- General Info
- Health Risks
- Security Concerns
- Weather Notes
- Electrical Standards
- Visa Info
- Time Zone
In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government, ending a six-century-old monarchy. Initial closer ties to Vietnam and socialization were replaced with a gradual return to private enterprise, a liberalization of foreign investment laws, and the admission into ASEAN in 1997.
Source: CIA World Factbook
Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.
Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including some cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Travelers to malaria-risk areas, including infants, children, and former residents of Southeast Asia, should take an antimalarial drug.
Dengue, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.
Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in certain areas of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand to avoid infection with schistosomiasis.
Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
There is no risk for yellow fever in Southeast Asia. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain of these countries if you are coming from countries in South America or sub-Saharan Africa. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.
CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):
See your doctor at least 46 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
- Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in the region, or be exposed through medical treatment.
- Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
- Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
- Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region.
- As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 1112 years who did not complete the series as infants.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
SAFETY AND SECURITY: In Laos, there have been attacks on public markets, transportation facilities, and all forms of ground transportation. Between March 2000 and January 2001 and, more recently, between February and November 2003, Vientiane and several other towns throughout Laos experienced a series of bombing incidents, generally in public places including markets and transportation facilities frequented by foreign tourists and U.S. citizens. In September 2003, two bombs detonated outside a market in Vientiane and in Savannakhet province. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Laos are advised to exercise extreme caution in public places and to be alert to their surroundings, since the location of future incidents is unpredictable.
There have been sporadic attacks by heavily armed groups at selected points along the Lao-Thai border and in a number of northern provinces. More attacks could occur. Provinces that are most prominent in reports of attacks are Xieng Khouang; Luang Prabang; Houaphan; Sayaboury; Saysomboun Special Zone and north of Vang Vieng in Vientiane Province (not to be confused with the separate municipality of Vientiane).
Due to the risk of violence, U.S. citizens in Laos should avoid travel to Saysomboun Special Zone and Xieng Khouang Province (except for Phonsavan town and the Districts of Muang Kham and Muang Nong Haet, which have not reported any security incidents). B ecause of a history of violent incidents, it is also recommended that travelers avoid the surrounding areas of Vang Vieng. After some attacks, the Lao government has been known to shut down telecommunications and stop all transport on main roads for up to several days. Travelers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.
In a February 2003 attack on Route 13, twelve people, including two Swiss citizens touring by bicycle, were killed and many injured. The Lao government has characterized these attacks as "banditry," but given the extreme violence of the attacks, political motives are likely. In light of the Vang Vieng-Kasi area attacks, especially along Route 13, the Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel by road between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang and on Route 7 from the Route 13 junction to Phonsavan town . Due to these security concerns, U.S. Embassy personnel are not permitted to travel overland in this area.
U.S. citizens, especially those considering travel outside urban centers, are advised to contact relevant Lao government offices, s uch as Lao Immigration Police Headquarters in Vientiane, local police and customs offices, and the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Embassy for the most current security information. To avoid trouble with the authorities, U.S. citizens traveling outside of normal tourist areas or contemplating any unusual activity (including, but not limited to, engaging in business, extensive photography, or scientific research of any kind) should consider seeking advance permission from the Village Chief, District Head, Provincial Governor, or National Tourism Authority, as appropriate.
More than 500,000 tons of unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War causes about 120 casualties per year in Laos. Savannakhet, Xieng Khouang, Saravane, Khammouane, Sekong, Champassak, Houaphan, Attapeu, and Luang Prabang Provinces and Saysomboun Special Zone are severely contaminated by unexploded bombs. In addition, there are numerous mine fields left over from the war, including mine fields along Route 7 (from Route 13 to the Vietnam border), Route 9 (Savannakhet to the Vietnam border), and Route 20 (Pakse to Saravane). While traveling in Laos, U.S. citizens should never pick up unknown metal objects and should avoid traveling off of well-used roads, tracks and paths.
U.S. citizens considering travel by air, road or river within Laos are advised to carefully evaluate the relative risks of the three modes of transport for their particular journey. (See sections on Aviation Safety Oversight, Traffic Safety, and River Travel below.)
TRAVEL OF FOREIGNERS WITHIN LAOS: According to the Lao Tourist Police, all foreign tourists are required to use the services of a licensed Lao tour company--unassisted tourism is not permitted. However, this regulation does not appear to be strictly enforced. The Lao tourist police have informed foreign tourists that any group of more than 5 foreign tourists must be accompanied by a licensed Lao tour guide. Violation of this regulation can result in detention, deportation, and fines of $200 to $2000.
Ministry of Trade and Tourism regulations prohibit any person who is not a licensed Lao tour guide from performing the functions of a tour guide--including explaining Lao culture and customs to foreign tourists. Lao and Thai nationals accompanying American friends to Lao tourist sites have been detained and fined by Lao Tourist Police who suspected that they were acting as unauthorized tour guides.
Lao citizens who wish to have a foreign citizen--including a family member--stay in their home must obtain prior approval from the village chief. The foreigner may be held responsible if the Lao host has not secured prior permission for the visit. American citizens are strongly advised to ensure that such permission has been sought and granted before accepting offers to stay in Lao homes.
Lao authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests. Lao who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Lao Government. Persons traveling outside of the main tourist areas may be required to register with local authorities and may be questioned by security personnel.
Lao security personnel may place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephone conversations, fax transmissions, and e-mail communications may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
CRIME: While Laos generally has a low rate of violent crime, it is not immune to crime. While in Laos, Americans should remain aware of their surro undings and exercise appropriate security precautions. There has been a recent increase in thefts and assaults in Vientiane, including bag-snatching and sexual assault. Residential burglary is commonplace. Expatriates attempting to report burglaries in progress to the police often find that police telephones are not answered, or they are informed that the police are not authorized to respond to criminal activity at night or that the police have no transportation. U.S. citizens who move to Vientiane are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for security advice.
U.S. citizens traveling to Vang Vieng should be aware that there have been robberies and assaults of tourists walking alone to the caves on the far side of the Nam Song River. Several people have drowned during the rainy season while inner-tubing or swimming in the Nam Song River. Camping at night anywhere except authorized campgrounds in national parks is considered dangerous.
Any criminal incidents, including the theft or loss abroad of a U.S. passport, should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Useful information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad, available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ or from the Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site, http://travel.state.gov, or from the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane.
Source: U.S. Department of State
tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
Source: CIA World Factbook
Laos's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.
To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.
For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas are issued upon arrival in Laos to foreign tourists and business persons with two passport size photographs and $30 at Wattay Airport, Vientiane; Friendship Bridge, Vientiane; and Luang Prabang Airport as well as at the following international entry points: Boten-Bohan, Hoeyxay, Khammouane-Nakhonphanom, Savannakhet-Mukdahan, Vangtao-Chong Mek, Pakse Airport, Daensavanh-Laobao, Namphao-Kaopae, and Namkan. Foreign tourists are generally admitted to Laos for 15 days with a visa issued upon arrival or for 30 days with a visa issued at a Lao Embassy. The Department of Immigration in Vientiane will extend 15-day tourist visas for up to 15 days and one-month visas for up to one month for a fee of $2 per day of extension. An additional 15-day extension can sometimes be obtained through a tour agency. Foreigners who overstay in Laos risk arrest and upon departure will be fined $10 for each day of overstay.
Foreign tourists planning to enter Laos at any international checkpoint where Visas on Arrival are not available must obtain a visa in advance. In the United States, visas and further information about Lao entry requirements can be obtained directly from the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, 2222 S St. N.W., Washington DC 20008, tel: 202-332-6416, fax: 202-332-4923, Internet: www.laoembassy.com.
U.S. citizens should not attempt to enter Laos without valid travel documents or outside of official ports of entry. Unscrupulous travel agents have sold U.S.-citizen travelers false Lao visas which have resulted in those travelers being denied entry into Laos. Persons attempting to enter Laos outside of official ports of entry risk arrest or more serious consequences.
Immigration offices at some of the less-used border crossing points are not well marked. Travelers should make sure that they complete immigration and customs formalities when they enter Laos. Travelers who enter Laos without completing these formalities may be subject to fine, detention, imprisonment, and/or deportation.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Source: U.S. Department of State
The time zone for Laos is 7 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Laos would be 12:00 am
The unit of currency in Laos is the kip (LAK).
Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter
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Other Travelers' Experiences in Laos
"Luang Prabang is a love, langurous town on the banks of the Mekong and is worth several days visit. Vientiane must be the most laid back capital city in Southeast Asia and is worth a couple of days."