The Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train is a popular mode of transport between the Thai border town of Nong Khai to Thanaleng or Dongphosy, the only passenger railway station in Laos just after the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River. The shuttle train between Nong Khai and Thanaleng (Vientiane) commenced on 5 March 2009, making it the first dedicated cross-border shuttle train in ASEAN.
Coming in from the Special Express 25 Isan Mankha, I had just 45 minutes to connect to the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train at Nong Khai, including purchasing tickets and clearing Thailand immigration. I thought that this might result in quite a rush, but with the on time arrival of the Isan Mankha, this wasn’t too much of an issue.
Tickets for the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train to Thanaleng are only sold at Counter 2 of Nong Khai Railway Station.
Combined train+minivan tickets to Vientiane or Vang Vieng are also available.
I purchased a combined train+minivan ticket from Nong Khai to Vientiane city centre here for 300 Baht (~$12.46).
(However, if you would only like to get to the border station of Thanaleng, tickets go for just 20 Baht (~$0.83).)
The Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train is operated with a 2-car Hitachi (RHN) Railcar set.
Immigration at Nong Khai is located at the northern end (towards Laos) of Platform 1.
Queue up to get stamped out of Thailand.
Once done, head out of the immigration area to the waiting Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train at Platform 2.
The exterior of the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train.
The destination plate of the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train.
Next stop: Laos
There is a special station sign at the northern end of Nong Khai Railway Station, but I didn’t get a chance top get close to it since the train was departing soon and this was a somewhat “restricted” area after immigration anyway.
The interior of the Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train.
Departing from Nong Khai.
*It was raining outside, and the windows were not able to open, so bear with me for the following poor window shots.
Heading onto the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge.
The two yellow lines denote where the rails will run right in the middle of the bridge. While the train is on the bridge, all vehicular traffic is stopped.
Leaving Mainland Thailand.
Crossing over the Mekong River.
Crossing the Thai-Lao border, demarcated by a ceremonial stone.
Around this time, the conductor comes around to check for tickets. Those who were holding on to Nong Khai – Thanaleng train tickets were clipped as per normal, however, as I had purchased the Nong Khai – Vientiane combined train+minivan ticket, my ticket was taken back by the conductor, and a yellow lanyard was given to me to wear upon disembarking from the train.
Splitting off from the road towards Thanaleng Border Crossing.
The Laotian scenery on the way to Thanaleng.
Arriving at Thanaleng Railway Station. The station master here dons the Lao Railways uniform, however, I do not know if he is an employee of the actual Lao Railways railway company or of SRT as only Thai trains run on this railway and even the tracks are of Thailand standard, with SRT’s embossing on the concrete sleepers.
The interior of the Hitachi RHN Railcar after all passengers have disembarked.
Once at Thanaleng Railway Station, the immigration counters are just in front of the train.
Queue up and prepare 50 Baht or 10,000 Kip for the immigration officer for your entry stamp/to get your passport back.
(If you need a visa, follow the signs for Visa on Arrival instead.)
“Not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North.”
Oh wait, wrong country.
The facade of Thanaleng Railway Station, the one and only railway station in Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
From here, I waited for the minivan to get me to Vientiane city centre.
The Nong Khai – Thanaleng Shuttle Train is a convenient way to cross into Laos from Thailand, with dedicated immigration checkpoints for train passengers and even having the entire Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge closed while the train is passing through. It sure is a great way to beat queuing up at the vehicle checkpoints too, since the crowd at the train checkpoints are limited to the number of train passengers only.
Details on the minivan to Vientiane city centre as part of the combined train+minivan ticket from Nong Khai will be continued on BusTravel Station.