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Vientiane Visa Run

The Visa run in Vientiane can be a hectic and tedious process. Being a first time teacher and the first time I’ve ever worked outside of my home country, this can seem a bit daunting. Even so, there are a lot of ways to help move the process faster and have some fun along the way! Below, I’ve detailed my experience, some helpful tips, and a cost calculator to make your trip easier and fun!

 

Like any great reporter uncovering the facts about a story, an Individual trying to obtain their work permit should do the very same. Here are 5 questions you need to ask when applying for your Visa…WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, & HOW.

Who Can Help You?

Media Kids Academy Consultants and A work permit agency will be able to handle any questions you have!

What is the Visa Run?

The “Visa Run” is a process of leaving Thailand, obtaining a work permit in Laos, then returning with said work permit. The work visa/permit is called a NON-B Immigrant Visa.

When do I need to obtain my visa?

You need to Obtain your work visa before your tourist visa runs out. Media Kids will keep track of every teacher’s tourist visa and will schedule the visa run within the remaining days your tourist visa is still viable. It is still a good idea to make sure you know when yours expires though.

Tip: tourist visas can be 30 days upon arrival in Thailand, or 60 days if you bought one before arrival.

Where do I go to get my visa?

The vast majority of teachers obtain their work visas from Vientiane. Some however, go to smaller cities in Laos to get theirs.

Why do I need to get a visa?

You need to have a work permit in order to work legally In Thailand. This initial work permit lasts 90 days. After 90 days, you are able to extend this visa to finish out your time teaching. If you are wanting to leave Thailand to travel and then re-enter, you need to obtain a re-entry permit. These can be arranged at your nearest immigration office and cost 1,000 baht (approx.. 30 USD).

How does the visa process work?

Here is a detailed account of the journey to and from Vientiane, Laos.

Usually, Media Kids Academy will send you during the week, but sometimes it can be done on the weekend.

 

Day 1: Travel day Sunday

This was our travel day to the border town in Thailand. Our minivan rides looked like this: Chaiyaphumà Khon Kaen àUdon Thani à Nonkhai. No matter what area you are in Thailand, you will most likely stop in Kohn Kaen, then trek to the next two locations. Nonkhai is the town in Thailand that borders Vientiane, Laos.

 

After getting settled into our hotel in Nongkhai (which is literally walking distance from the border), we took to the streets in search of food. We found a bustling night market full of food, clothes, shoes, etc. Since we went through an agency, the representative from SWD met us at our hotel and collected our money for our time in Laos.

Day 2: Over the Border Monday

Morning

Crossing the border began at 6am. We met with the visa agency at 7/11 close to our hotel. You can see the border in the distance, and all the other people waiting to cross the border. A big bus pulls up, and we and we prepare to board it. But, the bus wasn’t big enough. At least not for the crowds of people swarming it. The bus was packed. I barely got on and stood on one of the stairs leading up to the actual bus platform. Even so, it was about a 5-minute ride into Laos, so it wasn’t too bad.

After we exited the bus, we waited at immigration and got our passports stamped to show we departed from Thailand. Then, our agency took our passports. I was a little hesitant with this, but you just have to trust the process. Then we boarded a minivan to a government building in Vientiane and waited there for about 30 minutes. Next, our agency gave us our passports back, with the Laos tourist visa inside. We signed some more paperwork, waited a little bit, then turned our passports back in to get the work permit. We were given a receipt and told to bring it back at 1:30pm the next day. DON’T LOSE YOUR RECEIPT. I don’t know what happens, but it can’t be good! Crowds of people were waiting in line, but we got to “fast pass” through because we went through an agency. After all that craziness, we were transported to our hotel.

With it still being early in the morning (9:30am) we sat down and ate some breakfast. Our hotel gave us free breakfast and dinner. It was delicious!

Afternoon/Evening

In the afternoon we did some exploring. We visited the Cope Visitor Center, numerous Temples, French coffee shops, and ate at a French styled sandwich vendor.

In the evening, our Hotel had dinner for us buffet style. Then we met some others, who were also getting their work permits, and discovered the Vientiane nightlife.

Day 3:  Tuesday Visa Run

We were picked up by our agency at 12:30 in a minivan, to go back to the government building where our passports were. Then finally, we got our passports back (for good) with our working visa. Yes, finally! After, we were hauled back in the minivan to immigration and were stamped out of Laos. Then back over the border, squished on the bus back over into Thailand.

Finally, immigration stamped us back into Thailand with our 90 day Visa. Check your passport to make sure immigrations give you a 90 day stamp. My friend went back to immigration because they stamped her passport wrong! After we headed back on a minivan to Kohn Kaen. Because of the visa process, we missed the last bus out. So, we had to spend the night in Kohn Kaen. This is relatively common though, and nothing to stress over.

Here is the breakdown of the cost of the trip:

Agency Fee = 5,500 baht (includes work visa, Laos tourist visa, one night accommodation in Laos, transportation, food)

Transportation to/from the border = 500 baht (This is coming from Chaiyaphum City).

Food/drinks NOT paid for (to/from) border: 500 baht

One night hotel stay in Nonkhai (border town) = 180 baht

Night stay in Kohn Kaen=150 (on the way back from the border)

Reimbursement from MediaKids= 2,000 baht (for work visa)

Money Spent = 4,780 baht (approx. 146$)

This is the sum using an agency. The hotel was nice and added to the cost as well as the visa fee. If you don’t do any agency in Vientiane, you’ll still spend around 3,300 baht (100 USD) for the trip, but risk making mistakes and waiting in line.

If you are contemplating whether to go through an agency to obtain your work permit, I highly suggest going to through and agency if you will be in Vientiane. If you are going to a smaller town in Laos, you are fine to do it alone.

I really enjoyed the culture and environment in Vientiane while I was obtaining my work visa.

Colonized by the French, Laos is teeming with French influence. If you have time, here are some ideas for exploring the City:

Food to Try in Vientiane

Sandwich Stands

These are the greatest stands ever. They’re almost on every corner and serve hot freshly baked baguette style bread sandwiches. Its absolutely delicious.  A 6 inch sandwich cost about 15,000 Kip (approx. 2 dollars).

French Cafes in Vientiane

French Cafes are booming in this city. Serving Croissants, jams, and Cafe au Lait,you certainly don’t feel like you’re in Southeast Asia any more. Even though Laos is relatively inexpensive, the cafes here have western prices.

Cost: Expect to pay 40,000 kip (approx.5-6 dollars) for sandwiches, and 24,000 kip (approx. 3-4 dollars) for certain coffee drinks.

Laotian Sticky Rice

Traditionally eaten with your hands, Laotian sticky rice is the staple food of this country. Laos consumes the most sticky rice in the world, and you can find it literally anywhere.

Places to Visit:

Buddha Park

A widely known, gigantic sculpture park with more than 200 religious statues, including a huge 40 meter tall Buddha. Plan to spend an entire afternoon walking around and admiring the ancient architecture.

Cope Visitor Center

The Cope Visitor Center is a war museum that displays films and educates on the history of the bombings & injuries relating to the Vietnam War. It might seem boring if you aren’t into war history (like me), but it was a very interesting and eye opening experience.

Wat Sisaket Museum

Wat Si Saket is famous for its wall of tiny Buddha images. Thousands line the wall and  rows are filled with sculptured Buddhas. In total, there are about 6,800 Buddhas here. Many locals come to pray here and offer food and support to the monks.

Inpeng Temple

Wat Inpeng is one of many wat (temples) in Vientiane. Near the bank of Mekong river. The temple is an active residence for local monks.

Cost: Usually a fee of  8,000-12,000 kip to get into certain museums and temples (approx 1-2 dollars).

 

Currency: The Kip

1 USD = 33 baht = 8,000 Kip

Tips for the currency: If you are coming from Thailand first, don’t exchange any Thai Baht for Kip. When you buy food or drinks in Lao, you can pay with Baht. Pay with a bill larger than your meal, because the change you will get back will be in Kip. Also, don’t exchange too much, as Kip is virtually useless anywhere else you go.

I hope this helps any fellow teacher preparing for their visa run in Vientiane and elsewhere!

For more information about teaching and traveling in Thailand, visit my blog https://www.oddandabroad.com

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