First of all, we need to understand the phone number system in Laos and how to make a phone call from/to Laos.
It is now the 21th century, and you need to connect to the world every day.
You want to call your family and friends at home to share a picture of the beautiful landscapes or the wonderful people you met.
Or sometimes you need to finish your urgent business.
- This will lead to the popular questions:
- How can you call back home from Laos?
- How can you connect to the internet in Laos?
- And what is the best travel SIM card for tourist in Laos?
We make it all clear belo
- Phone Call in Laos
- Internet in Laos
- Buying a local SIM Card in Laos
- To conclude
Phone Call in Laos
Laos phone number
There are 3 types of phone number in Laos: Land Line Number, Mobile Phone Number, and Prepaid & Wireless Portable Phone
Land line number
To dial a land line in Laos all over the country, the format is IDD +856 (Country Code) + Area Code + Recipient's Number. The area code is 1-or-2 digit long, followed by a 6-digit phone number. Calls made from outside Laos must omit the prefix 0. Therefore, to call a land line number in Vientiane from other countries, dialing begins with +856 21 followed by 6 digits. Examples as below:
- In Vientiane, the format is 021 XXX XXX e.g. 021 262 337
- In Luang Prabang, the format is 071 XXX XXX e.g. 076 403 355
- In Xieng Khuang, the format is 061 XXX XXX e.g. 061 435 341
- In Pakse, the format is 031 XXX XXX e.g. 031 455 307
Laos Country Calling Code: 856
Provincial/Area Calling Code as below table (Add to Landline Number Only)
|Bolikhamsay||54||Phongsaly||88||Vientiane Province / Vang Vieng||23|
|Luang Prabang||71||Savannakhet||41||Xieng Khuang||61|
Mobile Phone Number
There are four mobile operators in Laos. All mobile operators’ numbers start with 020 followed by 8-digit phone number. Below are the number formats of the 4 operators:
- Lao Telecom: 020 5 XXX XXXX
- ETL Co. Ltd: 020 2 XXX XXXX
- T-Plus Lao: 020 7 XXX XXXX
- Unitel Lao: 020 9 XXX XXXX
Prepaid & Wireless Portable Phone
This number is quite similar to Mobile Phone Number above except:
1. Number Format: the number starts with 030 follow by 7-digit phone number
- Lao Telecom: 030 5 XXX XXX
- ETL Co. Ltd: 030 2 XXX XXX
- T-Plus Lao: 030 7 XXX XXX
- Unitel Lao: 030 9 XXX XXX
2. The SIM can only be used with a mobile phone issued from the 4 above operators (the SIM will be fixed with a mobile phone when you buy it, and cannot be used with other normal phone)
Many locals used this as a second number to call out as the rate is as low as a fixed phone, and you can still bring it around.
How to make a phone call?
|Exit Code||Country Code||Area Code||Local Number|
This is the code for a part of the country. It is usually a general area or a city. Some countries are not large enough to warrant their own code, so will have the country code 1 and use the area code to define the country.
You can check the full list of area codes in Laos in the Land line number part
If there is no area code (i.e. the mobile number), just ignore and come directly to the number.
For example, in case you want to call the mobile number: 020 9562 5689, just dial: Your country exit code + (20 9562 5689).
Below are some examples
- From USA & Canada: 011 856-20 9562 5689
- From France: 00 856-20 9562 5689
- From German: 00 856-20 9562 5689
- From UK: 00 856-20 9562 5689
- From Belgium: 00 856-20 9562 5689
- From Switzerland: 00 856-20 9562 5689
- From Australia: 0011 856-20 9562 5689
The numbers in red are the country exit code. For the full list of country EXIT CODE, please check HERE
|Exit Code||Country Code||Area Code||Local Number|
- Laos EXIT CODE is 00
- Then type your country code + your area code (if any) + the number that you want to call
Below are some examples (add area code to the telephone number if needed)
- To USA & Canada: 00 + 1 + Telephone number
- To France: 00 + 33 + Telephone number
- To German: 00 + 49 + Telephone number
- To UK: 00 + 44 + Telephone number
- To Belgium: 00 + 32 + Telephone number
- To Switzerland: 00 + 41 + Telephone number
- To Australia: 00 + 61 + Telephone number
The numbers in red are the country code. For the full list of different country phone codes, please check HERE
Internet in Laos
The Internet in Laos was first introduced in 1997, with the two commercial ISP services starting in 1999, specifically PlaNet Computers and GlobeNet. These services supported a rapid growth of internet cafes across the country to service tourists, which incidentally introduced the internet to many English speaking Lao nationals. The introduction of mobile broadband has significantly increased the use of the Internet in Laos since 2008.
Below is a Digital report on Laos Internet, Mobile, and Social media posted on The Laotian Times on 9 July 2020
According to the report, 79% of the population in Laos now has a mobile phone, with internet penetration standing at 43% of the population. Unsurprisingly, social media use in Laos directly correlates with the rate of internet penetration, also standing at 43%.
Internet speeds average 25.54 Mbps in Laos, with a year-on-year increase in the speed of fixed internet connections by 68%.
While the Lao population is said to have increased by 1.5% year on year, the number of mobile phone connections have increased by 1.3% between 2019 and 2020, while the number of internet users has increased by 6.5%, and the number of active social media users increased by twelve percent.
Web traffic in Laos is dominated by mobile phones, at 56.4%, while 42.2% of web traffic was downloaded to laptops and desktops, with only 1.5% being accessed by tablet computers. No data was provided for other devices such as video game consoles.
Interestingly, under the report’s mobile internet reference, the share of social media users accessing via mobile phones was 100%.
Social Media Use
According to the report, the total number of active social media users in Laos was 3.10 million, or 43% of the total population. The number of users increased by 12% between 2019 and 2020, with 100% of users accessing social media by mobile phones.
Facebook‘s advertising purportedly reaches 56% of the population, rising by 7.4% in the last quarter. The platform was accessed via mobile phone by 99.6% of the population, with only 0.4% of the population accessing the social media platform by desktop or laptop computer. 6.3% of users accessed Facebook via both phones and computers, with 93.3% accessing Facebook via mobile phone only.
Female users make up 46% of Facebook accounts in Laos, while male users make up 53.6%.
Instagram sees less popularity than Facebook in Laos, with only 200,000 accounts reachable by adverts on Instagram, equal to only 3.8% of the Lao population, with 64% of users being female.
Twitter follows Instagram with only 167,000 accounts reachable by adverts, making up only 3.2% of the Lao population, 63% of which are female.
According to the report, there are 110,000 Linked-in accounts based in Laos, making up only 2.5% of the country’s population. 44% of these are female, and 56% are male.
Mobile Phone Use
According to the report, Laos has some 5.68 million mobile phone connections, with 96% of connections under a pre-paid model. Of these, 66% of mobile connections are broadband (3G – 5G).
Laos scores 43.93 out of 100 points under the GSMA Mobile Connectivity Index, which measures the performance of 165 countries against key enablers and drivers of mobile internet adoption, including mobile network infrastructure, affordability of devices and services, and ability of relevant content and services.
Android enjoys the largest share of web traffic from a mobile device at 71.9%, while Apple IOS devices see a 27% share of web traffic in Laos.
According to another report by OpenSignal (also posted on The Laotian Times), Laos ranks third-fastest among ASEAN countries in terms of 4G download speed of mobile internet data and 52nd among 100 global economies.
Laos’ average 4G download speed is 17.1 Mpbs, faster than Other ASEAN countries excepting Singapore and Vietnam.
According to the report, Singapore takes the title of the fastest download speed of mobile data in Southeast Asia and ranks sixth globally at 47.5 Mbps.
Vietnam takes second place with the country’s 4G average download speed recorded at 20.6 Mbps, ranking 41st globally.
Laos ranks third in ASEAN, with an average 4G download speed of 17.1 Mpbs, and is 52nd among 100 economies.
As for the remaining ASEAN nations, Brunei ranks 55th in the world at 16.4 Mbps, Myanmar 56th (16.4 Mbps); Malaysia 73rd (11 Mbps); Indonesia 80th (9.9 Mbps); Thailand at 81st (9.2 Mbps); the Philippines 83rd (8.5 Mbps) and Cambodia at 87th (8 Mbps).
Berlin-based online travel website Tourlane named Laos as one of the most remote countries with the best Internet in 2019, while mobile network operator Unitel won the Speedtest Awards for mobile network speed during the second and third quarter of the same year.
In 2008 two operators, Lao Telecom and Unitel, were granted 3G licenses. Another two licenses were issued to ETL and Beeline in 2011. In 2012, the main ways to access Internet in Laos are:
- 3G (up to 21 Mbps HSPA+)
- ADSL (up to 2 Mbps)
- WiMAX (up to 10 Mbps)
4G was introduced in 2015, and a new licensed ISP Lao Champa Internet.
Censorship and surveillance
Laos is included in the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) Regional Overview for Asia (2009). ONI found no evidence of Internet filtering in the political, social, conflict/security, and tools areas based on testing performed in 2011.
The government controls domestic Internet servers and sporadically monitors Internet usage, but by the end of 2012 it apparently did not have the ability to block access to Web sites. Authorities have developed infrastructure to route all Internet traffic through a single gateway, enabling them to monitor and restrict content.
However, they apparently had not utilized this increased capability as of the end of 2012. The National Internet Committee under the Prime Minister’s Office administers the Internet system. The office requires Internet service providers to submit quarterly reports and link their gateways to facilitate monitoring, but the government’s enforcement capability appears limited.
The law generally protects privacy, including that of mail, telephone, and electronic correspondence, but the government reportedly continues to violate these legal protections when there is a perceived security threat. The law prohibits unlawful searches and seizures.
While the law requires that police obtain search authorization from a prosecutor or a panel of judges, police do not always obtain prior approval, especially in rural areas. Security laws allow the government to monitor individuals’ movements and private communications, including via cell phones and e-mail.
Buying a local SIM Card in Laos
Buying a SIM card in Laos is cheap and easy but don’t expect good internet speeds or reliability.
The main challenge you will come across when choosing the best SIM card in Laos is deciding which one to go for. This is not down to pricing or which company offers the best data packages, they are all similar thanks to the fact the government owns at least a part of each carrier. The problem is that different parts of the country are covered by different companies.
Just like in Cambodia, it is not uncommon to see people with multiple SIM cards, so they always have a connection no matter where they are. Thanks to the low price of SIM cards in Laos, it is perfectly reasonable for travellers to do the same as locals and carry multiple SIMs depending on how many provinces they plan on visiting.
You can use the coverage maps on each network providers website (these sites do not always work) to see who will give the best signal in the areas you are planning to visit but be warned, these are often the best case scenarios and do not always prove to be that accurate.
Your best bet is to see which SIM is most commonly available when you arrive at your destination and pick up one of those. After all, if the locals are buying them then they must work in that area!
Telecom Providers in Laos
Laos has 4 telecom providers: Unitel, Lao Telecom, TPlus (Beeline), and ETL. Unitel is the largest provider with close to 3 million subscribers. Lao Telecom has more than 1 million subscribers. Beeline has around 300 000 customers. The numbers of ETL is not available at the moment.
In Laos, all providers are fully or partially owned by the Lao government. As a result, rates are almost the same among the providers. When buying a SIM card, you need to show your passport to register.
Data speeds are slow in Laos. With most providers, in excellent conditions, you can get up to 5 Mbps. It is fast enough to do most things with your phone but is embarrassingly slow compared to providers in other Southeast Asian countries, like Singapore.
Let’s see what Laos has to offer to us.
Unitel is the largest provider in Laos, as established in the introduction. It is also the provider that suffers from the most congestion in the cities, meaning that your speeds or connection can be subpar at times. Unitel claims that it covers 97% of the population, and 4G/LTE can be found in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Champasak, Savannakhet, and other major towns and provinces.
Do note that you need to buy a 4G SIM card if you want to use Unitel’s 4G network, as they sell 3G SIM cards that, as the name implies, only works on their 3G network (and 2G too).
Unitel SIM cards are sold for 10 000 LAK ($1.60) and come with 5000 LAK in credit and 200 MB. You can choose to register yourself to get another 10000 LAK. Not sure if that would be worth it, though.
The following Unitel data packs are available:
- 2000 LAK: 60 MB for 24 hours
- 5000 LAK: 125 MB for 24 hours
- 10 000 LAK: 270 MB for 30 days
- 15 000 LAK: 1.5 GB for 30 days
- 100 000 LAK: 3 GB for 30 days
- 120 000 LAK: 4 GB for 30 days
You can also buy Unitel’s data-only SIM card called Net SIM for 10 000 LAK at Unitel offices – it comes with 300 MB and allows you to SMS as well. No calls can be made with this SIM card. You can register yourself and get 300 MB for free. A handful of Unitel data-only packs are listed below:
- 10 000 LAK: 6 GB for 2 days
- 10 000 LAK: 5 GB for 3 days
- 10 000 LAK: 2 GB for 5 days
- 10 000 LAK: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- 50 000 LAK: 5 GB for 30 days
- 120 000 LAK: 12 GB for 30 days
You can find the lastest packages updated HERE
Do note that the 30-day plan expires at the end of the current month. If you start your plan on the 15th of November, for example, then your plan will expire on the 1st of December, 12 AM. Luckily, you do not have to pay the full price if you buy the plan in the middle of the month. In this example, you would pay 50% and get 50% of the listed data allowance.
Lao Telecom (LTC/LaoTel)
Lao Telecom is the second largest provider and offers 3G access in most provinces in Laos. They also offer 4G/LTE in Vientiane and some other cities. Lao Telecom’s SIM cards, called M phone, are sold for 5000 LAK and can be used for both 3G and 4G/LTE – you do not need to buy a 4G SIM card to use 4G/LTE.
Below are the M phone data packs:
- 5000 LAK: 125 MB for 24 hours
- 10 000 LAK: 250 MB for 30 days
- 50 000 LAK: 1.25 GB for 30 days
- 100 000 LAK: 2.5 GB for 30 days
You can also buy a Lao Telecom data-only SIM card called SIM Net for 10000 LAK. The following packages can be used for 3G and 4G/LTE access:
- 5000 LAK: 1 GB for 24 hours
- 10 000 LAK: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- 50 000 LAK: 7 GB for 30 days
You can also get one of their “unlimited” packs, which get throttled to 512 Kbps after using your allowance. They are, however, expensive, and 512 kbps is slow:
- 150 000 LAK: 15 GB for 30 days
- 250 000 LAK: 30 GB for 30 days
- 50 000 LAK: Extra 5 GB of high-speed data
Find the lastest package HERE
TPlus, previously known as Beeline, is a small player in Laos. Depending on where you are, Beeline can be the fastest provider in the region. Even then, speeds are slow at up to 5 Mbps. TPlus SIM cards can be bought for 10000 LAK and come with 5000 LAK in credit. The following TPLus packages can be added:
- 1000 LAK: 50 MB for 1 day
- 6000 LAK: 200 MB for 3 days
- 10 000 LAK: 500 MB for 7 days
- 10 000 LAK: 300 MB for 30 days
- 50 000 LAK: 1.5 GB for 30 days
- 80 000 LAK: 2 GB for 30 days
- 100 000 LAK: 3 GB for 30 days
Just like with the other providers, data-only SIM cards called Net SIM can be bought as well. The following TPlus data-only packages are available:
- 5000 LAK: 2 GB for per day
- 10 000 LAK: 3 GB for 7 days
- 50 000 LAK: 10 GB for 30 days
ETL, or Enterprise of Communications Laos, has a small 3G network in Laos, which makes them unsuitable for those who want to explore more of Laos instead of solely the capital. SIM cards are sold for 5000 LAK and their data packs, called eNet, can be added, which are listed below:
- 1000 LAK: 240 MB for 1 day
- 5000 LAK: 800 MB for 1 day
- 10 000 LAK: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- 50 000 LAK: 5.5 GB for 30 days
- 100 000 LAK: 12 GB for 30 days
- 200 000 LAK: 30 GB for 30 days
Looking for unlimited data? ETL sells eNet 2Teen data plans that come with unlimited data for a day for 4000 LAK.
Update the latest pacakges HERE
Where to buy a Laos SIM card?
Travelers landing at Wattay International Airport can buy a prepaid SIM card after immigration and baggage claim, at a Laos telecom kiosk. But if your plane lands at night time, it is likely that it will already be closed.
There are a lot of stores that sell SIM card in every big street so you will have more options to choose from. Official retail stores of mobile network operators are recommended because the staff here are very helpful. Normally, the salesperson at the shop that you purchase the SIM will gladly help you with the process of registration and activate the card.
The last option is to buy it in any convenience store that you can find and there are plenty of them in tourist destinations and crowded residential areas.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Laos?
If you want to buy a SIM card in Laos, I would recommend going with Unitel because they cover most of Laos and is the fastest provider in Laos. However, speeds and coverage can vary greatly depending on the province you are, which is why many locals have SIM cards of multiple operators so that they can stay connected at all times.
Do what the locals do
Just like in Cambodia, it is not uncommon to see people with multiple SIM cards, so they always have a connection no matter where they are. Thanks to the low price of SIM cards in Laos, it is perfectly reasonable for travelers to do the same as locals and carry multiple SIMs depending on how many provinces they plan on visiting.
You can use the coverage maps on each network providers website (these sites do not always work) to see who will give the best signal in the areas you are planning to visit but be warned, these are often the best case scenarios and do not always prove to be that accurate. Your best bet is to see which SIM is most commonly available when you arrive at your destination and pick up one of those. After all, if the locals are buying them then they must work in that area!
It is fairly cheap and popular to have internet access in Laos.
For our travelers, we recommend you buy a Portable Mobile Wi-fi Router, with which you can buy only one SIM Card and share the Wi-fi internet with your travel mate on the go.
In the urgent case, if you do not have the Wifi router, you can use internet tethering on your mobile phone to use the internet on your computer or share the internet with your travel mate.
Wherever you have connection, you can use Skype or WhatsApp to call to your family without all the hassle of learning about exit code or country code to dial your friends’ numbers at home.
Hope that the article help you have more information about the communication system in Laos. If you need the most updated information, feel free to CONTACT US at your own convenience.