The Travellers Guide To Chiang Khong Border Crossing

So, you want to travel to Laos or do a border run? Well luckily for you, Chiang Khong border crossing is a simple way to cross into the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about crossing the border at the 4th Thai-Lao friendship bridge. You’ll also get a list of interesting spots to check out before heading to Laos, hotel recommendations for both sides, and information on how to plan your travel further in Laos. Why trust us? We’ve crossed this exact border twice and into Laos from different points in Thailand 3 times.

How To Get To Chiang Khong Border

This will assume you’re around Chiang Mai, or heading to the Northern regions of Thailand. Any other part of Thailand makes this border a bad choice for both cost-effectiveness and time. If you want to learn more about border runs in Thailand and where to cross, check our dedicated article.

You can get to the Chiang Khong border checkpoint 2 ways using land (if you are flying, you might as well just fly to Laos):

  • From Chiang Mai – Bus, 4hrs, 4-500 baht per ticket
  • From Nan – Bus to Phayao, then Chiang Rai, then Chiang Khong (total cost 600 baht max)
  • From Chiang Rai – Local bus, 2hrs, 120 baht max

You could also rent a motorbike (this was the option we chose). For 5 days, at 250 baht per day, it costs roughly the same as a bus ticket both ways (minus the petrol), and you have the freedom to travel around, stop at wherever you like, and have a brilliant journey into the rural depths of Thailand.

Our 5-day journey to Chiang Khong border (with multiple stops)

When you arrive in Chiang Khong, you can get a Tuk Tuk for 30-50 baht to the border checkpoint.

What Do I Need To Cross? (Short Checklist)

Here’s what you need to cross the Chiang Khong friendship bridge (and all other bridges in Thailand to Laos):

  • Valid passport, with your tourist visa stamps (if you get a new passport, you need to make sure your stamps are moved over – I learned the hard way)
  • Passport-sized photos (used for visa application)
  • A pen (although they provide pens here, they’re usually all taken and there’s 3-4 pens for 100s of people)
  • $30-50 USD (This is for visa cost, some countries are exempt, & bus the other side, it’s better to have this amount in baht or kip)
  • 60-100 baht (This is for the buses either side, both cost 30 baht at time of writing)

You may need some extras if you are taking goods across or are working in the respective countries, but for the average tourist, this is all you need to cross the border.

How To Cross The Chiang Khong Friendship Bridge

First, you’ll need to arrive at the border. To get here, take a Tuk Tuk around 30-50 baht per person, to the border.

After you arrive, walk to the border checkpoint. This is on the left-hand side from the entry to the border checkpoint. Once you arrive here, Thai immigration will stamp you out. I was here for about 1-2 minutes while they did this. After, you’ll walk through to a seated area, and a booth – you want to walk up to the booth to purchase a bus ticket (30 baht) to take you across the friendship bridge.

Once you have crossed the bridge, at the Lao side you’ll need to fill out some entry and exit forms (keep your exit form in your passport for when you leave the country). Here, you’ll also need a passport photo to be included with your forms. After filling it out, head to the booths with the sliding doors for windows, hand the immigration officer your forms, passport, passport photo, and 1800 baht.

If you have change they will give you the change once the process is complete.

There are ATMs here, but some are a little bit janky with foreign cards, so I’d advise withdrawing money in Thailand before crossing. You can pay in baht across the border, and in some places in the border towns, but after you leave those areas you’ll need the local currency – KIP.

After you’ve filled the forms out, the immigration officers will check them, and you’ll be instructed to wait. After they check it, they’ll call out your name, check it again, and then (if all is good), they’ll stamp your passport and you’re through!

When you’re through, walk to the other side of the border, ignore the taxis and jump into a Tuk Tuk. A ride should cost 30,000 KIP or 40 baht to the nearest border town “Huay Xai”.

Where To Stay in Chiang Khong

Some great places I’ve personally stayed in Chiang Khong are:

  1. Fortune Riverside Hotel (luxury) – pool, free breakfast, great riverside view, decent price, and fantastic rooms, 800-1000 baht/night ($20-30)
  2. Namkhong Guesthouse (mid-range) – pool, no breakfast, 5-10m walk to the town and river, 700 baht per night for private room ($16)
  3. Sleeping Well Hostel (budget) – hostel but has private rooms, rooms clean & decent, very thin walls, not much space in room, central location ($15/night)

If you’d like to see more of the rooms, you can check the video embedded in this article, it shows small clips of the places stayed throughout our journey here.

How To Get From Huay Xai To Other Lao Cities/Towns

From Huay Xai, there is a bus terminal located nearby. You can go pretty much anywhere you’d like to go in Laos, with the lesser travelled routes offering minivan services (where you have to wait for them to fill), and the more travelled routes, offering scheduled buses. Travel is extremely cheap, with tickets from Huay Xai -> Luang Prabang setting you back about $6-7 for the entire ride.

Top tip: do not get a sleeper bus in Laos – you will not be able to sleep on said bus. The roads are terrible, you have to share a ‘bed’ with someone random, and the driving is excessively quick. Get a seated bus where possible. You will be thankful you did.

Can I Cross Using The Slow Boat At The Border?

There’s a common misconception with this, you can’t actually get the slow boat directly from Thailand. First, you must cross the Chiang Khong border, and then in the small town of Huay Xai you need to go to the pier, then purchase the slow boat ride from here.

It goes from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, takes a total of 2 days, and costs between $20-40.

If you want to go to Luang Prabang, the easier, less expensive, and more convenient option is getting a bus from the Huay Xai bus station. Our tickets cost about $6-7 for the journey. If you want more information check out our bus travel in Laos article that details everything you need to know. Whatever you do, don’t get a sleeper bus, get a seated one (it’s much, much more pleasant of a ride).

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