In this video we're taking the night bus from Chiang Mai to Vientiane in Laos. We're going to Laos to get a new 60 day visa for Thailand, and Vientiane is supposed to be a quick and easy visa run. We talked about just doing it the very easy way and flying to Kuala Lumpur, but we really wanted to experience Laos, so that's what we're going to do now!
Because we are traveling on a pretty tight budget, we're taking the night bus from Chiang Mai instead of just flying. We found a good deal on some plane tickets on the way back (from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai), but on the way to Vientiane we've chosen the night bus to save money.
The night bus leaves at 8.30 pm every night from Chiang Mai's bus terminal. It goes directly to Nong Khai, so in some ways it's actually easier than flying. When you fly from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani, it's a one hour drive from Udon Thani to Nong Khai. We weren't too sure about the whole night bus thing, but it turned out to be a really comfortable journey. The night bus from Chiang Mai to Nong Khai was 820 baht per person.
When you get to the bus terminal in Nong Khai, you'll have to get a tuktuk to the border (the Friendshio bridge). Expect to pay 80 baht if you're on your own or 50 baht per person if you're more than one person in the tuktuk. Our driver said 150 baht, we said 100 and he immediately agreed. I think that is the standard rate, but if you drive a hard bargain (which we didn't even attempt to do), you may be able to get a better deal.
When you get to the border, you have to get stamped out of Thailand. The process is very easy – just show your passport and your departure card at immigration, and they'll stamp you out. When you have your stamp, you'll have to get a bus ticket for the bus that goes to the other side of the Friendship bridge. You're not allowed to walk across the border so you just pay the 15 baht (+5 baht overtime morning and night) and jump on the bus.
When you cross the Friendship, you're in Laos and will have to fill out a visa application form. It's very easy and we didn't even have to fill out our address in Laos (or Thailand for that matter). You'll probably encounter one of the many tuktuk drivers who'll try to tell you that you will have to pay them to take you from the border to Vientiane. That is simply not true. We got so confused that we asked the visa officer, and even he said that that was the only way. Again – that wasn't true. Oh well, you hand in your application and pay $36 (if you're from Canada it's $42, don't ask me why!), and then you wait a few minutes before you get your visa. You go through immigration, and then you're really in Laos.
And now. Chaos. Tuktuk drivers and taxi drivers everywhere. If you want to drive 22 kilometres in a tuktuk and pay more than five times the price of a bus ticket, now is the time to find a tuktuk. If you just want to find the bus, there's a small opening to your right where you can exit the taxi/tuktuk area. Continue about 50 metres into Laos where you'll find the bus stop. The busses are green and white, and bus number 145 will take you from the border to the center of Vientiane (near the Morning Market). There's AC on the bus, and the ride takes about 40 minutes.
When you get to Vientiane, chances are that you're going to be pretty close to your hotel. At least if you're staying in the tourist center near the Mekong river. The tuktuk drivers lied to us and told us there was no way we could walk that far. "3 kilometres!" they said over and over again. According to my map, we'd only have to walk 500 metres, so that's what we did and it only took us about 6 or 7 minutes to walk to our hotel. They wanted us to pay 50.000 KIP (200 baht) to take us there. When they figured out that we were planning to walk, they went down to 30.000 KIP (120 baht), but there's really was no need for a tuktuk.
And that's it – the whole process of getting from Chiang Mai to Vientiane by bus. It sounds hard and long and tiresome, but it really wasn't that bad. The bus was extremely comfortable, the visa process was easy. The only thing that was a bit stressful was the part where we had to escape to taxi drivers and find the bus that everyone told us wasn't there. Fortunately we met a local Thai guy who pointed us in the right direction, which was literally metres away from the taxi guys.
– Night bus from Chiang Mai to Nong Khai (820 baht each)
– Tuktuk from Nong Khai bus terminal to the Frienship Bridge (50 baht each)
– Bus over the Friendship Bridge (20 baht each)
– Visa for Laos ($36 each)
– Bus from the border to Vientiane (6000 KIP ≈ 25 baht each)
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