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You'll need a passport and a visa to enter Laos. Visas are now available on arrival at most entry points, but if you're taking the cross-border bus to Vientiane from Udon Than or Nong Khai in Thailand, you'll need to get a visa in advance. You can do this at the Lao embassy in Bangkok or consulate in Khon Kaen in an hour or through an embassy or travel agency before you leave home. Tourist visas are good for 30 days, cost $35 for Americans, and can be paid for in U.S. dollars (if you are buying a visa at the Lao border or in a Lao embassy or consulate in Thailand, you can pay in baht, but you will be charged B1,500 which is much more than $35). You'll need to have two passport-size photos (one photo if buying at the border) with you—bring these from home or get them in Bangkok. In the past Lao border officials have been able to accommodate travelers who don't have extra photos for an additional fee. Occasionally immigration officials ask to see evidence of sufficient funds and a plane ticket out of the country. Showing them credit and ATM cards should be proof enough of funds. Regulations change without warning, so check with the Lao embassy in your own country before setting out.
Lao Embassy (Bangkok) (502/502/1–3 Soi Sahakarnpramoon, Pracha Uthit Rd., Wangthonglang, Bangkok, 10310. 02/539–6667. www.laoembassybkk.com.)