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I think I'll cross the border from Thailand to Laos again for the first time in years in about two weeks.

I really like crossing borders at small, quiet, out-of-the-way crossings. Even if they're not easy to get to. I crossed from Malaysia a couple of weeks ago on a tiny river ferry with only one car and me on board for instance.

But some crossings are only open to citizens of the two local countries, and not to outsiders. I've got to such crossings in other parts of Southeast Asia at least twice in the past.

In addition it's possible at least in theory that people from third countries might be allowed to cross at some points where visas-on-arrival are not issued.

So which would be the least-used etc place where I (Australian passport if it makes a difference) can enter Laos from Thailand by visa-on-arrival?

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    We once tried to cross the Mekong into Laos at the Golden Triangle. We could look at it but they didn't let us to dock. Just a few days earlier they had closed the border due to a new-fangled disease in China called "Covid" :-). That was certainly not an "obscure" crossing: the Thai side is rather bucolic but the Laos side looked like Las Vegas: primarily casinos and hotels designed to sift money out Thai gambling tourists (gambling being illegal in Thailand).
    – Hilmar
    Oct 9, 2023 at 13:34
  • There are or were previously casinos right next to almost all of the border crossings with China and Thailand where they're not legal in the other countries where the status is "fuzzy". There used to be a huge complex at the Laos/China border until the Chinese government ordered it shut down due to gang murders etc. It was being used by the people building the Belt and Road railway into Laos last time I was there. On my last trip before covid there was a smaller one at the Thai Cambodia border and the locals I met told me it was all Thais and Chinese that use it. Oct 9, 2023 at 14:00

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As of 2023 (unofficial source, but unfortunately official sources for Laos are often non-existent or useless), VOA is available at the following Thai-Lao border crossings:

  1. Chiang Khong – Houixay, Chiang Rai to Bokeo Province;
  2. Nakaxeng – Kaenthao, Loei to Sayabouly Province;
  3. Houi Koln – Nam Ngeun, Nan to Sayabouly Province;
  4. Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I, Nongkhai-Vientiane Capital (eVisa available);
  5. Tha Naleng train station in Vientiane;
  6. Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge II, Moukdahan-Savannakhet Province (eVisa available);
  7. Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge III, Nakorn Phanom-Khammouane Province;
  8. Chongmek – Vangtao, Ubol Ratchathani to Champasack Province.

The bridges and train options are obviously busy and popular, and so is the one at Chiang Khong (they've already built the 4th bridge here). I've never been to Kaen Thao, but apparently there's a bridge there as well, while Chongmek/Vangtao is close-ish to the major city of Ubon Ratchathani.

So this leaves the Houi Koln – Nam Ngeun crossing (ห้วยโก๋น - ນ້ຳເງີນ), which looks pretty promising: it's deep in the mountains and the nearest towns on both sides (Chiang Klang, Pak Beng) are pretty minor and off the beaten track. It's probably still not going to be as small as your MY/TH crossing, since the smallest Lao entry points don't issue VOA or allow third-country nationals.

Update: The Lao Embassy in Australia has an undated different list of checkpoints (PDF) that allow VOA, and it's shorter:

  1. Borkeo Province: Houayxay (Lao) - Xiengkhong (Thai). Be able to obtain Visa on arrival
  2. Khammoun Province: Thakhek (Lao) - Nakhonphanom (Thai). Be able to obtain Visa on arrival
  3. Savannakhet Province: Savannakhet (Lao) - Mukdahan (Thai). Be able to obtain Visa on arrival
  4. Champasak Vangtao (Lao) - Xongmek (Thai). Be able to obtain Visa on arrival
  5. Parksane (Lao) - Beungkane (Thai). Be able to obtain Visa on arrival

Plus VTE, LPQ airports and Friendship Bridge, which support e-visa as well. Note the absence of Houi Koln – Nam Ngeun on this list :/

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  • That sounds like what I'm looking for! My MY/TH crossing was very quiet but nowhere near as adventurous as some I did years ago. Oct 9, 2023 at 12:59
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    Annoyingly, a comment on Google Maps 8 months ago from a "Greg R" said there was no visa-on-arrival there. Oct 9, 2023 at 13:05
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    @hippietrail Looks like that comment may unfortunately be correct, see updated answer with an official source. Oct 9, 2023 at 23:20
  • Xongmek is the Lao spelling of Chong Mek – looking for Xongmek on GMaps for instance won't yield anything.
    – dda
    Oct 10, 2023 at 8:33
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    Thanks for the update! That really helps a lot. Just Googling this type of thing sadly doesn't work anymore with so much wrong info out there that doesn't get updated. Oct 10, 2023 at 13:17

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