We had weighed up the benefits of getting a tourist bus from Chiang Rai to Bokeo where we decided that this would work out more expensive and not be as fun. For the tourist bus you have to pay to get yourself to Terminal 2 bus station and then tickets each are about 220B. Instead we took the DIY option.
Red public buses leave from the old bus station every hour on the half hour from 6.30am to 4.30pm. We ended up getting on the 10.30 bus as we wanted to avoided the overtime fees at the borders (40B at both immigration offices each if you get there at the weekend, Thai public holiday or after 4.30pm on a weekday). The bus advertises itself as 65B on the sign but we ended up paying 100B as the bus driver took us all the way to the Thai immigration office rather than just dropping us off at the intersection with Chiang Kong/ the friendship bridge and us having to get a tuk tuk there. Our bus was full both of backpackers going to Huay Xai and of locals using it to get to villages on the way to Chiang Kong. The seats were padded but the bus was basic. We were glad to be sat next to a window that opened to get some air in on the hot day. However the journey was pleasant enough, there was great scenery of paddy fields, huge hills poking out of flat landscapes and lots of greenery. We also had good conversation with Laura (Austria) and a father and daughter from the UK who were all doing the gibbon experience but all at different times from us.
We arrived at the Thai immigration office, where we were pleased to find a bathroom! Then we presented our filled out departure cards and passports to passport control so we could get our exit stamp. As we went through there was another office where we had to buy a ticket for the shuttle to take us over the Friendship Bridge (between Thai immigration and Laos immigration) for 25B. On arriving at the Laos immigration we had to fill out paperwork for our visa on arrival paperwork and our arrival cards before presenting them to the office with 35$ to get our visa. This was a relatively painless process when we managed to fill in our paperwork right. There is an ATM and a money exchange office if you need to get dollars out for the visa. We got some Lao Kip out before going through and suddenly became millionaires (1 million Lao Kip is £100). Then our passports were checked and we were in Laos!
There was only one tuk tuk at the border when we got through and they tried to charge us a lot as they could. We eventually got a group together and got them down to 20 000 kip per person although I think it should be about 10 000kip if you can hold off long enough. Huay Xai itself is a good 6km from the border so you have to get there some how. On entering Huay Xai we searched a few guesthouses and then decided on Sabaidee Guesthouse which was 90 000 kip for a double room with a private bathroom which was not bad when the cost is split between us.