I'm planning a trip from Hanoi to Laos and Thailand, starting with a flight to Luang Prabang and then travelling overland to Vientiane.

Thailand July 17, 2013 00:00

By Vipasai Niyamabha
Special to

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What's the best way of getting to Pakse then entering Thailand from there? Kevin

The distance from Pakse to Vientiane is around 738 kilometres. As you may know, the most convenient way is to take a flight to Pakse. There are three flights daily operated by Lao Airlines, and the flying time is 1.15 hours. Air tickets can be purchased from any travel agent.
Vientiane is the hub for travel by bus, with three bus stations in the city and the main one – Vientiane Bus Station – located opposite the morning market (Talat Sao). The Northern Bus Station is on T2 Road while the Southern Bus Station or Dong Dok is on Kaisone Phomvihane Road. There are three types of buses to choose from: local, express and VIP. The local one takes 13 hours, the Express 10 hours and the VIP eight hours. The latter operates twice daily, departing only in the evening at 8.30pm and 9pm. Express buses operate four times daily with the daytime trip leaving at 7.15am and the rest of them after dark, at 6pm, 7.30pm and 8pm. Companies include iSpot Travel Transport and Yortdoy Transport and both operate night buses from Vientiane to Pakse bus station. 
Once you are in Pakse, there are buses to bring you cross the border to Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand. The service operates twice daily from Pakse at 8.30am and 3.30pm, and the fee is Bt200.
I'm looking for a worthwhile volunteer opportunity in Thailand for the start of 2014. I am not interested in paying to volunteer so would like information about organisations that offer volunteering on a no-fee basis? I plan to spend 3 months working with kids in an orphanage or a school in Bangkok or elsewhere in Thailand. Thank for your advice! MD
There are a number of organisations that offer volunteer opportunities with no fee, both in Bangkok and around the country. These no-fee programmes require a long-term commitment but I think your availability of three months is probably long enough to meet their requirements. 
The website VolunteerWorkThailand.org gives a long list of free volunteer work in Thailand, as well as the contact details you will need. For working with children, check out Isara Charity Foundation in Nong Khai, Bantorfun in Samut Sakhon, Camillian Home in Bangkok, Ban Nai Soi Community Learning Centre in Mae Hong Son and Baan Unrak Children's Village in Kanchanaburi.
While paid programmes often include some leisure activities, those with no fee are usually more challenging and offer a more “authentic” experience.
However, you do need to be aware of the visa concerns requirements. Many organisations fail to inform volunteers that they need to apply for a special visa through a Thai embassy or consulate to volunteer legally. For any volunteer position, a tourist visa is not acceptable. Please check in advance with your preferred organisations if they are well aware of Thai laws, and willing to assist you with the visa process.