Laos Risk Report
Security travel advice for Laos
Threat level: Low
The general threat level for Laos is low, however travellers are advised to remain vigilant as there is a high risk of highway robbery. Whilst it is a relatively safe country for travellers in respect of security and terror, you should be aware that certain areas remain restricted because of unexploded mines and other devices left over from previous wars that Laos has been indirectly involved in.
Tourists are an obvious target for thieves and other criminals (who may include your fellow travellers on backpacker style trips), so be sure to take the right precautions to ensure a trouble free trip.
Recent Security Risk Events
In early 2016, Lao military and police officials arrested 29 people in the Laos capital, Vientiane in connection with a bus shooting. As a result of this shooting, one tourist was killed and six were critically injured. Several gunmen opened fire on a tourist bus travelling along route 13 which goes through Kasy district, Vientiane province. The attack is thought to be connected to a series of shootings and bomb attacks aimed at tourist hire vehicles, Chinese contract workers, and also the Lao security forces across districts in the central part of northern Laos since 2015.
The Second Indochina War left the country of Laos with the label of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in the history of warfare. The areas of the country most littered with unexploded ordinance (including mines) are along the border of Vietnam – especially in southern Laos where the border runs parallel to the former Ho Chi Minh Trail.
There is also heavy concentration of unexploded bombs in the Xieng Khuang province in the northeast of Laos.
In recent years, the number of armed robberies of expatriate homes in Vientiane has been increasing, many of which have reportedly occurred during daylight hours. You should ensure that security measures are in place and be vigilant.
Laos has established relations with over 130 countries as well as the European Union. Relations with the People's Republic of China have improved over the years. The two countries were also allies during the Vietnam War. Further relations are enjoyed with many western countries including Australia, Sweden and India.
Relationships between Laos and Canada have been tense for the last year due to recent attacks on Canadian tourists, however the countries are working to improve these.
If you decide to use the Mekong River as a route of travel, be sure to book you boat trips with reputable and insured travel company. A number of western travellers have drowned in the Mekong in the past 2 years.
Banditry is still a very real threat in some parts of Laos. In the past, buses, motorcyclists and private vehicles occupied by foreign tourists on certain highways have been held up, their passengers robbed and, in some instances, murdered and sexually assaulted.
Weather conditions can be adverse between the months of May to November, this can include landslides, heavy rainfall and flooding. Particularly Mekong River basin and the regions mountainous areas.
Currency: Lao Kip
Time now in Vientiane:
Most visitors will require a visa to enter Laos; these can be issued upon arrival and take just a few minutes to process. Visas cost approximately $35 USD and are available to passengers flying into Luang Prabang Airport, Pakse Airport and Wattay Airport in Vientiane. You will also need to provide one passport sized photo to gain your visa and ensure that your passport is stamped upon arrival to the country. Failure to do this could lead to arrest or heavy fines.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the length of your proposed stay.
It is advised that visitors to Laos are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus and Polio, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Reliable medical care in Laos is extremely basic, even within the capital city. Outside of Vientiane there are little to no facilities to deal with medical emergencies; it is important to keep this in mind on your travels and take extra caution to prevent illness or injury wherever possible. Malaria prevention should be considered but is not essential.
U.S. Embassy Vientiane
Telephone: +856 21 267 000
British Embassy Vientiane
Rue Yokkabat Ban,
Phonexay Saysettha District PDR,
Telephone: +856 30 77 00 000
Other useful info
Police emergency: 191
Tourist Police: 192
Fire emergency: 190
Medical emergency: 195
International Clinic of Mahosot Hospital: +856 21 214 022
Mahosot Hospital: +856 21 214 024
Setthathirath Hospital: +856 21 351 156
Mittaphab Hospital: +856 21 710 006