Getting to Laos by train is quite easy. And now, it’s relatively easier after the construction of the new international rail terminal at Thanaleng in Laos in 2009. Thanaleng train station is located 13 km from central Vientiane (Laos’ capital). You can now take the sleeper train from Bangkok-Nong Khai; then, upon arrival at Nong Khai train station, you will transfer to another train that will bring you to Thanaleng train station in Laos. From Thanaleng train station, you will take a tuktuk or mini van to bring you to central Vientiane.
Before the Thanaleng train station in Laos was constructed, the only option was to take the train from Bangkok to Nong Khai then, use a tuktuk and a bus to cross the border between Thailand and Laos. Actually, on this trip we tried both options and I’m really grateful to http://www.seat61.com/Laos.htm because the website had become my guide all throughout this trip. It provided all the information I needed to travel overland from Bangkok to Laos. In return, I also want to share my experience in getting to Laos by train. There are several ways to get to Vientiane from Bangkok. You can take an airplane, bus or train. But I found the overnight sleeper train the most reasonable and convenient. It’s much cheaper than flying into Vientiane. Furthermore, you can save a hotel for a night.
So let me start from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. There is an express bus from the airport that will take you to Hualamphong Railway Station. Hualamphong Railway Station is the main railway station in Bangkok. The fare costs 4.70 USD (Php 210). There are also airport express buses that go directly to Silom, Khao San Road and Sukhumvit Road. The fares are all the same 150 baht. Just go to gate 8 and you will find the airport express buses there. The airport express bus is available from 5:30am-12 midnight.
We arrived at Hualamphong Railway Station after an hour. There are two options to get to Laos by train.
Option #1: This is what we did when we traveled from Bangkok to Vientiane
1) Take a train from Bangkok to Nong Khai. We boarded the train at Hualamphong Railway Station in Bangkok. Travel duration is around 12 hours. Our train left Bangkok at 8:00pm and we arrived at Nong Khai at 8:25am.
1st Class Sleeper: 1,217 baht (38 USD ; Php 1,703)
2nd Class Sleeper: with air condition upper bed 708 baht (23 USD ; Php 991)
with air condition lower bed 778 baht (25 USD ; Php 1,089)
with fan upper bed 488 baht (16 USD ; Php 683)
with fan lower bed 538 baht (17 USD ; Php 753)
Seats (without bed) are much cheaper. For more info about the fares please check out http://www.seat61.com/Laos.htm
We tried the 2nd Class Sleeper with air condition.
2) Take the shuttle train from Nong Khai train station to Thanaleng train station, Laos. Upon arrival at Nong Khai train station, you just need to buy a train ticket to Thanaleng train station that costs 20 baht. Then, you’ll pass through the Thai Immigration and take the shuttle train to Laos. It’s very easy because you don’t need to leave the train station anymore. You only need to transfer to the shuttle train that will bring you to Laos. Travel duration is only 15 minutes.
3) Take a van or tuktuk from Thanaleng train station to central Vientiane. Upon arrival at Thanaleng train station in Laos, you will already see the Lao Immigration. Filipinos and other southeast Asian countries are visa-free in Laos for 30 days so we don’t need to pay anything. As for other nationalities, I think you can get a visa on arrival. After checking-in at the immigration, you will need to take a van or a tuktuk to bring you to central Vientiane. Thanaleng train station is located 13 km from central Vientiane. Taking a van costs around 150 baht. It’s better to share a van with other travelers. We arranged our transport with our travel agency so the travel agent fetched us at the train station.
After 30 minutes on the road, we finally arrived at central Vientiane.
Option #2: This is what we did when we traveled from Vientiane back to Bangkok
1) Take a bus from Vientiane to Nong Khai. The bus station is located just across from Talat Sao mall in the city center. If you wanna try this, then you should check on the bus schedules earlier to make sure that you can leave Vientiane on time and catch up the sleeper train in Nong Khai. It’s better to arrive early at Nong Khai train station than to miss the sleeper train. The bus fare is around 17,000 kip (2.13 USD ; Php 93.50). This shuttle bus will stop at Lao immigration, cross the Friendship Bridge and stop at Thai immigration. After passing through the Lao and Thai immigrations, the bus will drop you at Nong Khai bus station in Thailand.
2) Take a tuktuk from Nong Khai bus station to Nong Khai train station. The shuttle bus will drop you at Nong Khai bus station and from there you need to take a tuktuk to get to Nong Khai train station. The tuktuk costs around 30 baht (0.95 USD ;Php 42) per person.
3) Take the sleeper train from Nong Khai train station to Bangkok. You can see the sleeper train upon arrival at the train station. I advice you to come here earlier prior to the train’s departure to make sure that you would not miss the train. Travel duration from Nong Khai to Bangkok is 12 hours. This time we chose the 2nd class sleeper train with fan only.
Our train departed from Nong Khai at 6:20pm and we arrived at Hualamphong Railway Station in Bangkok at 6:25am.