Getting Laos and Getting Away

Transport infrastructure in Laos is barely recognizable considering what existed a few years ago. Huge, foreign-funded road on projects have transformed the network of rough dirt tracks into relatively luxurious sealed affairs. The lack of potholes has ushered in a battalion of buses and services, and getting aroundLaos is easy and cheap, if sometimes very slow.

Many travelers are choosing to come and go via Laos’s numerous land and river borders, something we’ve acknowledged in this guide by giving detailed descriptions of all border crossings that were open to foreigner when we researched this edition. While many border options, flying into Lao is refreshing in that you don’t need to shop around much – only a few airlines Laos and prices don’t vary much.

It’s is possible to enter Laos by land or air from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam or China. Land border are often remote and the traveling be tough either side, but the actual crossing is usually pretty simple.

The only real prerequisites for entering Laos passport with six months’ validity and a visa if you are crossing at one of the few borders where you can’t get a visa on arrival, such as the Cambodian border at Voen Kham.

Laos shares land and/or river borders with Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, China and Vietnam: see the color map at the start of this guide for their locations.

Getting Laos and Getting Away

In this book we give detailed instructions for every crossing open to foreigners. These details appear as boxed texts in the relevant chapters – the information in this chapter outlines these possibilities and points you to the boxes. Most crossings involve changing transport at the border, even when you’ve paid for a “direct” bus. Five of the crossings on the western border with Thailand involve quick boat trips across the Mekong.

It’s possible to bring your own vehicle into Laos from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia with the right paperwork and Lao customs don’t object to visitors bringing bicycles into the country.

In Thailand, trains run to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge and to Ubon Ratchathani, two to three hours from the Lao border.

Unless stated otherwise, Laos issues 30-day tourist visas at crossings that are open to foreigners.

The border with Cambodia at Voen Kham I is open and while it’s possible to get a Cambodian visa on arrival, for now you need to get your Laos visa in advance. There are two border points, one for road crossings and the other for boats to Stung Treng.


Getting Laos and Getting Away

You can cross between Yunnan Province in China and Luang Nam Tha Province in Laos at Boten. From Mohan on the Chinese side it’s a two-to-three-hour minibus ride to Mengla, the nearest large town.

Foreigners are not allowed to cross between Laos and Myanmar. However, with a valid visa you could try to cross at Xieng Kok, on the Mekong north of Huay Xai, though success is far from guaranteed.

There are seven crossings to Thailand open foreigners. Several involve taking a boat across the Mekong, or crossing the river on one of the Friendship bridges.


Getting Laos and Getting Away

 See the following link for more information:

If we had a Beerlao for every email we’ve received from travellers who’ve been scammed while the border between Vietnam and Laos, we’d be able to have a very big party. There are several different scams you might encounter, and plenty of lies you’ll be told that won’t necessarily cost you money but will most certainly piss you off.

Among the most common is the ’12 hour’ bus between Vientiane and Hanoi, which is in fact a 20 to 24-hour trip including several hours spent waiting for the border to open. Once across the border (mainly at Nam Phao / Cau Treo but also Dansavanh / Lao Bao) another common scam) involves the suddenly rising price. You’ll know this one when your bus stops and b an extra, say, US$20 each to continue. This one also applies to local transport from the border further Into Vietnam, be it by motorbike, public bus, truck or – the worst-tourist-oriented minibuses.

The nastiest part about these scams is you can’t do much to avoid them, no matter how many questions you ask or assurance you seek. The best thing to do is just go with the flow and hope your crossing is trouble fee, as many are. If you do come across a problem, try to keep your smile on face, and get the best result – usually paying a lower amount. As attractive as it might sound, venting your frustrations through your fists makers matter much worse.

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