The crossing at Nong Khai is popular with tourists and relatively easy to use. Thais and Laos can cross the border via the ferry at Tha Sadet, but everyone else must use Nong Khai’s Thai-Australian Friendship Bridge.
Getting a visa on arrival
To get a visa at the border, take a tuk-tuk to the foot of the bridge, where you’ll be stamped out of Thailand. You’ll then need to take a bus across the span itself to the Laos immigration post, where you can get a thirty-day tourist visa for US$30–42 (depending on nationality), plus one photo. It’s possible to pay in baht at the bridge, though it’s over the odds at B1500 and upwards; Mut Mee Guest House sells dollars at a decent rate, but if not, try the Porntip jewellery shop within the covered market. From the Laos immigration post, you can catch a shared air-conditioned minibus, tuk-tuk or infrequent bus to Vientiane, 24km away.
With a visa
If you have already arranged a visa through a Lao embassy or consulate, you can head straight from Nong Khai into Laos. Six daily buses run all the way through to Vientiane from the bus station. Trains also run from Nong Khai to Tha Naleng in Laos, but as the tracks stop here you’ll need to charter a tuk-tuk, car or minibus for the rest of the journey. The border is also accessible from further afield – there are direct buses from Udon Thani and Khon Kaen to Vientiane.