Mastering the Chiang Mai to Vientiane Visa Run (2024 Edition)

Disclaimer: This is not a service we currently provide but we hope this guide will help you make your next solo visa run easier and less intimidating.

1. What is a Visa Run, and Why Might You Need One?

A visa run is a necessary journey for those needing to extend or change their visa status in Thailand. Whether you’re living, working, or on an extended vacation, this quick guide will take you step by step through the process of making a visa run from Chiang Mai to the Thai consulate in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

2. The Journey: Detailed Guide on Getting to Vientiane from Chiang Mai

A. The Budget-Friendly Option: Traveling by Bus

Bus travel is an affordable and popular method to reach Vientiane from Chiang Mai. The journey involves two bus rides:

Chiang Mai to Udon Thani: The first leg of the trip is a bus ride from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani, which takes around 10-12 hours, with prices ranging from 500 to 1,000 baht. You can book and check your price here or inquire directly at Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai. 

Udon Thani to Nong Khai: Once you’ve arrived in Udon Thani, the next step is to take a bus to Nong Khai, a small town near the Thai-Laos border. This bus ride typically takes about 1.5-2 hours and costs around 40 baht per person. 

B. The Speedy Alternative: Traveling by Plane to Udon Thani

If you’re short on time, a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani is your best bet. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, after which you’ll take the bus to Nong Khai as described above.

Upon landing at Udon Thani Airport, you’ll find several transportation options to take you further. One convenient option is to catch a minivan directly from the airport to Nong Khai or Vientiane. Several companies operate minivans on this route, and you can find their counters in the arrivals hall of the airport. The ride to Nong Khai usually takes around an hour, and you can expect to pay about 200 baht.

C. Crossing the Border: Nong Khai to Vientiane

The next part of the adventure is crossing the Friendship Bridge to Laos. This famous landmark spans the Mekong River, which separates Thailand and Laos. Once you’re at the Thai-Laos border, you’ll pass through immigration checkpoints, submit your passport, and complete a departure card. Be wary of tuk-tuk drivers who may try to steer you away from the Friendship Bridge towards alternative visa processing locations.

Upon crossing the Friendship Bridge, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the river and landscape. Once you’ve crossed into Laos, head to the immigration checkpoint to fill out a form for a visa on arrival. The fee varies based on nationality but usually falls between 30 and 42 USD.

D. Getting to Vientiane from the Friendship Bridge

There are many options to get from the Friendship Bridge to Vientiane city. The cheapest option is a green and white air-conditioned bus. Tickets cost 40 baht.

Another option is to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk. The fare may vary depending on your bargaining skills, but it may range from 100 to 200 baht.

3. Arrival: The Thai Embassy in Vientiane

Having arrived in Laos and made your way to Vientiane, your next stop is the Thai Embassy. The embassy is open from Monday to Friday, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly.

Choosing accommodation close to the embassy can save you travel time. Some recommendations include the Ibis Vientiane Nam Phu, Vayakorn Inn, and S Park Design Hotel, all of which offer a mix of comfort, convenience, and excellent service.

Timing Your Visit: Before planning your visit, check the embassy’s official website for the most current operating hours and holiday schedule. Arriving early in the morning can help you avoid long queues.

4. The Visa Application Process at the Thai Embassy in Vientiane

Before your appointment at the embassy, ensure you have all the required documents. These include a valid passport with at least six months remaining and 2 absolutely blank pages, passport-sized photos (4×6 cm), a completed visa application form, proof of financial means, and additional documents based on your visa type.

Appointments can be made up to one month in advance via the Visa Application Appointment System at www.thaivisavientiane.com. On the day of your appointment,

arrive at least 30 minutes early with all required documents and your appointment confirmation.

5. Cost Breakdown: Understanding the Visa Application Fee

When budgeting for your visa run, include the visa application fee. This must be paid in cash, in Thai Baht. The fees vary depending on the type of visa, so check the current rates on the Thai Embassy’s official website or by contacting the embassy directly. At this time for a single Entry tourist visa, the visa fee is 1000THB. A Non-immigrant-B single entry visa will cost you 2000THB. 

After paying your visa fee, ensure you receive a receipt. Keep this safe, as it’s routinely needed when you collect your visa.

6. Suggestions of places to stay in Vientiane while you wait for your visa:

Being close to the Thai consulate will make your life easier. Depending on your budget, here are a few options found on Agoda that are in walking distance of the Embassy and reasonably priced:

7. Visa Collection at the Thai Embassy

Your visa will typically be ready for collection two days after submission. On the designated day, make sure to arrive at the Thai Embassy on time with your receipt. You’ll exchange your receipt for your passport, which will now have the new visa inside. Double-check the visa details to ensure everything is as it should be.

8. The Return Journey to Chiang Mai

With your new visa in hand, it’s time to return to Chiang Mai. Depending on your preference and time constraints, you can choose to travel back by bus or by plane.

  • By Bus: If you’re not in a rush and are keen on a cost-effective option, take the same route back through Nong Khai and Udon Thani, and then catch a bus or a minivan back to Chiang Mai. The total travel time can be quite long, so brace yourself for a long journey.
  • By Plane: For a quicker return, catch a flight from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai. Remember to account for travel time from Vientiane to Udon Thani and waiting times at the airport.

Final Tips and Advice

Double-check
Before your trip, double-check the visa requirements and appointment details on the Thai Consulate’s official website. 

Stay Organized
Keep a digital and physical copy of all your important documents, including your passport, current visa, appointment confirmation, and visa application form.

Keep Track of Holidays
Both Thai and Lao official holidays can affect the operation hours of the Thai Embassy in Vientiane, so plan your trip accordingly.

Plan for Unforeseen Circumstances
Life happens, and sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Bring along some extra cash in case of emergencies and always have a backup plan.

Stay Respectful and Patient
Remember, you’re not just in Vientiane for your visa. This city is home to its locals, with its unique traditions and norms. Respect local customs, keep a positive attitude, and be patient throughout your visa run in particular with the officers at the thaï embassy.

Ready, Set, Visa Run! Your Essential Checklist for Chiang Mai to Vientiane​

Check Passport Validity

  • Valid for at least 6 months
  • At least two blank visa pages when applying for the visa at the embassy (Reminder: You will lose 1 page at least when entering Laos). Don’t travel on a passport that’s running out of pages.

Book an Appointment

  • Schedule your appointment at
    www.thaivisavientiane.com
  • Book at least one month in advance
  • Note the cancellation policy: cancel no less than 24 hours prior to the appointment

Prepare Visa Application Form

Gather Supporting Documents (if applicable)

  • Proof of employment or financial means
  • Proof of address in Thailand
  • Flight itinerary or travel plans
  • Marriage or birth certificates (for family visa applications)
  • Any other required documents for specific visa types

Prepare Passport-sized Photos

  • Two recent photos (3.5 x 4.5 cm)
  • White background and neutral facial expression

Arrange Transportation

  • Book flight, bus, or minivan to Vientiane
  • Confirm departure and return dates
  • Check visa and passport requirements for transit countries (if applicable)

Book Accommodation

  • Book a hotel or guesthouse in Vientiane
  • Confirm check-in and check-out dates
  • Keep hotel contact information handy

Prepare for Appointment Day

  • Organize visa fee in cash (Thai Baht) only
  • Bring appointment confirmation (printed or screenshot on smartphone)
  • Plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to appointment time

Know the Consular Section’s Schedule

  • Submission of applications: 9.00 a.m. – 12.00 a.m.
  • Payment and collection: 13.30 p.m. – 16.00 p.m.
  • Business hours: Monday – Friday, closed on Saturday, Sunday, and Public Holidays

Familiarize Yourself with Visa Processing Time

  • 3 working/business days for processing
  • Collection 2 days after submission (approved or not approved)

Additional Preparations

  • Research local customs and etiquette
  • Familiarize yourself with the location of the Thai Embassy in Vientiane
  • Plan leisure activities or sightseeing during your stay
  • Keep emergency contact information handy