When you travel between two countries, especially crossing a land border, it will cost you time and effort. After you get used to the currency, food, and daily life in one place, you know you need to move on and continue your travel.
What is the cheapest way to reach your next neighbouring destination? Crossing the border by land. This is a normal practice for every backpacker and traveller who are moving slowly during their adventures. I will share with you the complete step by step on how to cross the border of Vietnam to Laos and Laos to Vietnam, with a bonus of how to prepare your visas in Vietnam and in Laos.
It is quite pricey to fly between these two countries, if you are on a tight budget, you can easily cross the border, but keep in mind that this is a long ride, so, stock up some snacks, books, and brace yourself!
I will discuss first the border between Vietnam (Hanoi) and Laos (Luang Prabang). You can scroll down below to read about Laos (Luang Prabang) to Vietnam (Hanoi).
VIETNAM-LAOS CROSSING THE BORDER AND VISA REQUIREMENTS
REMEMBER: Bring a pen, passport photo, and US Dollars
RELATED POST: Best time to explore Vietnam
How to get a Visa to Laos
Laos is pretty easy when it comes to obtaining a visa, there is no need to arrange anything beforehand, you can easily get your visa as you enter the border. Most Southeast Asian countries do not need a visa for 30 days or less, whilst most Europeans and other nationalities have to pay $40 for the same number of days. Check the Laos visa policy here.
How to Get a Bus from Vietnam to Laos (Hanoi to Luang Prabang)
The easiest and fastest way is to walk to any travel agency, they can give you the exact bus schedules and latest prices. In the time I did this, I booked the ticket for VN990.000 ($46), whilst another traveller told me you can book a bus at the South bus station in Hanoi for VN700.000 ($32), which I didn’t have the chance to confirm. The bus journey will take about 27 hours or more depending on the traffic and the times the bus will stop along the way.
I was picked up at 5 pm, there will be a dinner and bathroom break at 9 pm. Remember that there will be no comfort room on the bus, the travel agent will say there will be one, but that is a fat lie. However, the driver stops once in a while or you can ask them if you really need to go to the bathroom right away. The bus stops often picking up passenger or goods along the way.
Crossing the Border Between Vietnam and Laos (NAM KAN BORDER)
When you get to the border between Vietnam and Laos, you will be asked to get off the bus with your belongings to get an exit stamp from Vietnam. Hand your passport to the person behind the glass window and wait until they call your name. After you received your stamp, exit the building and cross the friendship bridge to Laos, where you need to get an entry stamp.
Hand your passport to the person behind the glass window, you will be asked to fill out the arrival form. Nationalities who need a visa will be asked to go to the back of the building to pay.
Inside the building where you handed your passport will be the same area where you will receive it. Double-check if your entry stamp has been added and the validity date is right.
There will be a small stand where you can change the rest of your Vietnamese Dong or US Dollars to Laotian Kip, the rate is not the best.
Now, you are ready to hop back into the bus for another 12-hours of the journey, there will be a lunch break at noon. The bus will drop you off at the bus station in Luang Prabang where you can take a tuktuk for your accommodation. Share a tuktuk with other travellers and do no pay more than $2. Check out these things to do in Luang Prabang or here is an itinerary if you only have a few days to spare.
LAOS TO VIETNAM BORDER CROSSING AND VISA REQUIREMENTS
How to Get a Visa to Vietnam in Luang Prabang (Laos)
Note: Bring US Dollars, a passport photo, and a pen
You can get either a visa letter in advance from a travel agency online or you can get a visa in the Vietnamese Consulate in Luang Prabang. The Consulate is located not very far from the city centre. The best time to go is Monday morning or any day during the week but always go as early as you can. There are plenty of options to fast track your visa if you are in a hurry. We highly recommend this website to get your visa letter.
ADDRESS & OFFICE HOURS OF THE CONSULATE:
Address: 417 -418 That Boset Village, Luang Prabang
Mondays to Fridays: 8.30 – 11.30 / 13.30 – 17.00
VISA COST AND PROCESSING TIME:
|PROCESSING TIME||1 MONTH|
What to Do when you are at the consulate
- Fill out a form for the visa, you can find it on the right corner of the counter
- Attach your photo at the corner, you can find a glue somewhere in the area. Then hand your form and your passport to the person-in-charge
- Pay for your visa and come back to pick up your passport with your Vietnamese visa
How to book a bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi
The travel agencies are nesting in the city centre. The drive takes about 27 hours and should cost LK 370,000 ($46). There will be no bathroom on the bus, however, you can always ask the bus drivers to pull over if you need a bathroom break right away. A lot of agencies will tell you as well that there is a bus, but that’s a lie. Most bus companies will pick you up from your accommodation, but ask this first with your travel agency.
The bus normally departs at 18.00 (6 pm) and there will be a stop for dinner or around midnight. Remember to stock up some snacks and water for the long journey. Keep in mind that there will be a lot of stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers and goods.
To avoid getting ripped off, we highly suggest you book your bus through our recommended website.
HOW TO CROSS THE BORDER BETWEEN LUANG PRABANG AND HANOI (NAM KAN BORDER)
At 6 in the morning, the bus will reach the border, the office opens at 7 am. Whilst waiting, get off the bus and change your remaining Laos Kip to Vietnamese Dong at the small stand on the left, remember that the rate is not the best.
At 7.00, hand in your passport and your departure card (you can ask for the personnel if you lost yours or don’t have one). After you receive your passport with a stamp of exit from Laos, you are ready to take a walk at the friendship bridge of Laos-Vietnam.
An office will ask you to place your belongings at the x-ray machine for inspection, after picking up your luggage, hand your passport to the person in charge at the glass window. They normally collect all the foreigner’s passports together, if you have an invitation letter, make sure to put it inside your passport.
Wait for a few minutes until they call your name and give your passport back, check the stamp and the validity date. Now, you can exit the building and hop back to your bus and prepare for the next leg of the trip. A lunch stop will be at noon. If you haven’t booked a hostel yet, here are the best Vietnam hostels that we recommend.
You will be dropped off at the southern bus station, whereas taxis are the most convenient way to reach your accommodation. However, if you have the internet on your phone, book a Grab instead.
WARNING: Do not take a taxi with a running metre, a lot of taxi drivers here are tapping their metres which will cost you a lot of money. Instead, negotiate the price first before hopping in the taxi, do not pay more than VND150.000. If the driver says no, walk away and find another taxi, it’s better to flag one along the main road than in the bus station.
Bottom line, Vietnam-Laos crossing the border and vice versa is pretty easy however, the trip via bus is very long and exhausting. While it is definitely much cheaper than flying to Laos from Vietnam, just remember the reason is that the trip can be uncomfortable. The visa process is pretty straightforward. Remember to bring USD, pen, and passport photo.
I hope you find this article useful about crossing the border between Vietnam and Laos useful. If you have experienced this trip and have some tips to share or have questions before you book this trip, let us know in the comment section below.