Thailand: Bangkok to Vientiane Visa Run with Thai Visa Service

So, I’ve been in Thailand a few months, got my Visa extension in Chang Wattana and have decided I want to stay longer – all of which requires a Visa run.  A visa run for the unitinitated is a trip to cross the border, and in my case to a local embassy to get a new tourist visa.

There are 3 main types of visa runs:

  1. A return flight overseas that gets you a free 30 day visa on arrival 
  2. A “border bounce” where you literally drive to the border, cross, then re enter thailand minutes later, getting you either free 15 days visa on arrival (30 days if on a Malaysian Passport), or counting as an “entry” on a double or single entry visa and reseting your days back to 0
  3. A trip to a nearby overseas consulate, where you apply for whatever the most appropriate visa is (usually a tourist visa, work permit, etc).  Certain Embassys/consulates have a certain reputation for whether they can get a double, single visa or not.  The best place to check is, currently Vientiane, Laos is supposed to be the best place for a Double Entry tourist Visa, while Penang, Malaysia is more convenient for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (due to being able to use an agent).

My friends typically have organised the runs themselves, but after looking at the web I’d found that Thai Visa Service provided what appeared to be a reasonable priced service, that I basically didn’t have to plan anything on, if anything it appeared too cheap (6300 baht for me, including transport, accomodation, food and both Laos + Thai Visa applications).  So I decided to give it a go to let friends know what the service was actually like, and whether it was value for money.

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I’m back in Thailand now, arrived home an hour early, still alive and with my visa, so I’d say it was definately worth it.  Heres how it works:

Visa Application – Bangkok to Vientiane/Lao PDR.
To apply Thai Tourist Visa OR Non Immigrant Visa (requirements on the visa rule page) our confirmed trips for February 2013: Sunday 17th, Wednesday 20th, Monday 25th and Wednesday 27th.

March 2013: Sunday 3rd, Tuesday 5th, Sunday 10th, Wednesday 13th, Sunday 17th, Wednesday 20th, Sunday 24th, Wednesday 27th and Sunday 31th.

April 2013: Wednesday 3rd, Monday 8th, Wednesday 17th, Sunday 21th, Wednesday 24th and Sunday 28th.

In case you hold a temporary Passport you can apply for a 30days Transit Visa only

Due to recent incidents we reserve the right to drop drunk/ intoxicated and other trouble makers at the closest bus station. The Royal Thai Embassy refuse Visa if you turn up drunk.

“Warning: DO NOT purchase, possess, consume any illegal drugs while in Thailand and Laos”

Meeting is 07.30pm (evening) corner of parking lot Tesco ON NUT, next to the BTS Station ON NUT, beneath the Tesco Advertisement board.
08:00pm (evening) is the departure for Vientiane/Laos, one way appr. 9 hours.
The Exit/Entry point of Thailand is Nong Khai, the border operate from 06:00am to 10:00pm. Enforced by Thai Immigration Nong Khai, in case of Non-Immigrant Visa Type “B” with work permit and you resign before the expiration date, you must immediately cancel the visa at Thai Immigration. In case your visa and work permit is going to end it is not necessary to cancel the visa or to return the Work Permit, however the company must issue a letter confirming the last day of your employment. The cancellation will be done at Thai Immigration Nong Khai Head Office, which is about 2km from the border away.You will not be able to leave without the cancellation stamp or the letter. Transfer of stamps from old to new Passport is also done at the Head Office, which opens 8am only, but we shall arrange transport and assistance for you.
At Thai/Laotian Border and Royal Thai Embassy, we assist with visa formalities, everyone has to apply now in person. Upon completion we check into Nakhonesack Hotel III,(856-21)265 133 with Swimming Pool and breakfast buffet will be provided. At 05:30pm we invite for Dinner, buffet style.
Next day breakfast buffet and 12:30pm check out, we’ll pick up Passport and head straight to Thailand, on the way back Dinner. We expect to arrive Bangkok around midnight. If you have to sleep over, nearby is the MADEE HOSTEL, Sukhumvit Soi 50, 02-7428066,
VIP VAN – 9+1 seat, THB 2,750.- include transfers, Single/Double Room, 3 buffet meals and 1 dinner.

Filipino: Group Van- 14+1 seat, THB 1,800.-include transfers, Shared Room, 5 meals. As of 1st February 2013 Filipino will be issued Single Entry Tourist visa only.

Laos Arrival Visa, for Visa and entry stamp pay THB 1,550.-(Canadians THB 1,800). Payment in USD is possible, but only recommended if we arrive early, in that case hand in the Laos Visa form by yourself, depending of Nationality you pay between USD30.-to42.-. Exempted are: Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, S’pore, Switzerland, Thailand and Vietnam.

Thai Visa Fees: THB 1,000.- Single Entry Tourist, THB 2,000. – for Double Entry Tourist and Single Entry Non Immigration Visa. (Yearly Multiple Entry not available.) Exempted are: S’pore, Malaysia and Korea.

DUTY FREE ALLOWANCE: Per Person 200 Cigarettes and 1 Liter Alcoholic Beverage, heavy fines are imposed if caught and we can not help you pay the fine.

Note: Trips to Vientiane/Lao PDR. require Passport, 3 ID-pictures , 1 copy ID-page. Passport: remaining validity, at least 6 month prior to the Visa application and has 2-3 blank visa pages reserved for VISA application!Citizens of a total of 29 countries, mostly Africans and from Middle East need to get the Laos Visa at the Laos Embassy in Bangkok prior to travel, include Turkey.

My experience:

I left home at around 5pm, in heavy Bangkok traffic, deciding that a taxi was too risky I took a motorbike taxi to our local (which isn’t really local) BTS station in Wongwin Yai and then rode the BTS to Siam and then on to On Nut.

The meeting point is by the “Big sign outside Tesco Lotus”  which if exiting the BTS on the Tesco side of the road should appear on the right hand side in the large carpark.  There are two “large” signs, the meeting point is at the larger of the two.

You should notice a large amount of white late model Toyota minivans, as well as foreigners (usually a lot of Filipinos + white english teaches) milling around with their passports.  At this stage you hand over your passport to the Visa service who will prepare some of the intiial paperwork (including Laos and Thai Visa Applications + Departure cards) and you will be directed to a Van.  You are not given your passport untill just before leaving, and this isn’t clearly communicated.  Don’t worry – this appears to be normal.

Being Thailand – everything happens on Thai time, so don’t expect things to leave on time, but be ready just in case.  The vans are large comfortable minivans with good airconditioning, bring something warm, and a pillow/eye covers for sleeping.  Just before leaving a staff member will come with your passport, and documents to collect the money before leaving – all up including all costs my visa + transport and accom was 6300 baht.

We left Bangkok at around 9pm, took a few bathroom, food and fuel breaks along the way and arrived on the Thai/Laos border at around 5:30am the next day.  Getting out of the car and it was COLD! I’m used to Bangkok’s 30 degree weather and I’m sure it was 12-13 degrees and the air was clean.  Bring something warm!  The border doesn’t actually open until 6pm, so its a bit of eating, milling around and filling out paperwork before lining up for Thai immigration.

MekongOnce you clear Thai immigration all passports are given back to the Thai Visa service, and everyone goes on a bus across to the Laos side of the friendship bridge.  You clear the border as a group and are able to skip the queue (one of the benifits it seems of the organised group) and are then given your passports with your fresh Laos visa (if you go by yourself you have to line up to the Laos visa Application, do this individually, then line up for immigration – we just walked through en masse).

ThaiembassyThen onto a new set of minivans (Laos drives on the other side of the road) and off to the Thai Embassy.  Staff jump off on the way to a local copy shop to photocopy your passport pages for the Visa app and necessary paperwork.

Thai Embassy 2For the Thai embassy the only formality is that you have to apply in person, so everyone is given passports back, then line up and hand in the application.  At this stage one person was told they would be denied a visa due to too many tourist visas (and possibly not enough blank passport pages) in the past.  Suggestion for Thailand is use the smaller passports (rather than the large 50+ page ones) and if you start to get a lot of visas – then get a new passport from your embassy.  She was just given a border crossing, but did get a partial refund from the visa service for the Visa app fee.

NakonsakOnce this was done it was off to the Hotel, which from the outside looks nice if a little run down (but to be expected for a developing nation – but definatley was nice enough for the money spent.  The only downside was the Wifi was down for everyone but one of us at a time (somethign weird on settings maybe) and while the rooms had hot water, it appears that if you are at the end of the hallway the pressure is non existent.

Tuk TukWith nothing else to do, we started to drink, at 11:30, then swimming followed by more drinking and hitting Viantenne for more beers for a Valentines day in town.   The night is a bit of a blur but I’m assured it was fun.  It turns out Tuk Tuk drivers won’t let you drive, even if you offer to pay more!

Visa CrewThe next morning it was the included buffet breakfast, then waiting, almost getting killed by a drunk russian who took offense to something I said, then more waiting until finally we were ready to go.  Off we went in the minivans again to the border (still no passports) and were told to check out duty free for 30 mins.  We were taken out of Laos, and into the no mans land (again skipping the queues) and then given our passports.  We had our visas.

We left at around 1pm, and arrived back in Bangkok at 11pm.  All in all a pretty painless exercise, communication isn’t the best – but everything works out in then end and for 6300 baht for a double entry you can’t complain!

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  1. Thanks for the run down. I have to do a visa run next week and was thinking about using this service. What is the deal with the hotel — do you have to share a room?

    Also how nasty are those minivans for a 10 hour trip?

  2. Hi Chris,

    Hotel is a private room (though I understand often the Filipinos share a room – by choice).

    My room had pretty low water pressure and the wifi didn’t really work. But apart from that it was fine.

    Minivans all depend on what the people are like in them, drivers drove safely (by Thai Standards) in my view and got there on time. I always ask for the front seat, as that allows me to charge my phone (and rinse my 3G until I get to the border) using the cigarette lighter

    • Cheers, Mike. Appreciate the input about the hotel. Another visa run service uses shared rooms but this one didn’t say one way or the other so I wondered. I probably won’t need the wifi anyway. I think I will be looking at the visa run as a 36 hour cold turkey holiday from the wired world.

      How do you feel the bumps in that van? If it’s late model, then that is somewhat better for shock absorption. I’m not a great sleep on moving vehicles of any kind anyway (planes, trains or automobiles) but it’s better if the driver isn’t gunning it the whole way. I may have to purchase some sleeping pills and hope for the best.

      Have you done any DIY visa runs other than the one in Penang? Good if you have some extra time so you don’t feel stressed out about making the embassy deadlines, etc. Trouble is I don’t have the luxury of a 3 or 4 day break right now.

      • I thought the ride was comfortable. Vans were late model Toyota Hi-Aces with air con and all the upgrades. They were full but not overloaded. Didn’t notice bumps – Thai roads to Laos are of a surprising high quality (ESP compared to Koh Tao where I am living now).

        Not sure re Penang as I came via there and took the train from butterworth.

        • So maybe some sleep is possible. OK, sounds good. I probably will try it out. Even if I feel like a wuss for doing so!

  3. nice pics of thailand and its a good news for foreigners Presently, there is no official limit to the number of Tourist Visas and now it is possible to remain indefinitely in Thailand and if you face any difficulty in Tourist Visa or Work Permit then……Click Here

  4. Good afternoon, how can I get thai visa in Vientiane Lao? Because I need to exit tomorrow September 16.
    Thank you

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