Laos,  Thailand

How to cross friendship bridge nr. 4 from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai?

Friendship Bridge nr. 4 is a bridge connecting Chiang Khong and Huay Xai, Thailand and Laos. It’s a popular and easy way to cross the border and the Mekong River. In this article, I will tell you about my border crossing from Thailand to Laos and answer the most important questions that you might have. I crossed the border in October 2022.

The Friendship Bridge nr. 4 Chiang Khong to Huay Xai

Friendship Bridge nr. 4 is an iconic symbol of the friendship between Thailand and Laos and is used for both pedestrian and vehicle crossings across the Mekong River. On the Thai side, the bridge is located in Chiang Khong, close to the Golden Triangle, while on the Laotian side, it is located at Huay Xai. The Thai-Lao friendship bridge is over 1 km long and offers stunning views of the lush green hills and the Mekong River. This border crossing is in fact the jumping off location for the Two-Day Slow Boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, Laos.

How to travel to Chiang Khong?

There are several ways to travel to Chiang Khong. The most obvious options are to travel from Chiang Mai or from Chiang Rai. I have described these options below.

How to travel from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong?

There are two options to travel from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong. You can either take a local bus at the Chiang Rai bus terminal 1 or arrange a private taxi via 12GO or GRAB. The first option is obviously the cheapest and the one I did. A private taxi will probably cost you between 2,000 and 3,000 THB.

The public bus to Chiang Khong departs from Bus Station 1, known to the locals as the “Old Bus Station.” The buses are organized by destination, with signs posted at the front to tell you where the bus is heading. Just look for a red bus with the destination ‘Friendship Bridge – Chiang Khong – Laos (Huay xai)’ or the destination ‘Chiang Khong’. The bus goes every hour, exactly on the hour (06.00/07.00/08.00 etc.), between 06.00 AM and 17:00 PM. You can purchase your ticket directly on the bus. I paid 80 THB for 1 ticket.

The bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong was pretty smooth and really beautiful. I saw plenty of mountains and greenery. There was space for luggage storage under the back of the bus, but I kept my backpack with me inside the bus. The bus didn’t have air conditioning, but it was equipped with vans and the doors and windows were open during the ride, so a convenient and cool breeze entered the bus. Along the way we stopped several times and delivered packages, something that seems to happen on all the buses in Thailand. After 3 hours we arrived at the first stop in Chiang Khong, the stop used for the border crossing. This spot was 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the actual border crossing. Here, plenty of tuk tuks were waiting to bring everyone to the border crossing. Together with 3 other persons I shared a Tuk tuk for 50 THB each.

Tip: when traveling with the red bus, make sure to arrive 20 minutes early before departure, so you can get a good seat.

How to travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong?

If you’re traveling from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong, you have different options.

You can fly from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Airport and then take the bus to Chiang Khong as described above.

Another and more cheaper option is to take the public bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong. The ‘Greenbus’ departs daily at 09:30 AM from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3 (only 1 bus a day) and takes about 7 hours. On Saturdays, there’s an extra departure at 08:15 AM. The bus is equipped with air conditioning and you can store your luggage in the storage under the bus. A ticket costs between 380 – 450 THB and can be purchased at the Greenbus desk at the Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3 or online via 12GO. I recommend buying a ticket in advance via 12GO, so you are ensured with a seat. Booking a ticket via 12GO is super easy and you will receive an online boarding pass.

The last option is to arrange a private taxi from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong via 12GO or GRAB. This probably costs between ฿5,000 – ฿6,000 and takes between 5-6 hours. 

Tip: when traveling with the ‘Greenbus’, make sure to arrive 30 minutes early before departure, so you can get a good seat.

What do you need for the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border crossing?

If you are entering Laos with a visa on arrival, there are some things you will need to bring with you. Remember to bring your passport that is at least still valid for 6 months and that has 1 blank passport page free, a passport-sized photo, a pen to fill in the paperwork and USD for the payment. The amount that you need to pay officially depends on the country of your passport. It usually is something between $30 and $45 per person.

Tip: it is cheaper to pay in USD rather than Thai baht or Laos LAK.

How to cross the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border?

My experience with the friendship bridge nr. 4 border crossing between Chiang Khong and Huay Xai was super easy. First, I needed to stop at the immigration checkpoint on the Thai side, where I had to present my passport. Everything was fine and I officially received my exit stamp.

Then I had to buy a ticket for the bus that drives everyone from the Thai immigration checkpoint across the Mekong River to the Lao immigration checkpoint. I had to pay 25 THB for a ticket and waited for about 15 minutes before the bus departed. The bus waited to gather as many people as possible before it left. The ride only took a few minutes, but the views were stunning!

On the other side of the Thai-Lao friendship bridge I arrived at the Lao immigration where my body temperature was checked first. There was a waiting line for this, so in the meantime I took out some cash. There is an ATM as soon as you get off the bus. The rates here are not as good as in the center of Huay Xai or Luang Prabang, but it was convenient to get money here, so I could pay the taxi and hotel with LAK (It’s especially convenient if you are planning to head straight down to the slow boat pier).

After the body temperature check, I had to fill in a registration form and entry card. Make sure to have an address ready (accommodation confirmation), so you can write down the address of your first stay. I also had to attach a passport photo. I handed in all the documents and paid a fee of $35 (for Dutch citizens).

A few minutes later I received my passport back with my Lao Visa. Then I continued to the Lao passport control and got a stamp, allowing me to continue my journey into Laos.

The entire process starting at the Thai immigration took me about 1 hour.

How to get from the Laos border to Huay Xai?

After passing the Lao passport control, you can find plenty of tuk tuks and taxis waiting for you to bring you to your ho(s)tel in Huay Xai. The ride takes about 20 minutes and shouldn’t cost you more than 100 THB per person (yes, you can pay with Thai Baht for most things in Laos). When I asked for the taxi, the taxi driver wanted me to pay 300 THB. I waited for 3 other people and then negotiated the price down to 100 THB each.

Tip: if you are traveling alone, try to cross the border before it’s dark. In the evening, the tuk tuks try to charge you up to 300 – 500 THB per person. If you try hard, you can bargain this down to 200 THB per person.

Accommodation and things to do in Huay Xai

Huay Xai is for many travelers a stopover when catching the 2-day slow boat to Luang Prabang or starting the Gibbon Experience. Next to those activities, there are many more things to do in Huay Xai, so make sure to prepare your visit well. Believe me, this place is less boring than you think.

If you have no accommodation yet in Huay Xai, I can recommend staying at the ‘Little Hostel‘. Before staying at this hostel, I was in contact with the owner via Whatsapp. She arranged the slow boat tickets for me and gave me useful information about the border crossing and the slow boat. The hostel room and facilities were great.

I hope this post helps you to prepare for crossing the Friendship Bridge nr. 4 Chiang Khong to Huay Xai. If you have any questions about this border crossing, feel free to ask them in the comment section below. Safe travels!

Author: Daphne

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