Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thailand to Laos by rail

Laos has a single train station at Thanaleng on a 15 minute line that links Thailand and Laos through a bridge over the Mekong River. It connects with overnight service to Bangkok. Currently, the train leaves Nongkhai, Thailand at 10:00 and 16:00 every day. (It is my understanding that the train will wait for the Bangkok train.) The train returns from Thanaleng at 10:45 and 17:00.

Thanaleng is close to Vientiane, but is not part of the city suburbs. It is between eleven and thirteen kilometers to the center of the capitol, depending on the source you consult. If you can, try to arrange transport from the station to Vientiane in advance. Otherwise, taxis and tuktuks are usually available. There are no services near Thanaleng Station.

According to The Man in Seat Sixty-One, you can get a visa for Laos at the train station, but according to a member of the Asia Loco Shed Yahoo group, visas for overseas train travelers are only available in Bangkok. You can get Laotian visas at the border if you take a train to a different city and then take the bus into Laos. (There are current timetables for all of Thailand at the Asia Loco Shed Yahoo group. Cook is not accurate, but English langualge timetables are available once you are actually in Thailand.)

It is my understanding that you can walk from Nongkhai to Thanaleng and from there to Vientiane, that the main barrier it distance, not the condition of the roads.

I encourage people to use trains as a means of transportation, but if you just want to take the train, you can go to the station in Laos and then come straight back.

Here is video of the trip:

(Note: This post is not based on personal experience.)

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