The process from Chiang Khong, Thailand over the Mekong River to Hauy Xai, Laos including check out and check in to the other side can be easy but also easy to miss a step, so hopefully this post will give insight on the steps you need to go through.
Once you are in Chiang Khong, you will be excited or you should be. For me I was tired and warn down from the two months in Thailand, but was feeling the blood rush as I was embarking on a new country.Depending on the means of transportation you are traveling by, more than likely if you are coming from another region the driver will drop you off on the main soi/street short of the docks. If so, you can grab a tuk tuk taxi- or walk down to customs about half a kilometer from the main drop off. From the main road, walk down the hill, stop to the left of the boat ramp at a small blue building with an overhang where you will see people filling out papers on the left and people coming up from the Mekong River and singing in on the right. Not hard to miss. Grab a form, fill out the exit requirements give your passport through the small window to the person in the customs office. You won’t need any money to exit, so hold tight, the official will review your stay and if everything is ok, they will stamp you out of Thailand.
After you are stamped out you can walk down to get a boat taxi over the river.
Then proceed down till you see some steps down to the river bank. At the waters shore are a line of taxi boats, you will see some locals sitting under a tent charging a fixed 40 Baht charge to travel across the Mekong into Huay Xai Laos. Buy the ticket, no point in negotiating, they know you NEED to cross and are not lowering their price. It’s only a five minute boat ride.
After buying a ticket you walk to any boat that is open, sit down on the wobbling boat, try not to be that person who falls. It happens, I saw someone spill. and get comfortable, or at least try. The trip across is a quick 5 minutes, enjoy the breeze. Once you pick which boat to get on to remember try not to over pack all your friends into one boat, as you and your luggage will weigh it down and heaps of water will splash up into the boat as you cross. It is not fun with the water gets into the boat, I’ve seen people bucketing water out, and travelers getting their gear soaked. Just keep your backpack on, and sit one person to a bench as they are only about one meter/yard wide.
Then on the other side enjoy and smile as you take your first step off the boat onto Laotian soil.
Before I forget, DO NOT FORGET TO CHECK OUT
Oh yes this happens everyday here at this location I was told by an offical. People in a hurry to cross the river from Thailand to Laos forget or simply just walk past the customs check point in Chiang Khong to board the 40 Baht water taxi across the Mekong River, waiting line and find out an hour later that they have to go back and check out of Thailand. From my experience it was couple from England standing in front of me on the Laos side, like everyone else they waited in line had their entrance paper work ready and visa on arrival forms but were turned to go back across the border to get signed/stamped out of Thailand.
This was inevitably not just a hassle for them to go back across the Mekong river, up the banks wait in line check out walk through the process all over again but they lost time and missed their slow boat. thus had to spend the night in the city they hadn’t planned on and taking an extra day off their thirty day visa plans.
Checking into Customs in Huay Xai, Laos
Once off the old narrow taxi boat, Walk up the cement boat ramp, head right up some stairs, walk to the window that says VISA ON ARRIVAL It is hear that you will fill out two different pieces of paperwork one small, one large, hand over your passport, one small ID photo, Depending on what country you come from the fee varies a few dollars, for US citizens it is 35 US Dollars. Then wait for them to review your document. You are granted a thirty day Visa on arrival.
Once you are checked into Huay Xai, Laos, head further up the narrow road to a second checkpoint
Yes a second check point so keep your passport out. It is just a precaution for them to make sure everyone checked in so hand your passport to the guard. He will review the passport, they double check your documentation then waive you through. Make your way to the top of the street to a three way intersection. if you go any further you will be walking up over 100 steps to a temple.
So stop there and breath, then turn around and look at Thailand across the mighty Mekong River.