Nong Khai Border Crossing to Vientiane. Thailand into Laos. Here’s what you need to know.
Laos is a popular destination for tourists in Southeast Asia, but flight prices are some of the highest in this region. Often people will instead opt to cross into Laos using a land border instead, with the Nong Khai Border Crossing being one of the busiest.
- Check the Cost of Bus Tickets to Nong Khai Border here
- Check the Cost of Train Tickets to Nong Khai Border here
- Read about how to take the train from Bangkok to Vientiane (via Nong Khai)
The Friendship Bridge Border Crossing is a 1.2 kilometer bridge crossing over the Mekong river. The bridge connects Thailand’s northern province of Nong Khai with the capital city of Laos, Vientiane.
The Friendship Bridge is open every day between 07.00am until 8.00pm. ‘Out of hours’ pricing can apply for visas and bus tickets after 4.00pm.
We took the train from Bangkok to Nong Khai province. Travelled in the day, and slept the night in Nong Khai (Thailand) we then opted to figure out how to cross the friendship bridge by ourselves, un-guided the next morning.
It wasn’t too difficult to figure it all out, but there are a few ‘scams’ to watch out for, and a few things we learned along the way; which would have been nice to know about before we set off to cross the Nong Khai border.
There are two choices when crossing the Nong Khai / Lao Border. You can travel on the train, or travel by road with the shuttle bus. There are only two trains each day but the shuttle bus runs every 5-10 minutes so we opted for the bus.
Preparations Before Crossing The Friendship Bridge
For most people traveling into Laos across the Friendship Bridge you’ll need to make an application for a visa, on your arrival. As part of the application process you’ll need to have a passport sized photo taken.
Tip: It is best to get your passport photos taken in the town of Nong Khai before heading to the border crossing. It is possible to get the photos done when you are at the border. But at the border there are often long queues to use the photo service. We spotted countless photo and copy shops in the Nong Khai town and the rates were much cheaper than at the border crossing.
You’ll need cash too, there are ATMs near the border crossing, a few small shops including a 7-11 and there is a currency exchange booth. Buy both USD and KIP before you leave Thailand.
Tip: Kip is worthless outside of Laos, make sure to exchange any left over notes before you leave.
Nong Khai To Vientiane Over The Friendship Bridge
We stayed the night in a small hotel at Nong Khai so we could wake up and tackle the border crossing first thing in the morning. There weren’t really any public transport options (that we knew about, at least), so we chose to flag down a tuk-tuk. The tuk-tuk costs in Nong Khai are much more reasonable than in Bangkok, the going rate is 50 Baht a person. So for the two of us we paid 100 Baht and set off on the 4 Kilometer ride to the Friendship Bridge border crossing.
At the Nong Khai Border Crossing there was no queue at all, to depart Thailand. We handed our passports over to the immigration officer, received the exit stamp from on the Thailand side of the friendship bridge border and that was that. It took less than a minute.
How To Cross The Nong Khai Border From Thailand to Laos
Once we had departed Thailand the next step was figuring out how to get across the bridge. I had hoped to be able to walk across to get the views of the Mekong river and both Thailand and Laos. But it turns out that crossing the Nong Khai border on foot is prohibited.
The best option to cross the border is using the shuttle bus service. You can buy a bus ticket for 35 Baht after you’ve passed the Thai immigration departure checkpoint. The bus takes about ten minutes to reach the Laos immigration point and the service leaves regularly.
Tip: On the Thai side of the border, before you depart you’ll be swamped by taxi drivers and Tuk-Tuk drivers offering to take you over the Nong Khai border crossing and over the Friendship Bridge. The prices we were quoted cost anywhere from 500 – 1000 Baht. Don’t fall for it! You don’t need to pay for a taxi, the shuttle bus crosses the bridge every few minutes for 35 Baht!
Arriving Into Laos on The Friendship Bridge
Once you have crossed the bridge using the shuttle bus you’ll need to apply for your visa on arrival and then get stamped into Laos. I’ve dedicated an entire post with all info you need to know in preparation to getting a Laos Visa on Arrival.
With you visa in hand it’s a case of heading to the check point on the Laos side of the friendship bridge where an immigration officer will plant an entrance stamp in your passport. You can then walk through, into Laos.
Tip: The SIM card you were using for data won’t work after you’ve crossed the Friendship Bridge into Laos. There is a money exchange kiosk just after the Laos passport check point where you can buy a local SIM card. It’s a straightforward process and the cards are pre-registered. It costs 80 Thai Baht and there is 10 GB of data pre-loaded, I definitely recommend buying one and swapping out your SIM at the border.
From The Laos Side Of The Border to Vientiane City
Once you have crossed the Friendship Bridge, and used your visa on arrival to enter Laos the last step of the journey is getting from the Friendship Bridge into the city.
You’ll have a choice of taking a private Taxi/Tuk-Tuk or taking the local bus.
The local bus is cheaper and costs around 50 Baht a person. However the benefit of taking a private Tuk-Tuk is that you can travel directly to your hotel, instead of going to the bus station first.
The journey from Nong Khai to Vientiane City center is around 20 Kilometers and takes about 30- 40 minutes. We pooled the journey with another couple who we met at the border and ended up paying 400 Baht in total or 100 Baht each to get directly to our accommodation.
Train Across The Nong Khai Friendship Bridge
If you want to take the train instead you’ll need to plan your journey times accordingly. There are only two trains crossing the bridge each day. The train takes 10-15 minutes and leaves from Nong Khai Station, Thailand. Arriving at Thanleng Station, Vientiane, Laos. Tickets cost 20 baht and the train is never full. You can buy a ticket in person at the station. Note there is no visa on arrival service when entering Laos using the train.
Nong Khai to Thanleng (Friendship Bridge Train) Timetable: