Land border crossing is tedious and difficult. Airplanes can ease and shorten the entire process, but the money you save from not buying plane tickets makes up for the time spent inside of a bus.

However, previous experiences like the one we had in Poipet, made the subsequent land border crossings stressful. And this time was no different.


Land borders Vietnam > Laos

There are 6 different land border checkpoints from Vietnam to Laos: Ngoc Hoi, Lao Bao, Cau Treo, Nam Khan, Nam Xoi, Tay Trang.
However, bus and tourism agencies tend to use only the following 4: Lao Bao, Tay Trang, Nam Khan, and Cau Treo.



We crossed the Tay Trang border because we were heading to Luang Prabang.

While still in Sapa, we decided to split the 18-hour bus trip to Laos into two parts. First chunk: going to the Vietnamese border city of Dien Bien Phu and spend the night. The next day: Dien Bien Phu to Luang Prabang, Laos.


From Sapa to Dien Bien Phu

We bought our tickets for the morning bus to Dien Bien Phu at the bakery Baguette & Chocolat in Sapa for €11,40.



The 8-hour trip was rough. Let’s just say that keeping down the banh mi we ate for breakfast was a struggle, as people kept opening the windows to vomit and spit…



It was like watching this scene from Titanic for 8 hours.


We arrived at Dien Bien Phu bus station late in the afternoon and quickly bought tickets for the next day’s trip: € 20,15 each.
If you prefer to buy your ticket to Luang Prabang online, we recommend Use the code “gravy5″ at checkout you’ll get 5% off the ticket price.


Mário and Avinash (a friend we met on the bus) at Dien Bien Phu bus station.

Border accommodation

We spent the night at the cheapest and decent hotel we found in the area (Huyen Anh Hotel).
Due to our level of exhaustion, we hardly explored the city, dragging ourselves through a few streets in search of a supermarket to buy provisions for the next day’s bus trip.
For dinner, we ate at the hotel restaurant. Great portions, really cheap and surprisingly good!



Goodbye Vietnam

At 7:30 a.m. on the next day, we set out for Laos in a mini-bus with no leg space. Two hours later we arrived at the Vietnamese border building, grabbed our backpacks, and headed inside.

The queue was long and barely moving as only one guard was doing the checks outs. A rumor spread that he was asking for “farewell donations” from tourists in front of the queue—didn’t happen to us.

After an exit stamp on the passports and a short mini-bus ride in no one’s land, we reached the Laos border checkpoint: a long white building with a row of window openings at a weird height.


Vietnam Laos border queue


A guard behind the first window gave us some papers to fill with our personal info and the answers to questions like ‘Why are you visiting Laos?’ or ‘Where are you staying?’. Minutes later we handed him the completed papers, our passports, and the €32,5 for the visa fee.

From the fourth window, another guard called our names and asked us for a dollar.

– What for? We just paid for the visa back there.
– It’s a processing fee, sir.

Reluctantly we paid, but as we reached for the passport, he told us to wait. Another guard called us from the 2nd window and we were asked to pay 2 more dollars.

– Why?…
– Because today is Saturday. Weekend fee.

A group of Canadians also crossing the border were called from the third window, charged an additional bullshit fee, and coerced to take new photos for the visa, as the ones they brought wouldn’t do—this service was 5 dollars.
Oh, there was also a fee for sanitary control and infections: a further $1.

Laos Visa on Arrival

Remember to check Laos document requirements regarding the entry of international tourists in advance. As far as we know, tourists from all nationalities can get a visa on arrival to Laos from Vietnam—provided they have a legal passport (duh!), a visa-size photo and the money for the processing fees listed below (2020):

Affghanistan: $40
America: $35
Austria: $35
Bangladesh: $40
Belgium: $35
Canada: $42
China: $20
Denmark: $35
England: $35
Finland: $35
Greece: $35
India: $40
Italy: $35

Ireland: $35
Nepal: $40
Norway: $35
Nederlands: $35
Pakistan: $40
Portugal: $35
Sri Lanka: $40
Spain: $35
Switzerland: $35
Sweden: $31
Turkey: $35
Vietnam: $20

Keep in mind that the same doesn’t apply the other way round. To enter Vietnam from Laos, you’ll need a Visa in advance.


Sabaidee Laos!

Anyways, after crossing the border, everyone got back into the mini-bus fuming, but the following 10-hour drive helped us forget what happened and accept what we cannot change— Hakuna Matata.
What matters is that we’re here and ready to explore Laos!


Laos '12


Border crossing expenses

Bus ticket Sapa >DienBienPhu: €11,40
Bus ticket DienBienPhu > Luang Prabang: €20,15
Accommodation at the Huyen Anh Hotel: €3.96
Laos Visa: €32,5
Extra fees: who knows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To prepare yourself for the border crossings to come, read the post 9 Tips & tricks for a smooth border crossing. It’ll help!

If you have any questions or some extra info on the Vietnam-Laos borders, please leave it in the comments below.

Nuno and Mario

Hi there! We’re Nuno and Mário and we share helpful tips to make travel planning easy for you.

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