Laos

Laos

Use Normal Level of Caution
Avoid Travel to the following provinces: Xaisômboun

The Lao People's Democratic Republic is located in Southeast Asia between Thailand and Vietnam. Neighbouring countries include Burma, China, and Cambodia. Laos has a population of approximately 6.8 million.

The government of Laos is a communist single-party state. The president is chief of state, and the prime minister is the head of government.

Laos was ruled by a monarchy that lasted for six centuries. After the fall of Saigon in 1974, the Communist Pathet Lao took control and ended the rule of the monarchy. A strict socialist regime was instituted and was closely aligned to Vietnam.

Laos' tourism sector has grown in the past 10 years. The country is known for its relaxed lifestyle that has remained simple and traditional. Tourists attractions are the the ancient monasteries and temples, hill tribes, Plain of Jars, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Wat Phu and Luang Prabang, to name a few.

Currency LAK: Kip
Language Lao
Capital Vientiane
Recent Alerts 2
Latest Alert November 15, 2019 - Dengue Fever in Laos - Latest Information

Diseases To Be Aware Of

The diseases listed below are those which occur most often in Laos. Other, less frequently encountered diseases might be displayed within the Travel Alerts section if they have occurred recently.

Hepatitis A

There is a significant risk for hepatitis A virus exposure in Laos through contaminated food or water. Infection can still occur at tourist destinations and resorts.

Hepatitis B

There is a significant risk for acquiring hepatitis B in Laos.

Typhoid Fever

Unvaccinated people can become infected through contaminated food and water in Laos, especially when visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where water and food sources may be contaminated.

Malaria

There is a risk of malaria in all areas of Laos, except the city of Vientiane. There is a high risk of malaria along the Laos/Myanmar border in the provinces of Bokeo and Louang Namtha; along the Laos-Thailand border in the provinces of Champasak and Saravan; along the Laos-Cambodia border; and along the Laos-Vietnam border.

Dengue Fever

Dengue fever outbreaks occur year-round throughout Laos, and the risk to travellers is significant.

Japanese encephalitis

There is limited data available on Japanese encephalitis in Laos, however, the disease is presumed to occur countrywide from May to October. The risk for travellers is low, but extensive outdoor activity in rural areas will increase this risk.

Chikungunya Fever

Outbreaks of this disease usually occur during the tropical rainy season, however, outbreaks can occur during the dry season as well.

Schistosomiasis

In Laos, schistosomiasis occurs on Không Island in the Mekong River and in the districts of Pakxé and Bassac. This disease is acquired through contact with fresh water, such as swimming, bathing, or rafting. Well-chlorinated swimming pools and contact with saltwater in oceans or seas will not put travellers at risk for schistosomiasis.

Tuberculosis

Travellers to Laos are at risk for tuberculosis if visiting sick friends or family, working in the health care field, or having close prolonged contact with the general population.

Yellow Fever

There is no risk of yellow fever transmission in this country. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever virus transmission.

Rabies

Rabies occurs in this country. Travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk.

Cholera

Cholera may occur in this country.

Zika Fever

There is transmission of the Zika virus in this country.

Polio

Although no human cases of wild polio virus have been reported in Laos, this country has recently reported cases of polio acquired from a polio vaccine strain.

Vaccinations to Consider

The following is a list of recommended vaccinations for travelling to Laos.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

There is a significant risk of exposure to hepatitis A for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

There is a significant risk of infection with hepatitis B for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

There is no risk of yellow fever transmission in this country. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever virus transmission.

Typhoid Fever Vaccine

There is a risk of exposure to typhoid fever in this country through consumption of unsafe food and water. Since exposure to unsafe sources is variable within this country, the vaccination against typhoid fever is generally recommended, especially when visiting smaller cities or rural areas, where food and water sources may be contaminated.

Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

There is limited data available on Japanese encephalitis in Laos. Travellers who engage in extensive outdoor activities in rural areas during the months of May to October may have increased risk, and vaccination is recommended.

Rabies Vaccine

Vaccination against rabies is recommended for travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) who may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk and should be vaccinated.

Polio Vaccine

All travellers to Laos should make sure they have had a polio-containing vaccine in the past 10 years and that children have had a full course of the vaccine.

Cholera Vaccine

The U.K. NaTHNaC recommends the oral cholera vaccine for some travellers whose activities or medical history put them at increased risk, travelling to areas of active cholera transmission. These risk factors include: aid workers; those going to areas of cholera outbreaks who have limited access to potable water and medical care; travellers for whom the vaccination would be considered potentially beneficial, such as chronic medical conditions. The U.S. CDC recommends the cholera vaccine for travellers who are 18-64 years of age and who plan to travel to areas of active cholera transmission. CDC notes that most travellers do not travel to areas of active cholera transmission, and that safe food and water practices can prevent many cholera infections.

Medications to Consider

The following is a list of recommended medications for travelling to Laos.

Anti-malarial Drugs

For the high-risk areas, atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline is the recommended anti-malaria medication. For all other areas, atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine is recommended. Drug resistance to chloroquine and mefloquine (P. falciparum) is present.

Safety and Security in Laos

Emergency Numbers

191 or 1191
190 or 1190
1623 or 1624
021-251-128 Vientiane tourist police
195 or 1195
(+856) 20 5666 8825 Vientiene Rescue Team
(+856) 21 212 520 Foreigner Control Police

Response to emergency calls may be limited.

Personal Safety

Petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching, is common in cities, with tourists being the main targets. Travellers should avoid showing signs of affluence, like expensive clothing or jewellery, and ensure their personal belongings and travel documents are safe at all times.

Sexual assaults are being reported more frequently. Women, in particular, should avoid walking alone in isolated areas and after dark. Avoid accepting food or drink from strangers or new acquaintances. There have been reports of drinks being laced with drugs.

It is popular in some areas frequented by tourists to ingest food or beverages that contain opium and other drugs. Travellers should be aware that it is dangerous to ingest any amount of opiates or unknown drugs, particularly in areas where medical facilities are limited. There have been tourist deaths in Laos due to drug overdose from ingesting drug-laced food or drink. Fatal drug overdoses have occurred with very small quantities.

The penalty for using or trafficking drugs is very severe in Laos, including the death penalty.

Road travel can be dangerous due to poor road conditions and vehicle maintenance and reckless driving. Road banditry has been reported. Checkpoints and roadblocks may also occur in some areas and authorities are able to search and detain travellers if identification is not provided. Carry official identification at all times. If you cannot present your identification upon request, you can be heavily fined. Do not travel at night.

Avoid using public transportation as it is unreliable. Boat travel may also be dangerous as safety standards are poor and there have been reports of boats being robbed and shot at.

Exercise extreme caution if participating in outdoor adventure activities as safety standards may not be adequate. Ensure travel and medical insurance are purchase before departing and ensure your insurance policy covers outdoor adventure activities, including medical evacuation.

Travellers should never leave well-used roads and trails due to the risk of unexploded landmines and other munitions, especially in the following areas: the Plains of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province and the Lao-Vietnamese border, including areas formerly traversed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Do not take photos of government or military installations, bridges or airports.

LGBTI travellers should note that although same-sex sexual behaviours are permitted, same-sex marriage is illegal in Laos and same-sex travellers will likely face discrimination.

All travellers should avoid public displays of affection so as to not offend.

Laos experiences a rainy season from May-November. Flooding, landslides, major damage to infrastructure and disruption to travel plans may result. Monitor weather reports closely and follow advice of local authorities.

Tourism infrastructure is limited outside of Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Areas To Avoid

Avoid travelling to Xaisômboun province due to a volatile security situation.

Avoid travelling to areas bordering Myanmar (Burma) due to the high rates of drug trafficking and banditry in these areas.

Avoid travelling to the Mekong Riverbank in Vientiane, as this is known to be a drug smuggling route between Laos and Thailand.

Avoid travelling to the Plains of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province and the Lao-Vietnamese border, including areas along the Ho Chi Minh Trail due to the presence of unexploded ordnances.

Political Unrest

Demonstrations and political gatherings should be avoided as they can become violent with little warning.

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