Money in Laos December 17, 2006Posted by Guido in General.
Prepare to do a bit of arithmetic with currencies when you travel in Laos. No less than three currencies are readily accepted: the local currency, called the Kip, the US Dollar and the Thai Bath. The Kip itself has such little value and its bills come in such small denominations that you’d be walking around with big stacks of cash all the time, if it wasn’t for the US Greenback. You can pay with dollars just about anywhere. In fact many things are priced in Dollars. The exchange rate that sellers use is known to everybody and is fair.
Still you won’t be able to escape the Kip altogether. In most places where you pay with Dollars you will get your change in Kip. That’s fine. You will be able to use that for smaller purchases, like drinks and food and with street vendors. The Thai Bath is also accepted everywhere, but unless you come with some excess Bath from Thailand, you will probably not be using it a lot.
Make sure you bring Dollars. I usually bring enough for the duration of the trip so I don’t have top go the bank, but I can imagine some people don’t like to walk around with too much cash. In Luang Prabang, there is a bank in the main street, but they only carry Kips, so you won’t be able to get Dollars there. Not a big problem, but you’ll be walking around with a stack of bills and you can never exchange them back to Dollars or Euros again, so you’ll have to spend or donate them before leaving. Another bank in Luang Prabang a bit more out of the way, does carry Dollars, but half of your withdrawal must be Kips. Banks charge a fee of about 2% (I think…) for the exchange.
As far as I know there is exactly one ATM in Laos and it is Vientiane. It gives out Kips only, but inside the bank you can do a 100% Dollar withdrawal.
Credit card is accepted in bigger hotels and guest houses and some restaurants. VISA seems to be the most accepted one. I wouldn’t count on the other brands. A fee of 2% is charged for every transaction.
The following places where some of us will be staying accept VISA:
- Lao Orchid Hotel in Vientiane
- Tum Tum Cheng guest house in Luang Prabang
- 3 Nagas hotel in Luang Prabang