This post is a continuation of the train ride from Nong Khai to Thanaleng with the combined train+minivan ticket from Nong Khai.
The minivan service at Thanaleng Railway Station is one of the few, if not only way to get from the secluded railway station to Vientiane city centre, about 22 kilometers away.
While the immigration queues are ongoing, the local staff at Thanaleng Railway Station for the minivan service to Vientiane set up their counter just beside the immigration counters. If you have not gotten the combined train+minivan ticket at Nong Khai for 300 Baht (~$12.53), you can purchase the minivan-only ticket here at Thanaleng for 200 Baht (~$8.36) instead, which actually makes for a cheaper option for the same service (ie. 20 Baht for the train + 200 Baht for the minivan = 220 Baht in total).
The counter is also for those holding tickets for the PTS Transit Service Train+Minivan Combined Ticket from Nong Khai to Vientiane purchased on 12Go Asia.
I enquired about the return transfer from Vientiane city centre to Thanaleng Railway Station at the makeshift desk, and Mr Per of PTS Transit Service (“PTS”, geddit?) gave me his name card along with the pick-up details, which I’ll explain in a following post.
After all passengers were accounted for for the transfer to Vientiane city, including those requiring a Visa on Arrival (hence it doesn’t matter if you’re first or last for immigration since everyone will wait for everyone), Mr Per rounds up all those wearing yellow lanyards on the platform for the transfer to Vientiane city.
The lanyards are collected back at this point.
The exterior of the minivan used for this transfer service to Vientiane city.
Boarding the minivan to Vientiane city.
Despite being an 11-seater van (including the front seat), there were only 5 passengers on board including myself, with the rest of the space used for baggage, making for a rather comfortable ride. Another batch of passengers used a separate car for their transfer, however, I’m not sure of their destination.
Departing from Thanaleng Railway Station.
Passing by the only level crossing in Laos south of Thanaleng Railway Station, Laos’ only railway station.
Turning right at the main road towards Vientiane city.
Passing under the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
The road runs parallel to the Mekong River after about halfway through the journey towards Vientiane city, offering a view of Northeastern Thailand across the river.
All passengers except me opted to pay an additional 50 Baht to be dropped off directly at their hotel or hostel around the city. As these are nearer than Talad Sao, Mr Per dropped them off first.
On the way to Talad Sao, Mr Per pointed out the Nam Phou Fountain and the bus stop I should wait for him later in the afternoon at 3pm for the transfer back to Thanaleng Railway Station.
The journey from Thanaleng Railway Station to Talad Sao Mall, near the Central Bus Station (CBS) took around 1 hour.
“Talad Sao” translates to “morning market”, but the shopping mall is open throughout the day instead of just in the morning. If you do not already have Lao Kip (I changed mine in Bangkok), this is a good place to exchange Thai Baht to Lao Kip with a couple of banks located inside the mall.
From here, I continued my self-tour on foot around Vientiane.
Overall, it was a pleasant journey with Mr Per from Thanaleng to Vientiane city. Despite being one of the few, if not only transfer service from Thanaleng Railway Station in the middle of nowhere, the ticket prices are reasonable and he was polite throughout the journey including while waiting for those requiring Visa on Arrival to complete their procedures at the station. Although if I were to go to Vientiane again next time, now that I understand the prices and procedures, I would purchase the train and minivan ticket separately and directly instead at a cheaper price.
I highly recommend this mode of border crossing as it saves you the hassle of crossing the border by road requiring 3 separate bus, minivan or taxi rides and standing in line at both sides of the immigration buildings. While there’s a queue for the train’s immigration procedures and the wait for the minivan, it’s significantly shorter and more comfortable to wait while sitting or walking around at your own free will than to stand rigidly in line at the crowded road checkpoints.