Money matters in Laos

Getting to know about money in Laos is important for travelers visiting this beautiful country. With this basic knowledge about the local currency, you can ensure a hassle-free trip to Laos!

The money using in Laos

The local currency of Laos is the Laos kip, which refers to “LAK” with different denominations including 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000. This country does not use any coins. The thing that makes you surprised when traveling to Laos and changing money is that you eventually find yourself a LAK millionaire as the exchange rate is quite low in comparison with other countries (around 8,000 LAK to 1 USD).

Currency use in Laos

Besides Laos kip, other currencies which are widely used in the country (especially in tourist cities) are US Dollars and Thai Baht. You will need a ready supply of kip notes for use in smaller towns and villages as well as for small purchases.

According to the national law, all goods and services in Laos must have price tags in Laos kip. However, some expensive items can also be tagged in US Dollars or Thai Baht, especially in hotels for tourists. Official receipts and bills are also quoted in Lao kip. Paying in cash for the 1st time traveling to Laos can be a bit confused for tourists due to the very small value of 1 kip. Please, check the number of digits carefully before handling it to avoid misunderstanding.

In Laos, using cash for making the payment is the best choice, especially in remote areas and the countryside. In most big cities, they often show the prices in 3 currencies including Laos kip, US Dollars, and Thai Baht. There is a service charge of around 3% per transaction at some hotels, restaurants, and local shops.

ATMs and Credit cards in Laos

Popular credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted at tourist hotels, local restaurants, and shops in the big cities; American Express, JCB, and Diners Club are also usable somewhere. Money withdrawal from credit cards can be implemented at bank branches and exchange booths in case it is not accepted at ATMs. International ATMs can be found at some banks including ANZ Laos, JDB, BCEL, BFL, and PSV. There are many ATMs in and around Vientiane now, including the Friendship Bridge. BCEL has machines in other provinces including Luang Prabang (also JDB), Pakse (where ANZ also has ATMs), and Vang Vieng. Phongsavanh (PSB) is in Vientiane and some other provinces.

ATMs contain notes in different denominations between 10,000 and 100,000 with various transaction fees and daily limits depending on each bank.

Note that your home country bank or card issuer may also charge an extra fee for transactions in a foreign country, too. Check this before leaving for the trip to get the most appropriate card for use abroad.

bank and atm in laos
A bank with ATM 24/7

Exchange money in Laos

There are banks located in all main towns and these can exchange all major currencies. The best rates can be found in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, where competition is higher than in the rest of the country.

Traveler’s cheques can be cashed in exchange bureaus and banks, which can be found all over Laos and traveler’s cheques in US Dollars, are preferred.

In case you want to keep Lao banknotes, change your remaining into Thai Baht or US Dollars before departure. Remember, they cannot be exchanged outside the territory of Laos, except at Bangkok Bank (in Nong Khai), where you will get about 10% lower than in Laos.

Read more:

Cost in Laos

Laos is an inexpensive country to visit by almost any standards. You can live it up with a budget from US$15 to US$150 depending on your level of taste and comfort.

Street food is cheap and you can fill your stomach with around US$2. A meal in an average restaurant costs you around US$5 to US$8 while it is more in gourmet restaurants. In the bar, it is quite reasonable with US$1 or US$2 for a beer, cocktail from US$2 to US$4.

Bargaining in Laos

If you see an item with a price tag, that means it has a fixed price and you do not need to bargain at all. You are not expected to bargain in a grocery store or restaurant either. The popular venues for bargaining are the local markets, where the price can be changed a little lower though not as much as in other countries in Southeast Asia.

‘Saving your face’ is an important thing that you should remember while traveling to Asia countries, so bargaining should be good-natured. Bargaining is applied for both locals and tourists without exception. Bargain with a smile and a friendly attitude. The point of bargaining is not to make sure the merchant loses money but rather to get a price that both you and the merchant will be satisfied with. Preparing for bargaining in Laos, you should know at least some local language such as how much (tao die), cheap (took), and expensive (peng) which help you to gain worthy rewards.

The percentage of discount that you are able to get may vary from 10% to 50 % or more. And once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Don’t be disappointed if you see other people get a lower price than you did; it just means you have paid the price that is suitable for you.

Tipping in Laos

If you're happy with the services provided, then some tip is appropriate. If you're happy with the services provided, then some tip is appropriate. It shows your great significance and satisfaction to the people who take care of you during the trip, encourages excellent services, and is a deep-rooted factor of the tourism industry.

Although in some hotels or restaurants, a service charge of 5% is sometimes put on your bill but this money most likely not going to the pocket of workers. So, if you are happy with the service provided, tipping should be given directly to the recipient.

The following amounts are recommended per person based on local considerations and collections of feedback from our past travelers:

  • In local restaurants, if you are a single diner, then a tip of around US$1 is appropriated. It is from 10% to 15% of your bill in the more up-market restaurants.
  • If you are in a group then depends on the group size, a gather of US$4 or 5 is good. For drivers, we suggest US$5 if you are a single traveler and an amount of US$10-15 from the whole group per day can be used. For your tour guides or group leaders, tipping is much depending on their services. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however, it is US$5-7 per day or US$2-4 per person in a group tour is appropriate.
  • Of course, tipping is not mandatory at all. Your tip can be more or less depending on your satisfaction regarding the services’ quality and the duration of the trip.

Related Laos tours for you:

Travel Authentic Asia Company is your best choice for discovering the beauty of Southeast Asia. Our experienced and knowledgeable travel advisors are committed to helping you create a tailor-made tour and extraordinary experiences in this majestic region.

If you're looking for an authentic cultural experience, do not hesitate to contact Travel Authentic Asia to choose a Laos tour, Southeast Asia tour package or to customize your own style tour to South East Asia.

Laos bestselling tours