Travel Advisory for Laos Posted on 06/08/2012

CONTENT|CONTENU

Last Updated: June 8, 2012 14:31 EDT
Still Valid: June 9, 2012 13:27 EDT




TRAVEL REPORT
Laos


1. RECENT UPDATES

Section 6 has been updated (dengue fever).

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2. WARNINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

There is no Official Warning for this country.

Laos
Exercise normal security precautionsExercise high degree of cautionAvoid non-essential travelAvoid all travel

There are ongoing security concerns related to ethnic conflicts, banditry, and unexploded munitions when travelling in Laos. There have been civil disturbances, including bombings in the capital, Vientiane, and in northern areas. Buses, bus stations, and markets have been the target of several attacks resulting in deaths and injuries.

Reports of increasing tensions between Lao Government forces and unidentified groups could lead to violence in the northern region of Laos, particularly in the area of Vang Vieng. While there have been no restrictions placed on ground transportation, there is an increased military presence in the area. Canadians are reminded to proceed with caution when travelling north from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang.

There is a heightened threat of terrorism throughout Southeast Asia. You should maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times as the security situation could deteriorate rapidly without notice. Exercise caution, particularly in commercial and public establishments (hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreation events) and tourist areas frequented by foreigners.

OFFICIAL REGISTRATION RECOMMENDATION: We offer a registration service for all Canadians travelling or living abroad. This service is provided so that we can contact and assist you in an emergency abroad, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, or inform you of a family emergency at home. Registration can be done on-line or by contacting a Canadian government office abroad. For more information, see our FAQs on Registration of Canadians Abroad.


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3. SAFETY AND SECURITY

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety. The purpose of this Travel Report is to provide Canadians with up-to-date information to enable them to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Street crime is prevalent in cities and towns including Vientiane and Luang Prabang and has been occurring with increasing frequency, even during daylight hours. Bag theft has increased markedly and Westerners appear to be the main targets. Thieves on motorcycles grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, motorcycle drivers and their passengers. These thefts occasionally involve violence and injuries have been reported. Exercise caution and ensure personal belongings, including passports, are secure. Do not show signs of affluence and avoid travel late at night in Vientiane. Break-ins at hotels and guesthouses occur. Armed robberies have been reported in Phou Khao Khouay National Park.

An increase in sexual assaults has been reported, particularly in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Caution is also advised along hiking trails. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada publishes a booklet, Her Own Way, specifically targeted at female travellers. Its prime objective is to inform and inspire Canadian women to travel safely.

Banditery

Fatalities have been reported as a result of attacks on vehicules travelling on Route 13 (Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang), Route 7 (Phou Khoun to Phonsavanh) and Route 6 (near the town of Sam Neua, Huaphan Province). Canadians should be extremely vigilant when travelling on these routes.

Demonstrations

Canadians should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities.

Druged-laced food/drinks

Food and beverages (such as “happy pizzas” or “special shakes”) may contain unspecified amounts of opium and other unknown substances. These items are sold in areas frequented by tourists, particularly Vang Vieng. While these items may be easily accessible, Canadians should be advised that taking any amount of opiates can be dangerous. Medical facilities may be extremely rudimentary or distant and several foreigners, including two Canadians, have died as a result of drug overdoses. Travellers have been assaulted after ingesting drug-laced food or drink.

Landmines

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 should avoid these areas and never travel off well-used roads.

Checkpoints

Travellers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks. Travellers are subject to search, detention, and the possibility of fines by authorities if suitable identification is not presented. Security authorities may place foreigners under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines, and e-mail messages may be monitored. Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

River-based sporting activities

Canadians should exercise extreme caution and carefully consider their safety if engaging in river-based sporting activities, including in Vang Vieng. Travellers have died or been seriously injured while taking part in river-based activities such as tubing or jumping/diving into the river. River levels can fluctuate considerably and debris can make river-based activities dangerous.

Tourist facilities

Tourist facilities outside Vientiane and Luang Prabang are limited. International telephone and e-mail facilities are available in Vientiane but are extremely limited elsewhere. Even where available, these services are often unreliable and expensive.

For emergency assistance, call 191 for police, 195 for ambulance, or 190 for fire.

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4. ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS

It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. All countries or regions have special requirements for persons intending to reside for extended periods (usually more than 90 days) or who plan to work, study, or engage in non-tourist activities. To obtain information on specific entry requirements, contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) to be visited. Violations of entry and exit requirements may result in serious penalties.

The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the authorities of Laos. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is the traveller’s responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, for up-to-date information.

A valid Canadian passport is required for Canadians intending to visit Laos. The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your expected departure from the country. Canadians must also be in possession of a visa. A tourist visa can be obtained upon arrival at Wattay International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport, and the Friendship Bridge at the Thai border. Tourist visas are also available at the border crossings of Savannakhet/Mukdahan, Densavanh/Lao Bao, Boten/Mohan, Houai Sai/Chiang Khong, Nam Phao/Cau Treo, Thakhek/Nakhon Phanom, Vangtau/Chongmek, and Nam Kan/Ngo Anh, but Canadians should confirm with the nearest Lao embassy or consulate. A passport photo and US$42 are required to obtain a visa upon arrival.

Travellers are required to obtain permission from local authorities prior to travel to certain parts of Vientiane and Xieng Khoung Provinces and may be refused entry to some areas of these provinces, particularly around Long Tien.

Immigration offices at some border crossings are difficult to identify. Travellers should ensure they obtain an entry stamp into Laos. Failure to complete these formalities can result in serious fines, detention, and/or deportation.

Proof of yellow fever immunization is required for those arriving from infected areas.

Tourist Visa: Required
Business Visa: Required
Student Visa: Required

An airport tax is charged upon departure.



A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship is not a travel document. A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel. Canadian citizens returning to Canada who present other documents, such as a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, birth certificate, provincial driver’s licence, or foreign passport, instead of a Canadian passport, may face delays or be denied boarding by transport companies.

Selling, altering, or allowing another person to use your passport is a criminal offence. It could lead to the laying of charges and imprisonment if convicted. It could also lead to the denial of future passport services.

Special and diplomatic passport holders should verify all visa requirements for this and other destinations, as they may differ from those that apply to regular passport holders.

Any adult travelling with children may be required to show evidence of parental/custodial and/or access rights. Foreign and Canadian authorities may also require evidence that the adult has the consent of the parents, legal guardian, and/or the court to travel with the children. Some countries or regions may not permit children to enter or, in some cases, leave the country or region without proper documentation such as a letter of consent or a court order.

Although same-sex marriages are legal in Canada, many countries or regions do not recognize them. Attempting to enter as a same-sex married couple may result in refusal by local officials. For more information, contact the foreign government office accredited to Canada.

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5. CANADIAN GOVERNMENT CONTACTS

There is no resident Canadian government office in Laos. Canadians in Laos can obtain consular assistance and further information from the Australian Embassy in Vientiane (under the Canada-Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement) at the following address:

Laos - VIENTIANE, Australian Embassy
Address: KM4, Thadeua Road, Watnak Village, Sisattanak District, Vientiane, Laos
Tel.: 856 (21) 353-800
Fax: 856 (21) 353-801
E-Mail: austemb.laos@dfat.gov.au
Internet: http://www.laos.embassy.gov.au/vtan/home.html

The Embassy of Canada in Bangkok, Thailand, has consular responsibility for Laos. The address is as follows:

Thailand - BANGKOK, Embassy of Canada
Address: 15th Floor, Abdulrahim Place, 990 Rama IV, Bangrak, Bangkok, 10500, Thailand
Postal Address: P.O. Box 2090, Bangkok, Thailand, 10501
Tel.: 66 (0) 2646-4300
Fax: 66 (0) 2646-4345
E-Mail: bngkk-cs@international.gc.ca
Internet: http://www.thailand.gc.ca

For emergency assistance after hours, call the Australian Embassy in Vientiane and follow the instructions. You may also make a collect call to the Emergency Operations Center in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.

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6. TRAVEL HEALTH

The Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO) report on disease outbreaks that occur throughout the world. For the latest travel health advisories and related information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Travel Health Web site.

Dengue fever is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquitoes. It can cause flu-like symptoms and in some cases lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal. Travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.

Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease. It is caused by a parasite which is spread to humans by infected mosquitoes. There is no vaccine available against malaria. Travellers can reduce their risk by following the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations.

The Public Health Agency of Canada strongly recommends that your travel plans include contacting a travel medicine clinic or physician six to eight weeks before departure. Based on your individual risk assessment, a health care professional can determine your need for immunizations and/or preventive medication and advise you on precautions to avoid disease. Travellers are reminded to ensure that their routine (childhood) immunizations (e.g., tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and measles) are up to date.

Standards of medical care may differ from those in Canada. Treatment may be expensive, and payment in advance may be required. Travellers are advised to arrange for medical insurance prior to departure. Prescription medications should be kept in the original container and packed in carry-on luggage.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that travellers who become sick or feel unwell on their return to Canada seek a medical assessment with their personal physician. Travellers should inform their physician that they have been travelling or living outside of Canada.


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7. ADDITIONAL HEALTH INFORMATION

Medical facilities throughout Laos are scarce and operate below Western standards. Medical evacuation to Thailand is required, except for basic medical conditions and injuries, in order to obtain acceptable standards of treatment. Such evacuations are very expensive and difficult to organize. Canadians with unstable medical conditions should take this into account prior to travel. Travellers experiencing medical problems while in Laos should seek immediate assistance in Vientiane and consider leaving.

Travellers should be aware of the risk of food and water-borne diseases such as cholera. Canadians are advised to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid raw and undercooked food.

Canadians may visit the Australian Embassy's clinic (country and area codes: 856-21/ tel.: 353 840), which is located in the same building as Australian Chancery, or the International Clinic attached to Mahasot Hospital (country and area codes: 856-21/ tel: 414-022). For after hours emergencies, contact the Australian Embassy (see above).

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8. LAWS AND CUSTOMS

You are subject to local laws. A serious violation may lead to a jail or death sentence. The sentence will be served in local prisons.

Canadians arrested or detained have the right to contact the responsible Canadian government office (embassy, high commission, etc.) listed in Section 5 above. Arresting officials have a responsibility to assist you in doing so. Canadian consular officials can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.

Dual nationality is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. Canadians should travel using their Canadian passport and present themselves as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times.

The Department publishes a booklet entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know, specifically targeted at Canadians with dual nationality.

The procedures required in legal proceedings or police investigations may be different from the procedures in force in the Canadian legal system. Canadians wishing to undertake such proceedings can expect to face long delays and additional efforts in order to resolve their case. The Government of Canada cannot intervene in ongoing legal proceedings in other countries or regions, unless requested to do so by local authorities. Such requests are rare.

Sentences for drug offences, including drug use and drug trafficking, are severe and may include the death penalty.

Non-marital sexual relationships between foreigners and Lao citizens are against the law, as are various forms of cohabitation with Lao nationals. Convictions for such offences can lead to prison sentences and large fines. Improper registration of a relationship to a Lao national can lead to similar sentences. Permission for marriage or engagement to a Lao citizen must be submitted in a formal application to Lao authorities. Public displays of affection, such as kissing, whether between opposite or same-sex couples, are not considered proper/polite in public.

Foreigners can be fined for not carrying proper identification (i.e passeport) with them at all times and for not having an entry stamp in their passport.

Photography of government vehicles, bridges, airfields, government buildings, and military installations or personnel is prohibited. Violators may be arrested and equipment seized.

Laos is tolerant of a wide diversity of religions. However, religious proselytizing or distributing religious material is strictly prohibited. Violators may be arrested or deported.

Persons interested in doing business in Laos should be aware that Laos presents a risky business environment. Judicial and regulatory regimes may not operate with the same transparency as can be expected in Canada. Individuals may be held legally and financially responsible for company dealings. The possibility of bureaucratic delays and unexpected legal interpretations should be accounted for in business planning. For further information, please read Doing Business — Laos.

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9. TRAVEL AND CURRENCY

Road accidents and fatalities have increased. Drivers have little regard for traffic regulations and do not follow safe driving practices. Vehicles are often poorly maintained. Road conditions are poor, especially during the rainy season. Travel should be undertaken during daylight hours. Livestock often stray onto the roads causing accidents. Travellers involved in traffic accidents have been required to pay compensation for property damage or injuries, regardless of who the police judged to be at fault. Lao insurers will generally only meet a small proportion of the costs of an accident and refuse to cover compensation, which can be the largest expense. Public transportation is unreliable and limited after dark.

Canadians are reminded not to leave their passport as collateral when renting motorcycles. All rental contracts should be read thoroughly to ensure that the motorcycle is correctly insured to cover damages and theft. Canadians should only rent from reputable companies, as some companies have been known to "steal" the motorcycle and claim for loss. Travellers whose passports are inaccessible or stolen as a result of misuse may be subject to investigation by Passport Canada and may receive limited passport services.

River travel is common in Laos however, Canadians should be aware that travel by boat on the Mekong River from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is unreliable. Safety standards are minimal. Speedboat travel is especially dangerous during the dry season, November to May. Lifejackets and helmets should be provided and worn by passengers. Canadians should not travel on or across the Mekong River after dark. In some areas, the Lao military has been known to shoot at boats after dark.

Lao air safety standards do not conform to Canadian standards. There have been several fatal crashes involving Yuen-7 and Yuen-12 aircraft on domestic routes in Laos in recent years.

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended.

See our FAQ on transportation in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.




The currency is the kip, which is not easily obtained or exchanged outside of Laos. U.S. dollars and Thai baht are also widely accepted. There are very few automated bank machines in Laos that accept foreign cards. Those that do are often out of order. Major credit cards are accepted at some international hotels and tourist establishments. Cash advances can be obtained from some banks although commissions are high. Traveller's cheques can be cashed at most banks in Vientiane and other major towns. Western Union provides services in several major cities and town across the country.

Check with your bank for information on automated banking machine (ABM) services outside Canada. You can also check the VISA ATM locator page or the MasterCard ATM locator page for the addresses of ABMs around the world. Verify with your financial institution whether your bank card can be used with ABMs abroad. Some countries use chip and/or personal identification number (PIN) technology for credit cards. Check with your bank to find out if your credit card will be accepted abroad. Credit cards and debit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity. ABMs should be used during business hours inside a bank, supermarket, or large commercial building. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member in case of emergency.

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10. NATURAL DISASTERS AND CLIMATE

The rainy (monsoon) season extends from May to November. During the rainy season, the provinces along the Mekong River in southern Laos are prone to severe rainstorms that can cause flooding and landslides and can result in significant loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and can hamper the provision of essential services. In 2011, heavy monsoon rains caused flooding in 12 of the 18 provinces in Laos. Travellers should keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

See our Global Issues page for information on typhoons and monsoons.

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11. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Returning to Canada

Traveller's Checklist

Health and Travel Insurance: Do not rely on your provincial health plan to cover all expenses if you get sick or are injured while abroad. It may cover nothing or only a portion of the costs. Understand the terms of your supplementary insurance policy. Some credit cards offer their holders health and travel insurance. Do not assume the card alone provides adequate coverage. Carry details of your insurance with you. Also, tell your travel agent, a friend or relative, and/or travelling companion how to contact your insurer. Get a detailed invoice from the doctor or hospital before you return to Canada. Always submit original receipts for any medical services or prescriptions received abroad. Most insurance companies will not accept copies or faxes.

Cancelling a scheduled trip abroad could cost you money. Before cancelling a scheduled trip, you should discuss the matter with your travel agent, your travel insurer, or the airline. The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller.

Adoption: Local law does not allow adoption of children by foreigners.

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12. ANNEX

N/A

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