If you are living the digital nomad dream in Thailand or just spending more than a month there, there is a good chance you will need to do a Thai visa run to a neighbouring country to extend your stay.
A Thai visa is run is necessary for a few reasons:
- To activate an extension on your current visa
- Apply for a visa for Thailand
- Cancel an existing visa or work permit by entering the country on a regular entry stamp
There are many other reasons and it’s all very confusing!
As I’d been in Thailand for a while and my current visa was about to expire, I had to leave the Kingdom and visit one of the Thai consulates abroad and apply for another visa. It would be nice if you could apply at immigration in Thailand but this is not the case.
Without any holidays planned I had to leave the country for the sole purpose of applying for another visa. While this is a bit of a pain, it’s a good excuse for a little holiday.
Where to Get a Thai Visa
As there are many different Thai visas available, with each foreign Thai consulate able to use their discretion as to which ones they would like to issue and to whom, it’s not simply a case of going to the nearest country and applying.
The latest word on the grapevine was that Vientiane in Laos was happy to give out double entry tourist visas for Thailand. With a bit of manoeuvring, a double entry tourist visa will give you six months in Thailand for 2,000 baht.
As Laos in one of the nicer neighbouring countries to Thailand, it seemed like a good excuse for a trip there.
Visa Run Services
There are organised visa run services that leave from Bangkok and drive to Vientiane, and walk you through the visa process and manage your hotel booking and food. As the paperwork and bureaucracy can be a pain in Thailand, and at their consulates, having someone to take care of things for you is a good idea. However, these visa run services involve an overnight bus ride to Laos and the same on the way back.
As the visa applications have to handed in in the morning, then picked up the next day, it involves one overnight stay at least.
Getting to Laos
While the visa run service is the cheapest option, I couldn’t face the prospect of a long road trip to Laos, so I decided to look at flights. Nok Air fly into Nong Khai in northern Thailand and also provide a shuttle service over the border into Laos. This is an affordable option, but again it’s a long journey for a relatively short distance.
Thai International fly direct from Bangkok into Vientiane, but the prices are over twice the price of the Nok Air journey. However, as I didn’t want to be away for too long I opted for a $150 round trip from Bangkok to Vientiane with the flights taking one hour each way.
It wasn’t until I booked that I saw that Lao Central Airlines do a much cheaper flight that is not so well publicised!
I booked two nights in Vientiane as this would give me enough time to drop off my application and pick up my visa. However, applying for a visa is pretty tedious and a waste of time that could be better spent exploring Vientiane and all its great coffee shops.
Applying for a Thai Visa in Vientiane
I’d heard you can hire the services of a visa agent outside the consulate who will take care of the application for you for the price of 5,000 baht (3,000 on top of the visa price). This not only saves time but also increases your chances of getting the visa you want as they have some connections inside. It does mean giving your passport to someone on the street overnight.
This seemed like a good idea, but still involved going to the consulate which is a few KM outside of town. I decided to contact the visa run people and see if they would take care of my application even though I wasn’t travelling with them.
For a fee they were happy to pick up and drop off my passport at my hotel so I wouldn’t have to spend anytime applying!
This is highly recommended and you don’t even have to fill out the forms, just give them your passport and a couple of photos and sit back and relax.
With the visa taken care of it was just left to explore the capital of Laos and take in the scenery. I’ve written about Vientiane before and not much has changed since then. This time I was less interested in exploring so decided to visit some restaurants and coffee shops and try the excellent food and café ‘culture’ that isn’t available in Bangkok.
Visa for Laos
You also need a visa for Laos. You can either apply in advance from the Laos embassy in Bangkok, or apply for it on arrival at the airport.
They hand out the forms on the plane so you can fill them out and then apply at the airport. It costs around $30 to $40 depending on your nationality and when I flew it only took about 10 minutes to queue and then get the visa stuck into my passport.
Although if the flight is busy it could take a lot longer as it’s a small counter. Maybe try and get off the flight first to get a head start on the queue. You will also need a passport photo for the Laos visa.
Money in Laos
Some places take the US dollar in Laos but they also have their own currency, the Kip. They also take the Thai Baht too. I only used the Kip when there, which I got from the many ATMs around the town centre though I unnecessarily took some US dollars with me just in case.
If you’ve been in Thailand for a while you should have some grasp of the Thai language. Thankfully in Laos they speak a similar language which uses a lot of the same words, although some have different meanings and usage which can get confusing!
Numbers are the same which helps when buying things on the street, although most places you will go in Vientiane, you will be fine speaking English. For quick introduction to the Laotian language, watch these videos, you probably know more than you think:
Resources for a Successful and Pleasant Visa Run to Laos
- Always check the latest visa information on the Thai Visa website
- Thai Visa Run Service took care of my application
- Thai Airways for a direct flight, although Lao Central Airlines is cheaper
- Agoda for booking a hotel in Vientiane
- Guide to best WiFi coffee shops in Vientiane