Nong Khai is a sleepy Thai town with strong Lao influences, and is home to small Chinese, Vietnamese, and expat communities as well.
Most locals speak both Thai and the local dialect called Isaan, which is closely related to both the Thai and Lao languages. Many locals speak a little bit of English, mostly tourism-related words, and are generally very friendly and helpful if you smile and are polite.
Get in 
By plane 
The nearest airport (on the Thai side) is in Udon Thani, 56 km away. There are direct shuttle buses four times a day between the airport and the Friendship Bridge (2 km outside Nong Khai), plus taxis and minibuses that will take you in to Nong Khai proper.
Thai Airways and Air Asia operate flights between Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) and Udon Thani. Nok Air operates a service between Bangkok (Don Mueang) and Udon.
By train 
Nong Khai is the terminus of the Northeastern railway line from Bangkok via Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. The trip takes 10-12 hours and a first class sleeper ticket from Bangkok to Nong Khai or vice versa is currently about 1,200 baht, and a second class sleeper ticket (not bad for the price) is 748 baht. Sleepers often sell out at peak times so you may need to book in advance.
Shuttle services now operate onward from Nong Khai to Tha Nalaeng, Laos (near Vientiane) four times a day, synced to the arrivals and departures of the Bangkok trains. You can only buy tickets at Nong Khai station, and you need to pass through immigration as well. (If coming in on train #69 from Bangkok, there's a 90-minute window to do this.) Once the formalities are done, the trip itself across the Friendship Bridge only takes 15 minutes. Visa on arrival is now available on the Lao side
By bus 
There are departures to Udon Thani at least once per hour from the BKS station on Prajak Rd. The hour-long ride costs 20 baht in 3rd class (non-air-con). 40 baht in 2nd class (air-con).
There are several departures daily from Bangkok (~9 hours), Khon Kaen (110 baht, class 2, with stop at Udon Thani)and across the border direct from Vientiane (55 baht, 17,000 kip, two hours) via the Friendship Bridge.
A 1st class bus service connects Nong Khai directly with Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).
Get around 
The only mode of public transport in the city is by tuk-tuk. Although the price has gone up recently due to the increased cost of fuel, they remain inexpensive at 20-30 baht/person to anywhere around the city centre.
Some tuk-tuk drivers will ask for much more than 20-30 baht/person, but you can generally bargain with them to reach a reasonable price. When bargaining, smile and be patient and polite (or just walk down the street until you see a roaming tuk-tuk, which will probably be cheaper. Walking a short distance is sometimes the only way to get a reasonable price when arriving at the Friendship Bridge from Laos).
A trip to or from the Friendship Bridge can cost over 70 baht for tourists if only one passenger is on board, although the normal price is 40-50 baht.
Another good way to discover Nong Khai and its surroundings is by bicycle. Some guesthouses and several rental places around town offer bicycles (30 baht/day) and motorbikes (200 baht/day). Lower prices can usually be negotiated for longer rentals - try the rental stand outside the Mut Mee Guesthouse or at Limmaneemotor on Meechai Rd. Go for the one on Meechai Rd first. Their motorbikes are a lot better and the people there are very nice. You'll need a copy of your passport to rent one. Very cheap for long term rental (Honda Dream 125 semi-auto 1,500 baht/month, Honda Scoopy 2,000 baht/month).
A new location, Nong Khai Cycle & Tours , at 867 Kaeworawut Rd between Mut Mee Guesthouse and Thai-Laos Hotel now rents mountain bikes starting from 70 baht/day, city bikes for 60 baht/day and children's bikes for 40 taht/day including helmets and free bottled water with each rental.
For local tour options, Khao Niao Tours  offers airport service from Udon Thani & Vientiane to your guesthouse or hotel in Nong Khai. Udon Thani, starts from 300 baht per person, and Vientiane, 800 baht per person. As well, they offer day tours to places such as Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, Wat Phu Tok, Ban Chiang (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Sangkhom, Chiang Khan, and Laos. They also have the the only city orientation tour featuring stops at Sala Kaew Khu, Tas Sadet Market, aquarium, Wat Pho Chai, Mon Mai Research Station, Friendship Bridge, and more. They also provide free city maps as well as a map of Sala Kaew Ku which helps explain the various statues throughout the park (a must-have if you visit the park and one of the few places to offer the map in English).
Nong Khai has one sight that cannot be missed: Sala Kaew Ku (or Sala Keoku, also known as Wat Khaek), located 6 km east of Nong Khai on Hwy 212. It's on the side of the road going towards Nong Khai (you'll need to make a U-turn if coming from Nong Khai). Once you turn off the road, the site itself is about 1-1.5 km away on the left.
This utterly bizarre park of massive sculptures (some over 20 m tall) is the handiwork of the mystic, Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, who bought the land in 1978 when he was kicked out of his native Laos. A similar park of his earlier work remains near Vientiane. Synthesizing Buddhism and Hindu ideologies, Buddhas, many-armed goddesses, naga snakes, and all sorts of human-animal hybrids dominate the scenery. Particularly noteworthy is the Wheel of Life, depicting his theory of the cycle of life. You enter via a womb-shaped tunnel and walk a circle past statues depicting the stages. Luang Pu's mummified remains are enshrined on the third floor of the Sala Kaew Ku pavilion itself. Entry is 20 baht for Thais and foreigners.
There is no direct public transport and you might find it a little tricky to get back, so you're best off arranging a return ride with a tuk-tuk (100 baht or so, including the cost of the driver waiting one hour) or hire a motorbike at Limmaneemotor in Nong Khai. You can also contact Khao Niao Tours listed above for private tour in an air conditioned vehicle starting from 100 baht per person.
Nong Khai is a charming city to wander around on foot or rented bicycle (30 baht/day) and meet the friendly and helpful locals. It's also a good place from which soak up the Isaan culture of the neighbouring towns, which can easily be reached by bus from the main BKS ("bor-kor-sor") bus station in the city centre, on Prajak Rd.
If you expect the usual tourist traps of Bangkok and Phuket, you will be disappointed. There are no super clubs, go-go bars, or mega malls to fill your time. This is a place to chill by the Mekong River watching passenger and cargo boats transit between Thailand and Laos, or to finish that paperback that has been sitting in your luggage for weeks. You may also consider stocking up on travel necessities before trudging on to Laos. Many who planned an overnight stay in transit have ended up staying for weeks.
- Jomanee Beach. During the months from Jan-May when the Mekong River level subsides, the Jomanee "beach" appears near the Friendship Bridge, 2 km west of town. Food and drink vendors readily provide mats, shade and music for the hundreds of locals, and two or three tourists, who patronise their stalls. An excellent spot to watch the sunset.
- Muay Thai. For those interested in muay Thai boxing lessons on a long-term basis, go to the boxing stadium beside the Grand Hotel and talk to ex-national champion, Arjarn Lart, a friendly local who speaks just enough English to get you by. This is the real deal, so do not expect an air-conditioned gym with cushy floor mats surrounded by ceiling high mirrors.
- VS Fishing Park, 157/1 Moo 5, Hadkam, ☎ =66 42 411054, +66 86 2425914. They have a restaurant there also. Fishing competitions held on the first Sunday of each month. All fish have to be returned to the pond after being caught. 20 kg carp have been caught here. 80 baht for the day to fish. 100 baht for days rent of rod, reel and hooks etc. 20 baht for bag of sticky rice for bait.
Visa Run 
Getting a Thai Visa in nearby Vientiane, Laos
- From Nong Khai Bus Station go to border/Friendship Bridge by tuk-tuk.
- Complete your Thai Departure Card (stapled in passport) and exit Thailand.
- Take the Bridge Shuttle bus (tickets 15 baht at ticket stand) to the Laos side.
- Get a Laos entry application at Window 2. Fill this and include one passport photo.
- US$35 for Lao entry visa (US$ available for sale just around corner at a much better rate than the 1,500 baht charged if you pay in baht. Only US$50 notes available, but change will be given in US$. Use it next time you go or spend it in Lao). NB: Different nationalities have different fees, but most are US$35. Canada is US$42.
- Deposit completed form, one passport photo, and passport at Window 1.
- Wait at Window 3 (just around corner) for passport. Your name will be called/passport photo waved around.
- You can buy Lao currency (Lao kip) at the same window as the US$. The rate has been 254 kip = 1 baht for a long time now. You can easily use baht or US dollars in Lao so you don't need to change money. Lao currency is very difficult to change back into baht or dollars, so if you do buy kip, don't buy too much.
- Proceed past the "entry fee" kiosks. You will rarely be asked for the 20 baht entry fee.
- Negotiate for an air-con taxi (better than tuk-tuk) which will take you to the Thai Embassy, wait for you, and take you to a hotel of your choice for 150 baht. Tuk-tuks want 200 baht just to take you to the embassy.
- Thai Embassy open for visa applications from 08:00-12:00
- Return next day from 13:00-15:00 to collect your passport with completed visa (e.g., 60 day tourist visa). The same taxi driver will pick you up at your hotel the next day at 12:30 if you agree this with him. Same price.
- Arrive at the Friendship Bridge (Laos side) by taxi.
- There is a duty free shop across the road.
- Fill in your Lao departure card (stapled to your passport) and exit Laos.
- Take the shuttle bus (tickets 4,000 kip or 15 baht at ticket stand) to the Thai side.
- Get a Thai arrival card at the kiosk and fill it in (the arrival half).
- Go to the immigration kiosk and get stamped into Thailand. Your new Thai visa has just been activated. Check that the stamp has the correct duration, just in case (depends on what type of visa you got e.g., 60 days).
- Get a tuk-tuk to Nong Khai bus station (50 baht).
- Isara . A volunteer organisation based in Nong Khai. They are one of Thailand's only free volunteering organisations which runs its own recycling centre, learning centre, and regular helmet campaigns. They also have a programme where they send volunteers to government schools across Thailand to teach English. They work to teach English everyday to local children and adults, as well as classes in art, dance, computers, and Chinese.
- Mundo Exchange . A voluntary charity that matches volunteers with community development projects in and around Nong Khai. If you have a few days you could try teaching English or learning about environmentally friendly methods used in and around Isaan. 13,482 baht for 2-3 week stay.
- Openmind Projects . A locally-based volunteer organisation which provides an excellent initial 3 day training to all volunteers and provides placements ranging from teaching English in local schools to more distant placements in Southern Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal, and in eco-projects in Thailand and Laos. 21,200 baht for 1-2 weeks including administrative fee.
- Thai-Experience . A charity arranging volunteer vacations and service learning projects in Nong Khai and Isaan. Volunteer opportunities include teaching English or computer skills and help at an orphanage. 9,630 baht for 1 week.
There are plenty of banks with ATMs in town, in particular on the main drag, Prajak Rd, and on Meechai Rd, which runs parallel and to the north of Prajak Rd. Some ATMs limit the amount you can take out to 3,000 baht/day. The ones inside Tesco-Lotus near the cashiers allow up withdrawals up to 25,000 baht. The only bank branch open on Saturdays is at the Tesco-Lotus mall. If you stand in front of the main entrance pass the building on the right side and enter near the bookshop. Most ATMs charge 150 baht for overseas cards but the Aeon Bank doesn't. Find it in the Tesco Lotus shopping mall near KFC, adjacent to the MK Restaurant.
The recently renovated Thasadej market is a 500 m covered alley market beside the Mekong River, where one can find hand-made Thai and Lao products, Chinese teas, cheap (and often low quality) electronics, clothes and a bewildering assortment of other items. It's open daily 08:00-18:00.
South of town on the Udon Thani Rd is a Tesco-Lotus, a fully-fledged Western-style supermarket with satellite shopping arcade and a cinema (nearly always Thai or Western movies dubbed into Thai). Nearby on Sunday afternoons/evenings is the Sunday Market, which sells all kinds of things.
- Hornbill Bookshop (in the soi leading to Mut Mee Guesthouse). If you enjoy a good read then you should visit. It has a good collection of fiction, non-fiction, guide books, maps and a growing collection of international titles. The owner has an extensive knowledge about her books and about Thailand in general.
Eat & Drink 
- The majority of Nong Khai locals eat out at the dozens of restaurants and bars along the Rimkhong (the riverside road) at the east end of town. Food here is cheaper and often better than in the town centre. English is not always spoken but increasingly Nong Khai restaurants have menus in more than one language.
- There are also many Thai food vendors along Prajak Rd that sell excellent cheap food.
- Both of the above areas are aimed principally at evening customers, so many eateries don't open until after dark. However, there are a number of Thai (and European) establishments in and around Thasadej market which are open during the day.
- Other markets, including the Chayapone market (between Meechai Rd and Kaeworawut Rd, near the Thai Lao Riverside Hotel), the Wednesday evening market (near the Nongkhai Grand Hotel), the morning market (near the bus station), and the other market near the sunken chedi at the east end of town, also have cooked/uncooked food.
- Arm Bar and Restaurant (on the promenade about midway down, next door to the big sunset terrace restaurant). 09:00 until late. Really good Thai and European food, with sausage and bacon for breakfast. Well-worth a visit. Lovely Thai lady owner speaks good English.
- Daeng Naem Nueang (along the Mekong on Rim Kong road slightly downstream from). Vietnamese restaurant widely acclaimed among Thai and Vietnamese residents of Nong Khai and known all over Thailand (a princess is a habitue). The staff are friendly, but not all proficient in English. They offer pre-packed take-away packages of naem neuang (a delicious Vietnamese dish) for 300+ baht if you want to eat elsewhere (lasts for ~3 days in the fridge).
- Dee Dee and Thai Thai, Prajak Rd (main street in Nong Khai). Two Chinese-style diners right next to one another that serve good Thai and Chinese food. They are open later than most other restaurants. "Thai Thai" is open later, but "Dee Dee" generally has better food.
- Gaia Bar (floating on the Mekong River, below Wat Hai Sok).
- German Bakery (at the corner of Meechai and Haisok). Has very good bread.
- Im Im Dim Sum (in downtown Nong Khai, Soi Sook Pracha near the PP Sport Centre). Serving dim sum, noodle, fried snacks, coffee and tea.
- Manchester Arms. 13:00-late. English owned gay friendly bar offering alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Free Wi-Fi and live sport on TV as well as great views across the Mekong to Laos and stunning sunsets almost daily.
- Nong Khai Home Cooking (on Prajak Road & Soi Pho Sri 4). Private Western or Thai home cooked meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Private events or catering/buffets. The chef formerly worked at Don's Cafe in Phuket.
- Ruan Thai Coffee & Breakfast, Rimkhong Rd. Run by a very pleasant young Thai woman who does her best to speak English. The prices are a little high, but the food is excellent and the restaurant itself is also quite nice.
- Soi Nitapat (just off Prajak Rd in central Nong Khai). A few more "farang bars", such as the Funky Monkey Bar and Jig's Kitchen. Offers Thai food. Computer/Wi-Fi for customers, sport on TV, and a book exchange.
- Sunday Market (on the highway west of the major intersection with the arch (sort of near Tesco Lotus)). mid afternoon to 22:00 rain permitting. Plenty of cooked/uncooked food.
- ThaiGun Aeng Bar, Rim Kong Rd (on the Mekong River east of Thasade market). Nong Khai's newest expat bar. Relaxing environment with a great view of the mighty Mekong River. It has a free pool table, friendly staff, quality drinks, fun music, western style toilets. This is a great bar to visit in Nong Khai. Highly recommended!
- Vegetarian Restaurant (on the soi just east of the post office). Not many mock meats. Breakfast and lunch (till about 15:00-16:00). About 25 baht (buffet) or 35 baht (menu) per meal.
- Warm Up (on the Rimkhong (riverside) road west of Thasadej market, and also accessible from the promenade). The most popular bar with young locals.
- Yota Vegetarian Restaurant, Kaeworawut Rd (a few minutes west of Mutmee Guesthouse). Most dishes here have mock meat, usually very convincing. Breakfast and lunch, sometimes dinner (if there's a special occasion). About 25 baht per meal.
- Amazon Guesthouse (close to the natural park and Mekong River). Garden guesthouse. Laid-back but efficient accommodation. Has an outdoor lounge area where you can relax with a book and enjoy views of the river.
- Friendship Guesthouse, 402 Meechai Rd (in the soi, on the left side towards the Mekong. It's only 10 minutes from the bus station on foot). One of the most beautiful and romantic places in town. A renovated dark-red wooden house set in a lush garden with beautiful double rooms. 400+ baht.
- Khiang Khong Guesthouse (beside the river). A new guesthouse, family run. Good rooms, hot water, comfortable beds.
- Mekong Guesthouse (by the Mekong river on the bridge side of the market). Rather expensive rooms with air-con, but they also have a dorm for 150 baht with hot shower and TV. There's a good chance of your being the only person in there.
- Mut Mee Guesthouse (by the Mekong river west of Thasadej market). Long-established and understandably popular. In a large tree-filled garden overlooking the river, it has both simple and higher quality rooms surrounded by hammocks and a variety of seating. It has a boat called the Nagarina which cruises on the river at sunset. Mut Mee owns the Gaia Bar. Yoga & meditation classes are also available. Large range of good food and drinks.
- Rimkhong Guesthouse, 815/1-3 Rimkhong Rd (a few blocks downriver from Mut Mee, about 100 paces beyond the Nong Khai Pier building), ☎ +66 42 460625. Nice little place with wonderful courtyard full of tables and benches and charming bric-a-brac. Lots of area information posted around the courtyard. Laundry service, basic food and drink and bicycles available. Shared bathrooms. Rooms include nice beds, table and chair, comfy chair and fan, but no air-con. Good quality Wi-Fi connection, available 09:00-24:00. Passing motorcycles and tuk-tuks are pretty loud during the day, not bad at night. 240+ baht.
- Sawasdee Guesthouse (only 5 minutes from the bus station on foot). An old, colonial style building on a good location offering single rooms with a fan for 140 baht and double rooms with air-con a few hundred baht more. The rooms are good and clean, guesthouse has nice communal area and a free Wi-Fi. Friendly and helpful owner who can give you lots of tips for getting around. 400+ baht.
Go next 
Relax in one of the villages along the Mekong to the west (near to far): Tha Bo, Si Chiang Mai (famous for spring roll wrappers), Sangkhom and Chiang Khan (popular with Thai tourists) in neighbouring Loei Province. Or visit:
- Jom Jang — a village on the banks of the Mekong river, approximately 18 km east of the city
- Vientiane — the capital of Laos, is just across the Mekong, and most visitors can get visas on arrival at the border
|Routes through Nong Khai|
|END ←||N S||→ Udon Thani → Nakhon Ratchasima|
|END ←||N S||→ Udon Thani → Saraburi|