Laos is a land that still captures the imagination of travelers. It is a country with beautiful sights, warm people and delicious food. Despite this, the question still occasionally arises as to whether Laos is a safe place to travel to.
Generally, you’ll find that not only is a Laos a safe place to travel in, but it’s also a great location to see some of the most beautiful natural sights in South East Asia. However, like any trip abroad there are a few risks you should be prepared for. Laos also has a few hidden dangers that you may not be aware of and that you should know about before traveling.
Before flying to Laos remember, you’re going to need a visa. At the moment travelers to the country receive a Laos visa on arrival, but from June 2019 visitors will be able to apply online for a Laos eVisa before travel. The Laos eVisa form can be completed in just a few clicks and grants tourists a stay of up to 30 days in the country and need only be presented on arrival.
But is it safe to travel to Laos and how safe is the country for tourists? Once you’re all set to go, there are only a few safety considerations you should keep in mind.
How Dangerous Is Laos?
Laos still captures an air of the unexplored wilderness compared to tourist favorites like Vietnam and Thailand. It is a far less developed nation than its comparatively richer, more touristic neighbors, although that only adds to its allure.
Most tourists visiting this landlocked South East Asian country encounter absolutely no issues at all and enjoy a fantastic stay during their vacation. Notwithstanding, Laos does have a few risks you should be aware of.
Watch where you step
First and foremostly, it is important that visitors to the country stay on main roads and paths when visiting remote forested areas. This is because there is a high risk of coming across unexploded bombs.
Laos was bombed heavily during the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s and 1970s when US forces dropped over 2 million tonnes of TNT on the country. It holds the auspicious record of being the most bombed country in history.
With numerous live shells still waiting to be triggered on the forest floor, this is no idle threat. Approximately 3,000 Laotians are killed every decade by these explosives.
However, in most of the touristic centers, these mines and explosives have now been cleared. Therefore it’s very unlikely that you’ll come across any unexploded ordinance on your trip. But always remember: if in doubt, stick to the path.
Be aware of health risks
Like many South East Asian countries, there is a risk of infectious disease from improperly prepared food and mosquito-borne viruses.
Before traveling, just make sure you consult a doctor for the vaccinations you’ll need for Laos. These normally include inoculations for Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis B and E, Dengue Fever and Tuberculosis. Malaria is also prevalent in the South of Laos and if you are traveling to the areas surrounding Savannahket or Salavan it might be a good idea to pack malaria tablets.
Nevertheless, even with the right vaccinations and medication packed in your bag, you should still exercise a few precautions. Try where possible to eat properly cooked food, sanitize properly, and, where possible, avoid mosquitos.
Safety checklist for Laos:
Before you travel, don’t forget to bring:
- Mosquito spray
- Malaria tablets
- Hand sanitizer
- Health Insurance
Avoid petty crime and theft
It’s quite rare to run into serious crime when visiting Laos. Yet, petty crime is sometimes common, especially in tourist areas.
Like anywhere in South East Asia it is advisable to keep your small valuables in a money belt and keep your belongings secure at all times. It’s a good idea to travel with a small padlock or cable lock which can be used to keep your items safer, especially in small hostels and guesthouses.
Is Laos a Safe Place to Travel Alone?
Many travelers wonder if it is safe to visit Laos as a solo traveler. The short answer to this is yes. Many hundreds of solo travelers visit the country each year and very few of them experience serious setbacks.
That said, it’s important to take a few extra precautions if traveling alone. This is mostly common sense. These include keeping copies of your essential documents, staying aware of your surroundings and avoiding drugs or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in unfamiliar locations.
Laos is also considered a very safe country for single female travelers compared to some other tourist hotspots. Women are unlikely to be harassed by local men and are normally not singled out by criminals. However, female visitors should be mindful to follow local cultural norms and modesty, especially when visiting local temples. If in doubt try and dress like the locals.
Laos offers travelers a taste of a far less urbanized lifestyle in South East Asia. It is a laid-back, relatively safe, and natural country with lots to offer an adventurous tourist.
Before you travel, be sure to check the Laos visa requirements to confirm you have no issues getting a Laos tourist visa on arrival. And remember, if you’re going to Laos after June 2019 you will be able to apply online for a Laos eVisa and get approved before travel.