With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

$25 to Get Out of Laos

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 3, 2010

January 1, 2010

All Pictures

Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park

ATM Hunting

We knew since the first day at the resort that we were running out of money. The assistant manager told us that we could put our meals on a tab and pay it at the end of our stay with a credit card. When it was time to check out we handed her a visa card from a bank in Thailand. They didn’t have a machine to swipe the card. They had to call some company and this took a long time.

paying to enter Sala Kaew

After about 10 minutes on the phone, the assistant manager told us that the card would not work, but she couldn’t give us the reason. No problem, we have another card. I handed her my HSBC bank card from the US. I’ve used it all over the world and have never had any complications. After another 10 minutes she handed it back to me. It had expired. The expiration date, December 2009. If we had paid yesterday it would have worked!

Mark and I search through all the cash we had. We gave the lady some dollars, baht, and KIP. We had just enough money. We ask the lady to tell the taxi driver waiting for us, to take us to an ATM before heading to Friendship Bridge.

We got into the taxi and wondered why the Thai card didn’t work. The cab stopped at ATM number 1. We got out and scanned our card. The ATM was out-of-order. We got back into the taxi and he took us to another one.

Sure Buddha can relax. He always has enough cash.

At the next ATM stop we tried 3 different ATMs. None of them would take the Thai card. This is when we realized that it was not working because it was a Thai bank card. We showed the card to our driver and ask ” Is this bank in Laos?” “Yes”, he said and took us to the bank.

We pulled up to the Bank of Bangkok bank. It was closed for New Year’s day. All the ATMs were inside and locked away. “What are we going to do? We are stuck in Laos!” Then the driver said, “I have one more bank. It always works for foreigners.”

We pulled up to the bank. Mark put the Thai card in and it got rejected. I looked out at the driver parked outside and wondered, “How on earth are we going to pay him?” I looked at my HSBC card. “Why didn’t I take out money before we went to the resort? I could have had tons of money right now!”

Out of frustration I shoved my card into the ATM. I typed in my code and the thing started to make noise. I thought, “it’s teasing me by making money counting sounds.” Then it spat out 200,000KIP. We took our money and headed for the border.

How did an expired bank card work? Well, it was January 1st in Laos, but in the US where the card is from it was still December 31st, I guess.

The Bank of Bangkok ATM

The Bank of Bangkok

So what was going on with our Thai ATM card?

Well, for the Bank of Bangkok ATM cards, there is a form that you have to sign and hand in, if you want to be able to use your bank card in Laos. You don’t get this form when you sign up for the card; you have to specifically ask for it. It is very strange, because it is a visa bank card. It works in just about every country and in any ATM where a visa would work. I’ve used my Bank of Bangkok ATM card in the US and Japan without any problems. But Laos is the exception.

Buddha and his naga in Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park

Crossing the Border

Once at the Laos border we stood in line and eventually got through. We paid our 2,000KIP border fee and hopped on a 4,000KIP shuttle to get across the bridge. Once in Thailand the Thai bank card worked.

We did make a stop at the Buddha park in Nong Khai before catching our train back to Bangkok.

Nong Khai sleeper car for 2 to Bangkok

All Pictures


(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.






  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.

Nong Khai

Nong Khai is the town in Thailand nearest to Friendship Bridge and Vientiane, the capital city of Laos.

How to get there:

  • 17°53’02.4″N 102°45’02.8″E

From Bangkok:

by bus from Mo Chit Bus Station (10 hours):

  • 700Baht for 1st class bus – w/ toilet; 3 seats to a row
  • 350Baht for 2nd class bus – w/o toilet; 4 seats to a row
  • I don’t recommend anything lower that a 2nd class bus because only the 1st and 2nd class buses have a/c.

by Train from Bangkok from Hua Lamphong Train Station.

  • Here is the schedule from 2009.
  • 1,317Baht 1st class sleeper
  • Baht 2nd class sleeper w/ac
    • 708 (top)-778 (bottom)
  • I don’t recommend anything lower than a 2nd-class sleeper for this 10 hour journey. Normally I would always go for the a/c option, but on the train ride back to Bangkok in 1st-class’ a/c compartment I was freezing my butt off. We didn’t even turn on the berth’s a/c; it was the train itself that was so cold.

Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park

How to get there:

  • 17°53’15.0″N 102°46’52.0″E
  • Take a tuk-tuk.
  • It shouldn’t cost you more that 100Baht one way.
    • If your haggling skills are top notch you can get it for much less.
  • There aren’t as many tuk-tuk drivers as in Bangkok, and almost no cabs, so you might not be able to play too hard to get.



  • This was made by the same guy who built the Buddha park in Laos.
  • This one is nicer than the one in Laos.

The Nong Khai Train Station

How to get there:

  • 17°51’52.0″N 102°43’52.3″E
  • It’s a walk-able (20 minutes) distance from the Thai border Passport Control depending on how heavy your backpack is.
  • Just go straight and turn right at the first major road.
  • Keep going until you see the sign for the train station.
  • Follow the sign.


  • There are restaurants across the street that sell take-out food boxes for passengers before they board the train. There is also food sold on the train, but the train’s kitchen will give you fewer options.
  •  There is a mini-museum/ library across the street from the train station, but it is not very interesting.
General Notes on Laos:
  • Even after everything that happened to us on this trip, I still recommend not getting too much KIP, because no one will take your KIP when you leave.
  • Instead take extra money in Baht, US Dollars, or Euro.
    • Try to get smaller bills, so you will have less change.
    • Most places will take Baht, US Dollars, or Euros, but will give you KIP as change.
      • The exchange rate you get at a shop is not as good as the rate you will get at a bank, but that is better than having $150 in KIP you can’t use once you lease Laos.
  • You can still try to get a bank, shop, or hotel in Laos buy your extra KIP. They might do it. But don’t take the KIP home! No one will take it outside Laos.
    • The airport in Laos, might be the best place to exchange your KIP for other currencies. (maybe)


One Response to “$25 to Get Out of Laos”

  1. […] trip in advance. I doubt you can just hop on a cab in downtown Bangkok and say, “Take me to Nong Khai!” Though, that’s exactly what they seem to do on The Amazing […]


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