For those who just want the juicy facts…
Total Cost for Visa run from Chiang Mai to Houay Xai in Laos
To enter Laos you need to fill out an immigration form, arrivals card, hand in $35 and one passport photo.
902 Green Bus – 80 Boat – 80 Tuk Tuk – 100 new sunglasses – 400 accommodation – 200 massage 1000 food and drinks + Visa 35US + photos 50
Total cost – 2712 THB = $90USD + $35 = $125
How can I be original with my visa run post? Hundreds of bloggers live in Chiang Mai and write about visa runs so I figured I would make a video and drop some John Butler Trio over it to show my experience with my visa run from Chiang Mai to Houay Xai in Laos. I was going to do the run with a mini van tour operator who can pick you up at the hotel at 7am and have you back at 6pm for 650 THB, but I decided to stay for two days in Houay Xai Laos to have a look around.
Visa Run Video
I traveled with Green Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong and the ticket cost me 401THB each way for a VIP seat on the bus. You can get a ticket for 272 if you want a cheaper option. It was actually really nice and comfortable. They provide you with a small bottle of water and light snack when you get on and then put on a movie for the journey and I ended up watching GI-Joe in Thai.
Upon arrival in Chiang Khong I got a tuk tuk for 40THB to the border crossing on the Mekong RIver. There were signs everywhere saying you need passport photos and USD to get the Laos visa.
I purchased a 40THB ticket to get a long-tail boat across to Houay Xai and queued up to get my exit stamp. We crossed the mighty Mekong in a rickety longtail boat. It is a dirty brown colour and looks like you would come out with all sorts of diseases if you jumped in for a dip!
FYI- You can pay at the immigration counter in Laos in Thai Baht but you need to have one passport photo. They were 50THB and you cannot get them on the Laos side so make sure you buy them in Thailand or you will be getting a boat back across the river. Also make sure you get an exit stamp or they will not let you into Laos. There was three Irish girls who never got an exit stamp and had to take a boat back to get their stamps.
I bought $35 for 1250THB. There was no real need to do this as they charge the same at the immigration window. I had read online that they will try to charge more if you don’t have USD but they didn’t..What I did see was a girl try to pay with a $20 that had a rip in it and they wouldn’t accept it. She took it back to the window where she purchased the $20 and they wouldn’t give her a different one! She was pissed..
Once I had my stamp I wandered up the short street where people are trying to sell you tours and trips to Luang Prabang. Many tourists use this as an entry point to Laos and then catch a bus or sail down the Mekong in a slow boat to explore more of Laos. I walked to the right and looked at rooms in a few places. They were humid and smelled bad so I settled for what I considered the best of a bad bunch. (Later I would realise that if I had turned left at the top of the hill there is a few nice places to check in).
My plan was to stay for two days and see what was in the area. To be honest there is not much to do. I visited Fort Carnot and a buddhist temple and spent the rest of my time talking with a Brazilian guy and making these videos!