How to cross from Myanmar to Laos overland

At the time of this trip, crossing Myanmar borders overland remains quite challenging. Thus, the independent, budget traveler wishing to combine this country with Laos must cross through a piece of Thailand, following these steps:

  • Fly to Tachileik; Several airlines cover this route from Heho (Inle Lake), though not every day. The cheapest option is Golden Myanmar, at $55, significantly less than Air Bagan’s $130. From Yangon and Mandalay there are more alternatives.
  • Take a taxi or similar to the border Tachileik (Myanmar) – Mae Sai (Thailand): After a passport check (this area remains tightly controlled to foreign transit, thus the need to fly and the lack of buses or trains), exit the airport and you’ll see several taxis, tuk-tuks and motorbikes. They all request the same fee of kyat 3,500 ($3.5) to the border. Alternative, walk 5 min outside the airport, to the main road, and hail the local truck. It will cost you about kyat 1,000 ($1) for the same route (~15 min)
  • Walk across the bridge into Thailand: Stop at the beginning of the bridge to complete the paperwork with Myanmar border authorities, continue walking and do the same at the end of the bridge with Thai authorities. In most cases, no visa is needed to get into Thailand, so this takes less than a minute; but check the requirements for your nationality. Also, remember that Thailand and Laos are 30 min ahead of Myanmar time.

371-IMG_0269 2-Mae Sai taxi

  • Get from the border to the Mae Sai bus station: At the end of the bridge, take one of the red trucks to the bus station (~15 min). It costs baht 15 (~$0.5), you can ask the tourist police about where to find the truck stop and change currency in several shops around. We had gotten to the border rather late and wanted to make it to the bus station as soon as possible, so we jumped on a truck that was leaving without any local currency, and some super nice locals offer to cover our ride; we gave them our last kyats in return.
  • Take a bus or similar from Mae Sai to Chiang Khong: The cheapest way to get to the Thai side of the border with Laos is taking a bus to Chiang Rai for bhat 39 (~$1) and from there another one to Chiang Khong for bhat 65 (~$2). Each ride is 2-3 hours and if you arrive late to Mae Sai, it might mean you have to spend the night in Chiang Rai and, in low season, risk missing the slow boat on the Laos side. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi or truck to take you directly to Chiang Khong in less than 2 hours for ~$40 (to be divided by up to 6 people). If you have to spend the night there, because you arrive after the border closes at 6pm, there are several decent guesthouses and restaurants.
  • Take a taxi or similar to the border Chiang Khong (Thailand) – Huay Xai (Laos): We simply walked out of our hotel in Chiang Khong and hailed a tuk-tuk truck, which drove us ~15 min to the border for bhat 100 (~$3 each, after negotiation). I imagine it would be similar if you are coming via bus from Chiang Rai.
  • Cross the border into Laos: At the Thai side of the border, after getting the exit stamp on your passport, take the mandatory bus to cross the long bridge – make sure you have bhat 30 or $1 cash to pay for it. On the other side, complete your paperwork with the Laos authorities; for most people this means paying $35 for visa on arrival and $1 for not bringing photos
  • If you’re continuing to Luang Prabang on a boat, take a tuk-tuk truck to the harbor: Walk out to where numerous tuk-tuks are waiting and take a seat for kip 20,000 (~$2.5 per person, no negotiation). Slow boats cost kip 220,000 (~$25) and depart around 11am, once the tourists arrive form the boarder. They take two days to reach Luang Prabang, with an overnight stop in Pak Beng, so about 7 hours travelling each day. Despite it being a long trip, the comfort of the boat seats and the stunning Mekong scenery make it worthwhile… lush mountains, fishermen, bathing children and even some working elephants!

3-Laos border slow boat 4-Pak Bang

In theory, this route can also be followed in reverse order. Myanmar border conditions change very frequently, and there is rumor of a direct crossing to Laos opening soon. So check this info with the authorities before departing.

22 thoughts on “How to cross from Myanmar to Laos overland

  1. Pingback: Country summary – Myanmar | Bona Travels

  2. Pingback: Country summary – Laos | Bona Travels

  3. Yanna Banana

    Hi Carmen, I am going Yangon by flight this Sunday and planning to backpack around 3 weeks and follow your route to LAos. Just wondering if you have to show the flight ticket to Tachileik at the checkpoint when you fly to Yangon airport? Thank you!
    I am still struggled if I have to buy it now because I am still not sure which date i will be leaving.

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  4. Murray

    Planning this journey in a month from now, heard anything that I should go or not go? I travel solo.
    I assume you got to Mae Sai from Luang Prabang by boat
    Thanks for any help
    Go to Inle last year by bus but then went on to Bagan, this year I will go onto Laos (To drink the worlds best beer)
    THanks Murray

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  5. Thibaut

    Hi Carmen, and thanks for the info!
    We are going to fly to Tachileik from Heho as well in a few days (as for january 2016 it is still not possible to take a bus on the NH4 to Tachileik for foreigners).
    One question though, how is it possible to get the 55$ rate from Golden Myanmar? The price for locals is close to $55, but for foreigners the airline charges $100 minimum according to the travel agencies.

    Thanks!

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  6. murray Furlong

    Hi Carmen , I took your advice and went the route Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw, Muang Ngoy, Muang khua. You cannot go up (or down) the Ou river at LB as it is dammed. A four hour bus ride takes you to Nong Khiaw where you go upriver. (OR bus it to MK, boat down river and then on to LB)
    Thanks again, im really happy I did not go down the Mekong but instead went on the Ou, better than the 2 days on the Mekong and I saw a lot more, then into North Vietnam at Dien Bien Phu
    Just to update,
    Golden Myanmar will not let you pay $55, that is for locals, we must pay full whack $115, because of this you are forced into a travel office where you must pay cash only (With the blessing of GM) where you get ripped into by bad exchange and no change given so take in your currency converter and check and get your change. Their departure times and days have also changed.
    The plane I was on got into Tachileik at about 1530, you can stay over the border in Thailand and go to Chang rai the next morning, At Chang Rai, when you are ready to go to the border with Lao, leave no later than the 0830 bus from the north station. The bus will drop you off at the road to the friendship bridge where a tuk tuk will take you to the bridge or a 20 minute walk
    Going onto Luang Namtha..(NOT on the Mekong boat).by the time you get the bus over the bridge and passport checked into Laos and get to the bus station for going north, the bus leaves at 1230 getting into LM at about 1630, a terrific bus ride.
    Glad you gave this alternative

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  7. Ben Gibbs

    I want to take the slow boat down the Mekong to Luang Pranang. is this possible from Myanmar or will I have to travel to Chiang Rai in Thailand and go from there? Can I get a Thai visa at the border as I cross?

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    1. Hey Ben,
      Unfortunately, there is no way to get from Myanmar directly to Laos, at least there wasn’t when we were there last year, due Myanmar’s political isolation… That’s why we had to do this long route.
      The visas were easy to get at the borders.
      Have a good trip!

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      1. murray

        Ben, I followed Carmen’s ideas earlier this year and she is correct, but no big deal crossing thailand into Laos, be sure you have your USD to enter Laos. She gave extra advice about giving the Mekong a miss and going south from Muang Khua by boat toward LP, I went this way and was hugely grateful. You can sit at the table with people that have been on the world’s best bus ride. (I guess you know you cannot travel overland to Tachileik)

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  8. karan

    Thank you very much for your kind information. It was very much useful. would be possible to get in touch with you via email for further information

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    1. Hi Karan,

      not sure where you’re trying to get…
      From Luang Prabang, any boat that goes west on the Mekong takes you to the Thai border at Huay Xai, from where you can get into Myanmar doing the reverse itinerary to the one explained in this post.
      I believe there are no options to travel by boat south on the Mekong. You can travel by bus or plane to Vientiane, but that takes you far from Myanmar, and to a different border with Thailand.

      Good luck with your travels!
      Carmen

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  9. kbthapaliya

    During your crossing to Thailand, did they asked you, at the immigration, about how are you gonna leave Thailand? Or did you show any sort of details/bus tickets proving that you’ll leave Thailand?

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    1. muzza furlong

      If I may? I followed Carmens’ clues to getting out of Myanmar into Lao from there .She was correct,, leaving Myanmar at this border ipost s no quick stamp and on your way, No, ten minutes or so on the departure side and quite thorough too. I cannot remember exactly …….
      If you want to tempt them and go overland ito Tacheliek and exit at this border, do so and let us know

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  10. Tom

    A brief update based on recent experience (22 december) : it is possible to cross over in 3 1/2 hours. Taxi from Tachileik Airport to the Thai border 4 USD per person (20 minutes) Taxi from the Thai side of the border to the Thai/Lao border 2 hours – 1300 baht. Most importantly, the border was still open at 8pm! Formalities quick. Last bus over the bridge (40 baht, 5 minutes) seems to leave at 8.30 pm. Tuk-Tuk to Ban Houayxay (20 minutes) came at 2500 Kip per person.

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