I hoped to be writing a post about my four day adventure to Vientiane, Laos, but instead I am going to tell you about arguably the fastest visa run possible from Bangkok, or at the very least the most comfortable you can do for less than 2,000 Baht.
I had booked a trip to Laos but something urgent came up in BKK that I had to be back the same day for. So, I woke up at 10am that morning, and here’s what I did.
– Arrived at Don Muang airport via taxi at 11am.
– Went to the check in desk and changed my flight – which was booked to return on the 25th – to later that day at 18.35; leaving from Udon Thai.
– Caught my flight as scheduled at 12.20pm.
– Landed in Udon Thani at 13.25pm.
– This, by the way, is the Nok Air “fly n’ ride” service to Laos that lays on a minivan to the border in Nong Khai, over the bridge and then from the other side to Vientiane town centre. Awesome value at 1,700 Baht.
– I got in the minivan which took off within 5 minutes.
– Jumped out after 45 mins at friendship bridge and took the 15 Baht bus to immigration control.
– First to the window, I filled in my forms and paid my $35 (never pay Baht, you will lose money).
– A Nok Air lady with a clipboard spots me and says, “Are you xyz? you are supposed to be with me on the bus to Vientiane, right?” “I wish I could be, believe me, but I have to go straight back to Thailand”. I sign a piece of paper stipulating that I refused the service. She leaves, baffled.
– Walked through passport control into Laos within 20 mins.
– Came back through into Thailand – no queue and no one even x-rayed my bag.
– Now I had a predicament. I needed a minivan back to Udon Thai airport but all I had in front of me were hustlers trying to get 1,500 Baht for a 200 Baht trip. I couldn’t see any reputable minvan service desks.
– No problem. I bought a bus ticket to Nong Khai for 4,o00 Kip from the window and joined the rest of the group on the public service. It would be easier to find a car/bus on the other side in Thailand.
– Just as I start waiting to board the bus, a sweaty man appears huffing and puffing; “Where you go”? “Udon Thai airport, where you going”? “Okay okay, come on”. “I need to get there quickly (in Thai)”. “Hmmm, quickly, 800 Baht”? “No way, this is a 200 Baht trip in a minivan”. “Okay, okay, quick, this way…”
– Something about this guy wasn’t legit, but all the same I had to get back or risk missing the flight. I turned the corner to see a pretty old skool minivan. “Quickly, quickly!” “Alright, alright, but I want to go to the airport for 200 Baht, right!” I said making my intentions very clear. “Yes, yes, I know, get in”.
– I saddled up in the back. It then suddenly occurred to me that all the passengers were young women under the age of 25. No one spoke English. We crossed the bridge and hit the checkpoint. I was ushered out quickly and told I could leave my back inside. I wasn’t that stupid.
– I did the immigration thing while the driver waited with the van on the other side. The girls were in a real hurry, too. I was last to get back in the van and the guy was visibly stressed. Before I got on I asked again, “Udon Thani airport, right”? “Yes, quickly”!
– As the driver and a strategically placed policeman nodded at each other upon exit, it became obvious that this was an ilegal run of sorts, and I was an unexpected addition picked up on the way for extra cash.
– I was then driven to a shop where I was sold a bus ticket for 150 Baht. The driver asked me for 50 Baht for his trouble.
– No worries. That is all of a UK pound.
– Minutes later, a lowered Toyota, boy racer style, with blacked out windows and a fluorescent pink lightning stripe on the side pulled up outside. “Go with him, he will take you”, instructed the lady in the shop. I opened the car door to be greeted by a woman who appeared to be the mother of the driver, a fairly young Thai-Chinese looking guy.
– Another Thai guy jumped in the front and off we went. He drove safely and the woman was really friendly. I was hoping this was the last leg.
– I was wrong.
– After approximately 5 minutes we pulled over behind a brand new minivan. The driver jumped out and took my bag. I saddled up in the brown, mock-leather style back seat, stuck my headphones in and cruised to the airport.
– Checked in. No queue.
– It had just gone 4pm.
– Time for a cappuchino and some work.
– Caught the 18.35 flight back to BKK.
– Straight out of Don Muang airport (no baggage to wait for).
– Home in 15 minutes by 8pm.
…What a day. What a visa run. And all in relative comfort. Only in Thailand
*Note: Ideally you could book a night in Udon Thai for 500 Baht somewhere and have an evening out. It’s a great city. Doing so would make this a border run, on a plane, with a night’s stop over for 2,400 Baht. Beat that!