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Laos

If you’re travelling to Laos, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Natural Disasters and Climate
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation

Ireland is implementing the new EU ‘traffic lights’ approach to travel, which applies to countries in the EU / EEA. Our current advice for travel to these countries is ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Our general advice for any other overseas travel remains ‘avoid non-essential travel’ or in some cases, ‘do not travel’.

Our TravelWise app has been suspended while we move to implement the new EU system. We apologise for this inconvenience. Updated information will continue to be provided on this website.

On 13 October, Member States adopted the EU Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel restrictions in the context of COVID-19. This ‘traffic lights’ approach provides for regions across the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) to be categorised as green, orange, red or grey, on the basis of the risk levels associated with COVID-19. A combined indicator map will be published each week by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on agreed criteria, including the 14-day cumulative incidence rate, testing rate and testing positivity rates.

In line with the EU Recommendation, there will be no entry restrictions on passengers travelling from green regions. Each Member State will decide what entry restrictions it will apply to passengers travelling from red, orange and grey regions.

Information about what to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

All passengers arriving into Ireland from overseas are obliged to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form before entry. For further details please see the Irish Government Advice Page. Further information about current requirements for entry to Ireland is available on the Irish Government website and the HSE website.

In accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas, other than to countries that are part of the EU ‘traffic lights’ approach, where the advice is to exercise a high degree of caution. Everyone is asked to comply with restrictions within Ireland, including those under the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. These are listed on the Official website of the Irish Government. The situation in relation to COVID-19 continues to evolve quickly around the world. Citizens who are considering any overseas travel are advised to carefully monitor the official advice and information from the public authorities in their destination.

If you are considering travelling outside of Ireland:

Should you decide that you need to travel, you should inform yourself about any requirements in the destination to which you are travelling. Information about entry restrictions currently applied by other countries is available on the country-specific travel advice pages. Additional restrictions may be imposed, including during the duration of your visit. Flight restrictions and route cancellations continue to occur worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will operate as scheduled. It is important to check with your insurance provider on coverage at this time. Any Irish citizen considering any overseas travel should monitor news and information from the public authorities in their country or region of destination. Citizens are advised to follow the public health guidelines of the local health authorities and to continue to practice physical distancing measures, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette etc.

The purpose of the Department’s Travel Advice is to provide information to the general public so that individuals can make informed decisions for themselves. There are significant risks associated with international travel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. Citizens should be aware of the possible limitations to any consular assistance that could be provided. Any citizens who are considering travel abroad, or those already abroad, are advised to monitor our travel advice, and follow us on Twitter. They are also advised to register with their local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Where to go for further travel information:

Overview

Security Status

Avoid non-essential travel

Security Status Last Updated: 15 March 2020

We advise against all travel to Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars) and the Lao-Vietnamese border areas that were crossed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Latest Travel Alert

COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus

Emergency responses to the Covid-19 crisis in many countries across the Asia Pacific region have included restrictions of flights from Europe; imposition of new mandatory quarantine arrangements in some countries and new restrictions affecting the admission of Irish people travelling to and within the region.

Flight options are becoming more limited as more countries in Europe and in the Asia Pacific region impose travel restrictions. In view of the increasing restrictions and uncertainty around travel options to Ireland we strongly recommend that Irish citizens intending to return to Ireland make early arrangements to do so.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade strongly advises against any further non–essential travel to the region until the Covid-19 crisis has been contained.

Latest information on regional response to COVID-19.

Emergency Assistance

Please note there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate situated in Laos, and therefore we are limited in the assistance we can offer you in the event of an emergency.

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Laos before your travel from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems when you’re in Laos, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative, or hotel management.

If you need consular assistance, you should contact the Irish Embassy in Hanoi.

EU Directive on Consular Protection

Under the EU Consular Protection Directive, Irish nationals may seek assistance from the Embassy or Consulate of any other EU member state in a country where there is no Irish Embassy or permanent representation.

Our tips for safe travels

The monsoon season in Laos usually lasts from May to November. You should be cautious of the high risk of flooding and landslides during this period. If you are travelling by road, due to poor maintenance and repair, you should take additional care and research in advance of travel.

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Unrest

There are ongoing security concerns related to ethnic conflicts, banditry, and unexploded munitions in Laos and you should exercise caution if you plan to travel to the country. Skirmishes between government forces and unidentified groups have taken place along the Lao-Thai border and there have been armed attacks on some routes, including Routes 6, 7 and 13. You should also exercise increased caution in remote areas along the border with Burma due to crime.

Landmines

Landmines and unexploded munitions are a risk, particularly in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars), and at the Lao-Vietnamese border areas that were formerly crossed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Avoid these areas if possible. If travelling to these areas don't venture off well-used roads and paths and do not touch unknown metal objects.

Crime

  • Petty Crime is common in Laos, particularly in urban areas you should take sensible precautions at all times and especially during the summer peak travel period;
  • Don't carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport and original birth certificate (as well as travel insurance documents and other important documents) with family or friends at home;
  • Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together, leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place;
  • Be aware that bag snatching occurs frequently and there is a significant increase in theft in the lead up to local festivals;
  • Avoid placing bags in the front basket of bicycles;
  • Bag snatchers on motorbikes are also a problem;
  • When travelling by air, bus or train, stay vigilant against petty theft, particularly in busy rail and bus stations and in crowded airports.

Please take note of the following emergency numbers in Laos:

Police: 1191, 241162, 241163, 241164, and 212703.

Tourist Police: 021-251-128

Fire: 1190

Ambulance: 1195

Lost or stolen passports

Don't carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and don't leave your passport as a deposit or guarantee when hiring a motorcycle.

If your passport is lost or stolen, report this to the Police immediately and obtain a Police Report. Irish Citizens should be aware that if this occurs, it will delay your travel plans considerably, and cost you money. Along with the time taken to arrange a new travel document, you will subsequently need to get a replacement visa and an exit visa from immigration and this can take at least three working days and may delay your onward travel plans considerably.

If you are in Laos and your passport is lost or stolen please contact the Embassy of Ireland in Hanoi for assistance.

Contaminated food or drink

There have been a number of incidents where tourists have had their drinks or food drugged. Some restaurants in popular tourist destinations offer drug-laced food and drink, which has led to the victim being assaulted. These products can contain harmful substances and consuming them can result in serious injury or even death. Never leave food or drink unattended.

Date rape drugs

There have been incidents of drug-related rapes reported by foreigners. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and be wary at bars, clubs, restaurants and parties.

Reporting crime

If you're a victim of a crime while in Laos, report it to the local police immediately.

Police: 1191, 241162, 241163, 241164, and 212703.

Tourist Police: 021-251-128

You can also contact us at the Irish Embassy in Hanoi if you need our assistance.

Transport

Public Transport

Roads in Laos are generally in poor condition and vehicles are not maintained to EU/Irish standards. Travel after dark significantly increases the risk of an accident as roads are often unmarked and vehicles often do not have lights, are poorly maintained and are overcrowded and overweight. Along with livestock straying onto roads these are regular causes of accidents in Laos, especially during the rainy season.

The number of road accidents and fatalities, particularly at night and involving motorcycles, has risen sharply in recent years. Travel should be undertaken only during daylight hours.

Exercise a high degree of caution if considering using an overnight bus during your time in Laos and be aware of the risk of being involved in a serious road accident.

Driving

If you're planning to drive in Laos, you should be extremely careful. The number of road accidents in Laos has risen sharply in recent years along with the increase in the number of motor vehicles, especially motorbikes. Most roads in Laos are in very poor condition and you should only travel during daylight hours.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver's licence and your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Be aware that vehicles often don't have lights and livestock tend to stray on to the roads

If you are involved in a road accident you will have to pay compensation for third party property damage and injury, even if you are not at fault. As a general rule, the Lao authorities will overwhelmingly find in favour of Lao citizens, regardless of the situation. Lao insurers only meet a small proportion of the costs of an accident and will not cover this compensation.

You can report road accidents to a dedicated police number +856 20 5666 9090.

Hiring a vehicle

If you're hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you're allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Water safety

Activities

Be extremely cautious if you're planning any river-based sporting activities, particularly in Vang Vieng. Tourists have been killed or seriously injured while taking part in activities such as tubing or jumping into the river. You should carefully consider your personal safety and take appropriate precautions.

Mekong River

Travel on the Mekong River by speedboat is dangerous, especially during the dry season, and we advise you to wear life-vests and crash helmets. River levels can vary during the year and the presence of debris in the river can make diving or jumping into the river dangerous.

Health and safety requirements

You should also be aware that the health and safety requirements in Laos are nowhere near as stringent as in Ireland, and they're often neither observed nor enforced. Therefore, the risk of a serious or fatal accident in the course of these activities is much higher than it would be in Ireland.

Insurance

Before taking part in any water-based sports or activities, including inner-tubing, please check that your travel insurance will cover you in the event of death or injury to yourself or a third party. In the event of an accident, even where you're not at fault, you are likely to be required to pay compensation for third party injury/damage.

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Personal identification

During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. It’s illegal not to carry an ID document or a passport, and there can be high fines if you can’t produce it on demand.

Law enforcement

The Lao Government prohibits sexual relationships between foreign citizens and Lao nationals, except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao Family Law. Fines for engaging in prohibited sexual contact can be severe and penalties may also include imprisonment.

Illegal drugs

Don’t get involved with drugs of any kind. There have been several deaths as a result of drug use among foreign nationals visiting Laos. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of drugs are serious offences in Laos and are punishable by lengthy prison sentences, including the death penalty

Natural Disasters and Climate

Natural disasters and climate

Flooding

The rainy season in Laos normally runs from May to November, coinciding with the typhoon season in South East Asia. Mountain areas can be particularly vulnerable to landslides at this time and flooding may occur along river basins and elsewhere. Travel to some provinces can be seriously disrupted. The Mekong River Commission posts official updates on the Mekong River on their website. Monitor local news and weather reports, and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation in advance of travel.

Additional Information

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

If you’re unsure of the entry requirements for Laos, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Laos. You can also check with them how long your passport must be valid for.

Passports

All visitors to Lao PDR must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months from the time of entry into Laos and contain at least one blank page for a visa stamp.

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.

Keep your passport safe as getting a new passport and exit visa can cause considerable delay and expense.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Laos.

Please note that all visitors (planning to stay more than one month) are encouraged to be fully vaccinated against polio prior to arrival in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. An order from the Office of the Lao Prime Minister on 13 January 2016 declared a public health emergency due to a Polio outbreak.

Medical facilities

If you have an unstable medical condition you should seriously consider not travelling to Laos. Medical care in Vientiane is extremely basic and outside the capital there are no reliable facilities to deal with medical emergencies.

Medical evacuation is difficult to organise and very expensive. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Cholera

To avoid cholera and diarrhoeal illnesses the World Health Organisation advises everyone travelling to the province to practise good hygiene: wash hands with soap before and after eating, cooking and going to the toilet, eat only thoroughly-cooked foods and drink only safe water (bottled or boiled).

Dengue fever

Dengue fever, particularly in Vientiane, is common. There’s no vaccine against this disease. You should take care to avoid mosquito bites during the day, especially just after dawn and just before dusk by using bed nets and repellents, and wearing closed shoes, long sleeves and trousers. You can get more information on dengue fever from World Health Organisation.

Malaria

Malaria is also present in Laos. Your doctor can advise you on appropriate prophylactic measures or vaccines, depending on the length of your stay and the areas you intend to visit.

Avian influenza

The risk to humans from avian influenza is believed to be very low. No human infections or deaths have been reported. As a precaution, however, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

Money

Major credit cards are accepted at the larger international hotels and main tourist-orientated establishments. Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at most banks in Vientiane and major towns. International ATM facilities are increasingly available. Most transactions are conducted in cash using US Dollars, Thai Baht or Lao Kip.

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

We do not have an Embassy in Laos, please contact Embassy of Ireland Vietnam.

If you are an Irish National who requires assistance in the case of a genuine emergency while the Embassy is closed, please contact us on +84 4 39743291 where you will be given details on how to proceed and how to contact a consular officer if needed.

Alternatively, you can contact the Duty Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin at +353 1 408 2000.

Embassy of Ireland
2nd floor
41A Ly Thai To
Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi
Vietnam

Tel: +84 4 3974 3291
Fax: +84 4 3974 3295

Monday to Friday 09:00am to 12pm

Contact us

Get travel and medical insurance

Always get comprehensive travel insurance that will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you travel. We can’t pay for any emergency expenses you may incur on your trip so travel insurance may save you a lot of money if things go wrong. Remember to read the small print in your policy and make sure it covers everything you’re planning to do including water sports and other outdoor activities.

The theft of passports is a particular problem in Laos so make sure your insurance covers you for unexpected losses such as stolen passports and cancelled flights as well as stolen cash, cards, or luggage.