So if you’re like me and you don’t fancy doing a horrible journey in the back of a mini van from Tesco On Nut overnight into Laos for your next Thai tourist visa run, then this post might be of interest to you…
I’ve done this tourist visa run by myself once before but then I actually paid a guy in Lao to do the running while I soaked up the sun by my pool in the hotel. I’ve also done it a few times using the usual On Nut BTS station visa run company (never again!) but this time I decided to save the Bahts where I could but still have a nice hotel and flight – Basically a moderately expensive visa run that would be pleasurable as a whole trip as opposed to being a shitty trip overall. So I’ve written this guide on how to achieve exactly that.
Save Some Cash By Getting The A1 or A2 Bus to Don Muang Airport
This is basic advice but after nearly 10 years living in Bangkok, I’d never just caught the bus from Mo Chit BTS station to Don Muang airport. So, yeah definitely do it this way if you’re ahead of time. Take exit 3 from Mo Chit BTS station, walk down the stairs and you’ll see a bus stop sign saying A1 Bus to Don Muang airport. I waited 5 minutes when an A2 bus arrived. I checked with the nice driver (because I hadn’t heard of the A2 bus) who said he was going to the airport so that was all good. I paid 30 baht to the lady and sat back and wasn’t stressing about a taxi meter creeping up while we moved through the heavy traffic.
Air Asia Flight To Vientiane, Lao
So the flight was booked quite last minute as I changed my plan from wanting to do a visa exempt border run to a Thai tourist visa in Lao. I think it was 5,500 baht or around that with Air Asia from Don Muang airport. This was a first for me as previously when I’d done this visa run D.I.Y. style I had flown to Udon Thani but I figured flying directly in was removing some of the stress and was therefore worth the extra if Udon was a cheaper flight.
The check-in was done online beforehand so I walked straight in to Departures. At passport control I had to point out that I wanted to cancel my extension as I was coming off a Non Immigrant working visa (but that’s another post coming soon!) and the officer had noticed that I had no re-entry permit. So the flight was alright, the usual lack of leg room on Air Asia flights but in just over 1 hour we were landing in Lao.
Arriving At Wattay International Airport and the Lao Tourist Visa
Got off the plane and through nothing to declare. Then at the immigration point I grabbed a Tourist visa on arrival form and quickly filled it in to get ahead of the others. But then we were all in the lines to passport control when we realized or an officer said we would all probably need to move to the counter on the right which is where you hand over the form, your passport and then $35 in my case (UK citizen) and just 1 photo (not 2 as I had read somewhere). I used a 3.5 x 4.5cm one that I had ready for my Thai tourist visa application. This process took around 20 minutes.
My next mission was to find a SIM card and the bus to central Vientiane. I decided not to get a SIM card just yet as I was discussing data options with the desk about which option would be okay for 2 days of online teaching. A discussion which just confused them and I decided to take a look in town for other options later.
The bus however was parked just outside and to the right – It was a nice little bus with just 3 people on and a nice ticket lady who, as with everyone I’ve met in Lao was just very nice. I think Lao should be called the land of smiles and not Thailand anymore. Anyway, the bus actually had free wifi which was a really nice touch. It cost 15000 kip to central bus station I think.
Getting to My Hotel: Grand Hotel Vientiane
So I got off the bus at Central Bus Station and was shuffling around looking for a SIM card place when a motorbike taxi driver asked me where I was going. I had a chat and we agreed on 100 baht to the hotel as I was getting tired. The lady selling the SIMs was just a little stall and I was looking for a larger proper phone company shop, so just took the bike but it started raining. A nice little monsoon to welcome me to Lao. We had only gone maybe 500m, and he stopped under a tree while it cooled off. But still raining, I gave him 40 baht for his trouble and turned back to a new shopping mall that I’d seen that could have a good phone SIM shop.
I did find a shop selling SIMs but still decided to do more research as there was no unlimited data package and I was unsure how much 2 days of online teaching would use. So then took a tuk tuk to the hotel. The tuk tuk drivers grunted at my request of 100 baht, but I held firm and said motorbike taxi man had said 100. Eventually he did take me to my hotel for 100 Baht.
I would recommend this hotel, Grand Hotel Vientiane for a few reasons. First, it’s very near the Thai consulate, about a 3 minute walk. That was obviously the main reason for booking it, but it’s also just a nice hotel. It would be better with a pool but whatever, it’s a 4 star and it cost me around 5000 baht for 3 nights. The staff are friendly and they changed the phone in the room which was broken and TV has cable channels including True Sports. The food was nice too, I had a nice Chick pea Indian curry and speaking of a Ruby Murray – Grand Hotel Vientiane is opposite an Indian restaurant called Delhi Durbar which I will eat at and add to this post if it’s any good. Overall, a good hotel, breakfast was average but is on to 10.30am so I could have it after the visa application.
Bar The Way
Right next to Grand Hotel Vientiane is a nice little bar called Bar The Way which is open to 2am, so be careful when going there before visa application day as I did, and very nearly overslept. But, the hotel being so close to the consulate really was important as I woke up at 8am on the day. The staff at Bar The Way are friendly and you can put your own tunes on if you want, the price of a Beer Laos is cheap by the big bottles. I met some interesting people there and will go back again tomorrow.
I’ve not tried Timeline restaurant next door yet, it’s an upstairs place that looks like it would serve up a nice dinner. I do recommend Sanook cafe restaurant which is on the road of the Thai consulate a bit further up and I had an amazing beef lasagna there.
Thai Tourist Visa Application in 2018
So on the day of the visa application (and I’d overslept a little thanks to some guys in Bar The Way’s drinking games) I made my way to the Thai consulate around the corner. It was 8.25am when I arrived and it was already open, with hundreds of people queuing up already. I was right at the back with a printed version of the form in my hand (that I’d downloaded and printed in BKK). A member of staff came up to me and looked at my document and told me that it wasn’t right and pointed to the building on the left of the queue of people (the one where you wait to pick up the visa normally). So I went in there and got the latest version of the form which was a bit different to the one I’d downloaded online from the consulate’s website. Filled the form in and the guy told me to get a ticket in that building and that I didn’t need to wait in the big line if I was not with a company. Wow, I thought, this D.I.Y. method was working out nicely! Got chatting to a Romanian guy in the waiting area and we checked we had the right documents which were a photocopy of the photo page of your passport, a copy of the Thailand departure stamp, as well as the form and 2 photos 3.5 x 4.5cm. There is a photocopy machine there that I used next to the counter where 3 girls and one’s daughter were working. About a 45 minute wait for the staff to call my number and then they logged my form into a computer which was a new way I’d not seen before. I paid 50 baht to the lady and she told me to take my passport and form which she’d signed to the big queue outside. Once in that queue the staff guy came back up to me and said I didn’t need to wait in the big line and took me to a much smaller line of ‘D.I.Y.’ers and in 20 minutes or so in that line I was handing the docs over to a final counter and she gave me the collect tomorrow slip and I was done, it was around 10am.
Collecting The Thai Tourist Visa at the Thai Consulate in Lao
This final part of the trip started at around 13.00 when I went back into the consulate. Everyone was sat waiting so there weren’t many chairs available and a few people were lay on the grass and some sat on the steps of the building on the side. Everyone had a number which was given to us the day before on the application morning. So it’s less chaotic than the Thai tourist visa application day.
The consulate re-opens at 13.30 although they do let you in before then to wait. There are 3 counters – The one on the left is for the express route with numbers starting at 300. This was mostly for people from Myanmar i think. The two counters on the right was what I was waiting for. I was number 91 and I waited for about 30 minutes. I paid the 1000 baht and he handed me my passport with the all important Thai tourist visa inside. Mission complete, time to relax before heading back to Thailand the next day.