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Nong Khai – Thanaleng (Laos) , Thailand´s only International Train in the North

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

The travel into Laos has been made easier for all and the victimizing by local transport thugs has been reduced to one spot only. The Friendship bridge connected Nong Khai’s Mekong shore since the 90’s with Laotian territory, but they have added a train service recently.

Thailand’s SRT and Lao Railways operate this together. Length of track between stations in use does not exceed 6.000 meters and covers the stream and that bridge crossing, twice daily in each direction!


Thanaleng station has been built for this purpose, the Tuktuk lobby in Laos must have prohibited railroad tracks well into Laos! 

So the rip off starts automatically at the station here, where Tuktuk pilots ferry the foreigners for a stash of Baht, Dollars or Kip to their final destination. A mafia-like organisation controls the access of vehicles strictly and charges 500 Baht “approach fee” to the drivers per vehicle. This is then passed on to the passengers, which have no alternative option from this station in the prairie by the Mekong river! Thanaleng is 30 KM away from Vientiane, public buses are nowhere in sight. The official negotiated fare is 40 or 50 Baht per person, depending on the drop-off in Vientiane. It’s 40 Baht to “Talad Sao Terminal”, the central transportation and bus plaza in the capital.

Expect to pay 100 Baht per Person, the Minibuses (12 seaters) or larger Tuktuks, need to pay off the mafia here as well! This is, believe it or not, a big step forward. Before You paid 40 Baht per person just to get from Nong Khai to the Thai side of the bridge, then 10 or 20 Baht for the transport over it (or hiked with your luggage), then you fell automatically victim to the mafia at the Laotian bridge end, where transport pays “approach fees” as well. The 5.000 Kip (5 Baht) public bus does operate, but they try everything to make you tale a shared taxi or Tuktuk!;)

The trains are fairly new and very clean , which surprised us after the dirty experience on SRT trains to Nong Khai or from there to Bangkok. Windshield wipers, head- and taillights – this train had it all! :)

Louvered blinds can be pulled out of the upper window frame, the windows themselves lower almost completely on demand. Good for us filming bunch.


Nong Khai – Thanaleng 09:30 AM, Thanaleng – Nong Khai 10:30 AM
Nong Khai – Thanaleng 04:00 PM, Thanaleng – Nong Khai 05:00 AM

The timetable and the South-to-North tracks, tell wise travelers to sit on the left, once inside the train both ways – in order to avoid over exposure to the strong sun, the right side of the train faces a merciless sun all the way!

Photo enthusiasts may want to face the sun for the possible reflections on the river during the passage over the bridge.

The station in Laos has one small refreshment kiosk, no food available – only drinks are sold lukewarm! It appears very well kept and is the pivotal point for major smuggling rings. Watch contraband in big sacks being offloaded on the opposite side of the train and disappear out of sight into the prairie on small mopeds with no license plates, within minutes after the trains arrivals from Nong Khai. All customs dudes are busy eyeballing arriving foreigners, filling out their Immigration forms for the needed Visa and stamp in their passports. Nice tables are provided, chairs as well.

Departure times given are loose time frames only, do not travel by train, if you have tight connections to catch in Nong Khai or at Udon Thani Airport. Our train was delayed 30 minutes both ways!

Arrival times in Nong Khai allow well for same-day connections to Bangkok by train on both trains in the evening!