A few days ago, I made my first visa to Laos by bus.
Usually I go to Singapore to get a 60-day tourist visa, but the last time I went, they refused to give me a 60-day visa because I have an open electronic travel ticket to Canada. Now they want a confirmed ticket, and they will not accept an open ticket. This is stupid, if you ask me. The lady at the front desk told that if the violence in Bangkok is bad, I can call Air Canada and be on my way the next day, so the open ticket is much better than the one on a certain date. No dice. So I had to go back to Bangkok and get a regular 30-day entrance at the airport. The whole trip cost me 18,000 baht, expense of hotels, flights, meals, taxis, etc.
I made a visa twice on a bus to Cambodia, and found pain in the exam, as you only get 14 days and then you have to do it again, and it costs 2000 baht each time.
Until this time, I participated in the bus to Vientiane.
I must say that the service provided by the visa operator was excellent; the bus (40 seats) was full, and the same comfortable bus that you used to operate Cambodia, was with the same driver. The driver is relatively conservative, seems to be aware of the fact that he has got 40 farang cars, and he's also keen to drive as you want.
The PB Tower bus at Sukhumvit Soi 71 completely left at 8:30 pm.
There was a urine break about an hour later at a service center, then two more hours later, and so on, all night. This gave the driver a chance to relax a little, which I thought was a good idea.
Unfortunately, I was never able to sleep on a bus or plane, and this trip was no exception. As my companion was in his seat snoring excitedly at night, the eye sellers sat there, and I moved in my seat periodically when my pumpkin was hit. I appreciate the rest as well.
The DVD movie was played at the beginning of the flight, but after its completion, it was after 11 pm, so no more films were shown.
We reached the border early, before 6:30. I watched the sun come up. We had to sit for a while until the border office opened, then one of the bus company ladies handled all our passports. She previously collected them on the bus.
After stamped from Thailand, we took 3 minibuses (via trucks) across the bridge (Mekong River) to Laos, where we waited again while the lady got our passports that are handled by the Lao immigration. In less than an hour, we took the minibuses to Vientiane, and we reached the street of the Thai embassy at about 7:30 or 7:40 am. There were already at least 200 people lining up along the sidewalk, and it was hot.
The embassy gates were opened around 8:15 a.m., and we were all placed in the embassy compound. There was a ticket machine at the front, and we joined the waiting list.
However, our former visa lady escorted us with stairs to an air-conditioned area and delivered low-number tickets from the machine. Our numbers started around 95, while the people in the ticket machine were getting more than 350 tickets. So I assumed they were in touch with each other at Vientiane who stood at the beginning of the line at the gates early in the day, then passed tickets to her when she arrived After an hour or more.
Ticket numbers were called through the Public Address System in Thai and English, and were repeated once: "Ticket Number 37, please proceed to Number 2".
I soon noticed that there was no interruption in the way the figures were explained, the advertisements came non-stop, and soon reached the eighties. We all rushed to the basement and went there when our numbers appeared. But the numbers are just kept on rolling. Our lady collected our passports and tickets, all lined up along the counter, then told us to wait in the other building.
There, we found that there were four other counters, number 3 through 6, but only one counter, was active, and at least 100 people were waiting and sitting on chairs. This waiting room was also air-conditioned.
Again, the numbers were called, but this time there were big gaps between, and there was a big pause after each number was called. When a number was called, a person went up to counter 4, received a paper receipt, and then left the stage.
After each batch of 10 or 12 numbers, there was a delay of 5 or 6 minutes. It was when I noticed that the Thai lady behind the counter was printing and then separating the receipts. It is clear that passports and applications are processed in the other building, entered into a computer, and then the receipt was printed in this building on the counter 4.
After about 30 or 40 minutes, my number was called. I went to the counter, got a receipt and got out. The guy next to me had a lower number, but his number wasn't called, so he got a little upset and went up to the table, where the lady asked him to wait.
I left the exit, and there was a woman who ran the visa collecting the receipts, and then greeted us with a truck. My receipt showed "60 days Double Tourist Entry Visa" and "Fee: $ 0", so I was happy.
We took the truck to a local restaurant where we had a Thai / Lao breakfast or a lunch of fried rice and anything. This was free, paid by the visa company, but soft drinks were an additional 20 baht.
In Laos, you can use Lao kip, Thai baht and US dollar interchangeably. If you drive in Thai baht, you can change in Thai baht. If you pay in US dollars, you will get a change in ko Lao, which, like the Cambodian currency, has very high and worthless categories. Pepsi was 20 baht, which is reasonable, but diet drinks are not available. By the way, Laos ATMs dispense only Lao Cape.
After lunch, we took the truck to the hotel, which turned out to be quite acceptable, maybe 2.5 stars. There was no pool, just a room, but it was a large room, private bathroom, cable or satellite TV with many Thais, a few Lao, and some movie channels, including HBO and Star Movies.
The bathroom was in typical Thai style, with no shower stall or bathtub, and a shower head on the wall. There was a flash water heater running, and the toilet was running. The towels were large, red, fluffy, and obviously fresh.
I paid an additional 200 baht at the front desk for a private room. A visa processing fee of 5,000 baht includes a common room (2 per room). The fee will increase to 6000 baht after the free tourist visa offer expires on June 5.
In bed before one in the afternoon, I slept for several hours, I woke up, it rained, I watched a movie, and then I went out looking for dinner. I walked up and down the main street near the hotel, but there was nothing attractive. However, the office complex 20 meters from the hotel had a restaurant, so I went there and found 5 other farangs from the visa working there too. The food was good, prices were not expensive, and I was able to pay baht thai. The young woman behind the bar is perhaps the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, and she has traveled to Thailand for 20 years. It made me wish I was 25.
The next day, I had breakfast at the same restaurant, then around 1 pm, we were put in trucks again and taken to the border. There are many "duty-free" shops on the border. We waited about 45 minutes or so, and then the lady who ran the visa appeared, and we all went through immigration affairs with people from the Lao border who only look at us, and we don't ask them to see our passports, which were held by the visa lady.
Returning across the bridge to Thailand, where we waited another 45 minutes or so, then returned on the bus for the return trip. Within an hour, we stopped at a restaurant, where we had another Thai meal, and again free soft drinks, 20 baht.
The return journey looks much faster, as many DVD movies have been played, which occupy time and reason.
We arrived in Bangkok at 1:30 am. You can go anywhere along the way; some have left Ramkhaming. I waited to the end, which is next to Ekamai BTS station, as I quickly discovered that BTS was closed. Ride the 80 baht taxi later, you are at home again.
Will I do that again? definitely yes. The whole process was largely automatic. The company takes care of everything. You must reserve a seat in advance. It seems that one of Varang's sons was summoned to know the price and time, and he was angry that he had no seat. But he didn't make a reservation, and didn't leave his name or phone number, so he was lucky. Of course, he had left it until the last day of his visa, so he had to leave the next day in one way or another and pay 500 baht of residence fees.
To summarize: depart at 8:30 pm, and spend the night on the bus. Then it's half a day waiting around, with lunch included. Check in at the hotel, sleep a little or, if you have stamina, explore Vientiane. Not much, though. Have dinner and sleep one night at the hotel. The next day, wait in the morning or visit Vientiane, then ride to Bangkok, around 1:30 am.
If you want to do it yourself, the company you used was "Quick Thai Visa Run", 6th floor, PB Tower, Sukhumvit Soi 71. or 09-0245-255 (24 hours). They have a website on ThaiVisaRun.com, but it hasn't been updated for a while, and it just mentions Cambodia running, not Laos running.