the Mekong Hotel and a Vietnamese massage ha ha sounds GREAT ! The Digger.
  13. Thanks David, we know about the German guys as their tuktuk was manufactured by the same company, Expertise, in Bangkok. We will be going through China (fingers crossed) as we are in the process of applying for a permit. The process does not seem too complicated, however it is v expensive. For 4 weeks in China it is costing us nearly $10,000! Will keep an eye on the message board to see if there are any changes in the Friendship Bridge situation. If it remains unchanged I could try to get prior permission from Vientienne, because we are going straight through Laos, doing the trip for charity etc. Cheers, Jo
  14. Funky Ferret-

    Here is a link and photos from my last trip regarding hwy 13 and Boten Link removed.

    Just do a search for "Highway 13" and you will get quite a few more hits.

    Definately an interesting trip by Tuk-Tuk. Keep us posted.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
    Well folks the news is NOT good - NO private / individual bikes into Laos.
    Only group tours / caravans - that are approved in advance.
    This is a ruling from the Ministry of Transport, and early Feb a letter was sent out to all the provinicial border crossings.
    I have a copy of the MoT letter, plus a request from the bridge admin official seeking clarification from Vte. These were obtained from the MoT in Vte.

    The agent that I used in Vientiane several years asked about a permit for a single bike & the answer is NO - only caravans / group tours.

    A complaint has been made at the NTAL - Laos tourist office - and they will seek a meeting with the MoT to discuss the issue. This may take months to sort out.

    Meanwhile the only optimistic view that I have is that some of the provinical border officials may not want to apply the rules & still let individual / private bikes in. But you'll have to suck it see which ones do / don't work.

    Keep The Power On
  16. 06/03/2006 - However No problems to cross from Cambodia (route 7) to Laos with Malaysian registered bikes (Honda Dream 100cc). The custom officer quickly glances at the registration papers. He did not even take the time to read it.
  17. As the first person to be turned back last week , the news was pretty amazing to me as well. Did a bit of venting on the border guys, who were very polite but adament that if I wished to continue onwards it was going to be while my bike was in customs lockup at the border.
    I think that perhaps the brains of the Transportation Dept. are on holiday...............................................
    On 8 March I exited Laos at Pakxan, 150 kms downstream from Vientiane.

    Pic above: Entrance to the Laos joint Customs / Immigration air-con office in Pakxan.

    Laos customs was exceptionally friendly - I was leaving.
    When asked if I could come back into Laos this way in a couple of weeks they said yes, no problem.
    I asked about any news from Vientiane advising not to let bikes in & they said had heard nothing; as far as they were concerned you could enter Laos with a bike at Pakxan.
    Confusing eh?
    So my current take on it it all is that it could just be Vientiane trying to apply the "NO bikes across the bridge rule" perhaps, & everywhere else is ok?

    Pic above: Entrance to the Pakxan port office compound.

    Pic above: View towards the ferry landing at Pakxan.

    Pic above: view from the Pakxan ferry towards the Pakxan Port compound at the top left.

    Anyone else want to tackle another border crossing?

    Keep The Power On
    Below are unofficial translations of the two relevant letters regarding motorcycle import into Laos at the Friendship Bridge.

    1. Above the letter from the Friendship bridge admin querying the new rules / policy.

    2. Above the letter from the MoT advising the bridge admin what the situation is = NO motorbikes.

    Stay tuned for more news. There are people working on it....

    But if time is not on your side, & you can't get in at the Friendship Bridge, then try some of the other international border crossings.
    In the South
    1. Pakxan
    2. Tha Khek
    3. Savannakhet
    4. Vang Tao (Pakxe)
    5. Veun Kham
    In the North
    1. Houei Xai

    Good luck

    Keep The Power On
  20. Rectravel
    Agreed that is a possibility, but not one I'd put money on. But let's wait & see what happens after the congress is over. It would be too good to be true if that's the case.

    Keep The Power On
  21. there was no mention of any restrictions for this meeting like in past. may have to wait unit meeting is over before seeing anyone though. it getting to hot anyhow.

  22. On March 30, I crossed from Thailand to Laos at Pakxan/Bung Kan. It seems that not many people have done the Thai to Laos crossing and it took a long time with the Thai customs people. It was not difficult but the waiting was a pain.
    First, my bike is Cambodian registered so as for Thai plated bikes, I can't say what the deal is.

    Image above: Pakxan / Bung Kan GPS map

    I started at the main immigration in town and was escorted by a very polite Englik speaking officer to the customs house, 2.9 km upriver from this location in town. From HWY 212 go left at the main crossroads to town. At the roundabout go left and the main immigration office is about 300 meters down. The river is ahead and have a drink, relax. It is not required to visit this office, go past it and the second right go down about 2.8 km and you will see a small wooden sign of "Customs" and the office is behind what is a lumber holding facility.

    Ignore the girls outside, go in and there is no English speaking person but this is the fun of travel. To the left of the door inside is a young woman that will issue an Exit Customs form - a first for me. She takes the import form and basically duplicates it for exit. It seems that the software used, which is in Englik, is far beyond her right now. It took 4 officers to process the paperwork and several calls from the second in command of this office. After about 90 minutes, I was on my way. I was given a copy of my entry paperwork and the new exit paperwork. They were very concerned about my return date to Thailand for some reason. After the exit form was given to me, I had to go to a small office outside to have a Department of Customs form/Passenger Declaration done - he basically scribbled on it and done. From here, out to the road and turn right.

    The ferry crossing is about 2km down. Here you proceed to the furthest building on the left. Hand over the exit documents and the Passenger/ Conveyance forms. Your passport also gets exit stamped here. They are very friendly and some Englik is spoken. There are three buildings on the left side, in the middle is where I deposited my copy of my entry form, had it stamped and returned.

    Then a long wait for the ferry. At the time of writing, the water level is very low here and the ferry was overloaded, three trucks with dump trucks on them, two gas trucks, fully loaded and two container trucks with who knows what inside. The barge was at its limit, the waterline was about 5 cm below the deck. When the barge made the turn upstream to head to the landing, the water at the stern came over the deck almost a third of the way up the plating, my tires were about up to the bottom of the rims in water.

    Upon exiting, there is a small compound on the left at the top of the hill. Davidfl's photos are excellent and show it all. I arrived at 17:30 or so and they were all playing volleyball, offered me a beer and was told "five minutes". 20 minutes later, my passport was stamped and a green Laisez/Passer-Ministry of Finance form done, stamped and I was on my way.

    As for Visa on Arrival, there are signs up for it but when I asked if a 15 day Visa on Arrival was available, he said no. I am not 100% sure of this but am passing by in a few days and will update this.

    What happens with Thai registered bikes, I can't say. What did seem like the main problem at the Thai side was the software for import/export of private vehicles seems new and there is confusion. I explained that when I crossed at Mukdahan, Kho Khong and VTE - Thailand to Laos, all I got as a stamp and signed my import form, handed it over and finished. He looked at me funny and said, "No, computer now".

    All in all it was fun, why we do what we do. On the bad side, such a bitch to have to go 120 odd km from the Friendship Bridge and then 149 km back to VTE. Paksan isn't without charm and it rained heavily, first real cool air in a month, a nice break from the stifling heat of northern Thailand.

    Ride Safe
  23. Jim
    At Customs in BK I reckon that you should have just been handing back in your temporary import form, from whatever port you entered Thailand at. But it looks like you did not have one, & that's probably what got them confused, so they had to issue something to match up with what was going in the computer, & issued a new one. If you have a look at the form it does say "Simplified Customs Declaration Form, for motor car and motor cycle temporarily imported or exported."
    I’m not surprised that the tall BK Immigration gentleman remembered me, but I am surprised that you found the actual border staff at the ferry landing were very friendly, but then again perhaps they too remembered our / my encounter & had "smartened up" a little after we ended up in the boss’s office.
    I also note your Pakxan "charm" comments & congratulate you on spending a night there. It certainly did not look to "charming" to me, but then I was there mid day in the oppressive heat trying to “escape” with a 2 week bike over stay.
    Your totally right though "all in all it was fun, why we do what we do" - despite the odd border hiccups, life on the road is a bit alright!

    Keep The Power On
  24. Utter exasperation. What are they thinking? Why? The one question NOBODY seems to have the answer to. I Live in Laos and very unhappy friend spent two days travelling up from Bangkok (as he has done before, most recently in Feb) to spend some more time travelling in Laos PDR. Utterly stunned to be refused entry. Holiday ruined. How can we help put pressure on whoever can alter this extraordinary decision? Regretably my friend explained in firm terms his view of the situation to the border staff at room 6, who are clearly as exasperated as the rest of us. Will register a firm but more asian style complaint with tourism authority tomorrrow in Vientiane. But, at the end of the day, we should have read first! News to us but acutally old news! Who is working on this? How can we help?
  25. Andrew
    1. Yeah the GT Riders would be extremely disappointed with your supposed intelligent teacher mate from Bkk if he stupidly & coarsely harassed Miss Khampean in Room # 6.


    You could not get a sweeter, more helpful government official.
    It has taken us years to cultivate such a good relationship & we would not want some moron upsetting the apple cart unnecessarily!
    2. If your wise mate has been doing a lot of riding in Laos & Thailand & not watching or contributing to the GT Rider board then he certainly needs a substantial rap over the knuckles.
    3. Do you have any contact details for him so that he may be interviewed as potential leading candidate for the Mekong River Jump?

    Keep The Power On

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