Important notice for those booking bus and boat tickets to Luang Prabang and other destinations in Laos.
We recently had a report from a very unhappy customer saying that they were the victims of a scam while in Chiang Kong after purchasing a Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang bus ticket through Travel Hub.
Briefly, the report was as follows; the passengers were required to change buses at the border in Chiang Kong. The changeover takes place at a hotel called Portside. On this change over they were asked by a person (they believed was from the bus company) that they could not go any further if they did not purchase the visa there and then. 6,000 baht was handed over for 2 persons (which is about double the actual prices of the visa!!)
On finding out the real price of the visa the customers felt very cheated. We have contacted the bus company and they claim they offer no such visa services and possibly the service was offered from the hotel. The clients felt that the person asking them to pay the visa fee was integrated with the bus company and a compulsory payment to make as part of the bus service they feel they were deceived.
Please note that you are free to make your own visa arrangements at the border and this can be done on your own, you do not need to pay for a service. If you do choose to pay for a visa service make sure you are very clear on the charges being asked. (what amount is the actual visa fee and what amount you are paying for the service) Also do not accept from anyone that you can not continue on the trip if you do not pay for the visa service, as the visa CAN be arranged on the border yourselves.
Also worth a mention here is a further scam that got reported to us on a few occasions a couple of years back. I am not sure if this is still going on but something to be aware of. This scam involved money changing and was reported to us by customers who booked the Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang bus and boat combination tickets. On crossing into Laos and waiting for the boat departure they are approached by a money changer, the customers believed the money changer was a member of staff from the operator of the package trip – which they are not, and felt secure changing money. On agreeing on a rate and amount the exchange is done and the customer is handed a very big pile of notes. The client is new to Laos, unfamiliar with the Laos currency as well as the sheer amount of notes – (due to the exchange rate and small denominations used) fails to check the amount adequately before the money changer makes a quick departure. It is subsequently discovered the amount exchanged was significantly less than what should have been handed over.
If you enter into any money exchange transactions in Laos make sure you check and double-check the amount you are given!!
Yes, a further “scam” to report! Be careful of money exchange services offered by staff at the accommodation provider in Chiang Kong. We have had reports that hotel staff are telling customers that it is best to exchange Laos kip at the hotel as you will get a better exchange rate. This is not always the case and we have had reports that once the customer has crossed to Laos there are finding a far better exchange rate available there. We have reported this to the package operator and have been told that they do not offer any exchange services but the accommodation provider is free to provide this service from their hotel.