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LAOS - Exercise a high degree of cautionThere is no nationwide advisory in effect for Laos. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to ongoing security concerns related to ethnic conflicts, banditry and unexploded munitions.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Tensions between Laotian government forces and unidentified groups could lead to violence in the northern region of Laos, particularly in the area of Vang Vieng. While there have been no restrictions placed on ground transportation, there is an increased military presence in the area. Proceed with caution when travelling north from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang.
Street crime is prevalent in cities and towns, including Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and has been occurring even during daylight hours. Bag theft has increased markedly. Thieves on motorcycles grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, other motorcycle drivers and their passengers. These thefts occasionally involve violence. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Do not show signs of affluence and avoid travelling late at night. Break-ins at hotels and guesthouses occur. Armed robberies occur in Phou Khao Khouay National Park.
Fatalities have occurred as a result of attacks on vehicles travelling on Route 13 (Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang), Route 7 (Phou Khoun to Phonsavanh) and Route 6 (near the town of Sam Neua, Huaphan Province). Be extremely vigilant when travelling on these routes.
Sexual assaults occur, particularly in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Be vigilant along hiking trails. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Some food and drinks, such as “happy pizzas” and “special shakes,” may contain unspecified amounts of opium and other unknown substances. These items are sold in areas frequented by tourists, particularly Vang Vieng. While these items may be easily accessible, taking any amount of opiates can be dangerous. Foreigners, including Canadians, have died as a result of drug overdoses. Travellers have been assaulted after ingesting spiked food or drinks.
Landmines and unexploded munitions constitute a risk, particularly in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars) and at the Laotian-Vietnamese border areas that were formerly traversed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Avoid these areas and only travel on well-used roads.
Road travel in Laos can be hazardous as vehicles are often poorly maintained and road conditions are poor, especially during the rainy season. Drivers have little regard for traffic regulations and do not follow safe driving practices. Livestock often stray onto the roads, causing accidents. Travel should be undertaken only during daylight hours. Travellers involved in traffic accidents have been required to pay compensation for property damage or injuries, regardless of who the police judged to be at fault. Laotian insurers will generally only meet a small proportion of the costs of an accident and refuse to cover compensation, which can be the largest expense.
Do not leave your passport as collateral when renting vehicles, including motorcycles. Read rental contracts thoroughly to ensure that the vehicle is correctly insured to cover damages and theft. Only rent from reputable companies, as some companies have been known to "steal" the vehicle, particularly motorcycles, and claim for loss. If your passport is inaccessible or stolen as a result of misuse, you may be subject to investigation by Passport Canada and may receive limited passport services.
Public transportation is unreliable and limited after dark. River travel is common in Laos, however, travel by boat on the Mekong River from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is unreliable. Safety standards are minimal. Speedboat travel is especially dangerous during the dry season (November to May). Lifejackets and helmets should be provided and worn by passengers. Do not travel on or across the Mekong River after dark. In some areas, the Laotian military has been known to shoot at boats after dark.
There have been fatal crashes involving Yuen-7 and Yuen-12 aircraft on domestic routes. Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
River-based sporting activities
Exercise extreme caution and carefully consider your safety if engaging in river-based sporting activities, including in Vang Vieng. Travellers have died or been seriously injured while taking part in river-based activities such as tubing or jumping/diving into the river. River levels can fluctuate considerably and debris can make river-based activities dangerous.
General safety information
You are encouraged to register with the Embassy of Australia in Vientiane in order to receive the latest information on situations and events that could affect your safety.
Tourist facilities outside Vientiane and Luang Prabang are limited. International telephone and email facilities are available in Vientiane but are extremely limited elsewhere. Even where available, these services are often unreliable and expensive.
Comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks. Travellers are subject to search, detention and the possibility of fines by authorities if suitable identification is not presented. Security authorities may place foreigners under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines and email messages may be monitored. Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Dial 191 to reach police, 195 for ambulance or 190 for fire fighters.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Laotian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Laos, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country.
Canadians must also be in possession of a visa. A tourist visa can be obtained upon arrival at Wattay International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport and the Friendship Bridge at the Thai border. Tourist visas are also available at the border crossings of Savannakhet/Mukdahan, Densavanh/Lao Bao, Boten/Mohan, Houai Sai/Chiang Khong, Nam Phao/Cau Treo, Thakhek/Nakhon Phanom, Vangtau/Chongmek and Nam Kan/Ngo Anh, but you should confirm with the nearest Laotian embassy or consulate. A passport photo and US$42 are required to obtain a visa upon arrival.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Immigration offices at some border crossings are difficult to identify. Ensure that you obtain an entry stamp into Laos. Failure to complete these formalities can result in serious fines, detention and deportation.
Travellers are required to obtain permission from local authorities prior to travel to certain parts of Vientiane and Xieng Khoung provinces and may be refused entry to some areas of these provinces, particularly around Long Tien.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times. Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before allowing entry. Consult the World Health Organization’s country list to obtain information on this country’s requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Southeast Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southeast Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.
Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Southeastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
There have been human cases of avian influenza ("bird flu”) in this country. Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread by contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces or other secretions.
Avoid unnecessary contact with domestic poultry and wild birds as well as surfaces contaminated with their feces or other secretions. Ensure all poultry dishes and eggs are thoroughly cooked.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & Culture
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict and may include the death penalty.
Non-marital sexual relationships between foreigners and Laotian citizens are against the law, as are various forms of cohabitation with Laotian nationals. Convictions for such offences can lead to prison sentences and large fines. Improper registration of a relationship to a Laotian national can lead to similar penalties. Permission for marriage or engagement to a Laotian citizen must be submitted in a formal application to Laotian authorities.
You can be fined for not carrying proper identification, such as your passport, at all times, and for not having an entry stamp in your passport.
Photography of government buildings and vehicles, as well as bridges, airfields, military installations or personnel, is prohibited. Violators may be arrested and equipment seized.
Laos is tolerant of a wide diversity of religions. However, religious proselytizing or distributing of religious material is strictly prohibited. Violators may be arrested or deported.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
Public displays of affection, such as kissing, whether between opposite or same-sex couples, are not considered proper or polite.
Laos presents a risky business environment. Judicial and regulatory regimes may not operate with the same transparency as can be expected in Canada. Individuals may be held legally and financially responsible for company dealings. The possibility of bureaucratic delays and unexpected legal interpretations should be accounted for in business planning. For further information, consult the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.
The currency is the kip (LAK). It is not easily obtained or exchanged outside of Laos. U.S. dollars and Thai baht are also widely accepted. There are very few automated banking machines in Laos that accept foreign cards. Those that do are often out of order. Major credit cards are accepted at some international hotels and tourist establishments. Cash advances can be obtained from some banks although commissions are high. Traveller’s cheques can be cashed at most banks in Vientiane and other major towns. Western Union provides services in several major cities and towns across the country.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Natural Disasters & Climate
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from May to November. During the rainy season, the provinces along the Mekong River in southern Laos are prone to severe rainstorms that can cause flooding and landslides, resulting in significant loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and hampering the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities. Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.
There is no resident Canadian government office in Laos. You can obtain consular assistance and further information from the Embassy of Australia (under the Canada-Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement) in Vientiane.
Vientiane - Australian Embassy
Bangkok - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Australian Embassy in Vientiane and follow the instructions. You may also make a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Center in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.