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 March 03, 2004
First Bus Service Between Thailand And Lao PDR To Be Launched

 Cross-border travel and tourism between Thailand and Lao PDR is set to get a huge boost with the launch of the first bus services between the two countries in April. Foreign visitors holding the proper visas and travel documentation will be able to travel by public transport buses back and forth across the border.

The routes will operate from the Thai province of Nong Khai to the Lao PDR capital of Vientiane, and from the Thai province of Udon Thani to Vientiane. Both will go across the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, the first to be opened across the Mekong River in 1994.

The Nong Khai - Vientiane route is about 30 kms and will be covered in 30 minutes. The Udon Thani - Vientiane route is about 80 kms and will be covered in a little more than an hour, excluding the time that will be spent at the border crossing.

One-way fares for the two routes will be 30 baht and 80 baht respectively.

The state-owned transport companies of Thailand and Lao PDR will each operate two round-trip services a day on both routes. Thailand's Transport Company Limited will operate 45-seat air-conditioned buses.

The routes will be inaugurated soon after the Thai and Lao PDR governments sign the agreement at their upcoming Joint Cabinet meeting in March 2004. The exact date of the first service will be announced later.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for International Marketing Mrs. Phornsiri Manoharn said, "This is excellent news for the two countries as well as for the overall cause of promoting intra-regional travel. Backpackers and the youth market will be among the major beneficiaries."

Foreigners who wish to travel by bus should ensure they have the proper travel documentation. While visa-free and visa-on-arrival facilities are accorded by both Thailand and Lao PDR to citizens of various nationalities, getting the necessary visas in advance will save considerable time and effort in doing paperwork at the border checkpoint.

President of Thailand's Transport Company Limited, Mr. Tawatchai Phaolaungthong told the official Thai News Agency, "We plan to later expand our services from Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse in Laos PDR in future."

He said that if the initial services prove successful, the two transport companies may look at operating additional routes from Khon Kaen to Vientiane, as well as from Bangkok to Vientiane.

Mrs. Phornsiri said, "With more Thai-Lao bridges to be completed over the next two years across the Mekong River as well as one of its tributaries, the Huang, we can expect to see a huge boom in travel through the Greater Mekong Subregion."

The Friendship Bridge is a major source of visitor arrivals to Lao PDR.

In January - September 2003, Thai visitors to Lao PDR totalled 276,871, or 59.48 % of total arrivals in Lao PDR during that nine-month period. Of that number, 122,658 Thai visitors crossed into Lao PDR at the Friendship Bridge.

In the reverse direction, arrivals from Lao PDR to Thailand by land totalled 66,557, or 77.24% of the total 86,167 arrivals from Lao PDR during January - October 2003.