We speak to BK Magazine’s Production Supervisor, Komkrit Klinkaeo, who drove 2,010km from Bangkok to Luang Prabang and back again in a 1960 VW beetle. Trust us, there’s plenty to see on your way to this World Heritage City, with gorgeous Lao-style temples and colonial French architecture (not to mention Lao food and baguette sandwiches) upon arrival. But before you jump into your car, Komkrit has some tips on the practical aspects of driving from here to Nong Khai, across the border, and deep into Laos.
How far is it?
1,005 km, one-way. It’s pretty tiring. Don’t try to do it in less than seven days.
What do you need?
- Your Car’s Passport. Register your car at the Department of Land Transport (1032 Phahonyothin Rd., Chomphon, Chatuchak, 02-271-8888) to get a vehicle passport (a.k.a. a purple passport. It’s B50) so that you’ll be authorized to drive the car outside of Thailand. As Laos is our ASEAN neighbor, Thai driving licenses are accepted. If you’re not Thai, but have a Thai or international license, that works, too.
- Your Passport. Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival. Thais don’t need one as, again, they are ASEAN members.
- Your car’s insurance documents.
What’s the plan?
Day 1: Starting from Bangkok, you will take around six hours driving along Phahonyothin and then Mitraphap roads heading directly to Nong Khai, the topmost northeastern province. A night’s stay in Nong Khai is recommended.
Day 2: Cross the 1st Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge for the immigration process to get into Laos. If you’ve already prepared all your documents, this won’t take so long and you can continue on the short 20km drive to get to Laos’ capital city, Vientiane, which sits right across, on the other side of the Mekong River. Stay overnight so you will have an opportunity to visit several tourist attractions in Vientianne, including Phra That Luang, Wat Phra Kaew and Talat Chao.
Day 3: Though the actual distance to Luang Prabang is not far from here, there are thousands of curves and turns on the way, so you better stop at Vang Vieng, a small town that sits between two big cities, to enjoy the picturesque scenes and slow lifestyle of the locals. Don’t miss kayaking or rubber ringing along its main river with lots of fun activities along the way.
Day 4: Another four hours gets you to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 5-7: Put the car in reverse and make your way back.
How much was the fuel?
You went as a caravan of 20 VW beetles and minivans. Any bust engines?
We have spare engines. We can fix anything. Three cars broke down but no one got left behind.