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China-Laos: how to cross the border between Mohan and Boten

In this travel guide, I explain how you can easily cross the China-Laos border between Mohan(磨憨) and Boten.

In a previous article, I explained how to cross the border between China and Vietnam, specifically Hekou in Yunnan and Lao Cai in Vietnam. Yunnan also borders Laos, and since January 2023, there is a convenient train that connects them. So, if you consider travelling between these two beautiful countries, this article is right for you.

Three daily trains leave from Kunming to Mohan (磨憨), two in the morning and one in the afternoon, but only train D887 connects China directly to Laos. The other two stop in Mohan and then return to Kunming.

I originally wrote the article before it was possible to cross the border using the train, and you had to get off at the Mohan train station, go through passport checks, and then take a taxi to Boten (a few Km away).

It’s now possible to take train D877 (if you arrive from Kunming) or train D888 (if you arrive from Laos) and it will stop for 90 minutes in Boten and Mohan to complete the passport checks. Then you can get on the same train and continue your journey.

The China-Laos railway is the first part of a bigger project that connects Yunnan to Singapore. Only the Yunnan-Laos part is completed, and you can travel from Boten to Vientiane. The second part of the project should connect Vientiane to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Singapore.

China-Laos border crossing on a train

mohan train

Currently, you have to use two different apps to book your tickets, depending on the direction of your train. Remember that in China, you can book the ticket up to 14 days in advance (I suggest you book the ticket as soon as possible since they are often sold out for this train), and in Laos, only 3 days in advance.

  • If you arrive from Kunming, you can easily book the ticket using If the tickets are sold out, you can arrive in Mengla(勐腊), about one hour from Mohan, and head there by taxi. Mengla is not too far away from another exciting place I talked about: Xishuangbanna (here is my travel guide). If you arrive in Mengla, you must complete the border crossing on foot, as I explain later.
  • If you are in Laos and want to enter China, you can use the LCR Ticket to book the ticket.
  • If you cross the border FROM China, you must apply for the Laos Visa online in advance (it usually takes 5 days to get it) if you cross the border via train. It’s impossible to get a Visa on arrival, unlike when crossing the border on foot, where you can get it at Laos customs.
  • If you are crossing FROM Laos to China, you need a Chinese Visa since it’s impossible to get it on arrival.
china laos tickets
Timetable and tickets from China to Laos are available on Chinese apps.
laos china tickets
Timetable and tickets from Laos to China are available on Laos apps.

Remember that sometimes you will find the Chinese version of the names of the cities in Laos. For reference, these are the translations:

  • Moding: Boten
  • Langbolabang: Luang Prabang
  • Wanrong: Vang Vieng
  • Wanxiang: Vientiane

As you can see, the train will stop for 90 minutes, both in Mohan and Boten, to complete the passports and Visa checks.

When booking the Laos-China ticket, you’ll have to pick up your ticket at the departure train station in Laos unless you use an agency to book it.

China-Laos border crossing on foot

The main issue when crossing the border on foot is that the time between the arrival of the train in Mohan and the departure of the other train in Boten is very short, and it’s impossible to buy a train ticket at the Boten train station for the same day because the tickets are all almost immediately sold out. Everyone on your train will likely cross the border with you, meaning hundreds of people queueing at the customs and waiting to get a visa. You may miss the train in Laos if it’s a busy day and there is some issue at customs.

This is the current timetable for the trains in Laos (credit to

Railway Timetable Laos

Remember that Laos is one hour behind China, and the timetable above uses the Laos timezone.

Since it’s now possible to cross the border on the train, I DON’T recommend this option, but if, for whatever reason, you want to do it, there are some things to keep in mind.

Unless you already have a train ticket from Boten to your next destination in Laos, the best option is to arrive in Mohan, or Boten, a day earlier. That’s what I did. This is especially important if you have already booked all of your hotels. You can only find a few hotels in Mohan (I stayed here).

I took the second train, which arrived in Mohan at 19:33, stayed in the city for one night, and then crossed the border as soon as it opened before the first train from Kunming arrived. This gave me enough time to complete all the paperwork at customs, buy a Laos sim card, and finally buy a ticket at the train station (and I barely made it in time: there were only 11 tickets left for the day).

You can take a taxi from the train station to the border (口岸) and enter the building, where you’ll have to complete a form and have your passport checked.

You must fill in a paper slip and a WeChat mini-app with your info. Unfortunately, the mini-app is only in Chinese, as are the instructions on how to complete it.

Leaving China is usually easier than getting in, but in my experience, there isn’t any issue besides a few routine questions (when entering China). Nothing too intimidating.

You’ll have to pass your bags through the X-ray machine, and soon enough, you’ll be on the other side of the building.

Just keep walking for a few hundred meters, and you’ll see the Boten checkpoint.

When inside the building, fill out the immigration paper slip, head to counter 1, hand over your passport, and pay the 40$ fee for the visa. Then, go to counter 2 to get your passport with your Laos visa and complete the customs check. That’s all.

Right after the checkpoint, you’ll see a lot of minivans that can take you to the train station, which looks exactly like any Chinese train station. You even hear the same public announcement in China at every train station.

Buying a ticket at the train station in Laos is a very long process because agencies buy tens of tickets at a time. It took me one hour to get mine even if I only had about 30 people in front of me (and there are 4 counters selling tickets in Boten), so I recommend using the LCR app.

Tips for crossing the China-Laos border on foot

  • The opening times for the border are from 8:30 to 17:30 on the Chinese side and from 7:30 to 16:30 on the Laos side.
  • Bring one picture of yourself for the Visa.
  • Bring a pen to complete the immigration forms because there won’t likely be any available, and you’ll have to ask around, wasting a lot of time.
  • To get the Laos Visa, you must go to Counter 1 and then to Counter 2.
  • I’ve received reports of scammers right inside the Laos customs building. They take advantage of the confusion when hundreds of people arrive from the Kunming-Mohan train. If people ask you for money to speed up the Visa process, that’s a scam. You should only give the money to the people behind the counters.
  • The Laos Visa should cost 40$ or 300 RMB for most nationalities. You can pay in RMB or USD.
  • If you arrive from China, you most likely have RMB. Remember that you can pay everything in RMB, even in Boten. So my suggestion, if you have to exchange RMB to KIP, is to exchange only a small amount in Boten and then exchange the rest of your money in your next destination. This is because the money changers in Boten will give you a terrible exchange rate.

Here, you can find my detailed China travel guide.

If you plan to visit Vang Vieng, don’t miss my travel guide. If you are heading straight to Luang Prabang, check out my travel guide. Here, you can read my other articles about Laos.

26 thoughts on “China-Laos: how to cross the border between Mohan and Boten”

  1. Massimo

    very detailed and useful report ! thanks !
    I’ll travel to Laos in the last week of this month…..
    I’d like very much to take D887 train from Kunming to Luang Prabang (Langbolabang), it’s not expensive (413 Y, 2°nd class) but there is a big problem ! doesn’t sell this ticket (neither to Mengla, yes) and I have a lot of problems in buying tickets with 12306 nor I know any other ticket vendor (12go is fine from Laos [and from Vietnam too, e.g to Nanning], but not from China)….
    if I take C381 from Kunming to Mengla (8.33-12.32, 314 Y), available on (38, 12+5 E commissione), it would be feasible to arrive at Chinese/Lao border at 14.00/15.00 (before closing), to get Lao visa on arrival at Boten, enter Laos and catch a Laotian bus if not for Luang Prabang at least for some other Lao town (Luang Namtha or others), where I’ll stay overnight before continuing the next day by rail for Luang Prabang ?

      1. Massimo

        I see trains me too…but I can not buy tickets, unluckily

  2. Marc

    Hi Fabio,
    Thanks for the info!
    Since December, 6 countries from Europe + Malaysia can get a 15 day visa-free entry.
    Do you think coming on the train from Laos into China this 15 day visa-free entry can be done in Mohan, as it is not a visa on arrival?

      1. Marc

        Hi Fabio (or someone else).
        We entered China via the Laos China railway on 18 March.
        Do you know how the 15 days Visa free entry is being counted? Does it already include the day of entry in full or is day one the next day (19 March)?
        I am not clear if the last day is then 1 April or 2 April.


        1. Hi Marc, I’ve heard both version. As far as I know it should start from midnight.

  3. Henry Wang

    Dear Fabio, We are interested to take the train from Vientiane to Xishuangbanna in mid-fabruary after CNY in 2024 and stay there for a few days before heading to Kunming. Is there a way for us to purchase one ticket? All I can find from various web sites are from Vientiane to Kunming. If I take the first train from Vientiane and the last train from Mohan in the evening, do you think that I still need a night hotel stay in Mohan? Thanks!

    1. Have you tried with the Laos App I mention in the article? If you take the last train, it leaves at 19:55 from Mohan.

    2. Henry Wang

      Dear Fabio, we have arrived in Vientiane, Laos today and was told that all train tickets from Vientiane to Kunming on Monday (2/19) are sold already. Thus, we purchase train ticket from Vientiane to Boten on Monday (2/19). But, the arrival time is 4:30 pm (14:30) in Boten. Based on your article, border is closed by then. Is there any hotel that we can stay in Boten? Any suggestion will be more than appreciated.

      1. Hi Henry, for sure you’ll find something in Boten. But if you arrive at 14:30 in Boten the border is still open.

  4. Jeannette

    A question to be sure: If we take the train from China (Kunming) to Laos (Vientiane) and we have an e-visa. Is it easy to catch the train in the 90 minutes stop? Or is what you recommend not to take this train because you can miss it on your last day?

  5. Thank you for this info. I am about to try to take the through train from Kunming.

    To confirm, it is possible for foreigners to get a Lao visa on arrival at the border?

    1. It’s not possible but you can apply for a tourist Visa in Laos. I know people who did and got it.

  6. Paulsim

    Great information and truly what we need to travel around Laos, Yunan and Thailand. May you share and guide us any better route to visit Jinghong, by boat, bus or train from Mae Sai or Chiang Sean or Chiang Khong Thailand…

    1. Thanks! At the moment it’s still not possible to get to Jinghong by boat from abroad 🙁
      The cheapest way would be from Vientiane via train.

  7. Thanks Fabio, it is great to find some up to date info and great tips for this crossing.
    Hopefully the through train will be running soon and we won’t have to do the frustrating foot journey across the border.
    Keep up the good work!!

    1. Hi Roy, thanks. It was very frustrating finding this info online, so I decided to write the article 🙂

      1. Myriam

        Hi Fabio, thanks for all the informations. We will be travelling from china to laos within a few days. Unfortunately the train tickets from Kuming to vientiane were sold out.
        We purchased the tickets to mohan, which is not a problem since we are heading to luang namtha.
        We already have the E-visa for laos. My question is: once we arrive at mohan, will it be possible to cross the border on foot to boten with an evisa? Procedures will be easier?

        1. Hi Myriam. I can’t say for sure since when I did cross on foot I didn’t have any Visa and got it in Boten. But I don’t see how your situation should have any issue. If anything, it should easier.

  8. Tony Richardson

    Keep up your professional work. Exposing the colourful world of China is what helps us to appreciate the varied lifestyles in that country.
    Much appreciated

      1. Hi Fabio, why the train fare has only 1 class? From Vientiane to Kunming?

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