Any tourist planning the Laos holiday must obtain a visa on arrival or apply at one of the Lao consulates or embassies abroad for a visa in advance.
Tourist Visa on Arrival
The quickest and most convenient option is to organize one of thirty-day tourist visas on arrival. This is available at most land borders and international airports (Wattay Airport in Vientiane, Pakse Airport, or Luang Prabang Airport).
For the tourists on the Indochina tour that plan to enter the country from Thailand it is very easy to pick up a visa at one of the foreign-friendly border crossings. A similar arrangement applies to tourists entering from Vietnam with acceptable border crossings, including Lao Bao, Cau Treo, Tay Trang, Bo Y and Nam Khan. Also, travellers from China can use the small border town at Mo Han.
Swiss, Russian, South Korean, Japanese, and ASEAN citizens can experience the Laos tour packages without a need to apply for a visa.
The cost of the visa on arrival is in the region of $35 to $42 with the fee based on the origin of the passport holder. A typical cost is $35. Payment for the Laos visa must take place in US dollars.
The Laos visa on arrival is available to most nationalities, including Australian, North American, and EU citizens.
Visa in advance
To enter Laos from other border crossings that haven’t been mentioned, there is the option to obtain a thirty-day tourist visa from a Lao consulate or embassy.
There are certain countries that must apply for the visa in advance, such as Middle Eastern and African countries.
Beyond the consulate, it is also possible to obtain the visa from an official tour operator. For the travellers in Bangkok, a great place to visit for the visa is Khao San Road, which has numerous travel agents waiting to assist.
Vietnam is a further place to organize the visa with consulates in Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as the Lao embassy in Hanoi. But, the fees quoted in Vietnam are a lot more expensive than in Thailand.
The fee for this type of visa is basically the same as the visa on arrival and can take about three working days to produce – although the fee varies according to nationality ($39.50 for nationals of the US, UK and Ireland; $33.50 for those from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia; and $46.50 for Canadians). Also, the cost of the visa may further increase if using the services of a tour operator to help prepare the relevant paperwork.
If travelling in a major city like Bangkok, the visa can be issued on the same day subject to an extra fee of $5.50. However, the Lao visa prices and regulations are subject to short notice changes, so it benefits to check the latest rules just before planning the Laos tours.
In order to enter Laos, it is a standard requirement to hold a passport that has at least 6 months remaining from the time of leaving the country.
It is generally best to avoid applying for the Laos visa too far in advance. A typical thirty-day visa in advance has to be used within a time-frame of two months from the date of issue.
Non-immigrant and Business visa
A thirty-day business visa is quite quick and easy to apply for and must be accompanied by a sponsoring agency that is located in Laos. This type of Laos visa is relatively easy to extend for a period of up to 12 months.
For the tourists that are enjoying their time in Laos, the thirty-day tourist visa gives the option to be extended for a period of 15-days which costs $2 per day.
However, it is necessary to travel to a major city like Savannakhet, Pakse, Luang Prabang, or Vientiane in order to complete the required paperwork. One of the most convenient options is to visit Vientiane and make your way to the immigration office located on Hatsady Rd.
A further option is to leave and re-enter the country for a short period, which might be the more cost-effective option for the tourists looking to extend the visa for 20 days or more. Alternatively, a local travel agent can be used, but this will likely turn out to be the more expensive option with the fee increasing to approx $4 per day.
Overstaying the visa
Even thought staying in the country beyond the period of the Laos visa isn’t seen as a major crime, it can turn out to be quite expensive. The cost of overstaying is $10 per day, which must be paid when departing the country at the relevant immigration checkpoint.
The inspections by customs at ports are quite lax and aren’t too concerned with tourists that are travelling with a moderate amount of luggage. General rules include not entering the country with 1L or more of distilled spirits and 500 or more cigarettes. Also, the standard rules apply in relation to prohibited items like pornography, weapons and drugs.
It is rarely a requirement to provide proof of sufficient funds to last the duration of the Laos private tour, but in case it is requested when passing through customs, it may benefit to have a few salary slips or bank statements to hand.
Entry with pets
It is possible to enter Laos with a pet(s), but it is a requirement to hold a veterinary certificate, while also abiding by local quarantine rules.
Entry with children
For the adults that are entering the country alone with a child it may be a requirement to provide documentary proof of parental responsibility in order to gain entry to the Laos. For this reason, it may be worth bringing along the relevant paperwork in case it is needed.