Thai visa & border
The Thai border to Laos at Nong Khai is popular among backpackers and people who are living in Thailand on tourist visa and do visa runs. Many of those are traveling over land to the Nong Khai border. Do the border crossing and get themselves from there straight to the Thai embassy in Vientiane to apply for a new two month Thai visa. The next day is pick up and they can cross the border back into Thailand.
The cost of a two month valid Thai visa at the embassy in Vientiane is 1000 baht and you don’t need to show a plane ticket out of Thailand or financial statements as at most other Thai embassies in Asia. Keep in mind that on a good day you’ll have 100 applicants in front of you and on a bad day (for the applicants) 600. When you cross this border on a free visa stamp, you’ll get only two weeks validity, which can only be extended with seven days. Most backpackers ‘doing’ southeast Asia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, travel through the border at Nong Khai. The border itself is the Mekong, so, the Friendship bridge over the Mekong is the piece of no man’s land between Thailand and Laos.
From wherever place you come in Thailand by bus, you will stop at the Nong Khai bus station. How to get to the border and/or to Vientiane depends on yourself. There is a possibility of taking a bus from Nong Khai bus station to Vientiane, but you should check beforehand if you need to have a Laos visa already in your passport or that you can apply for one at the border. It might be possible that the bus won’t wait for visa on arrival applicants, as there can be long lines and waiting time.
Don’t worry too much about it. You just take a tuktuk at Nong Khai bus station to the border. There is a board with fixed prices on it, so, you won’t be ripped off too much. The fixed price by tuktuk to the border is 80 baht ($2,5) for one person, which is fairly reasonable for the distance. When you travel with more than one person, you pay 50 baht each. At arrival you walk a 100 meters at the left side to the two counters for check out. Make sure you have your Thai departure card filled with you. When you have only some small rucksack and hand luggage you can pass without it being scanned or checked. No metal detectors either.
Friendship bridge #1, border Laos side
You aren’t allowed to walk over the bridge to the Laos side. You must buy a bus ticket at your right hand side where someone is checking tickets. 20 baht is charged for the bus, which goes as soon as it’s full. There are seven border crossings between Thailand and Laos of which four are called friendship bridge. Nong Khai friendship bridge is called number one. The bus stops near the building where at the counters you apply for a Laos visa on arrival. Lot’s of people are waiting there. It looks as if busy but most people are waiting for other reasons than visa.
In a left corner is counter 2, where you ask for an application form. You fill it on the table and give it at counter number 1, left from counter 2. There you pay the money in dollars. Different prices for different nationalities. They do accept Laotian kip instead of one or two dollar to make the payment correct so they don’t have to give you big change in dollars. Make sure to have the newest model dollar bank notes and no dirty or damaged notes either.
Then you walk to counter 3 and wait. It takes about 15 minutes before you get your passport with visa returned. It’s already stamped too, so you can pass the stamp counters when you walk ahead. Those stamp counters are for people who already have a visa in their passports. They need to get an arrival stamp. There are plenty of guys walking around who are willing to help you. Those guys are usually quite pushy and annoying. Ignore them. The only thing they do is filling the form for you and charge a 100 baht at least.
Now you are in Laos and see the tens of ‘taxi’ drivers coming to you. Those taxis charge 300 baht ($10) for the 20 km to Vientiane. All in all on a good day, you can pass from Nong Khai bus station to the border and crossing it into Laos with visa application, tuktuk and bus, in an hour or so. No hassle and no complications. An impression video can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fP45OH5IvAg&feature=youtu.be