Visiting Laos on the bike


Aug 2, 2009
Less than a month ago I visited Laos on my honda Phantom. I live in Chiang rai province and started my trip from here. It would also be my first trip to Laos ever. I have later been told, what happened was not suposed to have happened and David requested me to share my story with the rest of you. So here it goes with as many details I can remember.

I had before the ride been trying to find some information on the internet. I started on and was directed to gt-rider. I also had read this thread ... t5918.html I read after I had arrived to chiang khong. So when I read that, I decided to drive through Thailand to Udon Thani and cross through Nong Khai to Vientiane.

I had been a bit confused with what paper work was needed to do before the trip. I knew it was possible. A friendly poster in had told me all I needed to bring was the green book. And since it was already in my name, there was no need for having a written permission either. Other reports told that my bike would not be allowed. But the newest report said all I needed was the green book.

In Udon Thani I met with a friend from Denmark. We had 2 days to find out how to rent a motorbike in Udon Thani. He did find a german who had a Phantom for rent. He talked with him in fluent german and no problems. He could take the bike to Laos. The next day the german had changed his mind. Though he was a farrang, I sensed some kind of zigzag face saving manuever. We offered a 50,000 baht deposit for something that seemed like the first version of phantom. Bike could be like 10 years old. The offer was declined because, the german said, the bike was worth a lot more than that.

On the actual departure date. My friend woke up late, so we departed late as well. And when we got on the road. We got delayed by some rain. Howeverr, we had enough time for sure to enter Laos. So it seemed.

The thai side was so easy. It is here I am told, that they were not suposed to have let me out. There was a kind police man to inform me, that I was allowed to bring the bike out for 2 weeks. After that I would need to pay a fine of 100 baht per day. I accepted it as it was. For sure it would stop an idea I had. I had the idea I would drive down through Laos and enter Cambodia. However, only having 14 days to be back in Thailand. This would not be a good idea. I would need to pay a huge fine when I returned to Thailand. I then asked how the thai people would look at people breaking this law. I know in the USA overstay is a very bad idea. And in Thailand if you have plans about a permanent ressidence permit, a good history with the law is always a good thing. For sure it cant hurt and it is usually easy to avoid. Anyways. The policeman told me no problems. But better be back in time, I think. I also read a sign about the requirements to bring the bike out from Thailand. It said pretty much like I have previously stated here. Need the green book and if the bike is not in your name, you need the a written permission from the owner. I read this sign in Thai. I am not sure it was there in english, but I am almost sure it was.

Driving on the bridge was a great feeling. It made me happy inside. Immidiately I wanted to head on and continue through china and back home to europe. But nah. Honda Phantom is probably not big enough for that.

At the Laos side I drove up to where I thought I was suposed to do my visa. Then I was asked why I did not have a visa. I said sorry and asked where should I get the visa. And the policeman pointed over there. I asked where I should park my bike. And the policeman pointed over there, but on the Laos side. So I parked my bike on the Laos side and went to do the visa. Filling in all the formulas and waiting for them to processed. It took a little time. I would estimate more than half an hour and less than 1 hour. After that I went back to where the policeman was before. But now the window/counter had closed down. Confused. So I asked a nearby policeman what to do. He said can not. So I pointed on my bike and said, what should I do. He said can not. I tried to speak thai to him, but got a reply back in english. So he went to ask an officer nearby. And then he went inside and got back after a couple of minuttes. And then they said. "OK, you go". I felt something was not right here. On the other side I met with my friend. He smiled. He perceived me as being a bit paranoid about not getting any papers while entering Laos. He went to a taxi. I asked the taxi driver where to do my tax. He did not know. We went off to Vientiane. At some point the taxi driver stopped and told me I should turn off my light. I told him it was a newer model of Phantom, so can not.

Inside Laos for the first time. I found out everybody talks thai. That is so nice. I was able to talk with everybody from the beginning. I also had some unanswered questions. Like would my thai driving license be enough. How about the tax I had not paid yet etc. On almost each street corner was a police box. So I went to one of these and asked my questions. After this I was more relaxed about the situation of driving on motorbike in Laos.

The last night before I was to go back home. I went out to a place called music house. They played a lot of somewhat old, but still modern thai songs and had live music. Locals were going there as well. I was invited over to a table where they were drinking johnny walker gold label reserve. Not a cheap bottle of whisky. The oldest in the crowd was a woman working at the immigration. I told them my story. She look worried. It seemed I would be sure to lose money when I would return to Thailand. So I asked what I should do when I return. What could I do to prepare myself. She said tell this same story I told here. I went to the toilet, and by the time I got back, all these nice and friendly people had disapeared.

On the way back the first thing I was asked was if I could speak thai. I said yes. I was asked for the document I did not have. The policeman showed me, what it was suposed to look like. I told him I did not have this document. He asked me where I had crossed the border. I told him here and showed the receipt from Nong Khai. He asked me why I did not have this document. I said sorry, but when I entered, I did not receive this document. I also told him I asked if any papers had to be filled, and I was told to "Ok, you go". He then went to off to talk with an officer at the counter nearby. Then he went inside for a couple of minuttes. Then he got back to me. "ok you go". (before seeing this policeman I had already done the paperwork for the visa). He did not need to tell me this twice. So off I went. Also notice all these conversations were not loud. They were all in very polite thai. I showed at no point any emotions. Instead I showed patience and politeness. I also talked pretty simple level 1 talk, meaning I answered exactly what he requested, with out talking about other people experiences or asking if I had a problem. Zen talk, I guess we can call it.

After thought? Can I go next time with out applying for the papers? I would guess so. Because I was let out at the thai side. I heard some scary stories about huge fines for people doing little wrong. But really. We have those stories in Thailand as well. Latest in the airport a huge fine for doing something silly and small. From talking with the Laos people. Some men in the city told me 50% of the Laos people live together before getting married. In the country side the women told me it was 20%. Asking these percentages informs us a lot of how it is and what is happening with the country. One thing I did not see in Laos was a karaoke bar where the men are working and the women are customors.