Despite being one of the cheapest countries in South East Asia, Laos can be one the hardest nations for money management. This is mostly because the tourist-heavy, tube loving party-town of Vang Vieng, the expensive hippie Utopia of Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Laos’ the on-the-rise capital, are a world away economically than almost everywhere else in the country. So knowing much cash you might need in your pocket/on your card or how you’re even going to get that cash can be tricky.
So, to help you avoid this trickiness we’ve written this guide to give you a helping hand with managing your Kip.
|Currency in Laos||Kip (LAK)|
|Budget Accommodation||£4-8 per night for hostel/guesthouse|
|Bottle of Water||£0.27|
* Prices based on Vientiane
Kip Banknote Denominations: 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000. (and some less used ones: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 100,000)
Thai Baht and US Dollars are also commonly accepted.
Cash or Card?
You will use cash for pretty much every purchase in Laos. Credit and Debit card use is improving but this is limited to larger hotels and businesses, most of whom will charge a 3% fee, and that is if the machine is working. Carry a good mix of dollars and Kip, preferably lower denomination notes. Pay for small purchases in Kip and save the dollars for medium to larger transactions. Even your visa on arrival will need to be paid for in cash and dollars will be your best bet.
In recent years, ATMs have sprung up all over Laos and are now available in all but the most remote villages. There’s a kicker though. A lot of them only dispense a maximum of around £85 at a time (although in bigger towns and cities this can sometimes rise up to around £180).
Oh, and there’s another kicker. A lot of them charge quite a bit to withdraw cash with no standard price across the country. This combo could end up costing you a pretty penny, so we’d advise withdrawing a larger sum of money in a neighbouring country and exchanging it.
Always choose the local currency (by local we mean USD or Kip) rather than your home currency. If you do not you may face a fee known as Dynamic Currency Conversion. This can really add up over the length of your trip.
- Travelling around Laos has the added complication of an economy that likes to use two extra currencies. Thai baht and US dollars are widely in circulation and any purchases over $100 will be quoted as such.
- Despite an increasingly booming tourist trade, Laos remains one of the poorest countries in the world and, as such, attempting to buy a can of Coke with a 100,000 kip will not go down well as many small vendors just won’t have the change.
- When it comes to changing your dollars into kip, however, the opposite is true. The exchange rate will be marginally better when changing $50 and $100 bills than 10s and 20s. As an extra mini-tip, avoid trying to change any currency that isn’t dollars outside of Vientiane or Luang Prabang as you, erm, can’t.