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Laos travel guide

About Laos

Laos – officially known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic – is one of the great travel frontiers; landlocked and mountainous, swamped by jungles and promising Indian Jones adventures in remote tribal villages and ancient Buddhist caves.

With Thailand on one side and Vietnam on the other, you might expect Laos to be commercial and crowded, but this is Asia’s backwater, where life moves as slowly as the churning waters of the Mekong River, which forms the border with three countries – Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia – as it snakes south towards the Gulf of Thailand.

A long-running civil war – during which the USA dropped millions of bombs in Laos – kept the country off the mainstream tourist circuit for many years. Unexploded ordnance and poor infrastructure continue to pose a challenge to tourism, but each year brings a new crop of upmarket accommodation to supplement the existing backpacker hostels – Laos is finally finding its feet. Eco-tourism looks set to be its trump card, taking visitors to remote tribal villages and pristine national parks teeming with weird and wonderful wildlife.

Despite this rugged outlook, the capital city, Vientiane, feels remarkably cosmopolitan, helped by a café culture left behind from when this was part of French Indochina. Dotted around its pleasantly faded, palm-shaded streets are ancient ruins, gleaming stupas and graceful colonial buildings.

The laidback atmosphere and the relative lack of modern development make Laos perhaps the most authentic and unspoiled of the Southeast Asia nations, though it competes for this title with neighbouring Myanmar. Laos is also one of the few communist countries left in the world – which should be obvious from the bureaucratic red tape and the omnipresent red stars on uniforms and state buildings.

Until 1988, tourists were banned from Laos, but now it is possible to travel all over the country. Nevertheless, there are few crowded tourist hotspots, with the possible exception of monastery-studded Luang Prabang and the overblown backpacker resort of Vang Vieng. Wherever you go in Laos, you’ll encounter the delectable Lao cuisine: a little bit French, a little bit Southeast Asian, and perfect washed down with a bottle of Beer Lao.

Key facts

Area:

236,800 sq km (91,400 sq miles).

Population:

6,918,367 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

29.2 per sq km.

Capital:

Vientiane.

Government:

People's Republic.

Head of state:

President Thongloun Sisoulith since 2021.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh since 2021.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Laos on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

If you’re a British national intending to travel to Laos, you should check with your airline due to restrictions affecting all nationalities travelling from or transiting countries with community transmission of COVID-19. Departing flights are unaffected. You should sign up for email alerts for updates to this travel advice.

Commercial flights to and from Laos remain very limited. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

Lao Government COVID-19 regulations require that you inform the Embassy if you’re departing Laos. If you are leaving Laos, email BritishEmbassy.Vientiane@fcdo.gov.uk with your full name, contact telephone number, passport number, flight details and a scan or photograph of the identification page of your passport. Please contact the Embassy at least 7 working days before your departure.

The Embassy will inform the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs of departing British Nationals, as required by the Lao Government.

Entry and borders

The government of the Lao PDR has suspended the visa on arrival service at all international entry points. No visas are being issued to people travelling from or transiting a country with ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. However, the authorities may consider granting entry permission for foreigners (e.g. experts, technicians and foreign nationals that are needed for essential projects) who wish to travel to Laos. See Entry requirements

The closure of all customary international land borders continues until further notice.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Laos

Some restrictions on travel within Laos have been extended until 3 August 2021. According to the Lao authorities, public transport by land and air is permitted between provinces where community transmission has not been identified. The government has announced that travel from Vientiane Capital is permitted for people who can show they have been fully vaccinated before travel. However given the low number of people who currently meet this requirement there are few public transport options available in practice. Some limited domestic flight services have resumed for eligible travellers who are fully vaccinated and have permission to travel from the Lao authorities (permission is also required for anyone if travelling with unvaccinated children).

You should monitor local official announcements for guidance in the latest restrictions. There may be short notice lockdowns introduced in provinces with reports of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Thailand land border

The Thai government has announced that all Thailand-Laos border crossings are restricted until further notice, including the Friendship Bridge between Vientiane and Nong Khai. Commercial goods are permitted to cross at present and there have been exemptions for medical emergencies at the discretion of the Laos and Thai medical authorities.

If you want to travel to Thailand, you must apply for permission to travel via the Royal Thai Government’s online platform. You should keep up to date with the latest information on the websites of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane, and the Thai Ministry of Public Health.

Accommodation

Hotels and private rental accommodation is available throughout Laos, although a number of hotels/hostels are currently closed due to reduced tourist numbers. You should arrange accommodation in advance of travel.

Public places and services

The Lao authorities have announced an easing of lockdown restrictions in provinces with no COVID-19 infections. Most businesses (including gyms/spas, sports facilities, night markets, tourist attractions, restaurants, shopping malls, retail shops and food markets) may open if COVID preventative measures are in place. These may include providing alcohol gel, face masks being worn, 1m physical distancing and checking temperatures. However, some entertainment venues remain closed and the sale of alcohol is prohibited.

Large social gatherings, weddings and traditional events are not permitted.

In Vientiane Capital many of the COVID-19 prevention measures and lockdown restrictions have been extended until 3 August as community transmission remains a risk. Many businesses, restaurants, shopping malls, retail shops and food markets may open if COVID prevention measures are in place. The main restrictions are:

  • Vientiane Capital has introduced a zoning system, with different parts of the city graded red, yellow or green - restrictions are heaviest in the red areas. These zones may change over time
  • Travel in and out of Vientiane Capital is prohibited from infected areas
  • Meetings, events or gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited
  • Some entertainment venues, karaoke venues, bars, internet cafes are closed
  • Entrance to some commercial premises requires that you are fully vaccinated, please confirm in advance and carry evidence of your vaccine record.

Further measures may be introduced at short notice, including measures applying to individual provinces. You should follow the advice of the Lao authorities.

Healthcare in Laos

For contact details of English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should self-isolate and dial +856 20 5406 6777 to speak to a duty officer in Laos or English, or the free hotline numbers 155 and 166.

Keep in regular contact with family and friends at home, so they know you’re safe and well. Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Laos.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Laos

Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. As information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated. Sign up to get email notifications.

The Lao Ministry of Health has launched a COVID-19 vaccination scheduling system and published a list of eligible priority groups. You can find further details on when and how to register on the Vaccinate Laos website

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.

British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization COVID-19 vaccines page.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

See additional advice on making travel plans to return to the UK, or what to do if you cannot depart immediately.

There are currently only occasional charter flights which allow a return to the UK, via third countries. The UK government is working closely with airlines to make sure options are available for you to return to the UK.

Flights

Vientiane Lockdown – Travel into and out of the capital is possible if you are fully vaccinated, and some charter international flights from Vientiane will continue. Domestic flights have resumed from 25 June with a reduced service for eligible travellers who are fully vaccinated. Those who are not fully vaccinated, or are travelling with unvaccinated children, require permission from the Covid-19 National Taskforce. There are limited internal flights and public transport options, which means British nationals who need to travel to Vientiane to depart on international flights may need to make arrangements for travel by private vehicle and carry evidence of a flight booking. You should check with Lao authorities for details of local requirements.

The British Embassy is aware of an increasing number of proposed charter flights from Vientiane, which are all subject to sufficient reservations and Lao government approval. You should review all terms and conditions including the refund policy before committing to any flights. If you wish to leave Laos please enquire and register with the airlines and travel agents listed below:

All Time Travel +856 (0)21 453333-5 / +856 (0)20 59793789

Joy Travel +856 (0)21 252524 / +856 (0)21 218571

Lin Travel +856 (0)20 5942 9515 / +856 (0)20 5942 6615

Lao Airlines Call Centre 1626

S&T Travel +856 (0)20 5567 7938

Ticket Lao +856 (0)20 5255 8787

Other agents may be available.

If your return journey to the UK transits another country, you should check whether it is subject to a travel ban or any other additional requirements, before committing to flights. Restrictions are liable to change and therefore you should stay up to date with our travel advice for countries that you will be transiting.

Lao Government COVID-19 regulations require that you inform the Embassy if you’re departing Laos.

If you are leaving Laos, email BritishEmbassy.Vientiane@fcdo.gov.uk with your full name, contact telephone number, passport number, flight details and a scan or photograph of the identification page of your passport. Please contact the Embassy at least 7 working days before your departure.

The Embassy will inform the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs of departing British nationals as required by the Lao government.

Further information

The British Embassy Vientiane will also issue urgent updates on the UKinLaos Facebook page.

Crime

The local equivalent to the UK ‘999’ emergency lines are: 1190 for fire, 1195 for ambulance and for police: 1191, 241162, 241163, 241164, and 212703. The Tourist Police can be contacted in Vientiane on 021-251-128.

Petty crime can occur, especially in tourist areas and outside banks after customers have withdrawn money. When you’re withdrawing money from ATMs or across the counter be aware of who may be watching. Try to have someone with you and avoid carrying passport, debit and credit cards, and cash in the same bag, to prevent a total loss. There has been an increase in reports of random bag snatches in 2020, many being carried out by people on motorcycles. Take sensible precautions, hold your bags on the side away from the road, and do not have valuables on display.

Safes provided in hotels and guesthouses aren’t necessarily secure. Consider using your own lock where possible. Take care of your possessions if you’re travelling long distances, or overnight, by public transport. Be particularly vigilant travelling at night by bicycle or motorcycle, especially if you’re alone. Stick to well-used, well lit roads and carry a personal alarm if possible. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid unlit roads, especially if you’re alone.

Do not leave your passport as a deposit or guarantee when hiring motorcycles. There have been reports of rental companies arranging for rented motorcycles to be deliberately stolen or damaged resulting in the retention of the passport and payment of a heavy fine. Always make sure your travel insurance covers medical and other costs associated with motorcycle rental and accidents.

Local law enforcement responses to crimes, even violent crimes, are often limited. Foreigners attempting to report crimes have reported finding police stations closed, emergency telephone numbers unanswered, or police lacking transportation or authorisation to investigate crimes that occur at night.

Political situation

Specific events or political disputes may trigger violent protests. You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. Keep yourself informed of local developments.

Local travel

Unexploded mines and ordinances are a hazard throughout Laos, and kill about 50 people each year. The risk is particularly high in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars), Luang Prabang Province and areas of the Lao-Vietnamese border, formerly the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mined areas are often unmarked. Do not stray off main routes in rural areas, and do not pick up metal objects.

There have been attacks on infrastructure and armed clashes with anti-government groups reported as recently as March 2021 in Xaisomboun Province. Further skirmishes may occur.

Take care near the border with Myanmar. This is a well-known drugs trade-route where armed groups operate.

There have been small-scale clashes between anti-government groups and government troops in isolated areas along the Lao-Thai border. The local law enforcement agencies have limited capability to counter these threats.

You should get permission from the village chief, district head, provincial governor or national tourism authority for any travel perceived as out of the ordinary, including business, extensive photography, or scientific research of any kind.

You may be stopped by the police at any time, particularly in the evening, and asked to show identification papers before being allowed to travel on. You should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.

In 2016, there were a number of roadside attacks along Route 13 between Kasi and Phou Kon in Vientiane Province. Although none have been reported recently, you should be vigilant and take extra care if you travel on this road.

Drugs

There have been some incidents where tourists have had drinks or food spiked with drugs. Never leave food or drink unattended. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers at bars, clubs, restaurants and parties.

All recreational drugs are illegal in Laos and penalties are harsh with a number of Lao nationals having been sentenced to the death penalty in 2019.

Air travel

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

In 2015 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Laos.

The FCDO can not offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.

A departure tax is now included in the price of the air ticket and is no longer paid separately in cash.

Road travel

Roads in Laos are in poor condition and vehicles are not generally maintained to UK standards. Other road users might not show the same level of consideration as in the UK. Travel after dark significantly increases the risk of an accident as vehicles often do not have lights. Livestock also stray on to the roads causing accidents.

The recently opened Vientiane to Vang Vieng section of the China-Laos Expressway is the first contained high-speed road in Laos, with posted speed limits between 80 and 120km/h. Take care when using this route, as some local users will be unfamiliar with this type of carriageway, and there are vehicle restrictions in place. There have also been reports of animals straying onto the carriageways.

You should also be aware that social media posts regarding the time taken to transit this road are visible to law enforcement officers, and may be used in traffic offence prosecutions.

Motorbike rentals might not automatically provide a helmet, budget to purchase one locally. Take extra care when using public transport or shared vehicles, which might be overcrowded and unsafe. You can report road accidents to a dedicated police number +856 20 5666 9090.

If you’re involved in a road accident you will have to pay compensation for third party property damage and injury, even if you’re 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.

Water-based activities

Travel on the Mekong River by speedboat and slow-boat can be dangerous, especially when water levels are low. Make sure you travel with a company that provides lifejackets.

White water rafting, kayaking, tubing and other water-based activities, including swimming in the Mekong, are dangerous and incidents of drowning and serious injuries have been reported. Laos does not have the same health and safety expectations as in the UK. There might not be warning signs or safety advice provided, even where it’s needed. Take great care and check your travel insurance policy to ensure that you’re covered for these activities.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Laos, attacks can not be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry requirements in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Laos

The government of the Lao PDR has suspended the visa on arrival service at all international entry points. No visas are being issued to people travelling from a country with cases of COVID-19, including the UK. However, the Lao authorities may consider granting special entry permission for foreigners (e.g. experts, technicians and foreign nationals that are needed for essential projects) who wish to come to Laos.

Entry procedures for Laos visa-holders:

  • all foreigners must present a Certificate of Entry (issued by the MFA); a completed Health Declaration form; and a ‘Fit to Fly’ Certificate issued no more than 72 hours prior to travel. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test
  • all arrivals will be subject to a COVID-19 test at their own expense. Positive cases will be admitted to hospital for treatment
  • all negative cases have to undergo 14 days quarantine at designated locations (with all expenses covered by individuals or their organisations/companies)

The application form for the health declaration is available on the official website for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Due to the impacts of coronavirus the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to extend visas in country and be flexible if visas cannot be extended before the due date for operational reasons because of the new regulations.

Screening on arrival

There is compulsory testing for COVID-19 on arrival in Laos at your own expense. Those testing positive will be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Enhanced health screening is in place at border crossings between Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam where restricted access is allowed. You should allow additional time to include this possibility and check with your airline if travelling by air.

Anybody travelling to Laos with a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, and a travel history from coronavirus affected countries, will be isolated in hospital and tested. The hospitals being used are Mittaphab, Mahosot, Setthathirath and the National Military Hospital (103).

Quarantine requirements

All arrivals testing negative for COVID-19 will have to undergo 14 days quarantine at designated locations, which include hotels (with all expenses covered by individuals or their organisations/companies). A mandatory tracking device is fitted on arrival (a rental fee applies) to be worn during quarantine.

All travellers must have insurance covering COVID-19; a suitable policy is available for purchase on arrival.

Testing on departure

There is no compulsory COVID testing on departure from Laos. You should check all conditions of air ticket purchases carefully with airlines as some may need evidence of a negative COVID test to travel.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

Visa conditions change regularly. For the most up to date information, contact the nearest Lao Embassy or Consulate.

If you’re eligible for a visa when you enter Laos, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Not having a legitimate entry stamp could lead to arrest or a large fine.

In normal circumstances, overstaying your visa is a serious offence in Laos and the police are likely to issue heavy fines and detain those who are caught. Tourist visas can be extended 2 times and up to a total of 90 days. Tourists need to check in with the immigration every 30 days in order to obtain this extension.

It has been announced that previously suspended overstay fees will be reintroduced. You should ensure your visa is up to date or confirm any arrangement you have in place with the Immigration department.

Passport validity

Your passport should have at least 6 months’ validity remaining on your date of entry into Laos.

Additionally, be aware that a number of airlines will now only allow boarding of flights to Laos if you have two blank pages in your passport.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Laos. If you’re planning to enter Laos using a UK ETD you should contact the nearest Lao embassy or consulate to get the appropriate visa before you travel.

If your passport has been lost or stolen, you must report the loss or theft to the nearest police station and get a police report. You’ll then need to get a certificate of loss from the Immigration Department in Vientiane which usually takes 1 to 2 working days.

After getting an ETD from the British Embassy, you’ll need to get an exit visa from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs which takes up to 3 days.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Laos on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Laos.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Health risks

UK health authorities have classified Laos as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website

Dengue and malaria are endemic and visitors should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitos through the use of deterrents and mosquito nets, whilst anti-malarial treatments are recommended in some areas.

Water borne, food borne and other infectious diseases are common and serious outbreaks occur from time to time.

There have been outbreaks of avian influenza (also known as bird flu) in poultry in Laos. The risk to humans is very low, but as a precaution you should avoid contact with domestic, caged or wild birds and make sure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

Air quality

Regional air pollution, up to unhealthy levels, can affect areas of Laos, and may aggravate heart, lung or respiratory conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can find advice on air quality and possible mitigation on the World Health Organization (WHO) website. You can check air quality levels for some cities in Laos in real time on the World Air Quality Index website.

Medical treatment

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.

There are no proper mental health services or care facilities in Laos. Professional treatment including medication is difficult and expensive to obtain. Emergency mental health treatment is likely to need transfer to a country offering appropriate facilities. Always make sure your travel insurance policy covers any pre-existing mental health conditions.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 1195 or 030 5257239 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. You may be asked to pay for the use of an ambulance and any treatment you may need in advance. Usually you will get a receipt that can be used to claim on your insurance.

Voluntary ambulance services also operate in Vientiane free of charge:

  • Vientiane Rescue (telephone: 1623 or (0)20 5666 8825)
  • Lao Red Cross Rescue (telephone: +856 (0)20 5996 6111 or (0)20 2200 5563

Note that these phone lines and emergency services telephone numbers are not staffed by English speakers. Make sure anyone attending an accident is wearing a uniform identifying themselves as ‘Vientiane Rescue’ or ‘Lao Red Cross’. There have been reports of bogus companies who aren’t trained in first aid charging for attending accidents.

International clinics, large hospitals and larger pharmacies are able to fulfil or source most prescription requirements. In more remote areas this may be more difficult, please plan ahead before travelling.

Carry an ID document or passport at all times. You will receive a heavy fine if you do not present ID on request.

Do not get involved with drugs. There have been a number of occasions where British nationals have suffered fatal overdoses from very small quantities. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of drugs are serious offences. Those caught face lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty.

The Lao government prohibits sexual relationships between foreign and Lao nationals, except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao family law. Permission for marriage or engagement to a Lao national must be submitted in a formal application to the Lao authorities.  Penalties for engaging in prohibited sexual contact or failing to register a relationship range from US$500 to US$5,000 and may also involve imprisonment. It is not unknown for Lao authorities to demand entry into hotel rooms or guesthouses where they suspect this regulation is being broken.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organisation of LGBT events in Laos. LGBT Pride was held by ‘Proud To Be Us Laos’ in 2012 and 2013. However, progress was stopped after their partner organisations became concerned about the reaction from government. Proud To Be Us Laos continue to raise awareness about LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS among the LGBT community. More local information can be found on their Facebook page. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Photographing or visiting military sites is prohibited and can result in arrest or detention. This includes photographing anything that can be perceived as a military site like bridges or airfields.

When visiting temples and religious sites, wear suitable clothing and be respectful of the Lao culture. For example refrain from photographing monks around temples and during alms giving ceremonies. Women should also cover their shoulders, including when swimming in waterfalls.

Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities are harsh, with limited access to healthcare. If a British national is arrested and detained in Laos, the Laos authorities must inform the British Embassy on the prisoner’s formal request. However, it can take several weeks or months for the British Embassy to be formally notified and the Embassy often learns of an arrest informally from friends or family.

Monsoon season

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

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can not provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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