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Laos Backpackers Traveler Information

There are numerous overland border crossings to Laos as the country is landlocked by its neighbors. Generally, there are seven border crossings from Thailand, six crossings from Vietnam and a single crossing from Cambodia. Jetsetters can opt to fly to Vientiane or in Luang Prabang.

Depending on the distance and the road condition, travel time for these overland border crossings can vary. If you are going from Cambodia, the only route to pass is via the Veun Kham and Dom Kralor borders where you can buy a visa on arrival. Since most roads are undeveloped, there is a possibility that travel will take longer.

Backpackers coming from Thailand can use the Chong Mek and Vang Tao border crossings if they want to visit the southern portion of Laos. They may take a bus via Ubon Ratchathani-Chong Mek that will arrive within one hour and a half. Upon dropping off in Chong Mek, you have to hike for five minutes to reach the main crossing, from where, after reaching the Lao side in Vang Tai, you take a bus to Pakse, which will take about one hour travel.

You can cross the Savannakhet and Mukdahan borders via the Friendship Bridge II that overlooks the Mekong River. Before that, you must however take a mini bus from Mukdahan to the bridge and from there; walk over it. At the end of the bridge on the Lao side, you can take a tuk tuk ride to bring you to Savannakhet.

Another exciting way to reach Laos is via the Khaek and Nakhon Phanom borders where a boat will take you for a minimal fee. Enjoy a day trip by way of Paksan and Buena Kan. A boat that crosses the Mekong River will then take you to the Laos border. Before making this trip, make sure you have secured a Lao visa since it is not available in this area unlike the Vientiane and Nong Khai border crossing. This trip is the most popular among backpackers from the capital city of Vientiane to Nong Khai. The trip covers 20 kilometers on land.

A Less popular route is via the Vientiane/ Ban Mo border crossing where the Laos visa is not available. The long haul trip can be undertaken via the Thai Li/Nam Hueng route that will take you to Luang Prabang from Pak Lai. Another popular route is the Huay Xi/Chiang Khong where backpackers are asked to pay a weekend fee if they travel on a weekend or you’ll pay after hours fee if you arrive after 4 PM.

There are many border options to Laos from Vietnam and the advice to backpackers is to take the most convenient route for your final destination. Take the NamCan/Nam Khan border if you want to go to Phonsavan in Laos from Vinh. Trips are available daily and buses to the town depart at 6 AM every Tuesday, Thursday, and weekends costing you $6 USD. The trip covers 403 kilometers of land and takes about 12 hours.

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