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.
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 and don’t venture off well-used roads.
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
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. Please be aware that the nearest Irish Embassy is in Hanoi, Vietnam, dealing with a lost or stolen passport can be extremely inconvenient for you and can take time to resolve.
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. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Hanoi if you need help.
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 cattle tend to stray on to the roads
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.
Wed, 20 Jul 2016 16:47:50 BST