Laos Register Travel insurance Destinations
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LAOS - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Laos due to ongoing security concerns related to banditry, crime, spiked food and drinks, and unexploded munitions.
Safety and security
Safety and security
There have been random shooting incidents near Xaisomboun town, in Xaisomboun Province, since late 2015.
If you must travel to this region despite our advisory, avoid travel after dark, be extremely cautious and follow the advice of local authorities.
Street crime is prevalent in cities and towns, including Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, and occasionally involves violence.
Bag theft occurs frequently. Thieves on motorcycles grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, other motorcycle drivers and their passengers.
Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport 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 occasionally.
Local police may not have the capacity to respond to crimes, especially at night.
Sexual assaults occur, particularly in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. Be particularly vigilant along hiking trails.
Be wary of money counting scams (currency exchange). Don’t exchange large sums of money in one transaction. Get local currency from the bank or an ATM instead of a currency exchange kiosk.
Report any incident of crime or scams to the local tourist police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, before you leave the country.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave your 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 in 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.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance constitute a risk across the country, particularly in the Plain of Jars, in Xiengkhouang Province, as well as in the Laotian-Vietnamese border areas, including those traversing the former Ho Chi Minh Trail. Follow the advice of local authorities, and only travel on well-used roads and paths.
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 injury, regardless of who the police determine 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 the loss.
Public transportation is unreliable and limited after dark. River travel is common in Laos. Safety standards are minimal. Speedboat travel is especially dangerous during the dry season (November to May). Lifejackets and helmets should be provided to 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.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Only undertake adventure sports, such as zip-lining and rock climbing, with a well-established and reputable company that has insurance.
Tour operators may not adhere to international standards. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of the installation or equipment, refrain from using them. Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance.
Exercise extreme caution and carefully consider your safety when 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.
If engaging in adventure tourism:
- never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- obtain detailed information on each activity before setting out and do not venture off marked trails
General safety information
Tourist facilities outside Vientiane and Luang Prabang are limited.
Security officials may place foreigners under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines and email messages may be monitored. Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Laotian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Laos.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Canadians must be in possession of a visa.
Electronic tourist visas can be obtained in advance by travellers planning to enter Laos through the Wattay International Airport or the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I.
Tourist visas can be obtained upon arrival at Wattay International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport and some “international” (that is, open to all foreign nationals) border crossings. Contact the nearest Laotian embassy or consulate to confirm where you can get a tourist visa. A passport photo and US$42 are required to obtain a visa upon entry.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Electronic tourist visa – Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Immigration offices at some border crossings are difficult to identify. Ensure that you obtain an entry stamp into Laos. Failure to do so can result in serious fines, detention and deportation.
Travel to Xaisomboun
Travellers are required to obtain permission from local authorities prior to travel to certain parts of Xaisomboun Province. You may be refused entry to some areas of the province, particularly around Long Tieng.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. 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, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture 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 by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. 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 a large amount of time outdoors) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has identified this country as no longer poliovirus-infected but at high risk of an outbreak. Polio can be prevented by vaccination, which is part of the routine vaccines for children in Canada.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date.
- One booster dose of the polio vaccine is recommended as an adult.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from 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.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
* 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.
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, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southeast Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). 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 freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). 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 standards of hygiene and 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.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue fever is a risk to travellers year-round. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue fever can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue fever changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. After a decline in reported dengue cases worldwide in 2017 and 2018, global numbers have been steeply rising again.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country.
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms correctly or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer) before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 3 months after returning from this country or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer) before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- 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 the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care professional 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 in this country.
Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread quickly and easily among birds. In rare cases, it can infect people.
- avoid high risk areas such as poultry farms and live animal markets
- avoid areas where poultry may be slaughtered
- avoid contact with birds (alive or dead)
- avoid surfaces that may have bird droppings or secretions on them
- ensure all poultry dishes, including eggs, are well 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 professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities throughout Laos are scarce and operate below the standards you might expect in Canada.
To obtain suitable treatment, medical evacuation to Thailand is required, except for basic medical conditions and injuries. Such evacuations are very expensive and difficult to organize, but you may have to consider leaving if you experience medical problems while in Laos.
Seek immediate assistance in Vientiane at the French Medical Clinic on Rue Simeuvang, off Khouvieng (tel. +856 21 214 150), or the Alliance International Medical Centre Route Luang Prabang, on the way to the airport (tel. +856 21 513 095).
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
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 and culture
Laws & culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Travellers are subject to search, detention and the possibility of fines by authorities if they can’t show suitable identification, such as a passport, and for not having an entry stamp in your passport.
Always carry ID, and comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict and may include the death penalty.
Illegal or restricted activities
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.
Photography of government buildings and vehicles, as well as bridges, airfields and military installations or personnel, is prohibited. Violators may be arrested and their equipment, seized.
Laos is tolerant of a diversity of religions. Religious proselytizing or distributing of religious material, however, is strictly prohibited. Violators may be arrested or deported.
Panhandling is illegal and can lead to fines or imprisonment.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Laos.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Laos, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
You must carry an international driving permit.
Public displays of affection, such as kissing, whether between opposite or same-sex couples, are not considered proper or polite.
The currency is the kip (LAK).
The LAK is not easily obtained or exchanged outside of Laos. U.S. dollars and Thai baht are commonly accepted.
ATMs are widely available. Major credit cards are accepted at some international hotels and tourist establishments. Cash advances can be obtained from some banks, although the bank commission rates are high.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Typhoons and Monsoons
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from May to November. During the rainy season, provinces along the Mekong River in southern Laos are especially 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.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 191
- medical assistance: 195
- firefighters: 190
Vientiane - Office of the Embassy of Canada
Bangkok - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, in Bangkok, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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