Getting to Laos
Russians, Japanese, Swiss and ASEAN nationals including Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines can enter Laos "visa free" www.mofa.gov.la; all other tourists need a visa in the form of a tourist visa (for one or possibly two months) issued by a Lao embassy or consulate. A visa on arrival is also available to most people entering at the airports in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, as well as the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge between Nong Khai in Thailand and Vientiane. When applying for a tourist visa or to obtain a visa on arrival, one passport photo is required (although you may be able to pay a US$1 "fee" to have this requirement waived).
Prices range from US$30 to US$42 depending on nationality - Americans pay US$35, Australians US$30, Canadians US$42, Chileans US$30, Belgians US$30, British, Dutch US$35, Swedes US$31, Germans $40.
Visas can be obtained in advance from Lao embassies/consulates. The fee varies by nationality/embassy; US$20 is common, although can be as high as US$63 (in Kuala Lumpur). Processing times also vary; 2-3 days is typical, though you may be able to pay an extra small amount (around US$5) to receive the visa in as little as one hour. In Phnom Penh the travel agencies can arrange the visa the same day (but may charge as much as US$58) while getting it from the embassy takes a few days. Getting a visa from the embassy in Bangkok costs around 1400B for most nationalities, plus 200B more for "same day" processing. It's cheaper and quicker to get one at the border.
There are Visa-on-Arrival facilities at the international airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse, and at all border crossings (see below), including now overland from Cambodia (visa on arrival facilities opened at Voen Kham -north of Stung Treng, Cambodia- in February 2010). The cost varies between US$30 and US$42 (if paid with US$ notes; paying with Thai baht will cost considerably more and border officials will not accept Lao kip at all). A US$1 "out of office hours/overtime" surcharge, and a small (possibly 10 baht to US$1) entry stamp fee, might also be charged.
Entry permit extensions (sometimes referred to as "visa extensions") are available from the Immigration Department in Vientiane (US$2 per day) and via agencies elsewhere in Laos (who will courier your passport to Vientiane and back again, around US$3 per day minimum of 7 days).