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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.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Laos.
Consumption of untreated water and water-based, raw or undercooked foods greatly increases the chance of illness.
Medical facilities throughout Laos are scarce and operate below Western standards. Medical evacuation to Thailand is required, except for basic medical conditions and injuries, in order to obtain acceptable standards of treatment. Such evacuations are very expensive and difficult to organize. Take this into account prior to travel if you suffer from an unstable medical condition. Seek immediate assistance in Vientiane and consider leaving if you experience medical problems while in Laos.
Canadians may visit the Australian embassy’s clinic (country and area codes: 856-21/ tel.: 353-840), which is located in the same building as the Australian Chancery, or the International Clinic attached to Mahasot Hospital (country and area codes: 856-21/ tel: 414-022).
Laws & Culture
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ 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.