Visa and Travel Information
(kindly provided by the Embassy of Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos to the United States of America)
ENTRY AND DEPARTURE REGULATIONS
Passport: Foreigners who wish to enter Laos must hold a valid passport.
Visa: When foreigners wish to enter Laos they must apply, in principle, for a visa from a Lao embassy or consulate. An arrival visa at Wattay International Airport and Friendship Bridge International Border Check Point can be obtained.
Visa exemption: Citizens of countries that have concluded a visa exemption agreement with Laos are allowed to enter without a visa. In general, visa exemption under the agreement applies to short-term visitors who enter Laos not to work but for the purpose of touring, visiting others or on official missions.
Countries with which Laos has signed visa exemption agreements
for diplomatic and official passports:Visa status:
Vietnam China Cambodia Korea DPR Russian Federation East European countries Malaysia The Philippines Thailand
Foreigners are allowed to carry out certain activities in Laos according to their visa status. This is shown on the visa stamp. During their stay in Laos, foreigners should conduct their activities in compliance with their visa status, and the duration of their stay is decided accordingly.
Validity period of visa
employed as management of companies with foreign investment status, and their families, are given special consideration in visa issuance and period of stay. In principle, foreign investors can live in Laos for the duration of the projects in which their companies are involved.
- For businessmen who come to Laos to collect information or to contact local businessmen, the visa is for more than one month and can be extended.
- For touring or visiting the visa is for one month.
- For employees of companies with foreign investment status: professionals
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How to get to Laos
Wattay Airport is the main international airport of the Lao PDR and is the main gateway into Laos. Foreigners may also enter Laos at other major border check points.
Arrival by air: The ports of arrival by air are Wattay Airport in Vientiane and Luangprabang Airport in Luangprabang. Regular airlines are Lao Aviation, Thai Airways International, Vietnam Airlines, The Southern China Airline, Silk Air and Malaysia Airlines. Regular flights are available to Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Kunming, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Arrival by road : Road access is possible from neighbouring countries. Between Thailand and Laos the border can be crossed at Huoixai in Bokeo Province, at Mittaphab (Friendship) Bridge near Vientiane and in Savannakhet Province.
China can be reached by road at Bo Ten in Luang namtha province. Border crossings between Laos and Vietnam have been set up at Lakxao on road No. 8. Bolikhamxai Province, and at Daen Savanh in Savannakhet Province on road No. 9.
Arrival by train: Although there are currently no rail connections to Laos yet, an extension of the Bangkok-Nong Khai railway is planned and a line from Vientiane to Nong Khai is scheduled to start operating soon.
Arrival by boat : From Kunming or Sipsong Panna, China, it is possible to travel by boat along the Mekong River directly south into Bokeo Province.
Travel within Laos, by air:
Travel by air is the most convenient means of transportation within Laos. Lao Aviation flies daily from Vientiane to Luangphabang, Savannakhet, Xiengkhouang, Pakse and Oudonxay. Furthermore, there are several flights a week to Luangnamtha, Xayabury, Huoixai, Xamneua, Saravane, Lakxao, Khong and Attapeu.
The latest information about flight schedules and routes is available at the Lao Aviation Head Office, 2 Pangkham Road, Vientiane.
Travel by road:
In 1996, Laos had 22,321 kilometres of national roads, 3,502 kilometres of which are tarred, 8,541 kilometres are gravelled and 10,278 kilometres are earthen roads. The most important road is Route 13 which runs north-south from China to Cambodia. It links Pak Mong in the north with khong in the south, passing through the major urban areas of Luangprabang, Vientiane, Savannakhet and Champasak, Furthermore, Route 1 links Thailand and China and Routes 8 and 9 link Thailand and Vietnam.
Travel by boat :
The Mekong River flows 1.865 kilometres through Laos. Although not navigable in its entirety, it provides a natural means of transportation over long stretches. In addition, many tributary rivers of the Mekong, such as the Nam Ou, Nam Ngum, Nam Xedone, and others are used for water transportation.
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Accommodation, currency and exchange services
Hotels: there are many hotels on major cities and tourist destinations.
Facilities in most tourist hotel include one or more bars and cocktail lounges, restaurants swimming pools, souvenirs shops, laundries, etc.,
Room rates, in comparison with neighboring countries, are low.
Currency and exchange services
The kip is the official currency of Laos. Bank notes are currently in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1.000, 2000 and 5000 kip.
All major currencies, such as the US Dollar, French Franc, DM, Yen, Baht and others can be exchanged at banks that are located in all major towns. In Luangprabang and Vientiane competitive rates are offered by numerous authorized private exchange bureaux. One exchange facility is available at Wattay Airport in Vientiane.
Exchange bureau and banks will cash traveler’s cheques in major currencies. Furthermore, most domestic and foreign banks in Vientiane allow cash withdrawals on Visa credit cards or master cards. In Vientiane, credit cards can be used in many restaurants and hotels, too. In case of journeys to remote areas it is, of course, advisable to take a good supply of Kip with you.
- International New Year January 1 In Laos, working days are from Monday to Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. and from 1:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. Official holidays include:
- Lao New Year Mid April
- International Labour Day May 1
- National Day December 2
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Laos possesses great natural beauty, with tracts of forests and mountain dotted with natural gateways and stunning waterfalls. Together with its historical, cultural and artistic heritage, gracefully embodied by the evocative period when Lao civilization was known as Lan Xang (the Land of Million Elephants), the country has a lot to offer tourists, a fact recognized by the government. Consequently, a state organization was put directly in charge of tourism promotion entitled, "The National Tourism Authority of Lao PDR".
Information on tourism in Laos focuses on four provinces: Vientiane Municipality, Luangprabang, Xiengkhuang and Champasack. Tourist sites include many typical Lao temples, several ancient monuments and buildings and the national museum in Luangprabang. Locations where tourists enjoy a touch of nature include Kuang Si and Khone Phapheng waterfalls. Other fine scenic locations outside Vientiane and Luangprabang are Pakse, Savannakhet, Huoixai, Xiengkhuang, Huaphanh, Oudomxay and Phongsaly.
Moreover, the culture and the way of life are very attractive in that they have remained very simple and close to nature. The Lao people are a kind and gentle race who are ready to befriend every traveling stranger. Their traditions and culture are, to some extent, very impressive. For example, there is the Baci, an ancient, characteristically Lao ceremony performed to ensure the return of a person’s thirty-two souls in preparation for some important occasions, like a wedding. There are also ceremonies celebrating a new home, welcoming State guests, entering the monkhood and traditional festivals like Boun Bang Fai in June, Boun Tha Luang in Vientiane, the New Year Festival and boat racing festival. Traditional fairs impress tourists with beautiful and joyful shows.
For more information on doing business in Laos, the Embassy of Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos to the United States of America has kindly provided extensive information in the following Guide to Doing Business in Laos. This can be viewed online or printed to assist you in your research and business efforts.
© Runckel & Associates