Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam & Cambodia.
Available on entry at the airports and at some of the international crossings. A tourist visa costs US$20. At international airports you'll generally get the visa for that price, at overland crossings, overcharging may happen. You will require a pen and one photo. You can also apply for a Cambodian visa online through the Cambodia eVisa online website.
The Tourist Visa for Laos can be issued at some entry points or via a travel agency or Lao consulate. Via an embassy the visa should cost around US$30 -- depending on your nationality.
Visa on arrival is reliably available at most overland crossings between Thailand and Laos, including the Huay Xai, Vientiane, Savannakhet, Tha Khaek and Chong Mek entry points. It is also available at both Vientiane and Luang Prabang airports (US$30 - cash only, one passport photo). Visa on arrival is not available at the Paksan crossing. Nor is it available at the Cambodia crossing.
If you get your visa beforehand from a Lao embassy it should be valid for 30 days. ALL visas on arrival are now valid for 30 days. Be wary of being stamped in for 15 days on a 30 day visa.
IMPORTANT As of early December 2008, Thailand's visa-free-entry rules have changed -- effective immediately. If you're entering Thailand for tourism purposes and you're from one of the following 40 countries, you're eligible for a free 30-day stay in Thailand -- if you arrive by air. If you arrive by an overland crossing you will be granted only 15 days. You can leave Thailand and re-enter Thailand to get another 30 days for a total duration of 90 days within 6 months (assumming each time you arrive is by air). This means, for example, if you're planning a trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, which involves four stays in Thailand of ten days each, you DO NOT NEED to get a visa in advance. However if one of the stays is longer than 15 days, and you're arriving by land, you will need a tourist visa. If you're planning on more than 90 days in Thailand though, you will need to look into getting a proper Tourist visa at a Thai consulate or embassy.
The Tourist Visa for Vietnam must be issued before arrival and the typical visa is valid for 30 days. Depending on the consulate or embassy that issues it, the visa begins to expire from the day it is issued. Extension of Vietnamese visas is possible once you are in Vietnam.
The cost of a Vietnamese visa varies tremendously depending on where you apply -- a Vietnamese tourist visa costs A$70 in Sydney, Australia, but just US$25 in Jakarta, Indonesia and US$30 in Bangkok, Thailand. If you have the time, get your Vietnamese visa from a Vietnmese embassy somewhere in Asia.
Border crossing details
Thailand / Laos
Chiang Khong - Huay Xai
Open 08:00-18:00 7 days
A 30 day Lao visa on arrival is available for US$30 or 1,500B -- there's been many reports of the officials refusing to accept US cash (as they pocket the difference on the exchange rate). The Chiang Khong / Huay Xai crossing is one of the most popular crossing for independent travellers entering Laos from Thailand.
It is from Huay Xai that the slow boats to Luang Prabang, speed boats to Xieng Kok and land transport to Luang Nam Tha all commence, making this a veritable transport hub. After clearing customs on either side, it is a short five minute boat ride (costs 20B) over to the other side.
Thai Li - Nam Hueng
This fairly remote crossing would be a handy one to open up fully due to the fairly good road condition north to Pak Lai and onwards to Luang Prabang. Currently there are conflicting reports on its being open, although it appears it is easier to leave Laos this way than to enter it. There is no Lao visa on arrival available here, nor is there much at all in the way of regular pubic transport. See GT Rider for more information.
Nong Khai / Vientiane
Open 06:00-22:00 7 days
Lao visa on arrival is available at this crossing, the most popular means of entering Laos by land. The crossing is actually around 20km from Vientiane and a few km from the centre of Nong Khai, but regular and affordable transport is available in both directions.
Mukdahan / Savannakhet
With the construction of the Friendship Bridge II over the Mekong, all foreigners planning on travelling between Thailand and Laos at this crossing are required to use the bridge. Coming from Thailand, a minibus from Mukdahan takes you across the bridge itself, where there always tuk tuk drivers waiting to take you into Savannakhet.
Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khaek
This riverine crossing takes travellers from the riverfront of central Nakhon Phanom to the riverfront of central Tha Khaek. Boats run around a half dozen times a day, seven days a week. There is a small fee for the boat. Lao visas on arrival are available.
Chong Mek / Vang Tao
For those planning on visiting Pakse from Thailand, the Chong Mek, Vang Tao crossing is the most convenient. From Thailand a regular bus runs from Ubon Ratchathani to the border town of Chong Mek taking 1-1.5 hours. Sometimes you may be required to change buses as Phibun Mangsahan depending on the bus caught. Once deposited at Chong Mek it is a five minute walk through each crossing and regular songtheaws run from Vang Tao to Pakse, taking about one hour. Visa on arrival is available. There is an ATM in Chong Mek.
Bueng Kan / Paksan
From Laos, follow the sign off the main road, just passed the Manolom Guest House and follow the sign that says Port. A boat across the Mekong River costs 60B when full (seven to ten people). Arrive in the morning to catch the day-tripping Lao crossing to shop in Thailand to be sure of a full boat, otherwise it's 360B per boat to cross. No Lao visa on arrival is available crossing to the Lao side from Thailand, so be sure to get one ahead of time if you plan to use this border.
Ban Huay Kon / Muang Ngoen
Despites rumours to the contrary, this border crossing, at the very top of Nan province in Thailand, remains closed to foreign tourists. Should this change, there is accommodation available (with great views) at Ban Huay Kon.
Thailand / Cambodia
Aranyaprathet / Poipet
This is, by far the most popular, and the most dysfunctional border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodian visas on arrival are available. Crossing times can be in excess of three hours depending on the whims of the border officials, and, when combined with the often appalling state of the road to Siem Reap, it is almost worth flying (plus you'll then avoid Poipet which is an absolute armpit of a place). See the Tales of Asia website for the most in-depth coverage of this crossing.
Hat Lek / Ko Kong
A very straightforward crossing, the Hat Lek / Ko Kong crossing is most convenient for those planing on travelling between Thailand's Ko Chang and the Sihanoukville beach area of Cambodia -- which you can travel to by road or boat depending on the weather conditions. There are numerous reports of the Cambodian officials here being particularly troublesome and asking ridiculous amounts of money for visa on arrival -- the easiest way around this is to arrive with a visa already in hand. If you need to get to an ATM, there is an ATM in the Thai town of Hat Lek. Expect to pay 80B - 100B for a moto from the boat landing to the border -- this should included the bridge toll.
Pauljaymes reports: From Ko Kong to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville -- heard a story on the boat from a guy who'd been taken for a rough 15 hour ride from Ko Kong to Sihanoukville and had had such a nightmare he'd decided to get the boat straight back. Use the boat until the dry season and/or until the road's finished. Local ex-pats refer to the ferry as the 'Vomit Comet' -- be prepared for a bumpy ride.
Chong Jom / O Smach
We've not crossed here and have no information about it, but jaeng reports from a crossing in July 2005:
Border is open 07.00 - 20.00. There is no problem at all at the crossing gates of both sides. No line, no waiting, no extra fee. We hired a car with driver to Siem Reap for around 2,000 Baht.
Chong Sa Ngam / Anlong Veng
This crossing is very convenient to Anlong Veng but little else. If you are heading to Thailand via this crossing, there is no public transport from the border to any sizeable Thai towns, you will need to hitch a ride from the border for around 20km to a sealed road from where there is then occasional public buses, though you are better off to hitch at least as far as Route 24 along which there are very frequent buses.
Ban Pakard. Chantaburi / Phsa Prum, Pailin
This border allows for the fastest trip from Phnom Penh to Bangkok overland. The border is a thirty minute motorbike ride from Pailin and from the Thai side there are frequent minibuses to Chanthaburi an hour or so away. Cambodian visas on arrival are available.
Thailand / Malaysia
There are at least seven border crossings between Thailand and Malaysia which are open to foreigners. Running east to west they are: Ban Ta Ba (actually at the border village Ban Ta Ba), Sungai Kolok, Betong, Sadao, Pedang Besar, Wang Prajan and Kuala Perlis. The four most popular crossings are the boat crossing at Kuala Perlis, Pedang Besar, Sadao and Sungai Kolok. The border crossings at Sadao and Pedang Besar and open 24 hours, the others, daylight hours only.
Ban Ta Ba / Pengkalan Kulor
This tiny crossing is a few kilometres south of the Thai town of Tak Bai in the far south of Narathiwat province. From Ban Ta Ba it is easy to arrange onwards transport by songthaew to Tak Bai, Sungai Kolok. Narathiwat and further afield. On the Malay side there are regular buses to Kota Bharu. If you're heading to the Perhentian Islands, this crossing is closer to Kota Bharu than Sungai Kolok.
Sungai Kolok / Rantau Panjang
This popular crossing (though less so due to the strife in southern Thailand) is a straightforward "walk over the bridge" style border crossing. There is loads of transport from the Sungai Kolok side to transport throughout Thailand, including the train station, which is a ten minute walk from the border. On the Malay side, there are taxi and bus services to Kota Bharu -- most likely your next stopping off point.
The Malay frontier is around 7km and is easily reached by share-taxi from Betong town. We've never crossed here so can't help on the niceties on the Malay side. If you have crossed here, please leave a message about it.
Sadao / Changlun
This is one of the most popular crossings used for visa runs in southern Thailand, but for onwards travel it isn't a great choice because of lack of transport on the Malay side. From Sadao, in Thailand, it is straightforward to take a bus or songtheaw onwards to Hat Yai. This crossing is open 24-hours.
Better than nearby Sadao, Pedang Besar can be reached by bus, train or taxi from both sides. Like Sadao, this crossing is open 24-hours. If you're crossing on the train, you will need to disembark to clear customs.
A pretty obscure crossing, Wang Prajan is near Thaleban National Park in Satun province -- in fact the park entrance is walking distance from the border. There are irregular songtheaws from Satun to the border, though as we've not crossed here we can't help on transport on the other side. If you have crossed here, please leave a message about it.
This longtail trip takes you south from Thammalang pier (a half dozen km south of Satun) to the Malay town of Kuala Perlis. Boats depart regularly throughout the day and take an hour. Transport to Langkawi is also possible from Thammalang pier.
Laos / Cambodia
Veun Kham/ Dom Kralor
This is a very popular crossing amongst travellers heading overland between Cambodia and Laos. Cambodian visa on arrival is available, but you will need to arrange your Lao visa in advance -- Lao visa on arrival is not available at this crossing. For more detailed on this crossing, please read our feature story on the Lao Cambodia border crossing.
Laos / Vietnam
Na Maew / Nam Xoi
This crossing opened in 2004 and for those coming from Vietnam it offers convenient access into the bookdocks of Laos' Hua Phan province. It is a short ride from the border to Sam Neau.
Chunk79 reports from 13 October 2006: Six of us went through no problems although the Vietnamese check every bag quite thoroughly so it takes some time. To get there, we caught a bus from Sam Neua at 06:20 (although it didn't leave until 07:30) which ran all the way to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam (100,000 kip) arriving there about 16:30. There are lots of local buses north to Hanoi (3 hrs 40,000 dong) from Thanh Hoa. In theory there should be a more direct way to Hanoi but it wasn't evident from the bus. Not sure if the bus runs every day - it is definitely the only bus that goes all the way through.
There are songtheaws to the border from Sam Neua for 21,000 kip but there isn't much on the Vietnamese side to pick you up.
The bus doesn't go into Vieng Xai so if you choose to stay there (not a bad option in my opinion - it makes more sense than doing a day trip if you are heading over the border) you would need to wait for it on the main road outside of town.
Nam Phao / Cau Treo
Convenient to the Lao town of Lak Xao and the large Vietnamese city of Vinh, this border is the crossing of choice for most overland travellers. Coming from Laos, the border is 34 km east of Lak Xao -- you can catch a bus to the border and then walk across to the other side, 500m away, and after entering Vietnam, find a connection to Vinh, about 100km away on the Vietnamese eastern coast, and from there to your city of choice in Vietnam. You'll need to have your Vietnamese visa in advance, of course. The border is open from 08:00 to 18:00 (or later, if the border guards don't feel like going home) and it 'closes' for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00, but they still sometimes process people during lunch just for the heck of it. Stamping out of Laos costs 2,000 kip during regular hours, 12,000 kip after 16:30 and on weekends and holidays. There is an exchange booth on the Laos side open during operating hours where you can pick up some dong at unattractive rates. Best to just pay in dollars on the other side (baht are harder to get rid of) and if you happen to pass through Pakse en-route, check out the Lao-Vietnam bank for a much better rate on dong.
PaulJaymes reports from 4th August, 2006: Vietnam border guards were very thorough with my passport and I nearly didn't get in. Transport is challenging but cross-border traders hanging around the bus station in Lak Sao will run you into Vietnam after filling up the rest of the bus with a lot of random cargo. Agree a price first but don't hand over any money until you're sure you're in Vinh or Hanoi (or wherever you're supposed to be going).
Dansavanh / Lao Bao
This was the first land border between Laos and Vietnam to open for international travellers, it was for a long time the most popular, but many now opt for the more northern crossing near Lak Xao instead. This crossing is convenient for Hue in Vietnam and Savannakhet in Laos.
NamCan / Nam Khan
Convenient to the Lao town of Phonsavan and the large Vietnamese city of Vinh, this border is the crossing of choice for most overland travellers. Coming from Vinh there are buses to Phonsavan departing at 6:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, costing 142,000 VND (100,000 Laos kip). The trip is 403 km and should take about 12 hours. Through buses to Luang Prabang leave at 06:00 as well, on Wednesdays and Sundays only. The 690 km journey costs 325,000 VND (216,000 Laos kip). Vietnamese passengers pay less (but then again, they pay taxes and you don't!) Lao visas on arrival are available.
dragon reports from 7 January 2007: There is a regular bus from Phonsavan (Laos) to Vinh (Vietnam) which leaves at 06:30 on Tuesday,Thursday, Friday and Sunday and takes about 13 hours to recah Vinh, costing 110,000 kip. It leaves Vinh the next day for the trip back. Expect all your bags to be checked on entering Vietnam.
Travelfish crossed here: 7 February 2007
Despite what you might hear elsewhere (especially from Vietnamese embassy officials) the border at Bo Y is wide open to foreigners, and now provides an interesting, if somewhat challenging, way to enter Vietnam. Of course, as ever, you'll need to have obtained a valid Vietnamese visa before hitting the border.
This entry point makes the most sense if you are winding up your Laos visit in the southeastern provinces of Salavan, Sekong and Attapeu, and you don't fancy making the ridiculously circuitous trip to the Lao Bao border via Savannakhet. You can also get to Attapeu from Pakse -- show up at the Southern Bus Terminal at the 8-kilometre market any time before 09:00 and something will be leaving eventually, usually before 10:30 -- price 30,000 kip. In that case, you probably won't be able to make it to Attapeu and cross the border in the same day, and you'll have to overnight in Attapeu. Better yet, plan several days -- Attapeu is a good little town and there are a number of interesting things to do.
In Attapeu, mini-buses for Bo Y leave in the morning from in front Thi Thi Restaurant -- the Vietnamese place near Thanh Nga Guesthouse, which the locals call "Ban Pak Khun Viet". Makes sense to spend the night there because mini-vans leave in the morning -- the first departure is at 07:00. There should be departures until 10:00, but don't count on it and arrive early. It's all very loosey goosey right now since the service is primarily used by Vietnamese migrant workers and everybody knows the drill. They also leave packed to the gills: there were 15 people in the ten-passenger van when we made the trip.
The price to Bo Y is 80,000 kip. It's 119km from Attapeu to Bo Y -- a nail-biting ride on incredibly twisty mountain roads which the drivers like to take as fast as they can. The scenery is beautiful, but if you're prone to motion sickness, take something for it. Two of the Vietnamese passangers lost their lunch on our trip (out the windows, thankfully!)
The border process is fairly straightforward, and there are no regular fees levied on either side. Once everyone is processed (which can take forever) the vans continue on to the town of Ngoc Hoi, 18km on the other side of the border. The entire process from Attapeu takes about three hours. Transport options are available from in Ngoc Hoi to just about anywhere you want to go, but many morning departures will require another overnight stay. There are plenty of places to stay right near the bus station, with very acceptable double rooms for US$10. Internet is located 300m west of the bus station on the right.
The nearest spot on the tourist trail is Kon Tum, 68km east of Ngoc Hoi -- there's only one bus in the afternoon, and it leaves at 17:00, 30,000 dong, takes 2 hours. It drops off in Kon Tum at the bus terminal 2km from the centre of town. This same bus continues to Saigon (150,000 dong).
Sop Hun / Tay Trang
This border has finally opened to international travellers. Khop chai lai lai to Matam for the following report who crossed the border in late July 2007:
To get into Vietnam, a bus leaves three times a week from Muang Khua on the Lao side for Dien Bien Phu on the Vietnamese side. The bus leaves at 07:00, and costs 40,000 kip. You cannot get a Vietnamese visa on arrival -- you must get it beforehand -- you will need to do it before hand in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng or Vientiane. In the opposite direction buses leave three times a week from Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua. I don't know the time scheduele or what exact days, nor the price -- ask at the bus station in Dien Bien Phu. However, you can get a Lao visa on arrival at the border.
Laos / China
Boten / Mengla
This is the only Lao border that is currently open to independent travellers, Lao visas on arrival are available. The border is around 10km from the popular Lao town of Muang Sing.
Cambodia / Vietnam
Bavet / Moc Bai
This was the first crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam to open to foreign travellers and it remains easily the most popular. Daily buses regularly ply the Saigon - Phnom Penh route and the service is both fast and affordable.
Kaam Samnor / Ving Xuong
This very popular riverine crossing links from Cambodia to the Vietnamese town of Chau Doc. This crossing can be done on an organised deal by boat from Phnom Penh to Saigon, or you can do it piecemeal.
Phnom Den / Tinh Bien
Not far south of Chau Doc, this crossing is open to foreign travellers, though we've not crossed there in person. Luckily, sooeyes reports:
We crossed from Tinh Bien in Vietnam to Phnom Den on March 28th, 2007 and the Cambodian border official informed us that foreigners can now arrange a visa on arrival at this crossing. He didn't say how much it would cost. As far as getting to the crossing, we took mototaxis from Ha Tien (US$10) or you can take the bus, but the bus takes almost twice as long. Transport on the other side to Kampot is a little sparse, may be easier to get to Phnom Pehn. You can take a mototaxi or have one of the officials call a taxi from town. We paid US$55 to get to Kampot, but we had a Khmer speaker with us.
Prek Chak / Xa Xia
Yes, the Cambodia/Vietnam coastal border crossing is open and travellers with a valid Vietnamese visa can enter Vietnam at the Prek Chak / Xa Xia crossing a twenty minute motorbike ride from Kep. A moto to the border from Kep costs around US$7 and onwards transport to Ha Tien in Cambodia is available.
Le Thanh / O Yadao crossing NEW!
Left Pleiku at 8am, arrived Ban Lung just before 2pm, so this trip is just under six hours door to door. Border crossing on the Vietnamese side is called Le Thanh. The crossing on the Cambodian side is called O Yadao. In the Vietnam to Cambodia direction, the Cambodian Immigration officials insist that a visa for Cambodia is available upon arrival at O Yadao. I did not need to get a visa for Cambodia at their Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. In the Cambodia to Vietnam direction, as usual, a visa for Vietnam must be in your passport before heading for the border crossing.
At the bus station in Pleiku, two of the moto drivers who hang around out front speak English and are aware that this crossing is now open to foreigners. However, they want about 300,000 dong for a ride to Le Thanh from Pleiku. Alternatively, take a yellow local bus to Duc Co from the central market in Pleiku for about 15,000 dong and then a moto from Duc Co to Le Thanh. It is about 60km from Pleiku to Duc Co and then about 20 KM from Duc Co to Le Thanh. The road is paved and smooth all the way -- on the Vietnamese side. There is a huge new immigration building under construction at Le Thanh but for now, the old shack is still in use. It is just behind the new building. Vietnamese moto drivers hang around in the market just in front of the border station for a ride to Duc Co or Pleiku respectively.
Once past the Vietnamese Immigration officials, walk about 100 meters to the Cambodian Immigration station, where you will need to wait until someone offers a ride to Ban Lung. The front seat in a share taxi all to yourself is US$15 one way, which is the luxury way to go. A ride on the back of a moto is US$10, but be advised that the road on the Cambodian side is under reconstruction and is really dusty and bumpy all the way to Banlung. It is about 70km on this road so a ride in a share taxi really is the only way to go. In my case, one of the friendly Cambodian Immigration guys just happened to be going to Ban Lung in his car so he drove after stamping my passport. Four wheel drive trucks also do this run from time to time and a ride in the back would be cheaper but very miserable given the state of the road on the Cambodian side.
In Ban Lung, for the trip to Pleiku, there are a number of options. Firstly, simply visit the bus station / share taxi stand just in front of the main market to ask if anyone is going to O Yadao. A visa for Vietnam must be in your passport beforehand. Alternatively, stay at Nordic Guest House, just up the road from Yeak Laom Lake, where the management is up to date about how to get to O Yadao. Or contact Mr Lim, a tour guide in Banlung who takes people to the border crossing after showing them the countryside around Banlung. Contact him from inside Cambodia on either (012) 237 462 or (011) 578 458. When calling from overseas, drop the first 0 and add 855, the country code for Cambodia.
For a bit of fun at the Cambodian Immigration Station, ask to speak with Sokun. He is an Immigration official who used to work as a tour guide in Cambodia. His English is excellent, and his sense of humour even better. He knows all about the O Yadao area, including the jungle woman. Enjoy your visit.
Some pictures from the roads used on this trip are on http://picasaweb.google.com/sfogm9/PleikuBanlungOverland
Major hat-tip and thankyou to George for the report
Vietnam / China
Mong Cai / Dong Hung
Mong Cai Border Gate is in the northeast of Quang Ninh Province, 176km from Halong City, 327km from Hanoi. From Halong City, along the highway 18 to Mong Cai Town, and then across the Mong Cai Border Gate to China.
Open till at least 18:00
Pauljaymes reports from 13th August 2006: The guy at the Vietnamese side didn't seem too bothered about anything, particularly details like taking my departure form and even stamping the forms of new arrivals. Make sure you get all the stamps you need. The Chinese side of the border is a building site and the huge immigration building with X-Rays and escalators looked brand new, but deserted and again no-one seemed particularly bothered about much. No visa on arrival was available.
Touts change Dong into RMB at reasonable rates once you pass through the arch on the Chinese side. I'm guessing when you're coming the other way you need to do this before you cross. As far as I could see there were no ATMs or banks anywhere so the touts may be your only option (and Dong and RMB are both unexchangeable so you'll be pushed to find any before you get there). A taxi to Pingxiang cost me 30RMB and a bus to Nanning was 50. Once in Nanning you can get a local bus for 2RMB into the city and there are plenty of ATMs/banks/moneychangers etc. So get a minimum of 100RMB per person at the border if you're heading for Nanning.
Coming the other way getting to Hanoi is likely to cost you about 100,000 dong. Shared taxis run from the border to Lang Son where you can pick up a variety of buses or the train to Hanoi. You'll probably need at least another 40,000 dong to get from the bus station in Hanoi to wherever you're staying in Hanoi, though taxis/motos will happily detour to ATMs if you need them to.
Lao Cai / Hekou border
Open daily 07:00 to 22:00
The closest border crossing to Sapa and Kunming, some nationalities, including Australians and some Europeans, can buy one-month Chinese visas on the spot on the Vietnamese side of the Lao Cai / Hekou border for US$45 -- processing takes an hour. But Brits, Americans and a list of others have to get visa'ed up in Hanoi. Be sure to check with the Chinese embassy before you arrive at the border, and it probably makes sense to arrive with a visa in your passport in any case. Going the other way, of course, no visa on arrival is available. The number for the visa office at the border is: (0913) 388 890.
- Source: Travelfish.org