Thai visa runs to Laos: latest updates

Visitors wait to cross the Friendship Bridge, the main land crossing point between Thailand and Laos.

From this month, the Thai embassy in Vientiane in neighboring Laos has announced the latest regulations regarding the issue of 60 days, single tourist visas which, in most cases, can be extended for a further 30 days at Thai immigration. However, the procedure is more complicated than visiting the Cambodian border which issues 45 days visa exempt to most nationalities with the option of extending a further month in Thailand.

The Thai embassy in Laos has announced that applicants will need to show a Thai bank book with at least 25,000 baht (around US$650) available for spending in Thailand. Most nationalities can apply for the 60 days tourist visa, but those from 29 countries (including China and Bangladesh) may be subject to significant delays as further identity checks are made. Double or multiple entries to Thailand are awarded only to Laos citizens or to foreigners with long stay residence rights.

Entry to Laos may be made by road or air, although immigration officers will likely want to see proof of prior booking of accommodation in or near Vientiane. Appointments at the embassy must be booked in advance, via its website, and walk-ins are no longer allowed. The process usually takes 24 hours involving one night’s stay in the capital. Several Thai tour companies offer visa runs to Laos either by minibus or by air, the former with an inclusive charge of around 15,000 baht and about double that amount by air.

Most foreigners wanting a longer holiday in Thailand are opting at the Cambodian border for a new 45 days visa exempt stamp with the option to extend for a further month. However, some nationalities (notably Indians and Chinese) cannot use this route as they are not categorized visa exempt, but rather visa on arrival which is different. Visa on arrival applies to around 20 countries and offers 30 days (plus 15) on payment of a fee of 2,000 baht on arrival in Thailand, unless waived. All foreigners are restricted to two border visa runs in a 12 months period.

Another issue with the Cambodian border is that only organized groups with a tour or visa company are permitted to do the run in a single day. Individuals without an escort arriving at Aranyaprathet or Pong Nam Ron immigration border checkpoints are being told that they must remain several days in Cambodia because their ID details were not sent for scrutiny in advance. The best advice right now is to organize a visa run via an agency which does regular runs and knows the ropes. Covid-free documentation is no longer required for entry to Cambodia, Laos or Thailand.