Visa Requirements for Laos

Laos national flag waving in karst formation mountain
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Except for most Southeast Asian countries and a handful of European countries, almost everyone who enters Laos needs a visa. However, it's easy to get one online or upon arrival. Southeast Asia's only landlocked country gets plenty of visitor traffic from its overland crossings from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Travelers on the famed Banana Pancake backpacking trail also approach the Laotian border by bus and boat.

The only people who don't need a visa for Laos are travelers with passports from Japan, Russia, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Brunei, and Myanmar. American citizens are eligible to apply for an eVisa ahead of their trip or can obtain a visa on arrival. When applying for any kind of Laotian visa you will need your passport details, two passport-sized photographs, and your application fee.

Visa Requirements for Laos
Visa Type How Long Is It Valid? Required Documents Application Fees
eVisa 30 days Passport bio page and a standard passport-size photo $50
Visa on Arrival 30 days Two passport-size photos, proof of accommodation $50
Study Visa One year Two passport-size photos, proof on enrollment in a Laotian course  
Business Visa Three months to one year Proposal form, passport-sized photos, proof of travel arrangements,   

eVisa

As long as your country is eligible for a visa on arrival, you can apply for an eVisa before you arrive in Laos. The application fees vary by country, but for Americans, the fee is $50. However, an eVisa will limit your entry points into Laos to the Wattay International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport, or the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. The eVisa is only good for single-entry into Laos, so if you want to visit another country and then return, you will need to apply again.

Using the official government eVisa application website, you can fill out your application, attach your photograph, and pay the $50 fee online. If you're traveling as a group, you can apply for a maximum of five people per application. Your visa will allow you to stay in Laos for up to 30 days, but it will expire after 60 days of your initial approval, so you don't want to apply for it too far ahead of your trip.

After submitting your application, you should receive your approval letter within three business days by e-mail. You'll need to print this out before your trip and have it on hand to show to the Immigration Officer when you enter Laos. It will not be accepted unless it's printed out. When you arrive at the airport or border, look for the line that specifies eVisa entires.

Visa on Arrival

If you don't have time to apply and be approved for an eVisa before you enter Laos, you can get your visa at the airport or another entry point. However, you will need to have two passport-sized photographs and a confirmation of your accommodation with you when you fill out the application. If you don't have a photo with you, you'll be charged an extra fee.

When you arrive at the entry point, go to the line for "on arrival" visas, where you'll fill out the application form and submit your documents. You'll also need to pay the fee in cash with U.S. dollars, Laotian Kip, or Thai Baht.

Generally, you should do your best to obtain your visa before you arrive in Laos since you'll be able to bypass long lines at the border. However, if you are entering via an entry point that does not process eVisas, you'll have no choice but to apply for the visa on arrival unless you secure a visa with the Laotian embassy or consulate before your departure.

Student Visa

A student visa will allow you to stay in Laos for up to one year, but you'll have to contact the Laotian embassy directly to apply. Not much information has been published by the Laotian government about the student visa online, but if you are accepted into a program at a Laotian university, you should contact the school for more information.

Business Visa

If you are visiting Laos with the intention to invest in the country, you'll need to apply for a business visa after you arrive. This means that first, you'll need to enter with a standard tourist visa and then visit the embassy to learn how to apply for your investor's visa, which will allow you to stay in-country from three months to up to a year. That being said, some investment experts warn that obtaining a long-term visa in Laos for business can be "a complete headache."

Visa Overstays

If you overstay your visa in Lao, you will be fined $10 for every day you stay past your visa. This will be immediately noticeable to the immigration officers at the border and in addition to the fine, you also risk being arrested.

Visa Extensions

If you want to stay in Laos beyond the 30 days of your tourist visa, you can apply for an extension at the Department of Immigration in Vientiane, although the process is not completely straightforward. Travelers have been turned away from this office because of absent personnel, so plan for your visa extension to avoid getting fined for unintentionally overstaying. Tourist visas may be extended up to an additional 60 days at the cost of $2 per day. You'll need to bring your passport, a passport photo, a service fee of $3, and enough money to pay for the entire extension upfront.

Article Sources
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  1. Lao Embassy. "Lao Visa" July 24, 2019.

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