Do you need a visa? What sort of visa should you get? How long will the visa be valid for? How many entries is it valid for? How much does it cost? Where will it be issued? How long will it take? What entry points is it valid for? Read on for our Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam visa matrix.
Popular visa types: Tourist and Business
Both tourist and business visas are available on entry at the airports and at some of the international crossings. A tourist visa supposedly costs US$20, a business visa $25. At international airports you’ll generally get the visa for that price, at overland crossings, overcharging is the norm. You will require a pen and one photo.
A tourist visa can be extended once, for 30 days only. The extension costs US$45. Business visas can be extended pretty much forever on an annual basis. The fee for a year-long multiple entry extension is US$280. Both types of extensions take a day or two and are best handled through agents.
All tourist visas are single entry only. Business visas can be extended for a range of periods of time and can be multiple entry. The visa sticker for both types of visa are full page, so bear that in mind if you do not have many pages left.
Popular visa types: Tourist
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 US$30. Visa on entry is reliably available at Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Huay Xay, less reliable are the Tha Khaek and Savannakhet entry points and not available at all with the Cambodia crossing. If you get your visa beforehand from an embassy it should be valid for 30 days. Visa on entry are normally valid for 15 days only. Be wary of being stamped in for 15 days on a 30 day visa.
Tourist visas can be extended on a daily basis.
All tourist visas are single entry only. The visa sticker for visas issued from an embassy are full page, so bear that in mind if you do not have many pages left.
Thailand has a multitude of visa options and requirements — you’re best off going to the horse’s mouth at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the full spiel.
Popular visa types: Tourist
The Tourist Visa for Vietnam must be issued before arrival and the typical visa is valid for 30 days. Extension of Vietnamese visas is possible once you are in Vietnam.
Yes, extensions are possible.
Border crossing details
This section is oft liable to change — please use is solely as a general guide.
Chiang Khong – Huay Xai
Open 08:00-18:00 7 days
A 15 day Lao visa on arrival is available for US$30. After the Nong Khai crossing this is probably the most popular crossing for independent travellers entering Laos from Thailand as 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 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
This riverine crossing takes travellers from the riverfront of central Mukdahan to the riverfront of central Savannakhet. 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.
Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khek
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 Si Phan Don 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 Maek it is a five minute walk through each crossing and regular songtheaws run from Vang Tao to Pakse, taking about one hour.
Bueng Kan / Paksan
This border, while open to foreigners, is not really convenient to anything much, though Paksan is a scenic enough riverside spot. There is a small fee for the ferry crossing and a Lao visa on arrival is available.
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.
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
Another very straightforward crossing, the Hat Lek/ Ko Kong crossig 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.
Chong Jom / O Smach
We’ve not crossed here and have no information about it.
Chong Sa Ngam / Anlong Veng
This crossing is very convenient to Anlong Veng and 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.
Ban Laem, Chantaburi / Daun Lem, Battambang
We’ve not crossed here and have no information about it.
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. The Cambodian border post is now on the Lao side of the river in the village of Veun Kham. So you actually clear Cambodian immigration while still in Laos. Once cleared you can then head down to Stung Treng by speedboat or minibus. The latter takes about 30 minutes longer than the boat, though once the bridge across the Se Kong in Stung Treng is finished the bus will almost certainly be faster.
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.
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.
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 Phonsavan in Laos and pretty much nothing in Vietnam, this crossing has been open for some time now, but is not much used by travellers due to the long stretch on the Vietnamese side down to Vinh. Lao visas on arrival are available.
Sop Hun / Tay Trang
Long rumoured to be about to open, this crossing which would make for an excellent trip across northern Laos and Vietnam remains closed to independent travellers.
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.
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 no information about it at the moment.