Important Note: Many details have changed since we first wrote this post in 2013, including the location of the consulate, length of time taken for the whole procedure and a few other details. This guide is just that, a guide. We’ve obtained numerous tourist visas since in Laos, in both Savannakhet and Vientiane, and sometimes it’s a breeze at one consulate and a chore at the other. Other times it has been the opposite way around. For the latest details we recommend checking forum.thaivisa.com
At the time of writing,we hadn’t done it, but from what we have heard getting a Thai tourism visa in Vientiane is a little stressful, involving, according to Travelfish, ‘tremendous’ queues even when turning up at 8am. Our visa run to Savannakhet couldn’t have been more different.
Savannakhet is a sleepy little town just across the Mekong from the Thai town of Mukdahan. Not a great deal goes on there. For some this is part of Savannakhet’s charm, while others view the place as somewhere to get in and out of as quickly as possible before boredom sets in. Judged by the good English language signposting pointing the way to the town’s attractions and the leafleture produced by the tourism office the town fathers seem to be making an effort to draw in visitors, but for many Savannakhet’s prime attraction is as an alternative to Vientiane for getting a Thai visa.
We can only offer up our own experience but had we not waited a few seconds for the guy in front of us to pick up a dropped item, we would have been first in the queue when we pitched up at around 10am. The receipts/collection numbers provided to us on handing in our passports suggested 36 other people had been in before us since the consulate began its working day at 8.30am.*
Some things we had already done in advance. Arriving in the afternoon the previous day we decided to stroll over to the Mekong River in the vague direction of the Thai Consulate and, if we found it and if it was still open, pick up the visa forms we would need. We did and it was. We were lucky to find the consulate 15 minutes before closing time at 4.30pm and after a few minutes of questions to the helpful girl on the desk/window took away our forms to fill in later that night.
The next day we handed in our completed forms, marked double entry, with 2 x passport photos, a photocopy of our passport and 2000 baht (the price for single entry is 1000 baht). I’ve seen mention on other blogs that a photocopy of your Laos visa and passport stamp are also required but that wasn’t our experience.
Picking up our passports was quickly done too. Each turn number and collection window was read out at a clip, in English and Thai, and it took at most ten minutes before we had our passports returned with our Thai visa.
* Our neighbour at our guesthouse had a different experience, having to wait for two hours before he could hand in his documents. The difference in our experiences could be to do with the weekend and national holidays. We handed over our documents on a Friday before the weekend and picked them up on a Tuesday after a Thai holiday. Our neighbour began the process on the Tuesday.