If you’ve wanted to stay in Thailand longer than the time stamped on your visa when you first arrived you know you’re going to have to make a ‘visa run’ at some point or pay 500 Baht per day that you overstay.
Visa runs have been popular in Thailand for decades but as more tourists arrive and never want to leave the country it’s become more complicated and expensive than it used to be. If you happen to be right next to the Laos, Cambodia, or Malaysian border it’s a pretty quick trip but if you’re in Bangkok or Phuket its going to take you 48 – 72 hours to get it done unless you fly.
It’s not quick or cheap to make a run for the border. My last visa run took 72 hours and cost me over 4,000 Baht in transportation, visas, accommodation, and food. And all for only a 15 day extension. Many countries receive a 30 day visa when they first fly into Thailand but when you enter from overland the visa is only valid for 15 days, regardless if your country qualifies for 30 day visas at the airport.
How to make a visa run from Bangkok to Vientiane;
1) book an overnight bus from Mo Chit bus station to Nong Khai (the Thai border town nearest to Vientiane). The bus will depart Mo Chit station at around 19:00 depending on which company you take.
2) arrive about 08:00 at the Nong Khai bus station and take a tuk tuk for 50 Baht to the border
Note: Don’t fall for the scam where they take you to a place to get your visa before the border. Just tell the tuk tuk driver that you already have a Laos visa and don’t need one, otherwise he’ll take you to a place that will overcharge you for what you could have gotten at the border.
3) at the Laos border pay for your visa in US Dollars! The price is about 50% higher for the exact same visa if you pay in Thai Baht. There is no reason or logic behind this but it’s true.
4) spend the night in Vientiane (it’s about 20km from the border crossing). It’s a lovely town and it’s worth more than one night if you can stick around.
5) the next morning go back to the border crossing and go to Thailand. Make sure to cross the border before it closes at 17:00. The train back to Bangkok leaves about 18:20 and does sell out quickly or you can take a bus from Nong Khai to Bangkok around 19:00 from the city bus station.
A note on the train;
The train is always 2-4 hours late to arrive in Bangkok. It will leave on time but will always arrive late. I have no idea why this is but it’s been true for at least the last 7 years and I doubt it will change. The buses are more likely, but not always, on time.