Many places in Laos accept U.S. dollars beside Lao Kip (LAK) – its national currency, but a quick how to get Lao kip and exchange currency in Laos will facilitate travelers much. Knowing this how-to, you’re able to discover “Land of a Million Elephants” in the most comfortable and confident way. With a reasonable amount of Lao Kip in hand, your shopping and food tours in Laos just become perfect.
Quick facts about currency in Laos
- Lao kip is the official currency, and exchange rate from USD to LAK is 1 USD = 8.400 LAK (as of August 2018). Traveling there, you’re likely to be millionaires who possess millions of Lao Kip.
- Popular local banknotes have dominations of 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; and 50,000. On the banknotes is the portrait of Kaysone Phomvihane (leader of Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and prime minister of Lao People’s Democratic Republic from 1975 to 1991).
- While major international currencies are exchangeable to Kip in Laos, the Kip is unconvertable into other currencies outside Laos.
Where to exchange currency in Laos
The big cities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane support financial services of money exchange from your currency notes to Kip and vice versa. The services in the major cities are easy, including using credit cards and withdrawing from ATMs. In general, visitors can get Lao Kip in airports, ATMs, money exchange booths, and banks.
- Airports: Like everywhere else, airports in Laos serve safe money exchange services, especially for the large amounts of money, but they charge you the highest rates. As USD is widely accepted in this country, so maybe it’s not necessary to exchange the big amounts.
- ATMs: The city centers and main towns have ATMs which let you withdraw in either USD or LAK. It charges 20,000 LAK for withdrawing LAK, and the cash allowed is from 120,000 to 150,000 LAK at one time. This option is suitable for those who travel to Laos without USD, Thai Baht, or Kip. But, there is no guarantee that local ATMs outside of city centers will be in service.
- Money exchangers: You can find the booths for exchange currency in Laos mostly in the tourist spots and nearby markets. That said, money exchangers provide better exchange rates than the airports. Just look for big signposts advertising exchange rates from other international currencies to Kip, and enter the booth if interested.
- Banks: Getting into the bank is surely the safest channel for money exchange services. But, it takes time to locate and wait for your turns in the local banks like BCEL and ANZ. Their operational hours are Monday – Friday, 08:30 AM – 03:30 PM.
Besides, it’s possible to buy Lao Kip upon your arrival at Lao-Thai Friendship Bridges and the international border crossing points.
Lao Kip or Credit Card
Though major credit cards of MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in this country, it’s important to bring some cash with you. The big hotels or luxury restaurants might accept your card, but as the system is new, their card reader is slow and maybe “unbelievable.” That is why most of them will ask for cash (Lao Kip, USD, or Thai Baht). For safety, keep your eyes on the card readers and avoid using banking via public Wi-Fi. So, for pre-booked purchases, you can take advantage of your cards; but for daily activities, eating, and shopping, come prepared with some cash.
Before you leave Laos, remember to change Lao Kip back to an internationally-accepted currency because Kip cannot be used or exchanged outside Laos. If feeling that there is a lot to handle, book Laos Tour Packages with a reliable travel agent who promptly helps you to the nearest money exchangers, set up the SIM card for you, and more.