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Laos

The Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) is a poor, developing country ruled by an authoritarian, Communist, one-party government. Political power is centralized in the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. Services and facilities for tourists are adequate in the capital, Vientiane, and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, but are extremely limited in other parts of the country. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Laos for additional information.

Laos

   
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 COUNTRY OVERVIEW
Country Name: Laos
Continent: Asia
Capital City: Vientiane
Boundary Countries: Burma, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vietnam
Recommended Hospitals in Capital:
Main Cities: Vientiane, Luang Phrabang, Savannakhet, Pakse
Country Size: 236,800 sq km
Population: 6,068,117

 

COUNTRY GENERAL INFORMATION
Language:

Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages

Currency: Lao Kip (LAK)
Predominant Religions:

Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5%

National Holidays: Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
Economic Status:

The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party Communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986.

Security:

Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force

US Presence: Americans living or traveling in Laos are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Laos. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Rue Bartholonie (near Tat Dam), in Vientiane; from the U.S., mail may be addressed to U.S. Embassy Vientiane, Unit 8165, Box V, APO AP 96546; Telephone (856-21) 267-000, recorded emergency information for American citizens (856-21) 267-111; duty officer emergency cellular telephone (856-20) 550-2016; Embassy-wide fax number (856-21) 267-190; Consular Section e-mail: CONSLAO@state.gov, Embassy web site: http://laos.usembassy.gov/.
Document Requirements:

A passport and visa are required.  The Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that visas can be issued upon arrival in Laos to U.S. citizen tourists with two passport-size photographs and $35 at the following ports of entry: Wattay Airport, Vientiane; Pakse, Savannakhet, and Luang Prabang Airports; Friendship Bridge, Vientiane and Savannakhet; and land-border crossings at Boten-Bohan and Vangtao-Chong Mek, and at the ferry crossing at Thakhaek-Nakhorn Phanom.  Visa on arrival is also available at the Tha Naleng train station in Vientiane, which connects to the train station in Nongkhai, Thailand.  Persons who have obtained an entry visa prior to their arrival in Laos may also enter at the following international entry points: Chiang Saen-Huaixay, Khammouane-Nakhonphanom, Savannakhet-Mukdahan, Daensayanh-Laobao, Namphao-Kaopae, and Namkan.  Foreign tourists are generally admitted to Laos for 30 days. U.S. citizens born in Laos may be admitted for 60 days or longer.  The Department of Immigration in Vientiane will extend 30-day tourist visas up to an additional 60 days for a fee of $2 per day.  Foreigners who overstay their visas in Laos risk arrest and upon departure will be fined $10 for each day of overstay.  The Lao government requires payment of visa fees and fines in U.S. dollars.  Thai baht and Lao kip may sometimes be accepted for the fees, but at unfavorable exchange rates.

Foreign tourists who wish to obtain a visa in advance may contact a Lao embassy or consulate. In the United States, visas and further information about Lao entry requirements can be obtained directly from the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, 2222 S St. NW, Washington DC 20008, tel: 202-332-6416, fax: 202-332-4923.  U.S. citizens who enter Laos with visitor visas issued at a Lao embassy abroad are permitted to remain in Laos for 60 days.

Business visas can only be arranged in advance; a company or individual “sponsor” must contact the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Vientiane and request a visa for the traveler by offering a “guarantee”.  Once this request is approved by the MFA, the approval will be communicated to the Lao Embassy in Washington, DC, and the U.S. traveler may then apply for the business visa.  This process normally takes 1-3 months.  After the traveler’s arrival, these visas can usually be extended for one month.

U.S. citizens should not attempt to enter Laos without valid travel documents or outside of official ports of entry.  Travelers should not cross the border between Laos and Thailand along the Mekong River except at official immigration check crossings.  Persons attempting to enter Laos outside of official ports of entry may be arrested, detained, fined and deported.

Immigration offices at some of the less-used land border crossing points are not well marked.  Travelers should make sure that they complete immigration and customs formalities when they enter or depart Laos.  Travelers who enter Laos without completing these formalities may be subject to fine, detention, imprisonment, and/or deportation.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.  These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship, such as the child’s birth certificate, and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present.  Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

At Wattay Airport (Vientiane), Pakse Airport, Savannakhet Airport, and the Luang Prabang Airport, there is an international airport departure tax of US$10.  This tax may be included in the price of the airline ticket, depending on the carrier.  At the Friendship Bridge (Vientiane, Laos - Nong Khai, Thailand border crossing) there is an overtime fee after 4:00 pm weekdays and during weekends.  Visit Lao Embassy’s web site for the more visa information.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Laos.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

Major Airports:

Airports:  46, Airports w/paved runways:  9

Vientiane – Wattay International Airport (VTE/VLVT)
Vientiane Airport, Laos, BP 119, c/o Direction Aviation Civile, Vientiane LAOS
Tel: +856 (0)2020, +856 (0)2467

Servicing Airlines:
Risks and Precautions:

In recent years (2003-2005), there were periodic incidents of attacks on buses and other vehicles that killed 22 people; small bombings in public places; and other incidents of violence by anti-government forces. In 2007, the Embassy received reports from multiple sources of sporadic fighting between Lao Government forces and unidentified opponents in the area of Vang Vieng in northern Vientiane Province and in Bokeo Province. The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Laos exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings, since the locations of future violent incidents are unpredictable. Travelers are advised to be cautious when traveling the roads of Laos and to check with local authorities, transport companies, other travelers, and/or the Embassy regarding any recent developments prior to travel. Road obstacles such as changes in surface conditions due to the weather occur frequently.
The Lao Government security forces often stop and check all transport on main roads. Travelers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.
More than 100 casualties per year are caused by the large amount of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos left over from the Indochina War.
U.S. citizens considering travel by air, road or river within Laos are advised to carefully evaluate the relative risks of the three modes of transport (see sections on Aviation Safety Oversight, Traffic Safety, and River Travel below). Travelers should also exercise caution if contemplating swimming in rivers in Laos. Currents can be deceptive and strong.
The whereabouts of three Hmong-American men who went missing in August 2007 after reportedly going on a business trip to Xieng Khouang Province remains unknown. The Government of Laos stated that the three departed Laos, but none of the three has contacted family members in the U.S. since they were last seen in 2007.
U.S. citizens are also advised to exercise caution in remote areas along the Lao border with Burma. Bandits, drug traffickers, and other people pursuing illegal activities operate in these border areas, as do armed insurgent groups opposed to the government of Burma.  Travelers should be aware that from 2004 to 2006, seven Lao- and Hmong-American citizens have been murdered in northern and northeastern Thailand near the border with Laos.  During the same period, a number of non-Americans with ties to Laos have also been murdered in this region of Thailand.

CRIME:  While Laos generally has a low rate of violent crime, it is not immune from crime. While in Laos, Americans should remain aware of their surroundings and exercise appropriate security precautions. With the introduction of methamphetamines and other illicit drugs, thefts and assaults in Vientiane have increased and some have turned violent.

 

Mortality Statistics:

Infant MR total:  87.06 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:  TOTAL 54.69 yrs  (male 52.71/female 56.75)

Immunization Indicators:

Required:  None

Recommended:  Hep A & B, Malaria, Typhoid, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis
Boosters:  MMR, DPT, poliovirus

Infectious Disease Concerns:

Malaria risk area in Laos: All, except no risk in the city of Vientiane. If you will be visiting a malaria risk area in Laos, you will need to take one of the following antimalarial drugs: Only atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline in the provinces of Bokèo and Louang Namtha along the Laos- Burma border and along the Laos-Thailand border in the province of Saravane and Champassack. All other areas: atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline or mefloquine (primaquine in special circumstances and only after G6PD testing) (see map). Note: Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in Laos and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region. Dengue, chikungunya, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites (see below) will help to prevent these diseases. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) to avoid infection with schistosomiasis. Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection often contracted through recreational water activities in contaminated water, such as kayaking, is common in tropical areas of Southeast Asia. (For more information, please see Swimming and Recreational Water Safety.) Overall degree of risk: very high

Overall Quality of Medical Services:

Medical facilities and services in Laos are limited and do not meet Western standards. There is a problem with counterfeit pharmaceuticals throughout Southeast Asia. American citizens should be aware of this problem and purchase pharmaceuticals only through the most reputable pharmacies with a physician's prescription.

Providers in Network:
Direct Payment: 0
Referrals: 9
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Recent Medical Threats/ Concerns/Warnings:

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) continues to cause outbreaks in domestic and wild bird populations and has caused human cases in several countries in Southeast Asia. In 2006, the virus continued to spread in poultry populations in Indonesia. Avoid all direct contact with birds, including domestic poultry (such as chickens and ducks) and wild birds, and avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live birds are raised or kept. For a current list of countries reporting outbreaks of H5N1 among poultry and/or wild birds, view updates from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and for total numbers of confirmed human cases of H5N1 virus by country see the World Health Organization (WHO) Avian Influenza website. Measles transmission persists in the region, although vaccination coverage is improving in some countries in Southeast Asia. Influenza infections can occur throughout the year in tropical areas. Polio resurfaced in Indonesia in 2005. Imported cases in neighboring countries have occasionally occurred.

Communications Info:

Country Calling Code:  +856

Internet Country Code:  .la

 



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