Laos Visa Scam in Hanoi
I want to warn travellers in Vietnam who are planning on going to Laos to be wary of hotels and guesthouses that offer to get your 1 month Laos visa for you. I had my hotel in Hanoi do it for me, and they totally scammed me. The name of the hotel is Camillia Star Hotel / T & T Travel. A tout came up to me after getting off the Sinh CafÃ© bus early in the AM from Hue and took me there. I stayed there several days. They seemed nice at first, but later when I was leaving, I was surprised how rude they were to me. Two days before leaving, I asked them to get me a one month Visa from the Laos embassy and they agreed to do it for 43 dollars. They brought back my passport the next day and I took a look at it. Nowhere on the Laos Visa does it tell you HOW LONG it is for, so be very careful. My visa has the code TR-B63 on it. I asked them if this was for a month, just to confirm. “Yeah yeah, one month, don’t worry.”
When I got to the boarder, I was informed by the Laos boarder guards that my Visa is in fact a 5 day transit visa. That’s right, it’s only good for 5 days, and is apparently for people who are just skipping through Laos on their way to Thailand or China. According to my Lonely Planet Laos book, it costs 15 dollars. So my hotel ripped me off for 28 dollars. That’s not the worst of it: Once I arrive in Vientiane, I tried to get a 15 day extension for my crappy visa, and was told that I couldn’t. My only option was to leave Laos and come back, paying another 31 dollars for the 15 day boarder visa (no 1 month visa is available at the boarder), and yet another 30 dollars at immigrations again for an additional 15 day extension. So I ended up paying over 100 dollars for my 1 month visa, and had to go through considerable time and effort to get it all straightened out, all because of those bastards at Camellia Star Hotel. Your 1 month Laos visa should say something like NI-B36, not TR-B36. Laos customs really needs to make their visas with the DURATION stamped on it (like most OTHER visas in the world), or else crooks like my guesthouse will continue to rip people off. Again, the hotel is called Camilla Star Hotel/T&T Travel.,PTE. The address is 37 Yen Thai Street, Hanoi. The guy who got my visa is named Ban. Please avoid them at all costs and warn other travelers to do the same.