15 day visas can
be obtained on arrival at Vientiane's Wattay International Airport and
International Friendship Bridge at the Nong Khai border crossing
between Laos and Thailand
15 and 30 day visas are
issued through embassies, consulates and authorised travel agencies.
The Lao PDR has been confidently marketing itself as one
of the most unspoiled countries in Asia. Some tourist attractions
include the following:
• Luang Prabang, the former capital, which was
registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998;
• Wat Pho, a ruins site similar to Angkor Wat, which became a World
Heritage Site in February 2003
• Vientiane, the capital city and centre of tourism;
• The Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang.
The number of tourists fluctuates around 500,000 per
Many festivals are celebrated on dates determined by the
lunar calendar. The following are public holidays:
1 January International New Year
8 March Women's Day
Three days in mid-April Lao New Year
1 May International Labour Day
2 December National Day
Other holidays include:
22 October Boat racing festival (Vientiane)
19 November That Luang Festival (Vientiane)
Boat races occur on different dates in the outlying
There are two types of visas: tourist and business.
Tourist visa: Valid for 15 days. It is now possible to
travel freely throughout the country with this visa. It is possible to
buy tourist visas on arrival at Vientiane airport, Luang Prabang
airport and the Friendship Bridge; the cost is US$30, payable in
dollars or kip.
A tourist visa can also be purchased at a Lao embassy
abroad for US$30 and is valid for 30 days.
Note: Although the visa states it is valid for 60 days,
these 60 days represent the time available to enter the country. At the
border the visa is stamped and is then valid for 30 days from that day
It is possible to extend tourist visas. The official
cost is US$1 per day. Arranging the extension through a private travel
company adds several more US dollars to the daily rate.
Business visa: A business visa is issued to persons
investing in or registering a company in the Lao PDR. As the time taken
to approve such investments is officially 60 days, a 30-day
multiple-entry visa is initially given. In practice approving
investments takes much longer and extensions to the initial visa are
These visas can be obtained in the Lao PDR only if there
is a guarantee from a company set up in the country. The DDFI, the
Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, and the State Employment
Enterprise are responsible for this.
Business visas can be granted for three months, six
months or one year, costing US$38, US$75 or US$141 respectively, though
these rates have a history of changing from time to time.
The unit of currency is the kip. Kip are available in
denominations of 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; and 500. Coins
are not used.
All transactions are supposed to be in kip; however, in
practice Thai baht and US dollars are generally accepted everywhere in
the country. Government offices will only accept kip.
Traveller's cheques are well known and all banks change
them, though some charge a commission.
Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are
accepted at some of the more expensive hotels, restaurants and shops in
Vientiane. Credit card cash advances are also available at various
banks in the city. Outside of developed areas, hard currency is the
only means of transaction.
Hotels and Entertainment
First class hotels can only be found predominantly in
Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The Lao Plaza Hotel, Novotel, Settha
Palace, and Tai Pan can be found in Vientiane. The Phousi Hotel,
Phouvao, Souvannaphoum, and Villa Santi are in Luang Prabang. The
Champasack Palace is in Champasack. Outside these cities accommodation
is provided in very basic hotels or guesthouses. Hotels rates vary from
under US$20 to over US$100.
Entertainment includes bars, discos and restaurants. In
1998 a Malaysian-Lao joint venture opened a casino about 70 km from
Vientiane. Outside the larger towns the variety of Western-style
entertainment available is very limited.
Vientiane International Airport is connected with a
number of cities in Southeast Asia. Although some routes have been
curtailed since the regional economic crisis, there are currently
regular flights to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Chiang
Mai, Kunming and elsewhere. The most frequent flights are to Hanoi and
Bangkok. There is a departure tax of US$10.
Flying within the Lao PDR is easy and relatively cheap.
There are three flights a day between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, the
trip taking about 40 minutes.
At the time of writing, a number of embassies have
issued travel advisories, questioning the safety and maintenance
procedures of Lao Airlines. These warn personnel to limit domestic
travel on Lao Airlines to essential travel only.
As throughout South East Asia, up-to-date vaccinations
and other precautions against diseases such as malaria and typhoid are
recommended. The level of health care can be basic, particularly
outside the main towns; travellers who need specific brands of
medicines should ensure that they bring an adequate supply.
As of early 2003, the Lao PDR had not been penetrated by
the SARS epidemic.
Security and Safety
The Lao PDR is generally a safe country in which to
travel. However, there are intermittent clashes between the army and
Hmong guerrillas. Overall the Hmong pose no threat to the Government;
occasionally, however, these skirmishes make certain areas unsafe for
travel. Travellers should check with the local authorities before
journeys into the mountainous areas.
A few basic precautions are necessary when travelling.
Avoid dark streets at night. Keep hotel rooms locked at night and watch
luggage on crowded buses. Avoid keeping money in trouser pockets.
The quality of some of the roads, especially away from
the main towns, can be poor. A relatively high number of accidents
occur in this and neighboring countries.
Places to Visit:
and Travel Information