- Normal precautions
- High degree of caution
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Do not travel
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws and Customs
- Natural Disasters and Climate
- Additional Information
- Embassy Contact
General Travel Advice
Visa-on-arrival and e-Visa are available for travel to Lao PDR from Ireland. E-visa can be obtained before your departure. All visitors to Lao PDR must hold a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the time of entry into Laos and contain at least two blank pages for a visa stamp. Passport cards cannot be used.
For more information on visas and passports, please see the Additional Information tab.
Visitors to Laos are advised to follow the guidance of national and local authorities and stay fully informed of what's going on by monitoring local news and social media.
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.
You can contact the emergency services in Laos by dialling:
- Police: 1191, 241162, 241163, 241164, and 212703
- Tourist Police: 021-251-128
- Fire brigade: 1190
- Ambulance: 1195
Our tips for Safe Travels:
- Get comprehensive travel insurance that covers all your planned activities.
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
- Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.
As there is no Irish Embassy in Laos, we are limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Vietnam.
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Safety and security
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 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Natural disasters and climate
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.
Entry requirements (visa/passport)
Visa-on-arrival and e-Visa are available for travel to Lao PDR from Ireland. E-visa can be obtained before your departure at https://laoevisa.gov.la/index
Tourist visas can only be extended twice in-country. Be aware that if you do not renew your visa within 90 days, new regulations set a fine of 2 million LAK, deportation to your home country and a ban on returning to Lao PDR.
All visitors to Lao PDR must hold a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the time of entry into Laos and contain at least two blank pages 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.
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.
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.
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, 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 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.
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.
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.
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
41A Ly Thai To
Hoan Kiem District
Monday to Friday 09:00am to 12pm
Get travel and medical insurance
Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.