Travel Advice for Volunteers in Southeast Asia
Travel Guide for Volunteers. About visas, transport, corona news, insurance, health
Visa requirements are subject to change. The following information is accurate at the time we put this together but you should check to ensure there have been no changes. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Nepal have “visa-on-arrival” options. You can also apply for a longer visa before you travel.
Most nationalities don’t require a visa for stays of less than 30 days. Instead, you are granted a ‘visa exemption’ in your passport.
If staying for over 30 days we recommend applying for a visa. Openmind Projects can help you with a special invitation letter.
For more information, contact the Thai embassy or consulate in your country. Check the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for official information.
Updates are posted on our online community (Thai Visa Information updates).
International travelers can apply for a tourist visa (about $50 depending on your nationality; good for 30 days) at Lao embassies and consulates. [Note: Laos has only 25 embassies worldwide. There isn’t one in the UK; the nearest one is in Paris. Click here for a list with addresses.] A cheaper and easier option ($35 or 1500 baht, again depending on your nationality) is usually to get a “visa on arrival” at the border crossings (including Nong Khai) or airports. Visas can be extended twice in Vientiane for 30 days. Your placement in Laos can help you to prolong your visa if needed. The official Laos’ Tourism website has more information at Sabaidee Laos: Visas.
Visas are available on arrival for almost all nationalities. A tourist visa ($30) is valid for 30 days and can be extended only once ($20). You can also apply for an E-Visa online from the Cambodian Immigration Department (www.evisa.gov.kh/) that allows you to skip the visa-on-arrival lines and go directly to immigration. It costs $37 and takes 3 days to process. Apply for extensions at the Department of Immigration opposite Phnom Penh Airport; processing usually takes 2 business days.
International volunteers normally travel with a tourist visa which you can get at the Kathmandu airport and most border crossings. The visa costs $40 for 30 days, $100 for 90 days. You can also apply online (http://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/tourist-visa) through the Department of Immigration website. For full details, contact your nearest Nepal embassy or Department of Immigration (www.nepalimmigration.gov.np). Your placement in Nepal can help you to prolong your visa.
- Leave a set with your family at home and bring one with you
We recommend getting a travel insurance that covers accidents and medical treatment. Ask your insurance company or travel agency. If you pay for your ticket with a credit card, it normally includes travel insurance. Ask your travel agency or Credit Card Company. Bring your insurance policy/certificate and leave a copy at home!
Bring bed sheets (and a sleeping bag during the cool season: Nov.–Feb.).
Appropriate clothes for your volunteer work. Shirt, blouse with collar, long trousers, skirt below the knees and shoes not flip flops for office and school work.
Bank/Credit card that you can use in ATMs/Bancomats. Bring two, in case one does not work.
Your travel insurance policy/certificate. Important.
Your laptop and cellphone, if you have one. Can be useful to prepare work and lessons. You can buy a local SIM card on arrival.
Brochures about your home country, family (students and local people are very curious!), games or learning CD-ROM’s and kits.
A Thai, Lao, Khmer, Nepali/English Dictionary.
Long-sleeved shirts and long pants for the evenings/cool season.
Bed mosquito net.
Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal and other medicines.
Sun block, sunglasses, hat.
For Country Updates on the Coronavirus, COVID-19, go to the WHO, for Thailand also the Tourism Authority of Thailand, updates.
Corona News from Openmind Projects Volunteer Update regarding the Covid 19, Thailand, Laos effects on volunteering.
Vaccinations and medicines:
Ask your doctor and travel agent for advice but do also check the Internet. Many governments provide useful information there. Some of our volunteers have paid more for their vaccinations and medicines than for their ticket to Thailand! Most medicines can be bought in Thailand at lower prices than in Europe or North America. Doctor’s fees are also lower, so you might save money by only taking the medicines that need to be taken in advance in your home country.
Here are some good links about health and vaccinations:
CDC Travellers’ Health (U.S.)
National Travel Health Network and Centre (U.K.)
Smart Traveller (Australia)
See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect. The following vaccines are often recommended by doctors and governments in Europe and America:
Rabies, if you will be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
Typhoid vaccination, according to some doctors.
If you will visit an area where there is risk for malaria (such as the Phu Khao Khouai Mountains in Laos) take your malaria prevention medication as directed.
If necessary, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults.
Please note that most medicines can be bought in Thailand at lower prices than in Europe or America and doctor’s fees are lower!
To stay healthy
Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness of travelers. Diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that can contaminate food or water. Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Malaria occurs only in certain regions. Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases and general irritation too. There is no risk for yellow fever in Southeast Asia.
Wash your hands often.
Use a mosquito repellent.
Sleep with a fan (to blow mosquitoes away) or with a bed net.
Drink bottled or boiled water. Avoid tap water and fountain drinks.
Eat only cooked meat.
Don’t handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs and cats) to avoid bites, lice, fleas and serious diseases.
Most local expenses such as meals and accommodation are included in the volunteer donation we ask you for. See conditions on our Volunteer costs page.
Guesthouse rates are very low and vary from 120–800 baht depending on location and standard. Food, water and soft drinks are very cheap in Southeast Asia: a meal in a local restaurant costs between 30-150 baht.
Local transport by bus and train is also cheap, a ticket from Bangkok to North or South Thailand is about 700 -1000 baht.
Flying is also cheap, especially if you book long in advance. There are several airlines offering cheap flights, such as Nok Air, Lion Air, Air Asia, Thai Smile, Bangkok Airways.
You can compare ticket prices here (Travel planning in South East Asia – buses, ferries, flights, railways).
Travel, Transport and Traffic Information for Volunteers in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal
Bangkok is a major hub in Southeast Asia for international airlines. From there it is easy to connect with regional flights to locations in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Airlines regularly offer discounted fares through travel agencies and on the internet.
Stopover in Bangkok. Bangkok makes an interesting stopover before going to your placement. If you don’t know what to do when in Bangkok, take an express boat up and down the Chao Phraya River and stop by markets, temples and restaurants along the banks! Very nice, cheap and easy to spend half a day on the river, seeing the sights and and getting your bearings. Better than sitting in traffic jams! Be careful of private boat trips: they are expensive! Southeast Asian food is conquering the world! People enjoy eating and cooking, an important social part of culture. Eating locally is very cheap. You can have lunch/dinner in a local place or on the street for 0.5 – 2 USD/Euros. Tell them ‘not spicy’ (mai pet) or else you may spend a lot more money on drinks!
Several airlines have flights linking major towns with Bangkok. Some also have flights linking major towns in Cambodia and Laos with Thailand. A one-way flight from Bangkok to Udon Thani, close to Nong Khai, is 1000 – 2500 Baht, Euro 25 – 40, the same as to Phuket.
Inexpensive ground transportation is comprehensive in Thailand, less so in Cambodia, Laos and Nepal but still widespread. Bangkok to Nong Khai one way, bus or train, A/C, costs about 10-30 Euros.
Do not expect buses or trains in SE Asia to be punctual!
Take the train to Nong Khai from Bangkok, night or daytime (about 11 -13 hours; 2nd class express a/c sleeper,
998 Baht) from Hua Lampong train station in central Bangkok.
The train to Nong Khai is the Northeastern line and you need to go to the very last station, Nong Khai.
Buy a ticket at the train station at least day in advance if you want an a/c seat/bed reservation.
or you can book online at https://traveltickets.12go.asia
Direct Bus NO.825: From Suvarnabhumi Airport 21.00 pm.
Price: 439 baht
ROUTE: Suvarnabhumi Airport – Nakhonratchasima – Khonkhaen – Udonthani – Nongkhai (http://suvarnabhumiairport.com/en/118-bus-bor-khor-sor)
You can also take a day or night a/c bus from the Northern Bus terminal better known as Mo Chit. It is the biggest bus station in Bangkok or pick it up from the Khaosan Rd.
There are several bus companies driving daily from Bangkok to Nong Khai. Many buses leave in the evening and arrive in Nong Khai early in the morning.
You can fly to Udon Thani from Bangkok, a one-hour flight. There are several low cost daily flights from Bangkok to Udon Thani and you can book a flight online.
– https://traveltickets.12go.asia/en (Travel planning in South East Asia — buses, ferries, flights, railways)
– www.thaismileair.com/ (Direct from Suvarnabhumi airport)
– Lion Air www.lionairthai.com/ (From Don muang airport)
– www.nokair.com/ (From Don muang airport)
– www.airasia.com/th/en/home.page/ (From Don muang airport)
Then take a van from the airport to Nong Khai (45 minutes, 200 Baht).
Watch this video showing how to get to our Training Center in NongKhai by van from Udon Thain airport.
Or let us know and we can arrange for a taxi to meet you at the airport.
Watch How to get to our Training Center in Nong Khai from the Udon Thani Airport. We can also arrange for a taxi pick up at the airport.
By Bus. Buy a ticket at the bus station in advance in Bangkok at the Southern Bus station (Sai Tai bus station) or from Khaosan Rd. You can also make a reservation at any travel agency or often at your guesthouse. Companies can normally pick you up at your guesthouse. Many buses leave Bangkok in the evening: prices vary between 500-815 baht (VIP A/C bus, quite comfortable). You should take a bus going from Bangkok to Krabi town.
By Air. You can fly to Phuket or Krabi from Bangkok in about 90 minutes. Many flights per day from Suvarnabhumi airport with Thai Smile and Bangkok Air; or from Don Mueang airport on Air Asia, Nok, Thai Lion Air, Thai Smile. Check for discount fares, 1300 – 2700 Baht one way.
From Nong Khai to Krabi
By Bus/train. From Nong Khai to Bangkok by overnight “VIP” bus (350-600 baht, around 8 hours; arrives at Mochit bus station) or overnight train (998 baht, about 10 hours; arrives at the Hua Lompong station). Spend the day in Bangkok; some volunteers check into an inexpensive guesthouse to take a shower and rest. Go to the Southern (Sai Tai) Bus Station for the bus to Krabi town. Many buses leave Bangkok in the evening: prices vary between 500-815 baht.
By Air. There are two possibilities. 1.) Fly from Udon Thani to Bangkok, then connect to a flight to Krabi. Total of 4 to 7½ hours, 2900-3700 baht. 2.) Fly from Udon Thani to Phuket. Currently one flight (2 hours) per day on Air Asia in the afternoon, 1500-2700 baht. Then to to Krabi town by taxi (about 2300 baht, 2½ hours) or bus (stops on the main road in front of the terminal; about 200 baht, 3½ hours).
By Bus. Buy a ticket at the bus station in advance in Bangkok at the Southern Bus station (Sai Tai bus station) or from Khaosan Rd. You can also make a reservation at any travel agency or at your guesthouse. Companies can normally pick you up at your guesthouse.
By Air. You can fly to Trang from the Don Muang airport (90 minutes). Several flights per day. Several offer discount fares.
From Nong Khai
By Bus/train. From Nong Khai to Bangkok by overnight “VIP” bus (350-600 baht, around 8 hours; arrives at Mochit bus station) or overnight train (998 baht, about 10 hours; arrives at the Hua Lompong station). Spend the day in Bangkok; some volunteers check into an inexpensive guesthouse to take a shower and rest. Go to the Southern (Sai Tai) Bus Station for the bus to Trang town.
By Air. Fly from Udon Thani to Bangkok, then connect to a flight to Trang.
From Nong Khai
By Air. Flights to Siem Reap depart from Udon Thani (about one hour from Nong Khai) connecting through Bangkok on Thai Air, Air Asia and Bangkok Air.
By Bus. Take a bus to Khorat, Nakorn Ratchasima, (6 hours), and then switch to a bus for Aranyaphratet (4 hours). Take a tuk-tuk to the border and walk across to Cambodia. Once across, take a taxi to Siem Reap (2 hours; you can usually find others to share one with).
By Air. Several airlines fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Fares start from around 5000 baht for the one-hour flight.
By Bus. A direct bus operated by The Transport Co., Ltd. leaves from the Mochit Bus Terminal at 8 and 9 a.m.. The trip to Siem Reap takes 8-11 hours and costs 750 baht.
Check price : Bangkok to Siem Reap @ bus, flight
From Vientiane, Laos
By Air. You can also fly from Vientiane, Laos to Siem Reap which may be convenient after having participated in our Cross Cultural and Volunteer Training in Nong Khai. Cross the border to Vientiane, stay at a guesthouse overnight and catch the early morning flight to Siem Reap (one stop in Pakse, Laos; around 9000 baht).
By Air. Many international airlines fly to Kathmandu, the capital. You can get a visa on arrival. From Kathmandu airport you can get a taxi to come to your stay, 30 minutes drive, costing 10-15 dollars or NCRs 650 to 950.
Bus. Take a bus from Indian cities like Delhi, Banaras and other cities up to the India – Nepal border and then cross the Nepali border at Birganj, Bhairahawa or other crossings by local transport.
Train. Or you can go from Indian cities to the India – Nepal border by train and then switch to local transport to cross the Nepal border. Once across, you can get a visa on arrival. Take a bus for Kathmandu (8 hours). Please change your money in NC Rupees at the Nepal border.
Transportation to placements varies according to location.
Northeast Thailand/Isan: teachers often pick up volunteers from the our Training Center in Nong Khai. Placements in Nong Khai town are easy to get to by tuk tuk and bus. A staff member usually goes along with the volunteer to the placement for several days.
South Thailand: Mui, our South Thailand manager, meets volunteers in Krabi and usually takes them to their placement.
Laos: a Lao staff member normally goes along to the placement.
Mae Sot: volunteers are met by our local representative in Mae Sot who takes them to the placement.
Cambodia: Hak, our Cambodian manager, meets the volunteers in Siem Reap and takes them to the placement.
Nepal: our Nepalese representative meets volunteers at the airport in Kathmandu and introduces them or helps them arrange travel to the placement.
Daily travel to a placement
Our local host or placement representative arranges with the volunteer the method of daily transportation from their local accommodation to the placement. Sometimes teachers agree to pick up volunteers daily to take them to the placement. It is the responsibility of the volunteer to get to the placement daily on their own unless otherwise agreed.