Exchanging Money in Laos

exchanging money in laos

In order to visit Laos for a holiday, the majority of foreign passport holders are required to apply for a visa to enter the country. Those who are required to obtain a visa for Laos were previously required to either visit a Lao’s embassy or consulate to do so, or queue at border entry points to obtain a Laos visa on arrival. However, a number of foreign citizens are now able to apply for an online visa for Laos and receive online travel authorization to visit the country before departure.

The simple Laos visa application online allows eligible citizens to obtain a visa exclusively online, and permits a total stay of 30 days in the country for tourism. Applicants are only required to meet the entry requirements for the Laos eVisa in order to apply, which involve having a valid passport, a current email address, a valid credit or debit card, and supplying a recent passport-style photograph (meet the evisa photo requirements).

Once they have obtained the travel document required to visit to Laos, travelers will be able to organize other necessities for the stay, including getting the correct currency for Laos. Visitors to Laos should be aware that it is difficult to exchange Laos currency outside of the country, so it is a good idea to bring the amount of money they will need for the stay in their home currency in order to exchange it once inside Laos.

What Is the Currency in Laos?

The official currency in Laos is the Lao Kip (LAK), which comes in notes of 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 LAK. However, it is also possible to pay for goods and services in Laos using either US Dollars and Thai Bahts, especially while in the capital city, Vientiane. In fact, it is estimated that around one-third of the cash currency currently circulating in the capital is made up of USD bills, while another third is made up of Baht notes. It is very common to see prices displayed in both US dollars and Thai Bahts alongside Lao Kips across Vientiane.

Nevertheless, the Kip is still the preferred currency in most of the country, especially for small purchases. Small stores and local eateries will often insist on this payment method, especially in rural areas, so travelers are advised to change at least part of their budget into the local currency.

Travelers should not rely on credit or debit cards to make payments while in Laos. Although the main cards such as Visa and Mastercard are generally accepted in the country, it may be difficult to use this payment method outside of the major hotel chains and luxury restaurants. Many card readers in the country are still incredibly slow and prone to malfunction, so proprietors may ask you to pay in cash instead.

Where to Change Money in Laos?

As it is difficult to change Laos currency outside of the country, there are a number of money exchange options for Laos that foreign visitors can take advantage of. When deciding where to change money in Laos, travelers should bear in mind that better rates are usually found at money exchanges in the towns and cities, rather than at the airport.

Numerous money exchanges for Laos currency can easily be found in the major tourist areas in the main towns and cities. These can be easily identified by large signs displaying exchange rates for a number of international currencies.

Visitors may also choose to exchange currency at a local bank, and the two biggest bank chains, Banque Pour Le Commerce Extérieur Lao Public (BCEL) and Banque Franco-Lao (BFL), are respectable options. Operating hours for both companies are 8.30am-3.30pm, Monday to Friday, although their service units, which also permit currency exchange, are available over the weekend. Those who wish to withdraw Laos currency directly from an ATM should be aware that there is a maximum withdrawal limit of between 700,000 and 2,000,000 LAK per transaction.

Finally, travelers are also able to change currency into Lao Kip at international border crossing points. These include the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridges, one of which is a permitted entry point for those traveling to the country with the Laos tourist visa online.

Suggested Daily Budget for Laos

In order to decide how much money to bring to Laos to exchange within the country, it is a good idea to make a budget plan for the expenses you expect to incur during your trip. Find below a rough guide to how much you might need to spend in Laos on a daily basis, across a range of budget options. All prices are in US Dollars.

Budget($50 or below)Midrange ($50-150)Top end (higher than $150)
Bedroom in guest house: $3-10Air-conditioned hotel room: $15-50Room in a boutique hotel or resort: $50-500
Street food or low-end restaurant: $1-2Meal in local restaurant: $5-10Meal in high-end restaurant, including drinks: $15-50
Local bus fare: $2-3 per 100kmTour guide: $25 per dayAll-terrain vehicle hire: $60-120