Fast Facts

Most travellers require a valid visa to enter Laos. The most convenient option is to obtain an e-visa in advance. For more information or to check eligibility, visit Laos’ e-visa website.

Please note that e-visas are only valid for travellers arriving by air via Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Luang Prabang International Airport or Pakse International Airport, or overland via the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I near Vientiane or Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge II in Savannakhet Province.


Alternatively, most travellers can obtain a visa-on-arrival at international airports and most border check points.

Other tourist visas

Travellers can also obtain a visa prior to travel from their nearest Lao consulate.

Documents required on arrival
  • Passport valid for at least six months with two or more blank pages;
  • Two passport-sized photographs;
  • For visa-on-arrival, the visa fee is payable in US dollars at the airport. Please note that other currencies are not accepted. Fees vary depending on nationality and visa conditions.

All the above information may change without prior notice. It remains the traveller’s responsibility to check visa requirements before travelling.

Time zone

Official language: Lao

Various languages and dialects are spoken within ethnic communities, such as Mon-Khmer, Chin Tibet and Hmong. Many people, especially in Luang Prabang and Vientiane, speak some level of English and can engage in basic communication with tourists. Some Lao elders may be able to communicate in French.

What to pack
  • Light cotton clothing is recommended for Laos’ tropical climate;
  • Smart evening wear may be required for dining at hotels and high-end restaurants (please check the dress code for specific venues with your Asian Trails guide);
  • Clothing that covers the arms and legs are recommended to protect against mosquitos;
  • A lightweight raincoat may be useful if travelling during rainy season;
  • Warm clothing is recommended if visiting the mountainous regions of Northern Laos during the colder months (between November and February);
  • Please note the following items of clothing are prohibited when visiting temples: sleeveless shirts; sportswear; tights/leggings; shorts; short skirts; three-quarter length trousers; flip flops/sandals without a strap behind the heel; swimwear/beachwear; and t-shirts with offensive texts or images;
  • Sandals are recommended as it is customary to remove shoes when entering a temple or private home;
  • An umbrella can offer shade from the strong sun and/or rain;
  • Reusable water bottle;
  • Sun hat and sunscreen;
  • Insect repellent;
  • Universal plug adaptor.
The standard voltage in Laos is 220V (50Hz).

Phone & internet
A local sim card is easily available at the airport or from a local service provider. An extensive 3G/4G network is in place and covers most urban areas.
  • Support local businesses and shop at fair-trade stores or social enterprises (ask Asian Trails for recommendations);
  • Choose to dine at locally-owned restaurants serving local cuisine;
  • Switch off the air-conditioning and lights when you leave your hotel room;
  • Donate to local charities and NGOs if you would like to support local people and nature (ask Asian Trails for recommendations);
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of people;
  • It is customary to remove shoes when entering a religious place or private home;
  • A respectful way of greeting is to join the hands together at the chest (known as the nop).
  • Avoid using single-use plastic bags or cups to minimise the problem of plastic waste;
  • Don’t buy from children selling souvenirs on the streets, and don’t give them money or sweets, as this encourages them to stay out of school;
  • Don’t take home religious objects such as Buddha images or other sacred items;
  • Don’t buy wildlife products or items made from animal skins;
  • Don’t point your feet at others and avoid touching people on the head as this is considered bad manners;
  • Women should avoid touching male monks as this goes against their religious beliefs;
  • Avoid wearing sleeveless shirts and short skirts or clothing that is too revealing as Laos is a conservative Buddhist country; make sure shoulders and knees are covered, especially when visiting temples;
  • Avoid overt public displays of affection;
  • Don’t bathe or sunbathe nude in public as this is prohibited; wear appropriate swimwear and keep in mind that Lao people often bathe in their clothes, keeping their body fully covered.

Official currency of Laos: Lao kip (LAK)

US dollars and Thai baht are commonly accepted at shops, restaurants and hotels throughout the country. It is advisable to carry small denominations of cash to pay drivers and vendors who may not carry large amounts of change.

ATMs that accept foreign cards are widely available in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse. Cash can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaus, some hotels and jewellery shops. Visitors may be required to show a form of ID (passport) when exchanging money.

Banking hours

Usual banking hours are Monday to Friday, 8 am to 3.30 pm.

Credit cards
Credit cards are not widely used in Laos, particularly in remote areas. Visa and Mastercard are accepted in most hotels, high-end restaurants and some shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. A surcharge of around 3-4% is usually added to the bill.
While not compulsory, gratuities are always appreciated in Laos. Tipping is not part of the local culture, but many in the travel and service industry are accustomed to receiving a small amount for good service. Please consider the following as a guide to common practice, although tipping and the amount to tip is always at the discretion of the individual.

Guides and drivers Tipping is entirely up to the individual and depends on the level of satisfaction with the service.
Hotel porters It is typical to tip hotel porters for carrying bags to the room.
Restaurants Some restaurants add a service charge of 10% to the bill. In cases where service charge is not included, a tip of up to 10% is appreciated.
Taxi drivers Tipping taxi drivers is not expected, but it is customary to round up the fare.
Domestic flights

Local and regional airlines are the are the fastest and most convenient way to travel between Laos’ major cities.


A high-speed railway line now connects the major cities of Laos with Southern China. The train runs from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang before crossing into China at the border town of Boten. Please note that the luggage allowance for each train passenger is no more than 20 kg.


Laos’ cities and towns are ideal for exploring on two wheels. Bikes are not only a more eco-friendly option, they also offer a more unique perspective of local life.


These can be found in many towns and are ideal for short journeys.


Taxis can sometimes be found in Vientiane.


As in the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion. Approximately 60-70 per cent of the population are said to be followers of this faith and saffron-robed monks are an iconic sight across the country. The remaining population predominantly follows animism in the form of spirit (phii) worship. Less than two per cent of the population is Christian and there are also small communities of Muslims, mainly in Vientiane.

Lao cuisine has many similarities to Thai and Vietnamese combining influences from both sides with lots of aromatic herbs and spices such as lemongrass, chillies, ginger and tamarind. Sticky rice is the main ingredient in Lao cuisine. Laotians reportedly eat more sticky rice than any other country in the world per capita and many Laotians refer to themselves as Luk Khao Niew, “Children of sticky rice”.

Common local dishes:

  • Larb – minced meat salad;
  • Kaipen – fried seaweed;
  • Khao poon – spicy noodle soup;
  • Baguettes – stuffed with pate and salads, these are a culinary remnant of French colonial occupation.
Shops usually open Monday to Saturday between 9 am and 5 pm. Some shops also open on Sunday. In tourist areas such as Luang Prabang, some shops stay open until 8 pm.

Large department stores are not common in Laos, although there are some shopping malls in Vientiane that carry international brands. Most Lao cities have a morning and night market that showcase Lao handicrafts and souvenirs to bring back home. Although the majority of vendors have fixed prices, bartering is still advisable for more expensive items at main markets and street stalls. For markets, try Talat Sao and the Mekong Night Market in Vientiane and the Night Market in Luang Prabang which offers fabrics, handicrafts, jewellery and much more.

Typical souvenirs:

  • The Lao dress or pha sin made from silk or cotton;
  • Silk or cotton fabrics;
  • Wood carvings;
  • Pottery;
  • Silver jewellery;
  • Handmade shirts.
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you have recently travelled to a country where the disease is present.

There are currently no other vaccine requirements, although it is advisable to be up-to-date with standard inoculations, such as:

  • Typhoid;
  • Cholera;
  • Hepatitis A and B;
  • Polio, diphtheria and tetanus;
  • Malaria and dengue (especially if travelling to remote areas).

Consult your doctor for the most appropriate medical advice. If you require a particular medication, ensure that you pack an adequate supply, as it may not be available locally.

Drinking water

Avoid drinking tap water in Laos. Bottled mineral water is easy to find at convenience stores around the country. Ice cubes are typically safe if served at a hotel or restaurant, but best avoided at street stalls and in remote parts of the country.

Laos is a safe country to visit. However, it is advisable to take some precautions to safeguard your belongings:

  • Never leave items unattended;
  • Maintain a firm grip on bags and wallets, especially in crowded places and on busy streets;
  • Leave expensive jewellery at home and store valuables in the hotel safety deposit box or in-room safe;
  • Avoid engaging with touts who approach you in the street.
Travellers are advised to obtain appropriate insurance to cover any accidents or medical emergencies while travelling. In some cases, treatment will not be administered without proof of travel insurance. Ensure that your plan covers motor vehicle accidents if you plan to hire a car or motorbike. Emergency evacuation cover is highly recommended as you may have to fly out of the country for treatment.
Emergency numbers
  • Asian Trails Emergency Contact +856-20-2221-1950
  • Police 1191
  • Tourist Police 1192
  • General Emergency (in Vientiane) 1623 or 1624
  • Ambulance 1195
  • Fire service 1190
  • Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital +856-71-254-027
  • Alliance International Medical Centre +856-21-513-095
  • Mahosot Hospital +856-21-214-024


This information was valid at the time of publication and it is subject to change at any time. We cannot be held responsible for any external links. You acknowledge, by your use of this site, that you use it at your own risk and that Asian Trails shall not be liable for any damages of any kind related to your use of this site, or the information contained within. We reserve the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update information at any time without prior notice.

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