Getting a Thai Visa in Vientiane, Laos

19 Nov

Passports with Thai Visa Stickers

Quick Summary:

What: Thai Visa Application at the Consulate in Vientiane, Laos
When: Applications are received weekdays from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm
Pick-up is next weekday between 1 -3 pm
Cost: 1000 Baht per entry / Double-entry possible
Requirements: Filled out application form, 2 passport photos, passport copies of picture page+Laos visa+Laos entry stamp, visa  fee in Baht

We were in Vientiane and had to get a Thai Visa. Laos just didn’t seem to work out for us.

From previous research and conversations with other Thailand travellers I had learnt that Laos, or more specifically the Thai consulate in Vientiane was one of the best places to get a Thai visa.

The processing fees are low at 1000 Baht per entry and of all the neighbouring countries of Thailand, it is the only one that issues double-entry visas, but we didn’t really need that one.

Let me say ONE thing right at the beginning. Go to the consulate and through the application process by yourself! Guesthouses and travel agencies offer to do it for you, but I almost couldn’t believe it, when I heard and read how much they ask for it.

3000 Baht for a single-entry visa? 5500 for double-entry? Are you serious?

Let me do the math:

1000/2000 Baht go to the consulate, 20 Baht for 3 passport copies, so that leaves you with 1980/3480 Baht per application? I don’t know, if they are giving any guarantees of visa issuance, but I highly doubt it.

I have seen these ‘brokers’ at the consulate. They lined up just like the rest of us, but not with just one or two passports. No, they had stacks of 10 to 20 passports each!

So in the two/three hours it takes at the consulate (1 hour on day of application, 1 hour on pick-up, maybe 1 hour to make copies and fill out application) he is making a minimum of $600. Just to be clear here, this is Laos we are talking about. Minimum wage per MONTH is less than $80!!

Admittedly, I don’t know how many parties are splitting all that profit. Some will go to the guesthouse/travel agency as ‘commission’, but it still seems like a ridiculous cow-milking scheme and is very representative of our entire Laos experience.

Of course, if you can make more than $60/110 in the two hours you save with an agent doing whatever it is you are doing, please go for it!

Needless to say, we did NOT go through an agent. We got a tuk-tuk to the Consulate. They accept applications on weekdays between 8.30 am and noon. On the way we realized, we had forgotten to exchange money into Baht. Don’t be like us and make this stupid mistake. I knew there would be very ‘helpful’ guys in front of the Consulate, but I also knew that their charges would be close to criminal.

Sure enough, one guy wanted to sell us the application forms that are free inside the Consulate for 100 Baht. Why? Because apparently ‘there are many, many people inside lining up for them’. This would also include making the three copies of our passport (picture page, Lao visa, Lao entry stamp). Why? Because ‘there is no copier inside’. Yeah, right, NOT!

We didn’t need any of these BS services, but we needed Thai Baht. For the $60 worth of Baht that we needed, he made an additional $10 for changing it from Lao Kip for us. Oh well,  this sucks, but hopefully someone can learn from our mistakes.

Inside the Consulate we headed straight upstairs, where a sign pointed us to a copy-machine! For 30 Baht both of us got our copies. There seems to be a volume discount, as other single applicants said it was 20 Baht for them.

Off to take a queue number from the machine and start filling out the free forms. They might actually be available for print-out online. Glue on your 2 passport photos and then it wasn’t very long anymore until our number was called out. Hand in passport and application and off to another building.

The same numbers were called out here; we could pay our 1000 Baht and got a receipt that was already printed.

For the way back to the centre we shared a tuk-tuk with 2 other travellers. One was Australian and a very good negotiator. So we paid less than half of the price for getting there. Thanks, Australian traveller whose name I forgot.

The next day we went to the Consulate again. Pick-up is weekdays between 1pm and 3pm. We got there right at 1pm, but many others had started to line up before that. However, queue numbers were given out starting at 1 sharp.

Back to the second building from yesterday. Due to our position far back in line it took maybe 45 minutes, but then we got our passports back, now with a fresh Thai visa sticker and the great feeling of being able to go home.

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