Thailand – Laos Border Crossing
In this article, I will guide you the steps and the documents needed for crossing into Laos via Thai-Laos Friendship bridge 1 at Nong Khai. However, this would be also generally applicable for all Laos Border crossing overland by motorcycle/car and I’ll share based on my personal experience.
Important Note 1: It seems, from March 2017, they seem to have dusted off the old rule book & no foreign motorcycle less than 250cc can cross into Laos. Laos border crossing rules changes from time to time and no one knows about it until someone has been denied entry. I had luck accessing Laos with my 171CC scooter in March 2017 and 500CC motorcycle (Malaysian registered) in September 2019 via Friendship bridge 1 (Nong Khai).
Important Note 2: No rental, Friend’s etc Motorcycle / Car is allowed. It has to be registered on your own name. Alternatively, you can also get cheap thrifty car rental in Laos.
If you’re coming from Malaysia, you can also refer to Malaysia – Thailand Border Crossing.
Required Documents To Drive/Ride Into Laos
In a nutshell, you will need;
- International Driving Permit (IDP).
- Compulsory – Supporting letter from Laos Embassy in your home country (i.e. Malaysia).
- Third-party Lao Insurance for a vehicle. (Get it at the border)
- Temporary Imported Passenger Vehicle form.
- Original Vehicle registration card (Grant / VOC).
- Passport is valid for 6 months at-least.
- Copy of your road tax (if any) – Ensure it is not expired.
- Visa – (Not needed for countries that have been exempted).
- Immigration form (Arrival Card).
- THB 500 Escort fee on Friendship bridge crossing. (This varies at some borders crossing and I didn’t have to pay when I crossed via Friendship bridge 1)
Preparation from Home Country:
Write a permission request letter with your details (Sample) and hand it over by hand to;
Embassy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to Malaysia
a. You need to attach copies of your Passport, Vehicle registration, Identification Card and International Driving Permit/License.
b. You will need to pay RM 100.00 which they will provide you with an official receipt and you will get the supporting letter (Sample) within 3 working days.
Border Crossing (Thai Side)
- Stamp your Passport at the immigration counter.
- Return your Thai TM2 (with TM3 if you have a passenger) form(s) to the Immigration officer.
- Return your Vehicle’s custom simplified vehicle import form that you got when you first get into Thailand. (For Non-Thai Registered Vehicle)
Border Crossing (Laos Side)
Keep your vehicle on the right side.
For foreign vehicle, just follow the sign and turn right at the border complex.
Now, you will need to get the immigration form (arrival card) from the first counter on your right. (see image below). You can just park your car/motorcycle somewhere here.
At the same counter lane, there is a Kiosk where you need to pay about THB100 (they accept THB) for an entry fee. Get the receipt and keep it with your passport.
Now go back to the big immigration complex, head to counter A4 and get your passport stamped.
Once you’ve done so, go back foreign vehicle lane and head to Counter B4. Here you will need to pay a fee for your vehicle and register your vehicle in their database. This is where you will need to provide your vehicle registration card, the letter from Lao embassy.
Vehicle fee(s) is as per below:
At the same counter (Counter B4), the customs officer will fill up the application form to temporary import your vehicle and pass it over to you (form as per below) which you will need to bring it over to Counter # 105.
When you got the form, go to Counter# 105
This is counter# 105.
All you need to do is, pass over the application form to the officer in Counter 105 and he/she will sign on the form (to approve it). Bring back the form to Counter B4, pay the vehicle fee which you will be given a receipt and the actual temporary import form for your vehicle. (green paper)
Finally, bring the temporary vehicle import form (green paper) to Counter B5 for final checking. Once the officer checked on it, he will let you pass into Laos! Do not lose this as you will need to return it when you exit Laos.
- Stamp your passport at the Immigration counter.
- Return temporary import form for your vehicle (Green paper ) to the customs officer.
Questions & Answeres
Do I need Laos third party insurance for my vehicle?
Yes, you can go to jail without it! Please note, the third party Lao insurance only covers bodily injury for a small amount and not for the repair works on the vehicle(s).
You can buy Vehicle Insurance at the border complex itself, 50m on the right after the immigration counter at about 60,000 KIP for 14 days coverage. Just ask around if you can’t find it.
Money Changer? Sim Card?
Just after the immigration counter, you can buy Lao mobile data sim card. I paid about 20,000 kips for 3 days – 5GB data. The money changer is also just next to the telco counter.
Do I really need the letter from Embassy?
Well, it depends! I’ve seen those using Thailand registered vehicle crossing into Laos without the need of providing such document(s) from the embassy. This is because Thailand has a land transport agreement with Laos as they’re neighbouring country. If your vehicle is not Thai registered, you must get supporting documents from the Lao Embassy in your home country in advance to avoid any hassle at the border as this was required when I crossed into Laos by my motorcycle.
How long can I ride in Laos?
The period that you can keep your vehicle in Laos varies. Nongkhai/Vientiane border’s custom normally gives 7 days but you can ask for a longer period. Other border crossings often give 30 days – best is to ask for 30 days on the Lao side.
Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) / License?
Yes! Most important for riders to know is that Lao insurance provider does not cover claims if the rider uses a national (non-Lao) driving license. I do own an IDP and this makes me much more confident riding in Laos and if you’re Malaysian, you can get it at JPJ’s office for RM 150.
Is there any Insurance that covers vehicle damages?
I’ve spent a lot of time asking insurance companies at the border but they don’t seems to understand English and I could not obtain information on this. If you have any info, please share it with me in the comment box below.
Do I need Travel Insurance?
Having a travel insurance is really important and some even choose not to have one but honestly, accidents do happen and they also seem to happen when you least expect it & least need it. Medical bills can cost a fortunate abroad and with good travel insurance, you can have peace of mind. so please, if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones.