Laos — Visas and Vaccinations
All travelers to Laos require a visa with the exception of ASEAN citizens. It is possible to obtain one ahead of time from the Lao Embassy in Washington DC, but it is equally easy to get one upon arrival from Wattay International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport or at Nong Khai (Friendship Bridge), the land-crossing from Thailand. You will need two passport photos and US $35-42 in cash (prices vary according to nationality and may change so check with the Embassy before traveling). Visas are generally good for 30 days with a fee of US $10 for every day you overstay.
Health and Safety
Generally Laos is safe for travelers. However, note that it’s a poor country and opportunistic crime can occur. Usual precautions should be taken, such as not wearing flashy jewelry, carrying a lot of cash or walking alone at night. Bag snatching by motorcycle gangs does occur, so keep purses close to your body.
Dengue fever spread by mosquitoes is a problem in Laos and visitors should always use bug spray and wear long pants and long sleeves, especially during the rainy season (mornings and early evenings are high risk periods). Children are especially prone to bites so be extra cautious.
There are still many landmines or unexploded ordinance (UXOs) in Laos. This is less a problem around Vientiane, but more prevalent in sparsely populated areas. especially in the Xieng Khong province. When visiting high risk areas, always stay on designated footpaths and do not stray into areas that are overgrown.
Tourists die every year from water sports in the rivers. Use common sense and never jump into unknown waters as depths can vary greatly and are difficult to judge. River activities during the rainy season can be especially dangerous, with flash floods and sudden debris floating downstream. Always go with an accredited guide or tour operator.
The standards of medical care in Laos are lower than other international destinations. There are clinics, but treatment can be expensive and for serious injuries or illnesses visitors may have to be evacuated to Bangkok. This can be very costly so be sure to buy travel health insurance.