How to: From Thailand to Laos by land
The usual route to go from Thailand to Laos by land is through a small town called Ching Khong. You can catch the bus from Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai (239 THB, around 5 hours) or from the bus station in Chiang Rai in the center.
Ching Khong has several guesthouses where you can spend the night, and all are a 10 min walk from where the bus stops. Lady from the BaanRimtaling guesthouse picked us up from the bus station and we stayed in the room for 200 THB (shared bathroom). Food, on the other hand, is more expensive but pad thai for 50 THB is good enough.
Every morning at 8.30 the van picks up people for 50 THB/person and transports them to the border which is 10 km away. First you have to clear your visa at Thai border and buy ticket for the bus to Laos border (20 THB). There you fill two forms (don’t forget the name of your hotel in Laos. Any name will do :)), give the forms, passport and one picture to the officer and wait for your name to be called. You pay the amount (30, 35 or 42 $, depends on where you’re from) and you’re free to roam Laos! You can exchange Thai baht in Laos kip for a bad exchange rate but it’s best to do it here as they don’t have an exchange office on the bus station.
If you want to go to Luang Namtha or Luanf Prabang you need to use the shared transport (they will ask for 25.000 LAK but the real price is 10.000 LAK) to the bus station or the closest town Houay Xai.