2 min read

Extending my Lao Visa

In early May 2024 it is no longer possible to extend a Lao Visa by day, you buy a full month's extension or nothing.

My trip to Laos has only one fixed point. I will do a two-week stint of teaching English in a small town near the Vietnamese border.

The only other fixed point is six-week course I will do in Chiang Mai, starting three weeks after the teaching finishes. I do not know where I will go in the meantime.

The Lao Government offers a 30-day visa and there is much information on the web on what you will need to extend said visa. This is what happened in Savannakhet in early May, 2024.

I wandered down the riverfront to the Provincial Police Headquarters (thanks to my Vanpila hosts for directions about this) and found the Visa Extension office.

You can find the Police Headquarters downstream from the Lao-Viet Bank and about 500m before the hospital.

The entire riverfront promenade after the bank is a construction zone, turning left between the bank and the Headquarters will get you to the main entrance. Showing a passport was enough to be pointed in the right direction and I came to a small building with access directly onto the riverfront, albeit a rickety wooden bridge over the drain and between two piles of cement pipes.

Directed by someone waiting to go to the closed window, the window opened and by hand gestures and a bit of Google Translate we understood each other. A one-month visa extension would cost 630 000 Kip and was to be paid in cash. My passport would be ready the next day at noon.

Back to the Lao-Viet Bank ATM and a cool two million was withdrawn, the maximum allowed. The fee for this was 90 000 Kip (there are several sites describing the best ATMs to use in Laos, Lao-Viet Bank is not one of them). Returning to the Immigration Office via the riverfront, a view of Mukdahan and its enormous white Buddha on the hill accompanied me on my short walk.

630 000 Kip were handed over and a receipt given. In stern English I was informed that I could have my passport back only upon showing said receipt and so, off I went to find some breakfast. A coffee and cookie at a little café called, appropriately enough, "Black Coffee", set me back the grand sum of 40 000 Kip and, fortified, I went looking for something more substantial and, truth be told, something a little more Lao.

Dawdling along and turning a corner or two, I came across a small eatery that fed me Pad Kapow and, thus fed, I returned to my room.

Savannakhet is a small city of about 25 000 people and there is an interesting mix of architecture:

  • beautiful traditional architecture (wooden buildings built up off the ground),
  • the remains of French colonial architecture, mostly with very weathered paint, and
  • starkly modern buildings with all their lack of charm.

Commerce-wise there is a mix of small stalls and larger shops. One store that seemed strangely out-of-place was a wine cellar, selling wines from France and Europe, South Africa and South America. Oh, and Peugeot bicycles.... There are a few sites explaining the interesting relationship the Lao people have with the French and how there is a resurgence of interest in French and English among the Lao elite. While it is a poor country generally, as everywhere there are pockets of extreme wealth to be found.

The next day I headed out at about 11.30am to walk back to the Immigration Office. The streets were largely deserted, (only mad dogs and Englishmen, right?) and the walk was hot but not unbearable. The window once again opened, I handed over my receipt and I now have a visa for a total of 60 days. A walk up the main road to the BCEL ATM (the fee here is only 30 000 Kip) and I am another two million richer.

Visa, mobile data and cash; all set for the next stages....