Administrative processes nearly everywhere in Asia can be a little bit confusing. This also applies for the visa application process at the Thai Consulate in Vientiane (Laos). This blog post tries to explain the process in order that you can endure it without a lot of stressful moments.
First some general information about Thai visas:
- Good news first. Many nationals might not even need to obtain a visa in order to enter Thailand. Check this official list from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you can enter the Thai Kingdom under the ‘Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme’ or under some bilateral agreement. This ‘Exemption Scheme’ doesn’t require you to apply for a visa. Just go to the immigration checkpoint when you arrive at one of Thailand’s international airports. Your passport should have at least 6 months remaining before expiry. Your allowance to stay in Thailand under the ‘Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme’ will be cut by half if you cross the border by land. Note that you can extend your exemption visa for 30 days by going to a Thai Immigration Office within Thailand and paying an extension fee of THB 1’900. Under the ‘Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme’ in total you can only stay in Thailand for 90 days within a 180 day period. If your planned stay in Thailand doesn’t fit into these rules you will have to apply for a proper (tourist) visa at a Thai embassy or Thai consulate.
- In Vientiane it’s normally easy to obtain a normal single-entry tourist visa for a 60 days stay. This visa costs THB 1’000. After you got your visa you will have 90 days to enter Thailand otherwise the visa will become void. The single-entry tourist tourist visa can also be extended in order to stay in the Thai Kingdom for another 30 days by going to a Thai Immigration Office within Thailand and paying an extension fee of THB 1’900.
- Obtaining any other kind of visa (e.g. educational, business, non-immigrant, multi-entry tourist visa, etc.) in Vientiane is much more difficult if not impossible. This kind of visas are best organized in your home country or in some rare cases directly in Thailand. Check the Internet for more details.
- You have to apply for your visa personally. You can not delegate this task to your friends or a visa agency.
If you prepare your documents before you visit the Consulate in Vientiane you will significantly reduce the waiting time within the Consulate compound. You can download the visa application form from the website of the Thai Embassy in Vientiane (website / visa application form). Print it and fill it out. In total you will need to prepare the following items:
- visa application form correctly filled out
- two passport portrait photos (3.5 x 4.5 cm). Note that there are certain requirements for the photos such as front view, no hats, no glasses, no sunglasses, no smile, white background color, etc. (detailed photo requirements)
- passport with at least 6 months remaining before expiry
- a photocopy of your passport (page with your photo)
- even though not officially required it might be a good idea to also have a photocopy of your travel tickets to Thailand and out of Thailand (if available) as well as a photo copy of your current, expiring Thai visa (if you have one) and your current Laos visa. It’s also good to have a hotel reservation at hand or at least an address of a hotel where you will stay for the first night. Furthermore every person entering Thailand must be able to present the equivalent of THB 20’000 per person or THB 40’000 per family. Having the cash or sufficient traveller checks, an up-to-date printout of your bank account or mobile access to your bank account to present your current balance would be a good idea. However, present these documentations only if you are explicitly asked for them.
- THB 1’000 in cash for a single-entry tourist visa (needed on the second day)
- You will need two days to obtain your Thai visa in Vientiane. On the first day you hand over all your documents (between 08:30 and 12:00 am), on the second day (between 01:00 to 3:00 pm) you pick up your passport with your visa and pay the visa application fee.
- The Thai Consulate is open Monday to Friday, but closed on the weekend and on all Thai as well as all Laotian public holidays. The list of public holidays is quite long and you should check the Consulate’s holiday calendar to plan your visit. E.g. if you drop your passport on Friday you will have to wait until Monday to get your visa.
- The amount of people applying for a visa at the Consulate depends on the weekday as well as on the seasonality. Busiest days are normally Mondays and Tuesday as well as all days during December and January. It’s not unusual that more than 500 people are on the Consulate compound. It’s recommended to arrive at the Consulate as early as possible.
- When you arrive at the Thai Consulate there will be some touts that try to sell you visa application forms or other kind of services. Don’t bother with them. You can get visa application forms for free inside the Consulate. You are also forced to handle the whole process personally. There is absolutely no benefit to pay for some dubious external services.
- In general if you enter the Thai Consulate compound in the morning of the first day you have two main options:
- 1st option: If you have all your documents ready for the visa application and there aren’t too many people on the compound then continue reading section ‘Normal queue’. If there are already a lot of people on the compound you might want to continue reading section ‘Fast track queue’.
- 2nd option: If you need to prepare all or some of the required documents before you can apply for your visa continue reading section ‘Prepare documents’ and then either section ‘Normal queue’ or ‘Fast track queue’.
To prepare all or some of your documents on the Thai Consulate compound enter the Consulate building on the left-hand side of the compound (see  on the compound outline below). Inside the building (groundfloor) on the left-hand side there is a counter with free visa application forms. On the same floor there is also a copy machine and the possibility to make portrait photos. After you have all your documents you can either continue reading section ‘Normal queue’ or section ‘Fast track queue’.
If there aren’t too many people on the compound or if you have plenty of time you can join the ‘normal queue’. The ‘normal queue’ is to the right of the rope (see  on the compound outline below) and normally yields into zic-zac queue until it ultimately ends at the ‘passport collection desk’ (see  on the compound outline below). When you reach the ‘passport collection desk’ you give your documents to the consulate employees. They will check the documents for completeness and then hand over a paper slip with a number. You will need this number to pick up your passport on the next day.
Fast track queue
If there are already a lot of people queuing in the ‘normal queue’ you might want to invest THB 50 in order to be able to use the ‘fast track queue’. To do so enter the Consulate building on the left-hand side of the compound (see  on the compound outline below). Inside the building (groundfloor) on the right-hand side there is a desk with several Consulate employees. If you pay them THB 50 they will pre-check your documents or even help you to fill them out. Furthermore after they have confirmed that your documents are complete you will also get a ‘fast track’ stamp on your visa application form. With that stamp you can queue in the ‘fast track queue’ which is to the left of the rope (see  on the compound outline below). This queue is much faster than the ‘normal queue’. At the end of the queue you will also reach the ‘passport collection desk’ where you give your documents to the consulate employees. They will check the documents for completeness and then hand over a paper slip with a number. You will need this number to pick up your passport on the next day.
Tour group queue
Note that occasionally there is also a third queue (see  on the compound outline below). This queue is reserved for tour groups. These groups (often huge groups of Russian or Chinese tourists) have a prearranged appointment with the Consulate and are handled very efficiently. It’s tempting to sneak into this fast moving queue. However, don’t waste your time. If you don’t have the right sticker or wristband you will be taken out of the queue by consulate employees and be sent back to the end of the normal queue.
Pick up your passport
In the afternoon of the next Consulate business day you can pick up your passport with the new visa between 01:00 and 03:00 pm. Head straight to the waiting area (see  on the compound outline below) and take a seat. The passports will be distributed from the counter windows 1 or 2 (see  on the compound outline below). Above the counter windows there is a display showing the number of the person that can pick up his passport next. Therefore, don’t forget to bring the paper slip with your number you received on the first day. If you have a very low number (e.g. below 100) you should really be on the Consulate compound at 01:00 pm in order not to miss your call. When you finally at the counter you will have to pay the visa application fee and then receive your passport. While still at the counter immediately check if you got a visa and if it has the correct properties like visa type, length of stay, etc. If everything is alright with the visa you are all set and free to go.
Consulate compound outline
Notes and updates
Note that the content of this blog post is based on my visa experience at the Thai Consulate in Vientiane as of beginning of 2018. Should you notice that certain information are no longer valid please share the updates in the comments. Thank you.