Like most counties, Laos normally has certain travel restrictions in place, requiring the majority of foreign nationals to have a visa to enter the country. These restrictions vary depending on the nationality of the visitor.
The coronavirus pandemic of 2019-2020 has led many parts of the world to limit travel and even ban certain foreign visitors from crossing their borders. Laos is among the sovereign states that have imposed regulations on travelers from overseas.
Visitors from various countries will be affected by these new travel restrictions for Laos.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Travel to Laos?
There are several travel restrictions for Laos that have been introduced due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The disease originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Because of this, Laos has stopped issuing tourist visas to Chinese passport holders during the earlier stages of the outbreak.
On Wednesday, March 18th, the Lao government announced that all tourist visas were to be suspended until further notice.
This restriction applies to the visa on arrival and eVisa for Laos. Foreigners already in possession of a visa may now use it to enter the country as of June 1 , but they will need to acquire a health certificate issued by a medical professional with the 72 hours prior to traveling to show that they are free of coronavirus and declare recent movements.
In addition, visa exemptions have been temporarily revoked. Citizens from those countries who can normally travel to Laos without a visa should contact the Lao embassy or consulate for guidance.
Once the coronavirus outbreak has been controlled across the world, normal visa policy will resume to Laos.
Other measures in place include the closure of the Lao-Thai friendship bridge which, under normal circumstances, connects the Laotian capital, Vientiane, with Nong Khai in Thailand. From midnight on 22nd March, only commercial transport vehicles will be able to cross.
All other international Laos border crossing points with Thailand are also to remain closed temporarily, except to foreigners wishing to return home.
Laos remains on high alert at Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, immigration officials are scanning all international arrivals. Lao citizens arriving from COVID-19 outbreak countries will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
All international travelers entering Laos will be tested for COVID-19 and must undergo quarantine for 14 days at a special center or a designated hotel, at their own expense.
Foreign nationals in Laos who wish to return to their home countries should contact their embassies, who will notify the Government of Laos on their behalf.
Given that the situation is constantly developing, these restrictions may change again. It is advisable for anyone with travel plans to check the latest information before embarking on a journey to Laos.
It is advisable for anyone with travel plans to check the latest COVID-19 travel information before embarking on a journey to Laos.
Laos COVID-19 Information: The Lockdown Is Being Lifted
Laos has experienced very few confirmed cases of coronavirus. However, to prevent the spread of the disease, the government has been taking precautions since the beginning of the pandemic.
In addition to travel restrictions, isolation rooms have been prepared at hospitals handling suspected cases of coronavirus.
On March 29th the Prime Minister of Laos announced that everyone in the country would be required to remain indoors. Apart from buying food locally, receiving medical care, or going to work in certain cases, residents and visitors have been instructed to stay inside.
Select essential businesses such as pharmacies, banks, and grocery stores were to remain open. Other premises have been closed throughout the confinement period.
Additional lockdown measures taken by Laos include:
- Public gatherings of over 10 people have been banned
- Public transport has been temporarily suspended
- Sports events and other major festivals during public holidays in Laos have been cancelled
After 33 days of no new infections recorded in the country, Laos has started to progressively lift the lockdown. On May the 15th, the government announced the new regulations.
Businesses and agencies can now open again to the public, although they must follow the directives regarding safety and disinfection in the workplace. Moreover, companies are encouraged to allow their employees to continue working from home wherever possible.
Indoor and outdoor sport activities can now be carried out- again, with enhanced infection prevention measures in place.
Schools in Laos are also gradually re-opening. 5th, 9th and 12th graders returned to class on May 18 and other age groups joined them on June 2.
Large gatherings are still banned and it is not possible to organize a party or attend night markets, beer shops, online game shops, karaoke venues, cinemas, casinos, and team sports tournaments.
Laos Travel Advisory for COVID-19
Due to the fact that coronavirus has now been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), most governments are advising against all travel abroad unless absolutely necessary.
Foreign visitors in Laos should take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.
Standard precautions include:
- Avoid crowds and public gatherings
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Keep a distance of at least 1 m (3 feet) between yourself and others if possible
- Cover your mouth and nose if coughing or sneezing
- Comply with Laos health recommendations for travelers
- Seek medical care immediately if you are experiencing symptoms (coughing, fever, and/or breathing difficulties)
Foreign nationals already in the country who are concerned about getting home, are taken ill, and/or are in quarantine should contact their embassy in Laos.
Exemption from Visa Overstay Fines During Covid-19
To help foreigners in Laos who are unable to return home as a result of travel restrictions, the Immigration Department of the Lao Ministry of Public Security has suspended visa overstay fines. This new measure was announced, and came into effect on, Tuesday April 7th.
This is good news for anyone who has been in Laos during lockdown with a visa which was due to expire soon. Overstayers will not be required to pay the standard $10 USD per day fine.
The visa extension fee of around $2.30 a day remains in place and will need to be paid by all visitors who leave the country after the expiration of their visa.
Foreigners in Laos for both business and tourism can take advantage of this updated regulation. However, please note that thanks to the easing of lockdown measures, it is now possible for foreigners to make plans to return to their home country.
General Travel Restrictions to Laos
Normally, Laos is accessible to most travelers. However, there are some restrictions in place that apply to several nationalities.
Only a few foreign nationals can enter Laos visa-free for up to 14 or 15 days. Visitors who wish to stay for longer than this must apply for a Laos eVisa in order to do so.
For all other travelers, the eVisa is a mandatory requirement. Check the Laos eVisa requirements for information about who is eligible for this.
Entry restrictions are even stricter for nationals of a small number of countries, including Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Algeria. These travelers must obtain a consular visa from a Lao embassy.
Travel Advice and Safety in Laos
In addition to restrictions imposed by Laos, there are a few parts of the country that foreign visitors are advised to avoid.
- Xaisomboun Province
- Remote areas near the Burmese border
There are also certain routes that international tourists are recommended to avoid due to the presence of unexploded bombs left over from the Indochina Wars, which ended back in 1991.
Apart from these areas, Laos is generally regarded as safe for foreign visitors. As with any travel in another country, tourists should stay alert and keep their belongings close to be on the safe side.