Laos Visa on Arrival (2023 update)

According to feedback from some fellow travelers in 2023, it has not been possible to get a Visa on Arrival at the Laos border. We therefore advise you to apply for a Visa at the Lao embassy in Hanoi.


Crossing a border by land is always a tedious affair. And yes, we know that airplanes can ease and shorten the entire process, but the money you save on 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 for us. And this time was no different.


Land borders Vietnam – Laos (on a Map)

If you want to know how to get from Vietnam to Laos overland, there are 6 different land border checkpoints (check the map below):

• Ngoc Hoi
• Lao Bao
• Cau Treo
• Nam Khan
• Nam Xoi
• Tay Trang.

But if you plan to cross the border by bus, most agencies only use the following 4:

• Lao Bao
• Tay Trang
• Nam Khan
• Cau Treo



As we were in Sapa (Vietnam) heading to Luang Prabang (Laos), we crossed the Tay Trang border.

When we found out that the bus trip would take 18-hours to make, we decided to split it into two parts. First part: from Sapa to the Vietnamese border city of Dien Bien Phu where we would spend the night. The second part: from Dien Bien Phu to Luang Prabang, Laos.


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. People kept opening the windows to vomit and to spit, so keeping down the banh mi we ate for breakfast was a struggle.



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


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


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

Border accommodation in Dien Bien Phu

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. Just dragged 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 tasty!



The Vietnamese Border

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— fortunately, that didn’t happen to us.


The Laos Border

After an exit stamp on the passports and a short mini-bus ride in no one’s land, we reached the Laos border checkpoint.


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 passports, 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. It’s a weekend fee.

A group of Canadians also crossing the border were called from the third window, charged an additional made-up fee, and coerced to take new photos for their visas, 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 cost

Remember to check Laos document requirements regarding the entry of international tourists in advance. As far as we know, in Vietnam tourists from all nationalities can get a visa on arrival to Laos — provided they have a legal passport (duh!), a visa-size photo, and the money for the processing fees listed below (2023):

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

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

For more information on Visas on Arrival for Laos go to

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.


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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