Although previously less popular than other borders between the two countries, the Sop Hun / Trey Trang border is becoming more frequently used by travellers heading from North Vietnam to North Laos.
The border itself is a fairly straight forward one – there’s nowhere for you to get lost or miss a step (like getting the visa!) as the process is a fairly linear one moving from one queue to the next.
Exiting Vietnam shouldn’t take long (depending on how busy it is) you hand over your passport in one room, get it back, walk through to another where you hand it over again for your exit stamp.
Once you have left Vietnam you will drive across the frontier for around 10 – 20 minutes until you reach the Laos border.
If you can, buy some USD in Vietnam to pay for your Laos Visa as this is the preferred currency at the border and exchange rates here are terrible. The VND to USD rate they offered was 25,000 dong to $1 (it should be about 21,000) so you’ll pay more for your visa If you do not have US dollars.
You will need a passport photo of yourself. If you don’t have one it is an additional $5 to have your photo taken (you do get to keep the left over pictures).
The Laos visa for most countries is $35 (a little cheaper for Aussies and more expensive for Canadians) but there are additional $1 here and $1 there fees. The border control officers will claim these are ‘processing’ fees and whether you have to pay them or not is debatable. However refusing will only cost you time and although you may feel you’re fighting against corruption your protest isn’t likely to change anything in the long run.
The latest additional fee at the border is the Laos Tourist fee of $3 however some people pay short of if they have no USD left or others stroll straight by and pay nothing at all. It doesn’t affect your visa in any way – you already have that, so if you can get away without paying without any hassle then great.
Note if travelling by bike: If you purchased a bike in Vietnam and we’re hoping to drive it into Laos then you will disappointed when you reach this border. Unless the bike you have is registered in Dien Bien Phu you will not be able to take it across. We heard borders further south are less strict with this protocol and may allow you take a Vietnamese bike through.