Providing prompt consular assistance within Laos is difficult due to its poorly developed infrastructure.
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Laos. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Lao PDR is a beautiful country which has many attractions for tourists. However, persons planning a trip should take into account the need to ensure that medical matters are addressed before travelling, (such as vaccinations, bringing medication and need for medical insurance cover including medical evacuation) and that appropriate safety measures are taken to make your trip enjoyable and safe. Appropriate care should be taken when travelling around the region. A small number of visitors have suffered the theft of their belongings and or passport. Passports should be kept safely as considerable delay and expense is incurred by those who require a new passport and exit visa.
Safety and Security
Irish citizens travelling to Laos are advised to exercise caution due to ongoing security concerns related to ethnic conflicts, banditry, and unexploded munitions. There have been skirmishes between government forces and unidentified groups along the Lao-Thai border and armed attacks on some routes, including Routes 6, 7 and 13.
You should be aware that landmines and unexploded munitions constitute a risk, particularly in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars), and at the Lao-Vietnamese border areas that were formerly traversed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. You are advised to avoid these areas and not to travel off well-used roads.
Petty crime, including bag snatching occurs frequently. In the lead up to local festivals, such as Lao New Year in April, there is a significant increase in theft and violent crime. The theft of passports is a particular problem. Ensure your insurance covers for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash, cards, passports or luggage.
It is strongly recommended that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance (including medical evacuation) before travelling. You should check any exclusions and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. If you have an unstable medical condition you should seriously consider not travelling to Laos. Medical care in Vientiane is extremely basic and outside the capital there are no reliable facilities to deal with medical emergencies. Medical evacuation is difficult to organise and very expensive. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
To avoid cholera and diarrhoeal illnesses the WHO advises everyone travelling to the province to practise vigilant hygiene: hand-washing with soap before and after eating, cooking and going to the toilet, eating of only thoroughly-cooked foods and drinking of only safe water (bottled or boiled).
Dengue Fever, particularly in Vientiane, is common. There is no vaccine against this disease. You should take care to avoid mosquito bites during the day, especially just after dawn and just before dusk. Further information about dengue fever might be sought on the following website: http://www.who.int/en/ under ‘health topics’.
Malaria is also present; your doctor will advise as to appropriate prophylactic measures or vaccines, depending on the length of your stay and the areas you intend to visit.
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low. No human infections or deaths have been reported. As a precaution, however, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
The majority of roads in Laos are in very poor condition and travel should only be undertaken during daylight hours. Vehicles often do not have lights and cattle stray on to the roads. The number of road accidents in Laos has risen sharply in recent years along with the increase in the number of motor vehicles, especially motorbikes.
Travel on the Mekong river by speedboat is dangerous, especially during the dry season, and you are advised to wear life-vests and crash helmets. Before taking part in any water-based sports or activities, including inner-tubing, please check that your travel insurance will cover you in the event of death or injury to yourself or a third party. In the event of an accident, even where no fault is attributed to you, you should be aware that you are likely to be required to pay compensation for third party injury/damage. You should also be aware that the health and safety requirements in Laos are nowhere near as stringent as in Ireland, and are often neither observed nor enforced. The risk of a serious or fatal accident in the course of these activities is therefore much higher.
Extreme caution is recommended if undertaking river-based sporting activities, in particular in Vang Vieng. Tourists have been killed or seriously injured while participating in river-based activities such as tubing or jumping into the river. River levels can vary during the year and the presence of debris in the river can make diving or jumping into the river dangerous. Travellers considering participating in river based activities should carefully consider their personal safety and take appropriate precautions.
Local Laws and Customs
Penalties for using illegal drugs in Laos are severe and can include the death penalty. You should not become involved with drugs of any kind.
The Lao Government prohibits sexual relationships between foreign citizens and Lao nationals, except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao Family Law. Fines for engaging in prohibited sexual contact can be severe and penalties may also include imprisonment.
During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. It is illegal not to carry an ID document or a passport, and fines for not having one for presentation on demand can be high.
Do not get involved with drugs. There have been several deaths as a
result of drug use among foreign nationals visiting Laos.
Possession, trafficking and manufacture of drugs are serious
offences in Laos. Those caught face lengthy prison sentences or the
There have been a number of incidents where tourists have had their drinks or food drugged. Some restaurants in popular tourist destinations offer drug-laced food and drink which has led to the victim being assaulted. These products can contain harmful substances and consuming them can result in serious injury or even death. Never leave food or drink unattended.
There have been incidents of drug related rapes reported by foreigners. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and be wary at bars, clubs, restaurants and parties
Natural Disasters and Climate
The rainy season in Laos normally runs from June to November, coinciding with the typhoon season in South East Asia. Mountain areas can be particularly vulnerable to landslides at this time and flooding may occur along river basins and elsewhere. Travel to some provinces can be seriously disrupted.
Additional Country Info
Major credit cards are accepted at the larger international hotels and main tourist orientated establishments. Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at most banks in Vientiane and major towns. International ATM facilities are increasingly available. Most transactions are conducted in cash, US Dollars, Thai Baht or Lao Kip.
ASSISTANCE FOR IRISH CITIZENS IN LAOS
The Embassy of Ireland in Hanoi (Vietnam) is responsible for Irish diplomatic and consular relations with Laos. Should you require advice or assistance, or in the event of an emergency, please contact the Irish Embassy in Hanoi on +84 4 3974 3291.Top