It used to be that if you wanted to enter Laos from Cambodia, you had to go to the Lao Embassy in Phnom Penh and apply for visa in advance. While Cambodia upgraded their Voeung Kam/Dong Kralor border crossing facility a few years ago to offer visa on arrival, it took Laos a few extra years to follow suit. When I first came to Cambodia, the Lao visa on arrival option was not available but by the time I was ready to leave and head to Laos, this became an option. At least so I’ve heard from a few reports on the internet.
Unfortunately, I have not personally met anyone who got their Lao visa on arrival when entering Laos from Cambodia nor have I gotten a definite YES from any of the bus operators running the bus service between the two countries. I didn’t want to spend extra two or more days in Phnom Penh just so I could secure myself with safe passage to Laos (not a place I would want to spend any more time than I have to), so I decided to take the risk and count on those unconfirmed reports that Laos visa on arrival is now available at the Voeung Kam/Dong Kralor border crossing.
When an Aussie couple who also didn’t have the visa boarded the bus headed for Laos I was on, it made me feel a whole lot better about the whole visa on arrival situation. Until they got on the bus at Stung Treng, I was the only passenger without Lao visa in his passport.
Luckily it definitely is possible and I can now confirm that Lao visa on arrival coming to Laos from Cambodia is now definitely available at the Voeung Kam/Dong Kralor border crossing as I have personally gotten myself one that way. It took less than 5 minutes to have the visa issued during which you wait at the first tiny window on the Lao side of the border. Second window has a different guy whose purpose is to stamp the visa the first guy issued for you. Both visa issuer and visa stamper will insist on a bribe.
Because it was Sunday, the visa stamper guy insisted on a mighty bribe of $2 per person. He was pretty pissed about the fact that he had to be there on the weekend which was reflected in the tone of voice he used when demanding the bribe. The visa issuer guy, on the other hand only bumped the price of visa by $1 compared to what is listed on the websites.
That’s where my biggest beef came from – I don’t know what exactly Laos has against Canada, but for some reason, if you’re a bearer of a Canadian passport, the cost for the visa is much higher than citizens of other countries have to pay. Even Americans have to pay significantly less than Canadians and unlike them, we (Canadians) didn’t even bomb the living beejesus out of Laos during the Indo-China War.
Whatever the reason, the cost of Lao visa for bearers of Canadian passports (whether applied for in advance or obtained on arrival at the border) is the highest of all. While Aussie guys only had to pay $31 each for their visa on arrival ($30 visa fee + $1 bribe), I was asked for $43 ($42 visa fee + $1 bribe). The man behind the small window wrote the amount on a small piece of scrap paper which he then handed to each of us after we handed him the passport.
Unlike most other visas (visas other countries issue), Lao visa on arrival I got had no mention of validity. I had to ask the people on the bus who believed it was 30 days. Either way, I didn’t want to overstay, so I marked the date in my calendar to make sure I leave the country before it’s too late and promised myself to make the most out of this trip as unless Lao officials get over themselves and start charging Canadians a reasonable amount, I’ll think twice before applying for Lao visa again. There’s no reason whatsoever to be so anal with us. We’ve never done anything to them, so why Canada?