Traveling to Laos, a country with the cash economy, visitors should always know how to use Lao Kip. Paying there, you have cash choices between US Dollar, Thai Baht, and Lao Kip. Only the fancy restaurants and luxury resorts in this country accept your credit cards, and most of the time, their card readers are slow, so they usually ask for cash. For using Lao Kip, first know that the popular notes are in denominations of 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000.
What can you buy with Lao Kip?
With 100,000 Kip (equivalent to $12 USD)
Wi-Fi is visible in some places of the big cities, but it doesn’t mean everywhere you go in Laos. Therefore, come prepared with a SIM card and use a 10,000 Kip to purchase a month’s worth of data. The data package enables you to get connected to your loved ones at home via texting and calling. Especially, you will need Internet data to navigate on the map app to get around Laos whenever needed.
With 50,000 Kip (equivalent to $6 USD)
This note of denomination allows you to get a room at the local guesthouse for a night with a basic bed, private bathroom or a night in the shared dorm. The charges are a little higher in the touristy destinations like Vientiane and Luang Prabang, but if you travel away from the downtown, you will realize that this rate is standard.
With 20,000 Kip (equivalent to $1.5 USD)
Holding a note of 20,000 Kip, you can buy a meal in the Laos streets with a snack and a beer, soda or soy milk. Also, some food in the local restaurant is printed with this number on the menu. You should come to check it out.
With 10,000 Kip (equivalent to $1.25 USD)
This is the standard rate for a big bottle of Beer Lao. However, the price might be a bit higher in some touristy areas to sell to foreigners. Also, some local museums and temples can charge visitors a fee of 10,000 Kip for the entry. This time, use your note.
With 5,000 Kip
This is a price of a pack of cigarette in Laos, a bunch of bananas, and various kinds of snacks on the streets. A must to try is “Nom Som” (the frozen sour milk dessert) which is available at almost every service stations and convenient stores.
Though ATMs are widely visible in the city centers and large towns, it might become frustrated to get the Lao Kip denominations of 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000. Therefore, make sure you come prepared with these banknotes when purchasing things from the local vendors. Most of the shops have the big calculators which help the merchants to show you the prices and give you the change.
Tipping in Laos that travelers should know
Tipping in Laos is neither expected nor customary. Nonetheless, when you are given the change, just take the large bills. In most places, getting the small bills of 1,000 or 2,000 notes can be considered “ungenerous.” If possible, just leave the money of small denominations on the table for the waiters/waitress. By the way, it’s your call and you determine whether the service is worth tipping or not.
Know that Lao Kip is the non-convertible currency outside of Laos, so remember to exchange these banknotes back to the other currencies when you’re leaving. Good advice is to arrive with a reasonable amount of Lao Kip, and as you have already been informed of, US Dollar is accepted throughout Laos. Or, you can keep the cash of small denominations as a souvenir of Lao which later recalls the beautiful time to “splash” in the peaceful Land of A Million Elephants.
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