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Is Laos Safe to Travel?

For most visitors, travel in Laos is safe and should pose no serious problems. 

Over the last couple of decades, Laos has earned a reputation among visitors as a remarkably safe place to travel, with little crime reported and few of the scams often found in more touristed places such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia

While the vast majority of Laotians remain honest and welcoming, we have seen a rise of petty crimes, such as theft and low-level scams. These are more annoying than dangerous and can be easily avoided by following our insider tips further down in this article.

The main danger in Laos is related to road travel and conditions. This is even more true for motorcycle drivers which are much more exposed to potential severe accidents compared with car drivers. 

There are a whole lot of things that we are going to be covering in our epic guide, from whether it’s safe to visit Laos right now (fair question), if you should go there as a solo female traveler, to whether or not the food is safe or not. Our guide will have you covered.

So you may be wondering about the safety of Laos in general, or you may be wondering about the state of the healthcare in Laos – whatever your concerns may be, we are here to help you travel smart and stay safe so you can get the most out of your Laos voyage.

Always arm yourselves with good behaviors and sense of keeping things right as you do at your home countries, then you are good to go.

Let’s check it out more detail below

Is Laos safe to visit?

Yes, Laos is a safe place for independent travel, and many find it much safer than their hometowns in the west. There are occasional reports of petty theft, and the occasional bag snatching, but these can be avoided by being cautious with your belongings. 

It is a good idea to leave expensive jewelry and watches at home. You also may consider NOT carrying that  laptop as there are internet shops all around the country.  And never,ever leave cash or valuables unattended in your hotel room. 

Some travelers opt for money belts that can be worn inside the clothing or hanging around the neck under the shirt.

Dangers & Annoyances in Laos

Though it is safe, there are still number of dangers and annoyances that you may encounter in Laos

Queues

The Lao people follow the usual Southeast Asian method of queuing for services, which is to say they don't form a line at all but simply push en masse towards the counter or doorway. The system is 'first seen, first served'. Learn to play the game the Lao way, by pushing your money, passport, letters or whatever to the front of the crowd as best you can. That said, it is nowhere near as chaotic as in some of the bigger neighboring countries.

Road & River Travel

Better roads, better vehicles and fewer insurgents mean road travel in Laos is quite safe, if not always comfortable. However, while the scarcity of traffic in Laos means there are far fewer accidents than in neighbouring countries, accidents are still the main risk for travellers.

As motorbikes become increasingly popular among travellers, the number of accidents is rising. Even more likely is the chance of earning yourself a Lao version of the 'Thai tattoo' – that scar on the calf caused by a burn from a hot exhaust pipe.

The speedboats that careen along the Mekong in northern Laos are as dangerous as they are fast. We recommend avoiding all speedboat travel unless absolutely necessary.

Armed Attacks

With the Hmong insurgency virtually finished, travel along Rtes 7 and 13, particularly in the vicinity of Phu Khoun and Kasi, is considered safe, although there was a deadly attack on a Chinese national in this area in early 2016. Ask around in Vientiane or Luang Prabang to make sure the situation is secure before travelling along Rte 7 to Phonsavan or Rte 13 between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Rte 1 from Paksan to Phonsavan is still considered a risk due to occasional banditry.

Theft

While theft is much less common than elsewhere in Southeast Asia, it has been on the rise in recent years. Most of the reports we've heard involve opportunistic acts that are fairly easily avoided.

Money or items going missing from rooms is becoming more common, particularly in rural bungalows, so don't leave cash or other tempting belongings on show. If you're on a crowded bus, watch your luggage and don't keep money in loose trouser pockets. When riding a bicycle or motorcycle in Vientiane, don't place anything of value in the basket, as thieving duos on motorbikes may ride by and snatch a bag.

Motorcycle theft is a growing problem. Always lock up your bike when out in the countryside or at night, and pay for parking whenever you can.

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)

Large areas of eastern and southern Laos are contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO). According to surveys by the Lao National UXO Programme (UXO Lao) and other nongovernment UXO clearance organisations, the provinces of Salavan, Savannakhet and Xieng Khuang are the most severely affected provinces, followed by Champasak, Hua Phan, Khammuan, Luang Prabang, Attapeu and Sekong.

Statistically speaking, the UXO risk for the average foreign visitor is low, but travellers should exercise caution when considering off-road wilderness travel in the aforementioned provinces. Stick only to marked paths. And never touch an object that may be UXO, no matter how old and defunct it may appear.

Drugs

Most of the more obvious drugs are found in Laos, but are also illegal, carrying the risk of stiff fines or, in the case of stronger substances, a lengthy prison sentence. Travellers may commonly dabble in a happy shake (a shake made with marijuana or magic mushrooms) and occasionally opium where it is still found in remote areas. However, police set-ups and police busts are not unknown, leading to large fines and deportation or imprisonment. So proceed with caution or stick to the Beerlao.

18 top safety tips for traveling in Laos

Laos isn’t super dangerous, but it’s also not the safest place in the world. Tourists can be seen as easy targets because they’re (always) comparatively rich. Even backpackers can seem like kings.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t travel around Laos safely – not at all. To make sure you stay safe, we’ve got a few travel tips for Laos to help you on your way.

  1. Keep belongings close to you in tourist areas – this is where petty theft is likely to occur. Motorbike thieves exist also, so be aware.
  2. Don’t walk around looking like a tourist – designer clothes, SLRs, wearing expensive jewelry all screams “I’M RICH”. An advert for thieves.
  3. Be careful of pickpockets – especially walking around crowded streets and tourist areas. Consider investing in a money belt if you need ultimate protection.
  4. Dress appropriately – it’s not ultra-conservative at all, but in temples, you need to be covering your shoulders and knees.
  5. Be vigilant in the run-up to festivals – robberies increase as people get desperate for money. Take care.
  6. Walking around with a smartphone isn’t advised – you’ll probably be ok, but still… Smartphones are expensive.

  1. Watch out for overfriendly strangers – Laotians are friendly. But if something seems weird and the friendliness is TOO much they may not have the best intentions. Scams DO happen.
  2. Be careful of drugs – cannabis may be easy to get hold of, but yaba is a different story. A HORRIBLE drug to get involved with. Research if you’ve never heard of it.
  3. On the subject… – drugs mean you’ll have to deal with sketchy individuals and the police WILL ask for bribes if they catch you. You may even get set up.
  4. Kids of the Laotian elite carry a lot of sway – and some carry guns. If you’re out at night, DON’T get into any scuffles.
  5. Be wary of other travelers and expats – the lawless reputation of Laos attracts some shady characters. Be careful who you get involved with.
  6. Keep all important things WITH you on a bus – this is the best way to prevent ANYONE getting to ’em.
  7. Children will come up to you – it’s your choice if you give them money, but there are loads of NGOs that you could help out instead. Good idea to read up about the effects of appeasing panhandlers. 
  8. Don’t lose your temper – causing a scene in Laos is likely to CAUSE A SCENE. Don’t let a situation get heated.

  1. Careful where you take photos – military installations, airports = not ok. It’s also important to ask before you take pictures of ANYBODY.
  2. Walking alone at night in rural areas isn’t advised – increased risk of robbery.
  3. Protect against mosquitoes – cover up, use repellent, burn coils. Not nice to get bitten.
  4. Watch out for dangerous wildlife – snakes are definitely present. When walking around rural areas keep your eyes peeled.

Laos can definitely be sketchy, but that doesn’t mean it’s ALWAYS unsafe. Millions of tourists visit the country every year and getting around the country is relatively easy.

Laos is an awesome place. That said, you should be travelling smart anyway. Watching out what’s going on with your surroundings and not getting yourself into silly situations is going to help you travel Laos safely.

Top safety topics for Laos

Is Laos safe to travel alone?

If you’re thinking about solo travel in Laos and you’ve never done it before, well all we can say is you’re in for a treat. There are plenty of reasons why solo travel is pretty much amazing. Mainly: It’s YOUR trip and YOUR trip only!

BUT it is a challenge, of course, and there are always things to keep in mind when you’re solo travelling anywhere in the world. So even though travelling alone to Laos is relatively safe, here are a couple of notes to keep in mind when you’re out there.

  • We’d recommend staying in hostels where you can meet other travellers. It’s not only cool to meet people who are doing the same thing as you, but it’s also a good way to beat the solo travelling blues (it CAN get lonely sometimes). You may even get to make some proper travel buddies and move onwards with them, or plan to meet them in another destination.
  • When you’re looking for a social hostel, make sure you find one with good reviews. You’ll be amazed at the prices in Laos, but don’t automatically go looking for the cheapest accommodation possible. You’ll want somewhere you’ll feel secure AND that’s good for meeting people.

  • Knowing a few new people is always great for sharing tours. This is handy, for example, when you want to see Luang Prabang or do a day tour of Vientiane or something.
  • Don’t go getting crazy drunk, even on Pub Street. We know, it sounds lame – there are so many places to party in Laos’s most popular towns – but you’re MUCH less likely to be aware of you’re surroundings if you’re blind drunk. There’s a reason it’s called ‘blind drunk’, you know. Things can be more sketchy at night too, which is when you’ll be walking home.
  • And whilst we’re on the subject, don’t drink and swim. It’s stupid.
  • We’d recommend leaving your stuff in your guesthouse. Don’t take your valuables with you when you go out for the day. Leave it locked up in the safe if there is one.
  • Get yourself a data sim. This is a good way to keep in touch with people you meet on your trip. It’s also a good way to let your parents and your friends back home know you’re still safe. Checking in every few days will stop people worrying about you, but it’s also better to NOT go off-grid entirely.
  • Pick up your hotel’s business card before you head out. You can just show it to a taxi or tuk-tuk driver to help you get back. Alternatively, sticking the address into a maps app should work if you’re walking.
  • Speaking of which, get yourself Maps.me. Google Maps may work offline, but not always. Maps.me is a reliable, offline maps app that’ll help you pinpoint where you are in case you find yourself lost in the city. We also find that it has some pretty cool hidden gems highlighted, which is great if you feel like getting off the backpacker trail.

  • Learn some Lao language. It’s not the easiest language, but it’s not tonal. Simple phrases will go a long way in impressing locals and building up relationships. Also knowing a BIT of the script is helpful – numbers and placenames especially for money and buses.
  • Don’t get temple burnout! Also known as “temple blindness” or “temple boredom”. There is a whole load of temples to see in Laos, so we’d recommend doing research on the best, most fascinating, historically relevant temples or the ones that will interest you the most. Seeing every single one is just impossible and likely to get you feeling jaded unless you’re nuts about temples.

Travelling around Laos by yourself is going to be great! That’s for sure. A lot of the time, especially if you stay in social hostels, you’ll get the benefits of solo travel whilst hanging out with cool people.

At the end of the day, YOU are the only one looking out for yourself. So being responsible and keeping your wits about you is going to go a long way.

Is Laos safe for solo female travelers?

There’s solo travel, then there’s solo FEMALE travel. And unfortunately, being a woman makes the world a whole lot more unsafe. However, Laos is a relatively safe country for women travelling alone. 

Although there have been a few reports of harassment, foreign women are generally respected by Laotians. If you solo travel in Laos keep your bag close to you in the city and on motorbikes. Aside from Luang Prabang there are not as many tourists as you would find in Laos and the children you encounter may overwhelm you with their curiosity for your attention and desire to touch your skin.

The sad thing is women are often at more risk. So travelling smart around Laos is going to make it a lot less stressful. Just to be sure, here are a few ways you can maximize your experiences as a solo female traveler in Laos.

  • Make friends with other female travelers, especially if it’s your first-time solo travelling. Not only do you get to meet some nice, like-minded people, but you’ll also get some extra backpacking tips. Maybe for more countries than just Laos. You may even get yourself a travel buddy!

  • And the best way to get chatting to fellow travelers is by staying in a well-reviewed hostel. With a female-only dorm, if you want. For safety and security, you’ll want those reviews to be very good and for the hostel to have a lot of them as well. For peace of mind, if nothing else.
  • Laos’s pretty conservative country so covering up is respectful.  This is important mainly at temples but wearing clothes that consistently cover your knees and shoulders just feels a lot more fitting. Look at what the local women are wearing – especially in more remote areas.
  • Don’t touch monks! No, seriously. They’re not allowed contact with women and they’ll have to go through all sorts of rituals if you touch them.
  • If you’re wandering around at night it’s relatively safe BUT stick to busy, well-lit areas. Would you wander down quiet, dark backstreets at home?
  • Be extra vigilant if you’re travelling alone at night by motorbike or bicycle.
  • Drink spiking has been on the rise lately so be careful. Only drink the drinks you buy for yourself.

  • At the same time, getting crazy drunk means losing your senses. As a female in a club or bar environment, or simply trying to get home, being wasted is not always safe.
  • Use your common sense. If a situation is getting weird, if someone seems sketchy, remove yourself or don’t get involved at all. Find somewhere busy.
  • You may be seen as an easy target for bag snatchers, so keep things like that close to you. This has been reported as happening as women are riding in a tuk-tuk, so be extra careful in that sort of situation.

Regardless if you’re a solo man or woman travelling in Laos, there are always risks. As a woman, you might have to be more cautious, even of other travelers.

Don’t let this put you off – you just have to be VIGILANT. Keeping an eye on your surroundings, being sensible at night time, and making some good friends will definitely help.

Luckily, the lack of macho culture in Laos is a positive note for lone female travelers. This in addition to several other factors, makes Laos safe for solo female travelers on the whole.

Is Laos safe to travel for families?

Laos is a great place to take your children!

There are ancient temples here that your kids will freak out about. They’re like something straight out of a film or a videogame. Sometimes they actually are from fiction!

And sights aside, Lao people are very friendly, especially to children. This will make a big difference and will make it pretty easy for your kids to find local playmates.

There are a bunch of good homestays where you can get to know a local family for a different sort of travel experience.
In summary, Laos is safe to travel for families.

But obviously, there are some things you need to bear in mind:

  • One of these is long journeys on unreliable buses. You may want to pay a little more for a VIP bus or even a private driver. Safety often isn’t the priority on a bus; driving fast and not putting on the air-con is the norm. Plus, you never know how long a journey is really going to take.
  • Laos can get HOT. Make sure everyone stays hydrated and keeps out of the sun. Bring plenty of water bottles.
  • It’s also not always the cleanest of places, the infrastructure is sometimes lacking, and the healthcare isn’t amazing…

So, whilst Laos is safe to travel for children, it’s better if you’re an adventurous family. It’s better too if your children are older than toddler age – the older they are, the more they’ll get out of their time in Laos.

Is it safe to drive in Laos?

No – we wouldn’t call driving “safe” in Laos.

Why?

Road accidents are the leading cause of death in Laos.

You may be tempted to hire your own car to avoid those sometimes very pirate-like minibuses, but it’s really not worth it.
Distances are, however, fairly short. Relative to LONGER countries nearby like Thailand and Vietnam.

Let’s go through a few of the hazards though.

  • The roads themselves are pretty atrocious. They’re often not sealed and there are a ton of things to watch out for: cows crossing, dogs and children running out into the road – that sort of thing.
  • Laotian drivers are pretty crazy. You can never be sure what they’re going to do next…
  • If you DO want to hire your own motorcycle, just be sure you stick to a well-known part of the country and limit your drive times. Hiring one for a day or two of exploration, such as the area between the relatively chilled Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng., is a reasonable idea.
  • Motorbike theft does occur. Luang Prabang is a hotspot for this (amongst other crimes). Be aware of this as it can be a very expensive day out if you have to recompense the motorbike rental place for a lost bike.

But when it boils down to it, we wouldn’t recommend driving in Laos. And driving at night? No way.

If you’re looking for more autonomy and to get off the backpacker trail, a private driver is a good option. It’s a good way to meet a local as well.

Check out how to get around in Laos

Is UBER safe in Laos?

Both UBER and GRAB are not available in Laos at the moment.

The local app named LOCA, which is an application that provides on-demand transportation similar to two worldwide applications. LOCA represents the revolution of transport in Laos since LOCA is the first company to introduce a transport application that is convenient and cashless for the country.

It’s reliable and cheap and a good way to get around Vientiane. 

Are Taxis safe in Laos?

To be honest, taxis aren’t very popular in Laos. There just aren’t many around, at all!

You may find them around the airport, and there are a handful of metered operators in Vientiane. The cars are all yellow, all blue, white-red-and-blue, white with a blue stripe, any color combination really that resembles the flag. If you’re worried, arrange transport with your hotel. 

You can get a shared taxi, though this basically entails you and some travel buddies splitting the price of a private driver.

Honestly, taxis are barely a thing in Laos. Really, in Laos, it’s all about tuk-tuks. They are used all across the country and are safe.

First things first, they’re slow. Not being able to speed helps them not feel like an overly reckless way to get around, which is good because they’re open-air with a top cover.

You’ll be hassled in pretty much every town with “tuk-tuk?” as you pass an idling driver. They’re usually friendly enough and will leave you alone the instant you decline.

But if you DO get a tuk-tuk off the street negotiate the price before you get in.

Watch out for theft. Bag snatching isn’t completely uncommon and happens from the back of tuk-tuks, so keep your belongings close to you. Similarly, we wouldn’t recommend sitting in the back playing on your phone.

The best way to get a tuk-tuk driver is through your hotel/guesthouse. These will be reliable drivers trusted by your accommodation and are often really friendly.

And a tuk-tuk is the best way to see Luang Prabang. Hands down.

Is public transportation in Laos safe?

Honestly, there isn’t much public transport in Laos. The stuff that does exist is mainly safe though.

Booking transport through wherever you’re staying is the usual way to get around. More often than not this comes in the form of a minibus. You’ll sit on a minibus packed full of other travelers (mostly) and get ferried between towns.

The minibuses drive fast and recklessly and aren’t always in the best condition either. They also tend to take AGES and can be run by some dodgy companies. So ask beforehand and do some research.

That said, large air-conned buses DO exist and these travel between large cities – the route between Vientiane and Luang Prabang or Vientiane and Pakse for instance. This is about as public as it gets. 

These buses are used by locals and stop randomly to let people on. Sometimes food vendors. But they’re generally comfier than minibuses and they’re safe.

Is the food in Laos safe?

We’re not going to lie: Laos isn’t exactly famed for its food. Most people probably wouldn’t be able to even name a Laotian dish. Let us be the first tell you – it’s pretty tasty. There are larbs and tam mak hoong to enjoy here, milder and richer than their Thai counterparts, amongst other things. 

Food sanitation isn’t as common here as in the Western World though. Refer to the following tips to help you avoid illness while on a gourmet tour of Laos.

  • If you’re going to try a happy pizza, don’t underestimate it. We can confirm that these definitely work. They can take a while to kick in, but when they do… Boy. Be careful.
  • Salads that are unwashed, vegetables and fruit you can’t peel; avoid this stuff. This could make you ill.
  • If you’re worried, go somewhere that looks busy. Usually, this means that it’s going to a) be pretty tasty and b) not make you feel sick straight after you’ve eaten.
  • That said, don’t just find somewhere and stick to it. Spread your attention around, do a bit of research, get on Google, TripAdvisor read some blogs – this is 2020, people! Good reviews are usually there for a reason. Even if it’s ‘just’ Western food, if the reviews are good, go check it out.

  • Similarly, if you’re a vegetarian – go online. There are plenty of vegetarian restaurants, mainly in the cities, who offer dishes ranging from traditional Lao vegetarian food to more Westernized bean burgers.
  • Take snacks for long bus journeys. We assure you, the journeys are LONG and the snackage on offer when the vendors come on is… questionable. Go to a convenience store and stock up on some goodies.
  • However, make sure you check the sell-by date on said goodies. Even the imitation Oreos might have sat on the shelves for quite some time.
  • Feeling like some street food? Awesome! There are plenty of offers on spot and are pretty safe and delicious. But anything that looks like it’s been lying around all day UNCOVERED, you should probably pass.
  • You might want to consider NOT eating a load of meat in Laos. You’re never quite sure where it’s come from. Unless it’s chicken, other meats could be something you don’t necessarily want to be eating. Not exaggerating.
  • Wash your hands! It’s very dusty and dirty. The last thing you want is for your own hygiene to be ruining your trip.

So all in all, you’re in for a treat in Laos. Just follow our tips and trust your own instincts when it comes to food. Funny smells, old-looking food, places with bad reviews; all of that stuff is best avoided. Most dishes in Laos are freshly cooked and, for that matter, DELICIOUS.

Can you drink the tap water in Laos?

Whilst SOME of the water MAY be ok to drink in Laos (and mainly in Vientiane), we wouldn’t advise it.

Boiling tap water for 1 minute should make it safe to drink, however. For these purposes, you can also bring along your own refillable water bottle. If you really want to, bring a Grayl Geopress or some water purification tablets too.

To be totally safe, we’d recommend bottled water. It’s not exactly good for the environment but it’s widely available and reliable.

Make sure you drink a lot of it because it really does get hot.

If you want to explore the country side, we’d suggest boiling and filtering your water or using The GRAYL GEOPRESS.

Is Laos safe to live?

It’s very safe to live in Laos but all of what we’ve said before still applies. Living in Laos doesn’t automatically make the roads safe after dark.

Remember: Laos is still a developing country. You’ll have to put up with crazy streets, power outages, and cockroaches in your apartment.

Having a secure place to live is really going to be something you’ll want. Making sure you have locks that work and windows that can be secured (have locks of their own and/or bars).

The main thing that you’ll need to be concerned about is government corruption. Bribery isn’t uncommon and putting up with this can not only be a pain but downright depressing when you think about it.

The cost of living in Laos is low but living like a Westerner in a non-Western country is always going to be more expensive. If you want to cut costs while shopping, you need to shop at local markets and buy local markets instead of Western ones.

When it comes to work, Vientiane has more in terms of jobs. If you’re entrepreneurial and want to open up your own shop or restaurant, Luang Prabang has a healthy bunch of Western immigrants doing just that. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is bound to make your experience not only safer but saner. 

Be aware that prostitution is Illegal in Laos but there are many active places in the cities such as Vientiane or Luang Prabang, and that HIV is widespread. Be mindful of this if you intend on taking a local home or having unprotected sex.

How is health care in Laos?

Laos health care is not great. It’s pretty basic at best, shoddy at worst.

Public facilities are actually very bad. It’s best to use private clinics and hospitals that you’ll find in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. 

Even then, these don’t have ALL the facilities required for ALL procedures. So if you have something that’s even mildly serious, like appendicitis, you will have to be flown to neighbouring Thailand, specifically Bangkok, for emergency treatment.

In these cases, health insurance is obviously very helpful – so get it.

If you’re feeling bad, see a doctor rather than go to the hospital. Pharmacies in bigger towns have a wide range of medication you can get your hands on. You can even get antibiotics without a prescription.

But to reiterate, healthcare in Laos isn’t great. Staying out of any situation that could end up in injury or illness is the best cure.

Laos tourist scams

Popular tourist scams in Laos

Here are some of the typical scams and tourist traps that tourists in Laos should be wary of:

Long boat tours

Many of the long boat tours to Luang Prabang or similar destinations have plenty of stops on the way, and even rest up for the evening. This scam starts by having someone claiming to be a representative of the longboat company saying the stopping points along the river only have a few guesthouses and encourages the tourist about to board the longboat to book ahead of time through him to avoid having nowhere to stay for the night.

But, on arriving at the small village for the mandatory overnight stop, they find there is in fact plenty of accommodation and the prices are significantly cheaper than what was paid up front.

How to avoid: it rarely benefits to simply accept the recommendation of a tour official because they will inevitably offer a much higher price because they will be receiving a commission.

Drivers or guides not delivering

Drivers or guides not delivering what they promised is a common type of scam that can take place all over SE Asia. But in some situations it can simply be a result of poor communication.

A typical scenario is when a tour guide is taking you to a particular destination with several stops on the way. However, the tour can end quite abruptly and not include every stop that was agreed at the time of organising the trip.

How to avoid: to minimize the risk of the shorter than expected trip it is best to clearly state and agree the travel route before setting off, and even have this written down. Alternatively, it is possible to agree a payment method that increases after reaching every stopping point. This is certain to encourage the guide to go the full distance when they know this is the only way to get the full payment.

Not getting Change

A simple scam that takes place is not automatically getting change when you buy something. Even though this isn't likely to amount to much if it happens once or twice, but it can soon start to add up if it is left to continue for the duration of the Laos holiday.

Many times the clerk will simply wait for tourists to ask for their change in the hope that they will simply walk away. Also, there is the risk of being short changed which many travellers failing to notice with the more confusing and high currency notes in SE Asia.

How to avoid: this scam is possible to avoid by being more aware of your money and making sure to check you change after making each payment.

Boats and Buses

This scam can involve a tour representative saying a journey will be completed in a nice bus or boat, but in fact it turns out to be the complete opposite and is quite old and dirty. There is also the risk of too many people being on-board most types of transport which can be rather unsafe.

How to avoid: a simple step to take is to ask to see the boat or bus before agreeing to pay for the tour. Alternatively, you can do a little research by talking to other tourists or look at reviews online. It the transport appears to be unsafe, make sure to get your money back and make alternative arrangements.

Tuk Tuk Tour Scams

There are plenty of areas that have the tuk-tuk tour scams with prices that seem too good to be true. If the price quoted for a tour of the local area in Laos appears to be very cheap, this should be a red flag and you may want to further consider what you are likely to receive.

Most of the tours include prearranged stops at places the tuk-tuk driver will get a commission from. This can lead to tourists spending more money on the day trip than expected. Also, if you don't spend at these drop off points, there is the risk the tuk-tuk driver will simply abandon you because they aren't likely to be making much money for their efforts.

How to avoid: the best course of action is to simply avoid these types of tours and instead book through a recognized tour company. But, if you do decide to venture out, you must be prepared to buy something when the tuk-tuk stops at his chosen destination.

Children as Bait

Many attractions popular with tourist in Laos seem to have a high number of small children selling things or begging. It is fine to buy what they are offered, but they rarely get to keep any of the money given. Children are typically used as bait and the money is passed to their parents.

Also, the children may know several different ways to give assistance to tourist while on the Laos holiday, which may seem like it is simply a game, but will likely end with a demand for money. For instance, the small children can use leaves to fan you while walking up a steep set of steps, but on arriving at the top ask for money for their services.  

How to avoid: in most situations a simple no at the start of any interaction with the children will stop things from going any further

General tips to avoid scams in Laos

Be wary of anyone who approaches you to offer a service or goods. If you need something, like a taxi, it’s best to approach them. Be extra cautious when traveling solo and trust your instincts.

If something seems fishy, it probably is! Having internet access on your phone is also helpful. If something doesn’t feel right, take Honig’s advice and Google it: If it’s a scam, it’s likely happened to others and been widely reported.

And this goes without saying but watch your personal belongings and always lock your passport in the hotel safe. Theft may not always be accompanied by a complicated hustle, but it can still ruin your trip.

What to do if you’re a victim

If you’ve been a victim of a serious scam, contact the tourist police immediately. Staff at your hotel may also be able to help.

Keep the following emergency numbers handy when traveling to Laos:

Emergency contact numbers

  • Ambulance    195
  • Fire                190
  • Police             191
  • Tourist Police 192

Embassy or Consular Assistance

In case you need the embassy or consular services, you may find the contact in our list of diplomatic mission in Laos.

List of hospitals in some tourist sites

If you need to consult the doctors, here is the list of good hospitals for tourists/foreigners in some tourist sites in Laos

Helpful Laos travel phrases

Here are some Lao travel phrases for travelling around Laos. The locals will appreciate your attempt to speak their language with a huge smile on their faces.

  • Yes – Jao
  • No – Baw
  • Maybe – Bangthi
  • Please – Khâluna
  • Thank you – Khãwp Ja̖i
  • Sorry/excuse me – Khãw thôht
  • Where is the restroom? – Hàwng nâm yuu sǎi?
  • I need a doctor – Khoy tong kan Maw
  • I’m lost – Khoy lohng taang
  • Can you help me? – Suay khoy dai boh
  • Never mind – Baw pen nyãng

Hiking safety guidelines

Whether you are exploring Laos marvelous nature for a long trekking adventure or just for a day trip, there are a few points to consider before lacing up the boots:

  • Hike with at least one companion. In most cases it is best to hire a guide.
  • Do not venture by foot into areas restricted to foreigner ask around before taking off.
  • Trail conditions can get slippery and dangerous, especially in the rainy season.
  • Walk only in regions within your capabilities. You are not going to find a trishaw out there to bring you back.
  • Due to the unexploded ordnance from the second Indochina war, it is advised to always stay on the trail. Moreover, you should check that your itinerary does not go through an unsafe zone.
  • Mosquitoes are ubiquitous in this region. Bring repellent from home and cover yourself, especially at nighttime.
  • Laos has a high incidence of deaths from snakebite. Watch your step-in brush, forest, and grasses.

Government Travel Advice

Frequently asked questions

Q. When is the best time to visit Laos?

The small, landlocked country of Laos is best visited between late October and early April, when the weather’s warm and dry throughout.

River travel is best between November and January, when high water levels make passage easy along Laos main waterway, the Mekong River. Visiting the Bolaven Plateau is also pleasant at this time of year.

Laos’ geography plays a major part in shaping its climate, and cool temperatures can still be found in the highlands, which lie mainly in northern, eastern and central regions.

The green season falls between late May and October, when the rains return to the country.

However, showers are usually short and sharp, having little impact on your exploration. At this time of year, the country comes to life, with waterfalls beginning to flow once more and the lush scenery attracting a variety of wildlife.

Here is the detailed Laos weather guide & best time to visit

Q. When is the cheapest time to visit Laos?

Logically, the cheapest time to fly to Laos is during the off-season from May until September. As there are not many tourists visiting the country, the airlines and hotels seem to offer promotion to attract more tourist and try to fill-up the plane. If you are ok with the heat and some sudden rain, this is the time for you.

According to cheapflights.com.au, the cheapest flights to Laos are usually found when departing on a Monday. The departure day with the highest cost is usually on a Friday.

Moreover, Laos flights can be made cheaper if you choose a flight at noon. Booking a flight in the morning will likely mean higher prices.
Simply follow this, sometimes you can have the promotion of 40-50% discount.

Q. Do you need a visa to visit Laos?

Well, to visit Laos you must obtain a visa unless you come from one of the visa exempt countries. You must hold a passport valid for six months and one empty page.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to worry as it is very easy to apply for Laos visa as for most of the visitors. You can apply for either visa online (e-visa) or visa on arrival.

Here is our guide about Laos Visa Policy

NOT READY YET?

We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below our detailed tips & guide for every places to visit in Laos, recommendation regarding the inclusion in each theme you prefer, and what you can do based on the time frame you have.

PLACES TO VISIT IN Laos
Luang Prabang
bee-white Luang Prabang

The ancient capital of Lane Xang Kingdom

Vang Vieng
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Vientiane
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The ancient capital of Lane Xang Kingdom

4000 Islands
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Phonsavan
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Nong Khiaw
bee-white Nong Khiaw

Laos PLANS BY TRAVEL THEME
Family
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The combination of fun and educational activities

Cycling
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Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Must-see
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Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury
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Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Honeymoon
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Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Trek & Hike
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Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Cruise
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The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

Unseen
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Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Laos PLANS BY TIME FRAME
white-icon About 1 week
yellow-icon About 1 week
white-icon About 2 weeks
yellow-icon About 2 weeks
white-icon About 3 weeks
yellow-icon About 3 weeks
white-icon About 4 weeks
yellow-icon About 4 weeks
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SPECIAL Laos TIPS & TOURS

Search for your nationality below to see our special Laos travel tips & advice for your country. CONTACT US if you cannot find yours.

Australian
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United States
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United Kingdom
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German
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French
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Laos BLOG ARTICLES

On June 7th, 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased travel recommendations for more than a hundred countries and territories, including Vietnam and Laos in the list of "safest to travel".

Time to travel now? We do not think so! Let's check more detail below.

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Bucolic Wat Phou (Wat Phu, Vat Phou, Vat Phu) sits in graceful decrepitude, and while it lacks the arresting enormity of Angkor in Cambodia, given its few visitors and more dramatic natural setting, these small Khmer ruins evoke a more soulful response. While some buildings are more than 1000 years old, most date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The site is divided into six terraces on three levels joined by a frangipani-bordered stairway ascending the mountain to the main shrine at the top.

Visit in the early morning for cooler temperatures (it gets really hot during the day, and on the lower levels there isn't any shade) and to capture the ruins in the best light. Make sure to grab a map at the entrance as there is little to no signage here.

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Buddhist Lent Day (Thailand Wan Khao Phansa, Laos Boun Khao Phansa) is the start of the three-month period during the rainy season when monks are required to remain in a particular place such as a monastery or temple grounds. Here, they will meditate, pray, study, and teach other young monks. In the past, monks were not even allowed to leave the temple, but today, most monks just refrain from traveling during this period. You will still see them out during the day.

It is said that monks started remaining immobile in a temple during this time because they wanted to avoid killing insects and harming farmland. Apparently, traveling monks were crossing through fields, thus destroying the crops of villagers and farmers. After catching wind of this, Buddha decided that in order to avoid damaging crops, hurting insects, or harming themselves during the rainy season, monks should remain in their temples during these three months.

Tired of reading, listen to our podcast below:

...more

Initiated in 2006 by an NGO working for years with the elephants, this annual meeting of Laos Elephant Festival became one of the big festivals of Laos, followed by thousands of Laotians who move to attend a number of exercises, parades, and elections of the most emblematic animal of Laos. Fifty elephants are walking around for 3 days in the streets of the small provincial town. A large market takes place for the occasion with all kind of local (or Thai) products.

Home to the country’s largest pachyderm population, Xayabouly Province is the natural choice to host this growing event that also aims to raise awareness about the need to protect the endangered Asian elephant, which has played such a vital role in Lao people’s livelihoods, culture and heritage.

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The highlight of the year in Wat Phu Champasak is the three-day Buddhist festival, held on Magha Puja day on the full moon of the third lunar month, usually in February. The ceremonies culminate on the full-moon day with an early-morning offering of alms to monks, followed that evening by a candlelit wéean téean (circumambulation) of the lower shrines.

Throughout the three days of the festival Lao visitors climb around the hillside, stopping to pray and leave offerings of flowers and incense. The festival is more commercial than it once was, and for much of the time has an atmosphere somewhere between a kids' carnival and music festival. Events include kick-boxing matches, boat races, cockfights, comedy shows and plenty of music and dancing, as bands from as far away as Vientiane arrive. After dark the beer and lòw-lów (Lao whisky) flow freely and the atmosphere gets pretty rowdy.

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When the three months of Buddhist Lent come to an end in October, it is the perfect time to visit temples and celebrate the end of the rainy season. In Laos, this is called Boun Awk Phansa (Sometimes translated as Boun Ok Phansa or Boun Ock Phansa) and various religious and local traditions can be observed during this time. Moreover, there are plenty of festive activities are organized throughout the country with floating flower boats, candles, fireworks, lavishly decorated wats and an old-time carnival … all make for a magical Boun Awk Phansa festival in Laos. 

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Prefer listening to reading? Check the PodCast of this article as below:

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