I just come back from a quick 1 night stay in Savannakhet, Laos to renew my Thai visa. As I’m currently located in Mukdahan where the Friendship bridge is located, it was just a 2 hour commute for me (Sweeeet!). Here is my mini “Visa run to Savannakhet” guide for those that are coming from Bangkok:
Getting to Mukdahan
Air Asia and Nok Air currently fly into Ubon Ratchathani, the nearest airport to Mukdahan, and takes just 55 minutes from Bangkok. Alternatively, you could get a train direct to Ubon, or get a bus direct to Mukdahan from Morchit bus station in Bangkok.
Once you have got your dates fixed, call the Ploy Palace Hotel in Mukdahan (042 631 111) and get their VIP transit mini van to Mukdahan. It costs ฿350 and takes 2 to 3 hours. Alternatively, you could get the local bus which costs around 100b I think, however it takes at least 4 hours.
Staying in Mukdahan
Having stayed in 5 or 6 hotels in Mukdahan, I think the Rabiangmuk hotel has the best rooms. The hotel is newly built, oozes quality and at ฿550 per night, the rooms are big and the internet is fast.
For things to do in Mukdahan, the night market is worth a look, and is only 10 minutes walk from the Rabiangmuk hotel. The Good Mook restaurant is my fav for great Thai food, and the Pool Bar located by the Esso garage is a cool place to have a beer where you can check out the great band who play every night of the week. A walk along the Indochine Market by the Mekong River is also a pleasant way to kill an hour or so.
Getting to the Friendship 2 Bridge and into Laos
The Friendship 2 bridge connecting Mukdhan with Savannakhet.
If you don’t speak Thai and have problems organising a tuk-tuk to pick you up in the morning, I’d ask the hotel staff to organise this for you. The fee should be around 100b, maybe a little more. An 8am pick up should work well.
When you arrive at the Friendship bridge, you’ll need to buy a bus ticket from the little office outside immigration (50b), get stamped through get the bus across the Friendship bridge into Laos. The bus can become very over crowded, but luckily only takes 5 minutes.
Rates for Laos Visas differ depending on your nationality. For a British national, the fee was equivalent to 1,500b (you can pay both in Thai baht and US dollars). You’ll need to attache 1 passport sized photo to your application.
After paying the stamp fee (40b), which some say you don’t need to pay, you’ll get bombarded with tuk tuk drivers and taxi drivers keen to take you to the Thai Embassy. The fee for a tuk tuk for a local or Thai is 60b, although you may end up paying around 100b
Thai Embassy in Savannakhet
The queues at the Thai Embassy in Savannakhet
When you arrive at the Thai Embassy in Savannakhet, you’ll need to buy, yes buy, the visa application form from the shop opposite the Embassy. They also offer you glue to attache 2 passport sized photos.
On my recent trip, the queues to submit my visa was around 50 people long, and took around 30 minutes to hand in my application and passport for 2pm pickup the next day. The visa fee right now is free, although you could check before you go.
Staying in Savannakhet
Excellent coffee at the Chez De Bourne
Time for breakfast! Hands down, the Chez De Bourne restaurant located on the same road as the Thai Embassy in Savannakhet offers not only the best Coffee in town (as seen in the picture above), but also superb food.
Beautiful architecture in and around Savannakhet
I love how shutter doors add a real rustic appearance to buildings. Stunning!
You have to wait 30 minutes for the lasagna at the Chez De Bourne, but so worth it!
I then went and looked for a hotel for the night, and ended up staying at the Savanbanhao Hotel, which at 250b for the night with aircon, with extremely friendly locals (the staff took me out to Oscars night club), was a good choice.
Getting back to Mukdahan
At 2pm you’ll need to head back to the Thai Embassy to collect your visa at 2pm, then get a tuk tuk back to the Friendship bridge (80b this time around). The fee for the bus is 50b, but takes you all the way to Mukdahan bus station.