Visa runs are an avoidable fact of life for anyone who wishes to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time. I’ve just completed a visa run from Khon Kaen to Vientiane, so here’s my hard-earned wisdom for those who need to go down the same path.
This is just one way of doing a visa run in Vientiane. I’m sure others have different approaches, including simply applying for a visa on arrival in Laos. I’m just providing details on the way I prefer to do it, but it’s by no means the only one. My approach is by no means the cheapest or the quickest, but it minimizes hassle and can be done in three or four days.
Thai Visas Explained
The reason why you might want to get a Thai visa from a consulate such as the one in Vientiane is because these will last you much longer than visas on arrival. Overland visas to Thailand last only 15 days, while flying in will grant you a 30-day visa. If you apply for a visa at a consulate or Embassy abroad, however, you can get multiple entries, each lasting two months.
The best visa to get in this manner is double entry. This means you can enter Thailand twice, and each time will be allowed in for two months. This period is extensible to three months at an immigration office, meaning a double entry visa will last you six months with only one re-entry required.
The “enter before” date is why you don’t need to bother with triple entry visas, unless you need to leave Thailand outside of the required visa renewal periods. This date is 90 days from the day you get the visa, and is the latest date you can enter Thailand. With a double entry, you re-enter Thailand immediately, extend your first entry visa after two months, then leave and re-enter before the “enter before” date. Three months after that, you wouldn’t be able to exit and re-enter on the same visa, making the third entry useless.
In other words, because of the “enter before” date limit, the longest you can stretch a Thai visa is six months as long as you have at least two entries on it.
A Note on Timing and Attitude
Getting your visa in Vientiane involves a lot of waiting. Arm yourself with patience, and never lose your temper. Getting visibly angry will get you nowhere fast. I’ve seen people get upset at immigration officials at the Thai consulate, and all it gets them is contempt.
I recommend that you don’t plan your visa run too tight. Leave room in your schedule for unforeseen events. Maybe you’ll go to the consulate one morning only to discover it’s a Buddhist holiday, or maybe you’ll be missing a crucial piece of information on the day you apply. Vientiane is a laid-back city that invites elastic planning. Go with the flow, and take it easy!
With time to spare, you should be able to do your visa run in four days:
Day 1: Arrive in Vientiane
Day 2: Apply for visa
Day 3: Pick up passport
Day 4: Leave for Khon Kaen
You can do it in three if you leave on the same day you pick up your passport, but I prefer to go out for a celebratory Beerlao in the evening before I go.
Make sure you check the Lao and Thai holidays before you plan your trip, because the consulate will not be open for either. If you’re going the day before or after a national holiday, expect huge crowds. You can find a list of holidays observed by the consulate on the Embassy’s website.
Step 1: Preparation
You’ll need a few things to get your visa application in order. You can get them at any step along the way, but it’s better to have everything ready from the get-go. For one thing it will cost you less money this way.
What you should get in advance is:
– Passport, valid for at least six months
– 3 passport-sized pictures
– Thai visa application form
Passport, valid for 6 months
This is a requirement of both the Lao and Thai consulates. If your passport expires within six months, they will most likely turn down your application.
You can get these pretty much everywhere in Thailand and Vientiane. You’ll need one for the Lao consulate, and two for the Thai consulate. I recommend just having a bunch done when you’re traveling in Southeast Asia, and carry them with you.
The Thai visa application form
There are copies of the form at the consulate, but it doesn’t hurt to have it already filled out ahead of time. You can download the form from the Thai consulate homepage. Stick two of your passport photos as indicated in the upper right corner, and you’re ready.
Got everything? Let’s go!
Step 2: Getting your Lao visa in Khon Kaen
Getting your Lao visa ahead of time isn’t absolutely required, but it makes entering Laos a lot simpler. If you don’t have a Lao visa, you’ll have to get off the bus on the Laos side of the bridge, apply for your visa, then find a bus or minibus to get you into town. I find it’s much less of a hassle to get it ahead of time in Khon Kaen.
You’ll need your passport, one passport-sized photo, and the appropriate fee in Baht to get your visa done in Khon Kaen. The fee depends on your nationality; as a Canadian, I pay 1900 Baht to have it done the same day. Americans pay less, and the Swiss pay nothing.
As of this writing, the Lao consulate in Khon Kaen is located on Mittraphap Road, the highway going north to Udon Thani, about 8 kilometers out of the city center. It is no longer on Pracha Samoson Road. The cheapest way to get there is by songthaew: catch songthaew #4 (green), headed north. You can catch it from the non-AC bus station (make sure it’s headed west then north), or on Na Muaeng road, one road west of Klang Muaeng. It’ll cost you 9-10 Baht for a ride.
Note that some songthaew stop before reaching the consulate, especially if they have too few people. If yours does, you can either negotiate a fare to reach the consulate, or pay, and get the next one headed north. On my second visit, my partner and I had to pay 40B total to reach the consulate, which is still a fair price considering the distance.
The Lao consulate is located on the east side of the highway (right side), across from Raja City. It’s a big gated building with a Laos flag out front. Look to your left for a Tesco Lotus Extra. When you spot it, you’re about 500m south of your destination. You’ll see Rajah City on the left a bit further. Get off, and carefully cross the highway. (It’s not as crazy as it sounds, but be careful still.)
Once inside the consulate, fill the form and hand it over. Ask to have it done express; you’ll have the visa within 15 minutes unless there’s a line. Voila!
Head back into town catching the #4 songthaew going south.
Step 3: Bus to Vientiane
As of February 2014, the Khon Kaen-Vientiane bus leaves from Bus Terminal 3, south of the city. There are two buses for Vientiane daily:
The ride takes approximately 5 hours. Personally, I prefer to catch the morning bus and be in Vientiane early, but to each their own. You can only buy the ticket on the day of departure. If you want to leave in the morning, the counter opens at 7 AM. The bus usually leaves 15-30 mins late, and costs 180 Baht. Good deal!
The bus will stop on the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge for Thai immigration. It will park a little ahead of Thai immigration and wait for passengers. You must climb back, cross the bridge on board the bus, then disembark again on the Lao immigration side. Once you get your passport stamp, you can get on board the bus again. The bus will drop you at the southern bus terminal, just east of the city center.
Step 3b: Get Photocopies
One essential step that will save you time and a bit of money, and which you couldn’t do before entering Laos, is to get the following photocopies:
– Photo page of your passport
– Current Laos visa stamp
You’ll need to join one copy of each to your visa application. Look around town for places that make copies; you should be able to find a cheap place. If you wait until you’re inside the Thai consulate, it’ll cost you somewhere in the viscinity of 20B. Won’t break your budget, sure, but it’s an outrageous price for two photocopied pages.
Step 4: Apply for Thai Visa
The Thai consulate is located east of town. Tuk-tuk drivers usually know about it. You want the Thai consular section, not the Thai Embassy itself. The Embassy proper doesn’t issue visas.
The Thai consulate opens at 8:30 AM Monday to Friday (except holidays) for visa applications. Your best bet to avoid long delays is to get there around 8:15 AM. Alternately, if your schedule isn’t too tight and you can risk a day’s delay, you can try going at 11 AM, as the majority of people get there early and the queue will have cleared up by then.
If you’re applying for a visa during the high season or around Thai and/or Lao holidays, you should plan on getting to the consulate even earlier.
If you get there early, queue outside the consulate, and ignore anyone who offers to change money for you or process your visa.
Once the gates open at 8:30 AM, go straight inside the compound to the open-air area. There will be a man, or a machine behind a window, where you can get a number ticket. Get one, then finish anything else you need, such as photocopies, filling out the form, etc.
When your number is called, go to the window, and turn in your form. The official will look your form over, and if everything is in order, they’ll give you a receipt.
Next, go inside the building next to the open-air area. You’ll be rewarded with… more waiting! But at least you’ve got AC now. When your number is called, step up to the counter and pay the fee. As of this writing, the fee is 1000B per entry for a tourist visa.
When I did my visa run, I got to the consulate at 8:20 AM, and was slow at getting my queue number. As a result, I waited a total of two hours: one hour outside for form check, then one hour inside to pay. The payment is especially frustrating, as it seems like they’re doing things slow on purpose. Just breathe, read a book, or chat with your neighbors.
Hold on to your receipt, and head back into town. You can catch a tuk-tuk outside the consulate; it’s cheaper if you share it with other travelers also heading into town. They usually charge 40-60 Baht per person when shared. For some reason, they charge less in Baht than in Kip.
Step 5: Pick Up Your Passport
Passport pick-up takes place between 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM. You can get your queue number ticket starting at 1 PM, but in my experience the process is fairly quick and getting there early doesn’t help much. Expect a 30-minute wait. Even on busy days, if you arrive early, you can get your passport at around 2 PM at the latest. I went on a hectic week and got my passport at 2:05 PM.
Get a queue number outside, where you got one the day before. Then, head inside where you paid your visa fee. Wait for your number to be called, and voila! You have your visa!
Step 6: Head Back to Khon Kaen
Buses back to Khon Kaen depart from the bus terminal twice a day:
The ticket costs 50,000 Kip. Same deal as the bus to Vientiane: arrive early on the day of departure, and purchase your ticket.
Note that you might have to carry your luggage yourself through Thai immigration. When I came back to Thailand, the bus assistant took my backpack out on the curb. I just carried it through without being searched, and put it back on the bus on the other side.
It’s possible to leave on the day you receive your visa (at 2:45 PM). You’ll need to arrive before 1 PM to make sure to be one of the first to get a queue number, then get out as soon as you have your passport, and catch a tuk-tuk to the bus station right after.
And if you miss the bus, there’s always that Beerlao.
Any questions? Any other tips or updates to this visa application guide? Please share in the comments below!
Thai consulate image source: Travelfish.org
Thanks for the great information. You might want to amend this info. As of February 2014, buses to Vientiane now depart from the Bus Terminal 3, way south of town. I’m there right now waiting to board.
Hi Mike! Gosh, really? That sucks!! I’ll amend the blog post, thank you for sharing!
please i wish to know if the consulates in khon is giving visa to Africans
Hmm, I really don’t know about visas for Africans, sorry!
Your blog saved me a lot of trouble TWICE today.
First I headed to the consulate to get a visa for a run next week. I got there and it was gone. I thought I remembered reading it had moved, but I had no idea where. I pulled out my iphone and did a search. Your site came up with excellent directions about how to find it.
Then I was wondering what the schedule is for the through bus. I was sent to your blog again. I was not aware that there was a 3rd station (nor was my wife) and that the bus left from there now.
So, thank you for the very helpful information.
Very happy to hear it!! Glad I could help!
Great post for a Laos visa run. Border runs in Thailand are now considered closed and formally after August 12th 2014. Current border runners are getting an I-O in/out stamp in their passport and after this they are turned away at land borders and told to fly in. The once relaxed exit and entry method requires a bit more effort as of this year.
Is there another way around this visa run to Laos? I need 120 days stay in Thailand. Im from U.S.
See my reply to your post below!
Is the lao consulate open on weekends?
No it’s not. Also, make sure to consult the list of both Thai and Lao holidays, as they’re closed on those dates as well.
I would disagree with only one thing. I hate forms, so I usually use the guys outside the gate to do the paperwork. They know what they’re doing and get everything in order. Never had a problem when they did it. It’s something like 100 baht (as I remember), so not a bad price. The only thing is to have the copies of everything. However, they can get them if you don’t.
@”Great post for a Laos visa run. Border runs in Thailand are now considered closed and formally after August 12th 2014. Current border runners are getting an I-O in/out stamp in their passport and after this they are turned away at land borders and told to fly in. The once relaxed exit and entry method requires a bit more effort as of this year.”
Is there another way around this visa run to Laos? Im going to TH next month and wanted 120 days stay. Im Thai with U.S. passport.
Simple! Just go to the Thai consulate or embassy where you are in the US, and apply for a double-entry tourist visa. This will give you two entries for 60 days each. You’ll need to leave and re-enter Thailand at one point during your stay (before the visa’s expiry date), but otherwise you’ll be good!
So to activate my second entry I have to apply for Laos visa in Thailand first right? After that what do I do next? Go to Thai consulate in Laos and apply for visa again?? confused.
You need to exit Thailand and come back in, yes. You can go anywhere outside Thailand and come back. If you choose to go to Laos, then yes, you need to apply for a Lao visa from within Thailand, or just get a visa on arrival at the border.
But once in Laos, you don’t need to apply for a visa… You just need to come back to Thailand and they will activate the second part of your visa.
Hope that helps!
How long do i have to stay in Laos (hours or days) before crossing back to Thailand n activate my second entry? Thanks Roy very good advice.
You can just step across the border and come back in. 🙂 You need to go through the Laos immigration fully, which means getting your Lao visa… But once that’s sorted out, you can just walk back into Thailand!
Best visa run guide I’ve ever seen. Thank you!
I have done the double entry visa in the USA
I have entered Thailand from the states 01/27/2015
I have left Thailand and re-entered from Siam Reap, back to Thailand
If I enter Laos, I would have to visit the Thai Embassy? still within the 90 days and last re-entry 2/18/2015.
Question is do I need to visit the Thai embassy in Vientiane? And it should be less steps then apply for a new tourist Visa to enter back into Thailand
And what besides photos do I need?
My stay in Thailand is less then 30 days longer.
Thanks for the help
Double entry visa from the states
I think I understand after reading many blogs
date of issue 01/14/2014
enter before 07/13/2015
arrived in Thailand 01/27/2015
left and re-entered Thailand from Siam Reap 02/18/2015
would like to visit Laos and re-enter Thailand
That should be my second re-entry on a double Visa before 90 days from date of issue?
Not trying to extent stay in Thailand only to visit Laos and re-enter Thailand correctly and use Bus service from Khon Kaen.
Your double-entry visa means just that: two entries in total. So that first one when you arrived in Thailand counts as one, and your second one from Siam Reap counts as second. Leaving Thailand to go to Laos will mean your Thai visa is all used up.
If you say you only have 30 more days in Thailand after you come back from Laos, then you’re all good. You don’t need to visit the Thai consulate at all… Just re-enter, and as a US citizen you’ll get a 30-day visa exemption at no cost, just by crossing the border back into Thailand.
If for some reason you want to stay longer than 30 days, then you can extend that visa exemption to 60 days from within Thailand.
Found Lao embassy, past Tesco/Locust on the other side of the road 1/2 mile light color yellow wall, not easy to see flag.
Walked in front building no signs, paper form on table; person in lobby not with Laos embassy. To your left siding window, wait for officer to open window and take your form, passport and photo. I would have photo and passport copies in hand, very serious officer at window. paid 1600 bath, taxi driver waited must of been a slow morning and offered to drive me to Vientiane for 2000 baht. It is not that far to walk to Tesco to find a ride, or get phone number of taxi driver to return; will take Bus in morning.
Glad to hear you got your visa! Yeah, the bus is a bit more of a hassle, but it’s 10 times less than what that taxi driver quoted you, so… 🙂
Have a nice time in Laos!
With the new visa laws is it still possible to get a visa in boarding counties?
The recent restrictions seem to be about border runs, AKA visa exemptions, which means Thai Immigration might prevent you from simply re-entering without a visa to get a new visa exemption.
If you’re talking about actually getting a visa in, say, Vientiane, this seems to still be the preferred method of staying in the country for Thai Immigration. They sometimes ask for proof of sufficient income even with a visa, so keep that in mind. In general, these regulations fluctuate… With the recent events in Thailand, it’s bound to be more restrictive for a while, and will likely return to “normal” later.
But in short: getting a proper tourist visa from a neighboring country is still your best bet.
Your guide is very informative. Thank you so much for your great work. Keep moving 🙂
I will be arriving in Thailand on 08-20-2016. I will get the 30 day stay since I’m flying in, but I need to be there for a total of 90 days in khon kaen. I have already left America where I live so can’t apply for the double entry there and so I am considering the khon kaen – vientiane visa run. My question is if I will be able to apply for this double entry visa for Thailand since I will have come from Thailand already. So would they take those days out of the visa I am applying for or should I wait to leave thailand until this 30 day period is up and then apply for an extension in laos to stay the other 60 das, since if I leave that will count as one of the two exits I am allowed?
As I explained in this post, you can only get a single-entry tourist visa from Vientiane now. But that’s OK… A single entry is all you need.
Actually, you don’t even really need a tourist visa at that… What you could do is:
1. Get your current visa exemption extended by 30 days in Khon Kaen, for a total validity of 60 days;
2. Exit Thailand, then come back in, which will get you a new 30-day exemption whether you’re flying in or coming over the border, since you have a U.S. passport;
3. Get that new exemption extended by an additional 30 days, if needed.
This scenario gets you a total of 120 days in Thailand without the need for a visa. It will help if you spend a day or two abroad before coming back, as going out and straight back in might cause problems with Thai Immigration.
If you’d still like a tourist visa from Vientiane since you have to leave Thailand anyway, you can do so at any point over the next 30 days. They will NOT deduce your current stay from your single-entry tourist visa. That single entry will be good for 60 days, which you can extend to 90 from Khon Kaen.
Hi, this post is good but my query is something new. hope you can also assist.
1. I have a Thai wife, we are living in Khon Kaen
2. I applied for 1 year Non-O visa
3. Currently I am under 1 month processing period that will expire on 25th Nov
4. Immigration officer asked me to find 2 neighbors with ID & House book for reference
5. My wife tried but some one doesn’t has house book and someone doesn’t want give reference as we are living in Apartment and neighbors are not familiar
6. We couldn’t manage so my 1 year visa will not complete and also can’t extend in immigration
7. 25th Nov my visa will expire so i have to leave Thailand
8. I have ticket booked to return home (UK) on 2nd January that can’t be changed
9. Therefore i need 45 days extension.
10. On 21st Nov can i apply for Laos visa
11. Will get Laos visa on 22nd Nov
12. I can go Vientiane on 24th Nov by bus in morning and just cross border then return back Khon Kaen will i get 30 days visa (UK Passport)
13. Same process will again apply on 20th Dec
Will it work or is there any other process i can chose.
If you need to stay 45 more days, the easiest way for you is to go to a neighboring country such as Laos, then re-enter Thailand to get a 30-day visa exemption. Then, before your 30 days are over, visit Immigration and extend your visa exemption by 30 days. It’s a pretty straightforward process!
Thanks Daniel look so easy now.
Welcome. Enjoy Thailand! 🙂
How do you think driving a car from Khon Kaen to Vientiane would be for a visa run?
Sorry, I have no idea what it would entail to cross the Thailand-Lao border by car.