Laos Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Laos Traveler Information guide.
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PASSPORT VALIDITY: Six months.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 2 (endorsement pages are not considered blank).
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Yes.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: The import of local currency is not permitted. 2,500 USD or equivalent in foreign currency must be declared.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: The export of local currency is not permitted. 2,500 USD or equivalent in foreign currency must be declared.
Embassies and Consulates
Thadeua Road, Km 9
Ban Somvang Thai
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Telephone: +(856) (21) 48-7000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(856) (21) 48-7600
Fax: +(856) (21) 48-7040
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Laos for information on U.S. - Laos relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Your passport must have at least six months validity remaining from the date of entry and at least two blank visa pages.
Tourist Visas are required. Tourist visas on arrival are available at certain ports of entry, and generally permit a stay of 30 days. You can extend the visa up to an additional 60 days through the Department of Immigration in Vientiane. At certain ports of entry, you can use an eVisa. See laoevisa.gov.la for more information.
To obtain a visa in advance, and for other information about Lao entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 2222 S St. NW, Washington DC 20008, tel: 202-332-6416, fax: 202-332-4923.
For a business visa: Business visas can only be arranged in advance. After you arrive, you can generally extend your business visas for one month. Please contact the Embassy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for specific information.
You must have a valid entry stamp and be within your authorized period of stay, or have an exit visa to depart Laos. Otherwise, you will be fined and may be arrested.
If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen in Laos, you must obtain both a replacement passport and an exit visa. The U.S. Embassy can issue a limited validity replacement passport expeditiously; however, the Lao government requires 3 to 5 working days to issue an exit visa. Contact the Department of Immigration, Foreigner Control Office in downtown Vientiane for an exit visa. If your lost passport causes you to exceed your authorized period of stay in Laos you may be subject to overstay fines, unless you make prior arrangements with Immigration.
Laos does not allow its citizens to have dual nationality. Under Lao law, Lao citizens who have been outside of Laos for extended periods or who have taken a second nationality are no longer considered to be Lao citizens. Lao immigration officials may deny entry to or exit from Laos for individuals using multiple passports.
Traveling with children: If you are traveling with a child, your departure may be facilitated if you have documentary evidence of your relationship, such as the child’s birth certificate, and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. U.S. citizen children born out of wedlock to a Lao national and a U.S. citizen may experience difficulty departing Laos.
Travelers with HIV/AIDS: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Laos.
Safety and Security
The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens reconsider travel to all of Xaisomboun Province. U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to Xaisomboun Province due to past incidents of violence.
There are large amounts of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos left over from the Indochina War. UXO caused approximately fifty casualties last year. UXO is found in some parts of Savannakhet, Xieng Khouang, Saravane, Khammouane, Sekong, Champassak, Houaphan, Attapeu, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane provinces. In particular, UXO is found along Route 7 (from Route 13 to the Vietnam border), Route 9 (Savannakhet to the Vietnam border), and Route 20 (Pakse to Saravane). Never pick up unknown metal objects and avoid traveling off of well-used roads, tracks, and paths.
Exercise caution in remote areas along the border with Burma. Bandits, drug traffickers, and other people pursuing illegal activities operate in these border areas.
Find information on Travel Advisories on our website.
- Petty thieves target foreigners for pickpocketing (especially in tourist hubs) and theft of unattended property, including in vehicles. Thieves on passing motorcycles snatch purses. Petty theft increases during major Lao holidays. Residential break-ins also occur.
- Scams: In tourist areas, shop owners may rent motorbikes to tourists, have someone “steal” the motorbike, and charge the tourist for the cost of the “stolen” motorbike. Be cautious of rental arrangements and never provide your passport as collateral.
- See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.
Victims of Crime:
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
Report crimes to police in the place where the incident took place. You may also contact the Tourist Police at 021-251-128. Tourist Police generally speak English. Contact the U.S. Embassy at 856-21-48-7000; call 856-21-48-7600 after hours. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: Laos does not routinely inform the United States Embassy of the arrest of U.S. citizens in a timely fashion and does not always allow consular access to arrested individuals as required by international law. If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information
Police and legal system bribes and informal procedures: It is common for police to target foreigners to pay bribes for alleged traffic offenses. The Embassy is not usually able to provide assistance in these cases. Foreigners arrested for unruly conduct or damaging private property will often be held in police custody without formal charges being brought against them until they pay an indemnity to the injured party. This process usually takes a minimum of two to three weeks.
Relationships with Lao citizens: Lao law prohibits cohabitation or sexual contact between foreign citizens and Lao nationals except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao Family Law. Any foreigner who cohabitates with or enters into a sexual relationship with a Lao national risks being interrogated, detained, arrested, or fined. Foreigners are not permitted to invite Lao nationals of the opposite sex to their hotel rooms, and police may raid hotel rooms without notice or consent. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens of Lao descent, are not allowed to stay in the homes of Lao nationals, even family, without the prior consent of the villiage chief and local police.
Foreigners who married a Lao national outside of Laos should have their marriage certificate authenticated at a Lao Embassy in the country where the marriage took place before traveling to Laos.
Possession of, trafficking in, and manufacture of drugs are serious offenses in Laos and result in lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty. Some restaurants offer “happy” or “special” menu items -- particularly “pizzas” or “shakes” -- that may contain opiates or unknown substances. Consuming these items is illegal.
Adventure Tourism: Laos has a developing adventure tourism industry that includes, but is not limited to, zip-lining, bungee jumping, rock climbing, and off-road bikes and buggies. Safety standards and training requirements for personnel operating these activities and safety inspections of the equipment may not be equivalent to those required for similar activities in the United States. We recommend that travelers check the safety records of adventure tourism operators.
Water Safety: Travel by speedboat on rivers in Laos is dangerous, especially when water levels are low. White water rafting, kayaking, tubing, and other water-based activities, including swimming in the Mekong, are dangerous. Foreigners have drowned or been seriously injured. Do not participate in any water-based activities while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Please be aware that safety advice will be minimal, and there may not be warning signs at tourist sites.
Hotel Safety: Some hotels in Laos do not meet U.S. safety standards for security and fire safety.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Laos.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance:There are no special provisions for persons with mobility issues. Sidewalks and street crossings are not accessible for people in wheelchairs. Buildings, medical facilities, public transportation, etc. are generally not accessible.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Medical facilities and services in Laos are extremely limited and may not meet basic international standards.
Contact information for hospitals/clinics is found here.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers accept only cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation. Every year the Embassy sees cases of U.S. citizens who fall ill in Laos and are unable to get necessary health care because they don’t have adequate insurance. Serious medical cases frequently require medical evacuation to private hospitals in Thailand by ground ambulance or air ambulance. Hosptials in Thailand and Laos require large deposits prior to treating patients. The State Department does not pay medical bills.
Border Crossing Hours: All of the land border crossings between Laos and neighboring countries close during the night hours. The Friendship Bridge that connects Vientiane to Nong Khai, Thailand, closes from 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. daily. While it is generally possible for ambulances to cross the Vientiane friendship bridge after hours, it sometimes takes several hours to arrange for the crossing to be opened, even in cases of severe medical emergencies. Travelers should inquire locally about the hours of other border crossings.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the medication is legal in Laos. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety:
- Road accidents are a major cause of death. Defensive driving is imperative; many drivers pay little attention to traffic laws.
- Poor driving conditions: Traffic is chaotic, and road conditions can be rough. Few roads have lane markings, road signs, and stoplights. Drivers widely ignore those that exist. Speeding, reckless passing, and failure to obey traffic laws are common. Many drivers are underage, unlicensed, inexperienced, or uninsured. Driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs is common. Motorcycles carry as many as five people, greatly impeding the drivers' ability to react to traffic. Road conditions worsen during the rainy season and landslides are common, including on major routes connecting provincial capitals.
- Avoid driving at night. Road construction sites are poorly marked, appear with no warning, and can be difficult to see at night. Roads are poorly illuminated, many vehicles have no operating lights, few bicycles have reflectors, and trucks without reflectors commonly park on unlighted roads.
- Motorcycles and Motorbikes: The U.S. Embassy prohibits official Americans in Laos from using motorcycles, motorbikes, and scooters due to a high incidence of accidents and lack of available medical care. You should also consider not using these vehicles.
- Emergency vehicles: There are no government ambulance services, and a scarcity of private ambulances makes it difficult for accident victims to receive timely medical attention.
- Intoxicated drivers: Drunk driving is rampant, especially in the evening.
- Traffic accidents: A driver involved in a traffic accident should remain at the scene and attempt to contact the police or wait for the police to arrive to prepare an accident report. If renting a car or motorcycle, contact the rental company and its insurance agent.
- Traffic moves on the right, but vehicles use all parts of the road.
- Public transportation is scarce and the transportation available is very limited after sunset. There are a limited number of buses and shared van/covered pick-up truck services.
- Inter-city transport is provided by buses, vans, pickups, and trucks, any of which may be in poor repair.
- For-hire vehicles: Taxis or cars-for-hire are available only at major transit hubs such as border crossings and airports. “Tuk-tuks” -- three-wheeled, open-sided vehicles -- are available in tourist areas, but are frequently in poor repair, and drivers generally speak little to no English. Car taxis are also available by phone.
See our road safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Laos, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Lao Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Laos’ air carrier operations. Further information may be found on theFAA safety assessment page.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.