Getting a tourist visa to Laos from Hanoi in Vietnam is like the easiest thing in the world. I had read a lot of outdated and conflicting reviews and hence would like to add the current state of affairs for the assistance of the global traveler.
First, let me tell you my current state and plan. I am planning to enter Laos from the Sapa side and that means I enter Laos from Dien Bien Phu city at the Tay Trang international checkpoint. My hotel and the embassy recommended me to take my visa in advance if I enter from this checkpoint. If you are entering from the very popular Cau Treo international checkpoint, then you don’t need to apply for a visa in advance and can get it on arrival easily. It is supposed to be easy on some of the other checkpoints, though I have not collected any information on that front as it was not relevant to my travel plan.
I chose to get my visa done in advance to help me chose my port of entry at the last moment and prevent scams at the border. If you wish to apply for your Laos visa from Hanoi, you should go to the Laos embassy at 22, Tran Binh Trong and about 15 minutes walk from the old quarter of Hoan Kiem in Hanoi. Once you enter the small embassy, you will find the visa section, which is a very small room office. In this room, you will find out the visa costs for the various countries. The standard time for processing the visa is 3 days, 2 USD extra if you wish to get it done in 2 days and 5 USD extra if you wish to get it done on the same day.
In terms of documents, all you need is your passport (valid for 6 months with 2 empty pages) and 1 recent passport size colour photograph. The officer at the visa counter will give you the visa form, which you need to fill and sign. The visa form asks for port of entry, address in Laos and other information, but it is okay if you do not know it at the time of applying the visa.
I applied for the same day visa and was ready to pay USD 5 extra for that. Since I am from India, my visa fee is USD 40 for Laos. Once I gave my visa form, passport and photograph, I was told to wait for 15 minutes and that is how much time it took me to get my visa stamped on my passport. Payment needs to be made in US Dollars and not in Vietnamese Dong. The visa is valid for a duration of 2 months from date of stamping and is valid for a period of 30 days from day of entry. The embassy is open only on Mon-Fri 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM. Make sure you head there in the morning half if you wish to apply for your visa on the same day.