If you go by bus from Vientiane to Hanoi you will have to cross the Laos – Vietnam border at the Nam Phao Intl. Checkpoint. During the whole journey with the bus, this is the biggest „attraction” you will have. Even though, you arrive at the Laotian border at 2 am the border opens first around 7:00 – 7:30 am. Therefore, for 5 h you will have to wait or sleep on the bus till they will open the building.
Moreover, together with your bus a lot of other buses are also waiting, so at 7 am the border crossing gets very crowded. There is a toilet at the border, but you have to pay for it. So make sure you have some Laotian spare change. In addition, on the border, you will also find small restaurants combined with shops. You can buy there snacks or warm food like soups. However, don’t expect that somebody will give you there a menu or talk English – no chance for that.
What will you find in this article?
On the border, you have to show the small piece of paper (part of visa) that you got when entering Laos. It’s a similar procedure like in Thailand. At the counters, there is a lot going on. There’s a lot of people and it’s very chaotic because everybody is trying to get to the front. If you are a foreigner you have almost no chance against the locals. Even if you are standing in front of the counter the customs officers take the passports from local people first.
The best solution is to stay close to the staff from your bus. There will be one person responsible for the organisational part. Just give him your passport and go after him. He should collect the passports also from other people and give them all together to the customs officer. After checking your documents the customs officer will call your name and give you the passport back. At least that’s how it worked in our case.
The next step is a 1 km of no-man’s-land. You have to walk through it on foot to get to the Vietnamese border. It takes around 15 min. On the second border, the staff told us to take the backpacks with us and do the formalities with them. Surprisingly, there were no queues and no local people. There was just one counter open. The customs officer inside was collecting passports and when he had enough of them he went to some other room to check the documents and put the visa stamps. Furthermore, he asked for a small service fee of 1 USD. I’m not sure if this was legal because there was no information about that anywhere in the waiting room, like in Laos. Also, Alex didn’t have dollars with him and the officer just let him go.
If for any reason you won’t have an e-visa and you will have to buy one on the border (e.g. with a promissory note) be prepared to get no change. The officers don’t have a cash box so you have to give them the exact amount of money. In my case, this turned out to be quite a big problem, because in the one and only exchange point at the Laos-Vietnam border crossing they were not accepting dollars or euro, but only kip and bath. Fortunately, one local guy who was travelling with us had a big plastic bag full of money with him and behind the bus, so nobody could see us he exchanged 100 USD for Vietnamese dong for me. Why did I cross the border with a promissory note and not an e-visa? You can find the answer here.