Traveling is a favorite pastime for many. And this doesn’t come as a surprise, since it is one of the most gratifying experiences, allowing people to broaden their perspectives, horizons, and to embrace different viewpoints. This is what makes traveling so rewarding – as it is a way of enriching your mind. To that end, we could argue that Laos is a wonderful place to explore, especially for travelers that enjoy uncovering less popular, conventional destinations.
Nevertheless, the question that naturally follows is: how safe is Laos for tourists? Is Laos safe to visit or should you refrain from visiting this country? These are both legitimate questions, as safety is a critical consideration when traveling abroad. To that end, this Laos safety guide will tackle most concerns you might have regarding traveling to this country.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Laos
Overall Risks in Laos: MEDIUM to HIGH
There have been several reports of violent crime in Laos. Some of these incidents included robbery, sexual assault, as well as bag snatching from motorcycles. For the most part, the areas in which such incidents are more prone to happen include Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Probang, and others.
To that end, violent crimes are quite commonplace in crowded tourist spots that are mostly frequented by foreigners. In addition, it’s worth outlining that the local authorities aren’t quite efficient when it comes to responding to criminal occurrences. Furthermore, travelers should be aware of the fact that drug-related deaths may also take place. There have been reports of foreigners that were involved in such crimes.
Concurrently, isolated incidents of civil unrest have happened in the past in Laos. This is something you shouldn’t overlook either. This is why it’s highly advisable to avoid partaking into this kind of demonstrations,
Furthermore, bear in mind that unexploded landmines also pose a notable threat in Laos. This applies, in particular, in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars), and the area along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In addition, we’d like to point out that the foreigners that attempted to report crimes didn’t have the means to do that, as the police stations are oftentimes closed, whereas the emergency telephone numbers are generally unanswered.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Laos: MEDIUM to HIGH
As a rule of thumb, pickpocketing and theft pose a range of risks, regardless of the traveling destination. But when traveling to a less developed country, the risk is much greater unfortunately. To that end, petty crime is actually utterly widespread, which should make tourists more self-aware. For example, bag snatching is prone to happen in tourist places, not to mention that public transport poses a range of threats, as well.
More specifically, when traveling with a public means of transportation you should be doubly wary of your surroundings.
At the same time, though, note that petty crime is much likely to occur in remote, isolated places as well. When the number of people in an area is limited, this makes it much easier for pickpockets to get away with the crime.
- How to pickpocketing and theft in Laos?
Obviously, being precautious and wary of your surroundings can help a great deal when you’re a tourist in Laos. Since petty crime is commonplace, you should avoid, by all means, being targeted. How can you do that?
For example, you should avoid wearing clothes or jewelry that would make people believe that you are wealthy. At the same time, you should refrain from displaying an expensive camera, phone, so on and so forth. Furthermore, you should try to keep hold of your bag, so that a pickpocket won’t find it effortless to snatch it when you’re not paying attention.
Aside from that, you should be mindful of your itinerary. For example, if possible, you should avoid traveling at nighttime, since the likelihood of being robbed is much higher. These are, without a doubt, some key Laos safety travel tips that will definitely come in handy during your trip.
Scam Risk in Laos: MEDIUM to HIGH
Statistically speaking, in the last couple of years, the crime levels in Laos have significantly increased. For example, most people are concerned with the problems associated with bribery and corruption, as this is a widespread practice in this country. Due to that, the scam risk in Laos is just as high, due to the society’s viewpoint of corruption, as it is overly accepted.
With that in mind, which are the most common scams in Laos? Being acquainted with them is highly recommendable, as this will allow you to diminish the incidence of being a victim.
Firstly, one common scam is regarding bus tickets. In some instances, bus drivers might provide you better deals for the bus tickets. But, in most cases, the offer is bait for scam, especially if it’s too good to be true. Things are likely to get worse, though, as this scam is more complicated. Expressly, the bus will end up breaking down, until the borders are closed and there are no ferry rides to take. Afterward, the driver will take you to a guesthouse where you will be forced to spend the night and spend another significant sum of money on accommodation. Concurrently, you shouldn’t trust a driver that tells you he can update a regular bus ticket to a VIP ticket. Most of the time, you’ll end up driving a regular bus, because the VIP-bus will conveniently break down.
Moving on, taxi scams are just as common. Usually, such incidents are prone to happen at transport stations and borders. In order to avoid paying too much money for a journey, you should discuss the aspect of pricing beforehand.
Furthermore, money exchange scams could occur in legal currency exchange establishments. You might be offered burned, torn or damaged money, which, most likely, you won’t be able to use for paying for stuff.
- How to getting scammed in Laos?
Without a doubt, one of the Laos safety travel tips that apply in all case scenarios is being wary and paying attention to your surroundings, at all times. In the position of a tourist, with our without your wanting, you will draw attention towards yourself – due to the way in which you look, dress, so on and so forth. This is why it is quite likely to be a target for scams.
Therefore, you should always double check the pricing for services, accommodation, and public means of transportation, taxi, so on and so forth. Also, in regards to money exchange services, make sure you double check the sum of money you exchange, in order to avoid unwanted scenarios. In addition, make sure you always get the change for the services you pay for, as this is a common scam, as well.
Kidnapping Risk in Laos: MEDIUM
Should you be concerned about kidnapping if you’re traveling to Laos? This is, without a doubt, a legitimate question. Unfortunately, according to official reports, the government in Laos doesn’t address the minimum requirements for eliminating human trafficking.
At the same time, the numbers of drug-related deaths among foreign nationals that visited Laos are worthy of consideration. For example, there had been cases in which some tourists had their drinks spiked with drugs. Afterward, they had been the victims of assault.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Laos?
There are many precaution measures you can take against being the victim of kidnapping. For example, each Laos safety guide usually comprises of quintessential guidelines, one of them being to choose your itinerary most carefully. That is to say, by all means, avoid exploring remote alleys by yourself – at night, in particular.
In addition to that, you should steer clear of restaurants that advertise Happy Menus or Special menu items. Why is that? Typically, the venues that provide this type of deals most likely offer meals and items that contain significant amounts of opium in their composition. In other instances, other substances might be added, as well. In addition to that, you shouldn’t leave your drink unattended, when you’re in a public place. This is known to be a common practice worldwide, so carry this in mind, as well.
Terrorism Risk in Laos: LOW to MEDIUM
For the most part, the risk of terrorism in Laos isn’t that noteworthy. So the speak, we cannot rule out the likelihood of such scenarios, even if they weren’t that common in the past. In this direction, you should be doubly wary whenever you’re exploring public spaces, or popular tourist attractions, so on and so forth. You know that saying: one can never be too careful – the same applies in this scenario.
- How to avoid terrorism in Laos?
Expressly, if you pinpoint that a person in your surroundings is acting suspicious, then, you should get away from that area as quickly as possible, as that could be a bad omen. At the same time, attacks are usually planned in crowds. So, if possible, stay away from crowds, public manifestations or civil protests.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Laos: MEDIUM
What Laos safety travel tips are there for women traveling alone – you might think. Or, better said: is Laos safe for solo women travelers?
If you enjoy traveling by yourself to off-the-beaten track destinations, perhaps Laos would be down your alley. But that doesn’t mean you should be oblivious of the risks that come with the territory. Every Laos safety guide is usually quite descriptive concerning the dangers women expose themselves to when traveling alone to this country.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler?
However, in an attempt to diminish the possibility of being a victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment, it always pays off to be doubly careful. So to speak, you should read every Laos safety guide that crosses your path – especially if it’s written by a woman who has already visited this developing country. At the same time, you should pay attention to what you’re wearing, so that you don’t distinguish yourself from the crowd that much.
In addition to that, steer clear of exploring dangerous areas, especially by foot, as this can be quite risky.
Rape Risk in Laos: LOW to MEDIUM
While there are no reports of such cases occurring in Laos, there are reports that tell of the use of drug-laced food and such - this usually results into the assault of the victim, though there are no sexual assaults reported.
Still, you should be really careful where and what you are eating in Laos. Moreover, it is recommended that you are not alone if you decide to eat out in town, for example. If you are alone and happen to ingest some drug-laced food, it is quite likely that you will wake up without your possessions, abandoned, and in an unknown place.
You should also stick to tourist populated areas and such, as remote areas, the city slums, and shady alleys are always no-go zones when abroad. If you follow these tips, you should not have any trouble in keeping yourself safe.
- How to avoid getting raped in Laos?
As mentioned before, you should not be alone. If you do not have someone accompanying you, then stay within the areas that look safe to you. Naturally, you do want to avoid any remote areas, especially when driving through the country.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Laos: MEDIUM
What Laos safety travel tips apply for people traveling with children? It’s critical to assess that Laos is a developing country. Therefore, your access to medical care or other services will be therefore limited. This is something to carry in mind. This is why you should get appropriate traveling insurance before making any plans.
At the same time, the road conditions in Laos are quite poor. This can lead to multifold complications when traveling with children. Aside from that, at any time, you might be stopped by a police officer, being required to provide proof of identification. This can be utterly inconvenient, at the very least.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Other than what was mentioned before, we recommend you to keep your children under surveillance, so to say - we all know that the little ones have a knack for exploring the surrounding areas alone. You definitely don't want them going too far away from you.
In short, take care of them, especially if you plan on traveling alone - even though they can be quite difficult to deal with, you must keep cool and be wherever they are. The last thing you want to do is to look for them in a city crowded with tourists or in a remote area.
Natural Disaster Risks in Laos: MEDIUM
In regards to the risks of natural disasters, note that the rainy season lasts from May to November, it coincides with the typhoon season in South East Asia. During the rainy season, the mountain areas are quite vulnerable, flooding being quite commonplace. In fact, traveling to specific provinces might be prohibited altogether. Make sure you check the weather forecasts at all times for weather updates and information concerning safety procedures.
Transportation Risks in Laos: MEDIUM to HIGH
When it comes to traveling, the most dangerous things that one can come across in Laos are the land mines - reportedly, these devices are responsible for more than 50 deaths every year, particularly in the Xieng Khouang Province. This is because these mines are usually not market - in this respect, we recommend you, if you are driving or traveling trough remote areas, to never stray off the main routes. Naturally, any metal object that you encounter should be left alone, untouched.
In terms of road conditions, they are quite poor in Laos - moreover, it is said that the vehicles you can usually find within the country are generally not maintained to proper standards. Furthermore, there's an increased risk of road accidents because drivers are usually not considerate about the traffic and such.
It is also recommended that you do not drive after sunset, as most vehicles do not have lights - this makes it easier for livestock that stray on the roads to be hit and for cars to crash. We also advise you to avoid using public transportation, as it is usually overcrowded, which, as result, makes these vehicles unsafe.
Keep in mind that, if you are involved in an accident, you must pay compensation for third party property damage and/ or injury, even though the accident was not caused by you - naturally, the Laos authorities will favor the locals; moreover, insurers from Lao are known to only meet a small portion of an accident's costs and, thus, the aforementioned compensation will not be covered entirely by them.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Laos: MEDIUM
As mentioned before, there are a couple of risks in Laos - we have seen that food is usually drugged in order to make it easier for criminals to assault either locals or tourists. In this respect, we think it is safe to assume that drink spiking might also occur, depending on the location you are in.
However, if you keep and eye on your drink and not accept any drinks from strangers you should be just fine. Other than that, you should pay attention to people that are prone to turning violent or any bar brawls, so to speak. In short, limit the amount of time you spend in a night-club, pub, or bar, and you should be just fine.
You should also avoid any night-clubs, pubs, and bars that are located in remote or bad-reputed areas - stick to the ones near the main roads, for example, or to those that are in the center of the city you are currently in.
Health Risks in Laos
In terms of health and medical care, be aware of the fact that these, in most cities, including Vientiane, are reported as being extremely basic - moreover, there are no facilities that can deal with medical emergencies outside the capital. Furthermore, if you are in need of medical evacuation, you might have to wait for a long time and pay a lot for it.
When it comes to diseases, Laos is currently classified as having a risk of transmission of Zika virus. You should get informed on how to protect yourself against this virus before traveling to Laos.
Naturally, it is recommended that you have proper travel health insurance and quite some funds on you - it is important that you come prepared for anything, including a medical evacuation. You should also have enough funds to cover the medicine you may need for a certain treatment, in case something goes bad.
Be aware of the fact that it is quite likely for you to have to pay for the use of an ambulance and/ or a treatment in advance - still, you will be given a receipt to use when claiming your insurance. In case of a medical emergency, dial 1195.
Voluntary ambulance services are a thing in Vientiane, and they are free of charge as well - however, make sure to properly identify the volunteers. You can do so by checking their uniforms, which should have "Lao Red Cross" or "Vientiane Rescue" on them. There have been some reports of people/ companies that show up on accidents, try to give you first aid, and then charge you for it. Naturally, charging you is not the issue - the main problem is that most of these individuals are not usually trained in first aid.
List of Vaccines You Need in Laos
What vaccines are considered as being utterly necessary when traveling to Laos? Here is a list you should consult before making any traveling plans.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
Most Dangerous Areas in Laos
In regards to the most dangerous areas in Laos, you should avoid going in the following areas by yourself, in particular: Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Vientiane.
Concluding Remarks: Is Laos safe to visit?
To conclude, traveling to Laos comes with its risks. As long as you know what to expect, though, you can significantly diminish the likelihood of being a victim. At the same time, make sure you don’t undermine the dangers that come with the territory. If you have other tips you would like to add to our list, make sure you let us know.