The stressful unexpected visa run to Laos
My husband forgot to apply for a new visa. He assumed he could keep extending his non-immigrant “O” every 3 months indefinitely. He passed by immigration 3 months ago when his visa was expired. But apparently immigration gave him a 3 month extension to get the visa renewed. He just didn’t know. Just get the paperworks and apply right? Well that was not entirely the case. We were required to prove my husband meets the financial expectations. Which was a problem this time, as our income runs through my account and we forgot to transfer money to his account. As the amount of cash has to be on his account for at least 2 months there was nothing we could do but leave the country before the end of the week.
I’m ok with unplanned travel in countries I know like the back of my hand or when I speak the national language. But my husband wanted to go to Savannakhét in Laos. We could drive our car there and we were told the immigration office is quite laid back. I’ve never been to Laos and I don’t speak or understand Laos so I was panicking. I started looking for hotels, but none of them met my expectations. We didn’t book a hotel and dicided to drive around from hotel to hotel to check out the rooms.
Our first stop was Chaiyaphum. Normally it would take us 4 hours to get there, but because it was pouring rain it took us over 5 hours. The next morning same story, pouring rain and a 5 hour drive to Mukdahan. Mukdahan borders Laos.
Crossing the bridge by Car
The next morning we drove to the Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge early. There was a small line and the border looked closed. We stood in line for about 15 minutes when we realized all the cars were empty. When I got out of the car a guy in a yellow Royal Thai t-shirt approached me and said I couldn’t cross the brigde with the car. He said he could offer me a bus ride. Sceptical as I am I didn’t believe him at first.
I walked to immigration and asked them if I could cross the bridge with my car. They asked me the car’s ID card. I have never heard of an ID card for a car before so I asked him where to get that. He told me I could apply for one at the The Thai department of Land Transportation. When I asked him where it was located he said I should apply for it in my own town. So basically he was telling me I had to drive 600 km back to apply for a car ID card. My husband had to leave the country the next day so that was not an option.
When I walked back to the car another guy approached me. He told me he could take us across the bridge for 1,500.00 Baht. I kindly declined because we had to figure out were to stay first. Then he told me he knew a good hotel and he could take us there. The man clearly saw I wasn’t all in like my husband. He offered to take us across the bridge, to immigration, to the hotel, pick us up the next day and bring us back to immigration to bring us back to our car in Thailand for 1,500.00 Baht. To me that’s were he made it worse. No stranger wants to make that much of efford unless there some kind of scam involved. I decided not to listen to my husband and not to trust the guy and drove back to Mukdahan. We went to the bus station to check the timetable and the bus rate. The earliest bus left at 7:30 AM and a ticket was 45 Baht.
Crossing the bridge by bus
At 7 am we were at the bus station. At the Thai immigration I went through the Thai lane and my husband through the foreign lane. After passing the Thai immigration the same bus picked us up and drove us to the immigration of Laos at the other end of the brigde. My husband and I were both given an entrance slip. I could enter Laos for free, but my husband had to apply an entry visa. You need a passport photo and you pay a fee. The fee depends on your nationality. My husband holds a European passport he had to pay 1500 Baht.
The language barrier
Finally we arrived in Laos. Some taxi drivers started talking to me in Laos. Which was very annoying because I don’t understand Laos! Oh wait, I do! It sounds so similar to Thai. To my surprice I could understand what they were saying in Laos. I answered them in Thai and they also understood me. How convenient!
The Royal Thai Consulate-General
The taxi driver didn’t even have to ask where we were going and brought us straight to the Royal Thai Consulate-General for 100 Baht each. There was a really long line at the Consulate, but once the counter opened the line moved extremely fast. Before we knew it it was our turn to hand in the documents. They briefly glanced over the documents and gave my husband a number to pick his visa up the next day.
The sleepless night
As the plan was to drive around with our car and check out some hotels we didn’t book anything in advance. We decided to go to the hotel that we had written down on the application just in case. The hotel wasn’t great but wasn’t the worst. 650 Baht for a VIP room with internet. It was alright.
After checking out the city we arrived back in our hotel room and I noticed there was a huge cockroach drinking the leftover from my can of coke I left on my night cabin. After my husband caught it and released it outside I saw a whole bunch of them running behind our closet. My husband suggested to move the closet and remove them all but I had this horror vision : an infinite amount of cockroaches running everywhere in the room. We just left everything were it was and went so sleep without removing them. I didn’t sleep at all as I was scared they’d crawl over my face or even worse in my ear or mouth.
Picking up the visa
The next day we got out of the hotel room as soon as my husband was half awake. We left the cockroaches behind and went to Lin’s Cafe untill it was time to pick up the visa. My husband started pannicking and was affraid his visa would be rejected as he realized he didn’t even sign the application. We went a bit too early just in case it would be rejected, cause I couldn’t not go back to that hotel ever again.
Again the line at the Consulate was very long but as soon as the counter opened they started handing over visas on autopilot. One after the other was handed their visa. My husband got his without any trouble. We cheered and got in the first tuk tuk we saw and headed back to the bus station.
Back to Thailand
The tuk tuk driver dropped us off at the border instead of the bus station, but there were a lot of farangs there so it seemed right. We passed immigration, I had to pay 10.000 Kip, which is about 40 Baht. They could have all my Kip for all I cared I just wanted to go back home. When the bus arrived I realised everybody was holding a ticket and I should have got one before I went through immigration. Filled with adrenaline I jumped trough a gap in the fences bought a ticket and jumped back through the fence and hopped into the bus right on time. I waved Laos a goodbye and a see you never again!
But now everything is back in order, I’m thinking quite differently. I kinda liked Savannakhét, so I might go back some day.
To all people who have to do a visa run I strongly advise you to go to Savannaket as the Royal Thai Consulate-General is as laid back as you possibly can imagine.