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Laos Money Guide: Currency, ATMs, and Changing Money in Laos

SKIP AHEAD

The official currency in Laos is Lao Kip (LAK), in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 & 100,000.

Though major credit cards, US Dollars, and Thai Baht are widely accepted in most high-end hotels and shops, Kip is preferred, especially when you plan to go shopping in local markets or streets, retail stores, eating houses, or some remote areas.

Generally, the currency exchange rate for USD to Laotian Kip is around 1: 8,200.

The following Laos Money Guide is created to help you sort out your concerns regarding Lao Currency, ATMs, and money changing services in Laos.

Laos Banknotes
Laos Banknotes

Fast Facts about Lao Currency, ATMs, and Money Changing Service

  • The official currency in Laos is Lao Kip (LAK).
  • There are 8 banknotes in circulation:500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 & 100,000.
  • In Laos, prices are often quoted in US Dollars too.
  • It is not uncommon to see ATMs not work in Laos.
  • Kip is not accepted or exchangeable outside of Laos.
  • Us Dollars and Thai Baht are also widely accepted and can be easily exchanged inside Laos.
  • The currency exchange rate for USD to Laotian Kip is around 1: 8,200.

Places to Get Lao Kip

ATMs

Tourists can find ATMs all over Laos, especially in some big tourist cities and towns, enabling the withdrawal of both USD and LAK. ATM withdrawal fee occurs at all of the ATMs (even though your bank gives you free foreign withdrawals), usually ranging from 10,000 Kip to 30,000 Kip PER million Kip withdrawn(differs between providers). Be noted that the maximum transaction is very low, ranging from 700,000k to 2,000,000k (which can be as low as US$85).

Tip: You can choose to be charged the withdrawal fee with local currency to avoid the so-called Dynamic Currency Conversion from the ATM providers.

Banks

Tourists can rely on the currency exchange service from major banks like BCEL and BFL. Service units of these two banks are the most recommended places for money changing thanks to their good rates and long opening hours.

Money Exchangers

There are money exchangers near most tourist areas and markets. The exchange rates at the money exchangers are much better than at the airports. Usually, the stores have a big billboard with signs of international currency symbols and their exchange rate on it, easy to find. Or you can also ask your local guide to confirm the location.

Airport

Though changing a large amount of money from the airport is safe, comfortable, and convenient, it is not the most recommended option due to the high rate they charge. Usually, you will be charged the highest rates.

Using Credit Cards or Cash in Laos?

Though major credit cards like MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted around Laos now, cash is still a must since Laos is still a cash-based country.

Credit cards are widely accepted in excellent hotels and plenty of shops in major tourist cities, usually with a 3% service fee to be charged. Booking online with your credit card is a good idea to save the withdrawal fee.

When outside high-end hotels or shops, or when traveling to some remote areas, credit cards are usually not accepted. So make sure you have carried a supply of cash. For some daily activities like shopping in local markets or streets, or eating in small restaurants, usually only cash works.

Besides Lao Kit, USD and Thailand Baht are also accepted by many vendors. The currency exchange rate for USD to Laotian Kip is around 1: 8,200, so if your daily activity will include many small purchases, like buying water, and street snacks, Lao Kit should be more convenient in case the vendors don’t have enough small changes.

Budgeting & Carrying Cash

The following information will give you a general idea of how much cash you should carry around in your wallet while traveling to Laos.

Based on the average cost of former tourists, to stay comfortable, the budget per person per day is around ₭252,193 ($19). The daily expenditure is approximately ₭96,690 ($7.28) on meals, ₭34,348 ($2.59) on daily transportation, and around ₭198,124 ($15) for a hotel double room.

Generally, most tourists visit Laos for just a few days, and the cost for a week-long trip in Laos is around ₭3,530,701 ($266). It is recommended to have a budget for each day in advance and only take the amount of cash you need. To travel safely, carrying a large amount of cash is certainly not a good idea.

Tips:

  • Try to book your hotel accommodation before your trip or pay online by using a card. This helps to reduce the cash amount you should carry.
  • Try to book a hotel room with a safe, so you can keep your cash safe and don’t need to carry all your cash all the time.

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