Laos Photo by Anna Hoch-Kenney

Laos Driving Guide

Laos is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2021-08-03 · 9 mins

Laos’s official diplomatic country name is Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). It is a glorious nation resting in the northeast-central land of Southeast Asia. The sovereign state shares borders with China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. The country embraces gorgeous mountains and tropical forests, making it an incredibly diverse paradise. Lao PDR is, in fact, the only “landlocked” territorial land in Southeast Asia.


Invasion and colonization are the primary struggles of Laos way back in the 19th and the mid-20th century. French’s domination in the country results in intense turmoil during the chaotic battle in World War II and the epic Indochina Wars. But, in the late 20th and early period of the 21st century, Laos’s economy has been reborn. Tourism gains surprising development, which is one of the elements that revive the state’s situation.

How Can This Guide Help You?

In crafting an international getaway, one must consider the primary transportation when touring around a particular country. Among the most creative ways to wanderlust is through operating a four-wheel vehicle abroad. Driving in Laos is a kind of wandering that everyone should give a try. Before a traveler can hit Laos’s road, acquiring an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is necessary

To know more about the beautiful state, read this information guide. It contains factual data about Laos’s profile, tourism trivia, getting an International Driver’s Permit, the essence of learning the road rules, and other driving-related concerns that can help an explorer be informed about Laos.

General Information

Talking about tranquility and seclusion, Laos is a perfect fit for it. Since tourists often overlook this country because of its neighboring states, this sovereign state only receives fewer crowds in a year compared to others. But, for explorers who are having a castaway adventure, this landlocked state has something to offer.

To satisfy the curiosity of the majority about Laos, read this guide as it will introduce you to the fun facts about this nation, including its geographical location, official language, trivia on the tourism sector, exciting history, and governance.

Geographical Location

Laos is sitting on the mesmerizing continent of Southeast Asia. It surrounds four Asian countries, making it an enclosed land within those nations. It particularly highlights their major transport river, which is the Mekong River. It is an essential element of the trade and transportation of cargos. It has three gorgeous plateaus around the Mekong River, namely the Xiangkhiang, the Khammouan, and the iconic Bolovens Plateaus.

Language Spoken

The official language of the state is Lao or Laotian. It is the dominant dialect in the country. Besides Laos, explorers can also hear the said native mother tongue in Thailand, Australia, Cambodia, France, and even in the USA. The universal foreign language, which is English, is only a minority dialect in Laos. With this, taking extra effort to learn the basic phrases in Lao can be valuable when traveling to Laos. Locals will have a great impression of that.

Land Area

Laos is a Southeast Asian state that conceals over three-quarters of mountains and forested hills. It has four surrounding countries that are also part of the Asian continent. This communist nation embraces a land area of 236,800 square kilometers. The official count of citizens in Laos is 7.2 million based on its current population statistical data. Vientiane or “Viangchan” is the state’s brilliant capital.

History

Lan Xang is the first Lao Kingdom founded by Fa Ngum in 1353. It is also known as the “Land of the Million Elephants.” As the years passed, a chaotic clash occurred between Khmer, Vietnamese, Burmese, Chinese, and Thai. Despite the victory, another tragic breakdown happened when King Souligna Vongsa died without a successor in 1694. It became the root of Lan Xang split into three kingdoms.

When the French domination begins, there’s a little progress on what they iconically referred “land of the lotus-eaters.” Though there are no schools and universities during that time, the medical health care and roadways start to improve. However, when the battle against the Japanese happened, the French’s power suddenly goes low. The ending result goes with the French as they make way for Japan to let go of the Lao Issara movement.

Government

The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is a communist alliance of Vietnamese that lead to the end mark of the power’s seizure and monarchy’s abolition. It is the party list that primarily oversees the Lao PDR since 1975. Delving into the Lao’s national political framework, the president acts as the state’s head, and the prime minister serves as the government’s leader.


Laos’s local authorities have 16 provincial areas. Governors are the highest-ranking officials in local provinces. Next to them are the Mayors. The President both appoint the high-profiled position in rural sectors. Following their post are the deputy provincial governors, deputy mayors, and district chiefs.

Tourism

The Southeast Asian state snatches a spot in the top 20 fastest growing tourism destinations of 2019. It surprisingly rises to 9% compared to its record in 2018, which only has 8.2%. It proves how the nation successfully revives its tourism industry after struggling back in 2015. It is also a good sign for Laos as the country can cater beyond its record of 4.68 million international visitors in the following years.

When exploring the Laotian state, it is a move to go on driving in Laos. It will ensure one’s safety from the crowds and pickpockets. But, before heading on for a drive, be sure to get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) from the International Driver’s Association. You only have to wait for two hours to get your digital copy.

International Driver’s Permit FAQs

Outlanders planning to have a highway-bound voyage abroad requires an exclusive permit to make things legal. Obtaining an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) from the International Driver’s Association will help applicants fulfill their creative travel ideas in a foreign land. Be sure to check the latest updates from the website to keep everything on track. It’s more reliable than trusting any agencies offering services and costs people pay higher than the regular price.

Keep in mind that an IDP is not a suitable replacement for a native driver’s license. An IDP is only an official translation of the original driving license abroad. Do not misplace the two essential items when driving in Laos. Losing it will require one to face a penalty when caught by a local road officer.

Is A Local Driver’s License Valid in Laos?

Non-residents of Lao PDR should have an International Driver’s Permit when choosing to drive in the country. Though citizens from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China may use their local driver’s license, Laos still encourages tourist drivers to have an IDP. Possessing an IDP is a requirement of some rental companies, and it is way better to have it, especially if the tourist’s home country is a non-English speaking state.

Securing an IDP is not that difficult as what others think. Check out the procedures posted by the International Driver’s Association. An applicant will only need a few documents to submit, a quick filling-up of details, and a waiting time of two hours before getting approval. The IDA will send the online copy through the email address provided upon application.

Do I Need An IDP to Drive in the Cities and Districts of Laos?

Tourist drivers generally need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) when driving in Laos. Exemptions from having an IDP only apply to citizens of Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. However, car rental agencies typically require their clients to present an IDP. Also, there are certain circumstances that the protocol regarding exemptions from IDP is not always consistent. It is better to have it than to spend hours settling with an officer.

Whether you are in the cities or districts, keeping an IDP with you is mandatory. Do note that the valid holders of a driving license card can secure an IDP. It is necessary to exhibit legal proof that an applicant has the proper knowledge and sufficient capability to coast a vehicle on the road. Non-holders of legal driving consent should start first by enrolling in a driving school in Laos.

Does An IDP Replace A Native Driver’s License in Laos?

Taking the risk to operate a car without an IDP and a driver’s license for no valid reason is a severe offense in Laos. It’s no different when one drives without an IDP. It is still against the driving rule. Bear in mind that an IDP is only an official translation of a domestic driving license. It will never qualify as a compatible substitute to it.

The driving age requirement in the country is 18 years old. For a rental car, a customer must be at least 23 years old. If one attempts to hit the road at a minor age, prepare to settle charges and sanctions.

Renting A Car in Laos

In enjoying the flexibility and freedom of discovering nations’ hidden wonders, operating a rental car is the best choice. Managing the itinerary won’t be hard stuff to do. Everything is under control. Adding up unexpected sightseeing sites won’t be a struggle anymore as time is no longer an enemy when driving in Laos. It’s quite a thrill to look forward to when crafting future travel plans in this country.

Heading for a drive abroad, choosing where to rent is a top priority. Of course, the driver’s age will also matter if the rental car is possible. In Laos, most car rental stores require their renters to be at least 23 years of age. Expect additional fees depending on the driver’s age bracket. Another vital element is an IDP. Make sure to obtain one from the International Driver’s Association.

Car Rental Companies

Based on the list of top-rated car hire companies in Laos, explorers mostly sign up in Sixt, Avis, and Budget. As some browses online, they mostly search for an affordable price of rental. Of course, saving up is still a priority in traveling. When renting or reserving a car abroad, doing it in advance is a great idea. It is to prevent panic booking and to cash out large sums of bucks. Allotting a month before the travel date is enough to score a cheap cost of the rental fee.

Online transaction is the most convenient way to settle things, but beware of suspicious websites that imitates a legitimate one. Do a fact and validation check over an online site before pushing a transaction. Do not share any private information unless needed. It is the safest way to protect the renter’s money from fraudsters.

Documents Required

As foreign drivers avail of rental cars abroad, presenting documentary requirements is mandatory. It is to assure the car rental agency that the renter is capable of handling a vehicle. It can be a protection to both parties in case of a road emergency. For a general list of documents that a tourist renter must bring, below are the details.

  • Valid Domestic Driver’s License
  • International Driver’s Permit
  • Credit or Debit Card
  • Valid Foreign Passport

Take note that the papers above are subject to change depending on the chosen car rental store. Before wrapping or closing the rental car agreement, do not hesitate to ask for an emergency number. It will be helpful in case the vehicle shows weird signs of breakdown.

Vehicle Types

In choosing the best car for a road trip, finalizing the passenger’s count is a must. With this, it can help one to know what type of vehicle to select. It is also a compulsory thing to consider the weight of baggage of every occupant. Every vehicle type varies depending on its capacity. To get an idea about the car types that an explorer can reserve, refer to the list below.

  • Economy (two adults)
  • Compact( four adults)
  • Standard (five adults)
  • Passenger van

Always remember to bring an IDP and a native driver’s license when availing of rental car abroad. Do not forget to possess the two, or else no rental transaction will happen.

Car Rental Cost

Companies mainly consider customers’ demands over a particular vehicle type in designating a rental car market price. If the requests are high, the possible number of supplies is low. That will start the high costs of rental fee. However, if the other way around happens, low prices will begin to trend. There might be promos and significant discounts to avail. To give you an idea about the price range of car rental in Laos, refer to the list below.

  • Economy (two adults) - $32/day
  • Compact( four adults) - $33/day
  • Standard (five adults) - $50/day
  • Passenger van - (five or more) $50/day

The standard scope of rental fee is the driving kits and equipment, service pick-up, gas mileage allowance, road assistance, and third liability insurance. Do note that the latter only apply to some.

Age Requirements

Under Laos’s driving law, an individual should be at least 18 years old to have a driver’s license. In rental car regulations, a renter must be at least 23 years old. There’s a surcharge fee to add depending on the driver’s age. Newbies can’t proceed to a road trip on their own. They should start in a driving school in Laos for proper training grounds.

Car Insurance Cost

Having insurance is another protection in case of getting involved in a road accident. But, getting it will charge a tourist driver higher than expected. Some car rental agencies already include third liability insurance in their packages. However, some make it a separate deal, which is quite expensive.


To prevent buying costly insurance, do not take or reserve a rental car from a third-party agency—some agents mark up the price twice the standard cost. Foreigners should try contacting their credit card bank, or if they are a private owner of a vehicle, they can inquire to their provider about extending car insurance abroad.

Car Insurance Policy

In Laos, foreigners can choose what car insurance they think will to their needs and suffice to their allotted budget. They can pick between the Third Liability Insurance and the Comprehensive Coverage. The Third Liability is the standard and mostly compulsory to have when driving abroad. It primarily covers medical and basic damages. For the Comprehensive, extensive repairs and severe injuries from theft and fire are in the package.

However, take note that a third liability is acceptable. If you can’t afford to upgrade it, then it is alright. You only need an assurance that you won’t cash out much for insurance. Though safety is essential, still managing to save up in alternative ways is a must.

Vientiane Photo by Alessio Roversi

Road Rules in Laos

The born-to-be wild travelers who don’t fear taking a higher-level of adventure should go for an exciting touring style. However, before grabbing the car keys, the competent driver must be familiar with the road rules. The vehicle’s operator needs to have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the traffic law. Through this, ensuring a safe and smooth road trip will never be a problem.

Tolerating reckless and ignorant drivers is not a practice in Laos. Stubborn citizens who will show disobedience to the traffic regulation will end up facing charges. Be a great example of an obedient driver. It’s not that hard to pull off some good Samaritan deeds.

Important Regulations

Recalling the significant road rules is a crucial responsibility of a tourist driver. Take note that the passenger’s life is at stake negligence overpowers obedience. Tourist citizens who don’t own an IDP or an official translation of a local driving card cannot operate and rent a car abroad. Once a person allows someone who doesn’t acquire any of the two essential items, severe punishment awaits. Remember that following the road law is necessary as having an IDP.

Do not wait for the point where everyone loses something significant. It’s better to come prepared than suffering regrets at the end. No one wants to face troubles and ruin the long due voyage. Try to undergo the legal process. It will result in legal protection at all times. That’s way manageable and can give relief from worries.

Before settling in the Driver’s Seat

Day meals are essential. Skipping it will cause low energy to travel. Take it as much as possible, do not risk your health. It’s more of a hassle when one attempts to skip it and go on driving. Do also drink a hot coffee or any beverage that can help to boost senses. It’s a great tip to make the focus on condition.

Before anyone forgets, remind the driver to do thorough checking on the rental car. Make sure that the vehicle has enough driving equipment. For travelers with toddlers, ensure that the car has a child booster seat. It’s better to be safe than to take human life. You must also bring the required licenses before hitting the road.

Mobile Phone

After settling everything, the driver should give full attention on the road. Monitoring the rear and side mirrors from time to time, observing the road marks, watching the other vehicles’ movement are the top priorities. Ensuring that the car is on the proper lane for driving is also a primary concern. Never use any smartphone while holding a steering wheel and operating the clutch. It’s a big distraction and a lead cause of road accidents.

Parking Regulations

Generally, it is best to coast the vehicle at the secured parking area. However, if it is inevitable, pulling at the side of the road is the option. In Laos, parking rules are quite different and confusing. So, the Laotian Government advises foreigners to follow sidewalk marks’ color. If the pattern is in black, tourists can pull over anytime. Be careful when coasting on the yellow spot as drivers should not stay for long. If the hue is red, drivers should not park.

Drink Driving Law in Laos

Maneuvering a rental car in an intoxicated state is against the traffic rule. Daring to step on the accelerator in tipsy condition will face high fines and punishment. The BAC limit in Laos is 0.05% only. Exceeding on it may cause a big road rage. That’s the worst-case scenario and terrific consequence of drunk-driving.

If a Laotian officer caught a driver with an alcohol scent, confiscation of the international driver’s license and native driving license in Laos is the punishment. The assigned officer will issue a ticket, and the driver must settle it by paying through the bank.

General Standards

Comfortable driving is the primary goal of every tourist driver planning to rent a car abroad. The use of manual and automatic autos is typical in Laos, but frequent travelers advise to practice some adjustments if a specific vehicle is not available. The final decision will still matter to you. It’s only a piece of advice to remember when choosing to rent a foreign car.

Of course, be sure to run a double check on the belongings before going on the road. Look over if the vital things are inside the bag. The IDP, domestic driver’s license, passport, and rental car documents are among the essentials to have.

Speed Limits

Sustaining a maximum speed in each road section is mandatory. It is one of the fundamental factors that a driver should know. Designating legal speed marks is one way to manage traffic on the highway. When driving through Laos, following the allowed velocity is essential. For reference, below is the allotted acceleration rate per roadway.

  • Expressway - 110 km/h
  • Urban Roads - 40 km/h
  • Highway - 70 km/h to 90 km/h

Driving Directions

Encountering roundabouts is a typical thing in Laos. For those who are not familiar, roundabouts are a circle roadway where drivers generally give way to the vehicle ahead before moving forward. It is a must to yield when necessary. Do not attempt to reign the road as it is not yours. Be careful also for unexpected overtake of some local drivers. A few residents don’t even bother to light up their warning lights and move ahead whenever they want.

Proper overtaking is acceptable when there’s a freeway. If a particular road section doesn’t allow anyone to overtake, do not attempt to violate.

Traffic Road Signs

Road signs enforcement varies on every sovereign state in the world. Right before travelers push through with an international flight, reviewing the chosen destination’s latest traffic regulation is compulsory. It can save the designated driver from confusion, especially if the road marks are opposite from what the driver knows. When driving in Laos, have an update on traffic road signs. It’s better to learn it beforehand to avoid confusion and getting lost.

Paved highways are mostly in the capital city, so expect to have a smooth drive on that section. However, passing through the narrow roads and streets, especially in rural areas, drivers must take extra caution. Some motorists often ignore the traffic signs installed along the way, which causes road accidents. With this, always drive defensively and stay on the right lane at all times. To keep tourists guided about the traffic signs in Laos, refer to the list below for details.

  • Animal Crossing (cattle, deer)
  • Oblique side road junction
  • Staggered side road junction
  • Low-flying aircraft ahead
  • Priority over oncoming traffic
  • No Parking on Odd and Even days
  • Children’s crossing

Right of Way

The assigned driving side in Laos is on the right-hand section of the road. The opposite side is for overtaking purposes. Talking about the right of way rule, when approaching crosswalks, which are meant for children and the public, letting them pass first before moving forward is a must. The same regulation applies when arriving at the tram trail way and animal crossing area. Do not be reckless enough to accelerate without warning.

Proper observance of the right of way law is a compulsory thing to follow at all times. Some local drivers intentionally disobey, tolerance with their action will never bring any fortunate outcome. Let them face the consequence and pay for their imprudent driving habits.

Following the implementation of Laos’s road laws, the Laotian Government forcefully imposed the required driving age in the country, which is 18 years old. Similar to other Asian countries, the said minimum age is the standard. Upon reaching 18, one may acquire a valid driver’s license by undergoing training and education in a driving school in Vientiane, Laos. As for the car rentals, a renter should be at least 23 years of age to avail.

Law on Overtaking

According to the Road Traffic Law in Laos, drivers who will turn without a signal may end up settling high fines. The same thing goes for cyclists and motorists that will not alert others within the 30-meter range may face appropriate charges. Costs of fines may vary on the type of vehicle that a tourist is operating. For a definite list of possible prices for violations, kindly refer below.

  • Light Vehicle (van, pick-up, sedan, jeep) - 50,000 Kip
  • Other four-wheel car - 60,000 Kip
  • Bicycle and Tricycle - 20,000 Kip
  • Motorcycle - 30,000 Kip

Now, after reading the ranges of fines for overtaking, foreign drivers should understand that establishing this law is for the sake of all citizens in the country. Being impatient will not do anything better on a road trip. Never do rush driving unless there’s an emergency.

Driving Side

All tourist drivers should keep on the right portion of the highway to drive, which also means traffic moves on the right side of the road.. It is the designated driving side in Laos. Switching lanes without warning is forbidden. It will only lead to a road accident. When heading to a crosswalk, learn to give way. Following the traffic rules will lessen the risk of involvement in such vehicle accidents.

If the explorers choose this state as their final highway-bound destination, obtaining an IDP is a must. Visit the International Driver’s Association, tick the application button to see the application form. Input the personal details like name, address, contact number, zip code, and a driving license in Laos.

Driving Etiquette in Laos

Portraying a finesse poise is a vital practice to every outlander of a foreign nation. It’s a professional way to express a dignified personality and respect to people. An international resident should showcase utmost humility as it will be an advantageous trait on every occasion. It can help one to act appropriately and think maturely in case of facing a road rage tension. It’s also an impressive mark to live abroad.

The essence of understanding moral values is to influence an individual to apply them in real-life situations. With this, the possibility of affecting others is high. It’s a good vision to have, especially when visiting a foreign territory. Manifesting the vital traits in life can bring a lucky mark to a person. It can be a positive development in being a better person.

Car Breakdown

Most foreign visitors miss out on planning a back-up strategy if an unexpected situation comes along the way. They tend to panic and get anxious while thinking of possible reasons for the vehicle’s malfunction. Feeling that way won’t resolve the problem, so it’s better to keep emotions calm and relax. Going along the adrenaline rush is not a helpful thing to do. It only increases the possibility of ending up in a worse scenario.

If a rental car shows break down symptoms while on the highway, here are the helpful tips to prevent further damage to the vehicle. Keep in mind that these are only the standard procedures to act on in a road emergency.

  • Navigate A Secured Spot to Get Away From Traffic

Once a driver notices something wrong with the car, kindly look for a safe side on the road to pull over. It is essential to escape from the traffic to avoid congestion. Turn on the hazard lights right away. It will alert the other drivers that there’s someone having troubles on the road.

  • Take the Warning Triangles and Reflective Jacket

After coasting the car at the safe zone, kindly get the warning triangles. Set it up behind and front of the vehicle with a 100-meter distance. It will also let the upcoming cars know that there’s a current road emergency happening ahead. Do not also forget to wear the reflective jacket for safety. When dealing with the car rental agent, make sure to include a complete supply of driving kits and equipment. It’s part of the rental fee’s coverage.

  • Contact The Car Rental Company Staff for Immediate Road Assistance and Response

Experiencing malfunction in the middle of the highway is a hassle. But, it’s an emergency case, so taking a solution to solve the concern should matter. Checking first the source of breakdown is the top priority. If the driver can’t fix it and needs professional work, tapping the car rental agent is the best option. It is the significance of noting the contact number of a staff. The driver knows who to call.

  • Speak with Bonafide Residents for Quick Help

Luck is an essential element to have, especially when facing a car break down. Getting stranded in a city is probably a fortunate thing. A tourist driver can ask for direct help from patrolling officers on the road. However, if getting stuck in rural areas, the only choice is to ask a local for assistance. English is only a minority dialect in Laos, so foreigners must learn the Lao language. Common phrases are enough to know.

Police Stops

International citizens will mostly face police officers around Vietnam and Thailand’s state borders when driving to Laos. In this case, foreigners must observe and comply with the imposed protocols of the state. Presenting essential travel requirements and complete documents for a Laos’s driving license is an obligatory thing to follow.

There are instances that a police officer will randomly hail a driver. Make sure to coast on the side immediately to avoid suspicion and trouble. Upon maneuvering safely, roll down the windows and allow them to explain the reason for calling and put your attention. If they request a foreigner to show a valid driver’s license, IDP, passport, and rental car documents, do not think twice. Give it to them for verification. Do not argue with them as much as possible.

Asking Directions

Not all the time a navigation map will work. When passing through a remote site, most of the streets are unreadable by the app. In resolving this issue, trying to learn the basic phrases used in Laos is the key. The Lao language isn’t that difficult to practice. A traveler should know the country’s common terminologies, and that’s enough to converse with a local. The universal mother tongue is only a minority language in Laos. So, speaking in Lao is the bes

Here are the everyday words and sentences that locals say when conversing with one another. Do note that these are only the general phrases used in Laos. It’s a quick learning review for international visitors when driving in the districts of Laos.

  • Hello
  • (Sabaidee)
  • Excuse me
  • (Khaw Toot)
  • How are you?
  • (Sabai dii bo?)
  • Thank you
  • (Khop tchai lai lai)
  • I’m lost
  • (Khoi long thang)
  • I would like to go to
  • (Diak)
  • Where is the Hotel?
  • (Bonthi pen Hong hem?)
  • Bank
  • (Thanakane)
  • Is it close?
  • (Pid bo?)
  • Where is the hospital?
  • (Hong mo you sai?)
  • Police
  • (Tamlouat)
  • Have a nice day!
  • (Mu thidi!)

Checkpoints

A sovereign land establishes checkpoints to strictly watch the traffic movements, record the foreigner’s entry into the country, and ensure the security of locals residing in the state. In Laos, all non-Laotians must exhibit legal documents upon approaching any checkpoints surrounding the nation. For a credible guide on what to possess when arriving at a checkpoint, below are the typical tourist drivers’ requirements.

  • Car Rental Registration
  • Valid Foreign Passport
  • National Identification Card (if applicable)
  • Original Driver’s License
  • International Driver’s Permit (IDP)

Aliens of this country must comply with the above-stated protocol. Laotian Immigration Officers will not entertain nationals with a lack of documents. Every international visitor needs to have complete papers whenever passing a checkpoint or a country borderline.

Other Tips

Getting an informative idea about what to do in preventing such road rage is a helpful thing. However, knowing what to act in case of a road accident is also a crucial part. To have that practical guide, read below about what to do when having an involvement in a car accident.

What if you get involved in a vehicular accident?

The top resolution in case of an accident is tapping an emergency rescue. Do not wait for hours before you dial up for help. You don’t need to be a hero if you can’t move a single step. It’s okay to seek a rescue. Let the authorities aid your issues and resolve your concerns. When an officer requests your details, give them out what they need. Call for an ambulance if there's an injured person.

Often you may catch a road rage. When meeting one, do not recklessly head off from the car. You don’t have the authority to solve it on your own. Try to call-out an ambulance or the police. It’s way better than meddling with other people’s business. You’ve already lend help, and it’s enough.

Driving Conditions in Laos

Congestions and slow pace traffics are chaotic in some undeveloped roadways in Laos. Out of the 14,000 miles routes in this state, only 6,000 of them are in excellent condition. The remaining miles are the least improved highways, which are mostly in rural communities. However, despite the relatively lousy transportation infrastructure in secluded areas, the central hub’s expressways continuously have incredible enhancement.

Taking extra precautionary measures when driving a car in Laos is necessary. Some resident drivers do not pay attention to the road signs as they push through with their plan without minding the other vehicles beside them. However, there are still local operators who religiously obey the traffic law. Foreign drivers can also drive a motorbike safely in Laos.

Accident Statistics

Road crashes due to excessive speed, and high BAC limits are the most significant issue in Laos. Negligence and imprudence in driving are the lead causes of vehicular accidents. In 2018, the WHO records a 2.48% or 1,058 fatalities on Road Traffic Deaths. Instead of a decrease in 2020, a massive jump to 1,074 is on the Lao Ministry of Public Security’s latest data. With this, the Traffic Police Department firmly pushes their campaign about road safety.

The Laotian Government primarily targets the driving schools in Vientiane, Laos. Though the capital’s roads are stunning, authorities still prefer the vibrant city as it is the tourist’s hotspot. It is a perfect venue to advertise and campaign the engaging advocacy of road safety. The Traffic Police’s primary objective is to let juveniles know the importance of studying the traffic rules and the hazardous effect of reckless driving.

Common Vehicle

Public transportation in Laos is functional only in the daytime. As soon as the darkness covers the sky, they cannot operate anymore. So, for explorers who might end up going back to the lodge after sunset, driving a car in Laos is a wise idea. So, when visiting the country, availing of a rental vehicle is a bright option. The trendy car type in Laos is the Economy. It’s a perfect match for couples traveling in this nation.

Take note that hitting the road at night is dangerous. Be vigilant on the highway. Switch on the headlights and reflectors for guidance. Do not allow distraction while driving.

Toll Roads

Heavy traffic is indeed a headache to most drivers. With this, the Lao PDR Government establishes toll roads on expressways. Crossing on the paved roadways in Laos through driving a car is an innovative idea. Tourists won’t have to mind limiting their rewarding moments over a particular place. They also no longer need to stress themselves on capital highways as passing through Toll roads is the key to a smooth sailing trip.

Reaching the vibrant capital, Vientiane, explorers may go on driving from Thailand to Laos. They can also make access from Vietnam going to the mainland. Either of the two countries, travelers must allot hours to drive. Route 2 is the fastest pathway to pass through when driving from Bangkok, Thailand, to Laos. Proceeding to the QL1A and Route 13 is the ideal way to reach Laos from Vietnam.

Road Situations

About the highway’s situation, the road infrastructure in urban areas are decent to drive to than the remote regions. The majority of the state’s impressive routes are in the dynamic cities of Laos. Outlanders won’t have a hard time understanding the road marks in the capital. However, when heading outside the city, extra effort on navigating directions is a must. Other than that, Laos’s road conditions, not only the main roads, are generally adequate to drive.

Driving Culture

Despite Laos’s unfortunate high fatality rates, the Laotian Authorities are making their best effort to lessen the increasing number of stubborn drivers. Various educational road safety advocacy organizations are continuously spreading the significance of compliance with the traffic law. Though some still violate, responsible resident drivers do exist in Laos. International citizens may freely let go of their dilemmas on driving a car in this country.

Other Tips

Traversing the Laos PDR’s roadway is the most convenient style to wanderlust. However, as you figure out the typical conditions of driving in the country, you must also abide by other essential things that can help you to have a smooth-sailing voyage.

Are They Using KpH or MpH?

When reading the velocity marks along the road, drivers will often see KpH as the speed unit. Like in other Asian countries, the said acceleration measurement is what Laos uses. For other international states that use MpH, take a review about driving rules in Laos. It’s a great tip to familiarize a newbie with various traffic signage.

Is Driving In the Dark Allowed in Laos?

A lot of questions relating to night driving abroad have been circulating online. In Laos, drivers who attempt to hit the road after sunset are hazardous. Possible unpaved roads are present at night due to road construction. Stray animals are typically roaming around in the dark. Road signs are challenging to read in the evening.

Is Self-Driving in Laos Safe?

Foreigners that are unfamiliar with Laos’s roadways hire a local driver upon booking a rental car. However, it’s more expensive than getting a rental vehicle alone. Though some tend to have a local guide, many still choose to do self-driving in Laos. Hitting the road alone in this country is safe. Always abide by the road rules, and everything will end up smooth.

Is Driving A Scooter Allowed in Laos?

For travelers who are curious about driving a scooter in Laos, a driver must have a specific license to use a motorbike in the country. Having an IDP is unnecessary when choosing to ride a scooter, but getting one is still a must for safety and assurance. Helmets are compulsory when coasting a motorcycle. Wearing of safety gear and clothes is mandatory.

Things to Do in Laos

Expats who desire to craft their career in Laos should now begin hunting for an opportunity to render service under a Laotian company. It's not surprising to decide on living in Laos because of its beautiful Lao culture. Grabbing employment in this state is similar to other Asian countries that require a foreign worker to secure a close deal job contract before acquiring a work permit. It is to ensure that the employer follows the country’s labor code law.

When obtaining a work permit and visa in Laos, applicants should know the type of legal permission they seek as their visa category will depend on their professional service sector. All foreign nationals must get a permit to perform work. No exemptions will apply unless the purpose of the visit is tourism.

Drive as a Tourist

Non-Laotians are welcome to have a highway-bound journey in the state. But, there are essential processes to follow. A tourist driver must be a valid holder of a driver’s license and an International Driver’s Permit. Though exemptions apply for citizens from Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, the Lao PDR government still advises foreigners to acquire an IDP for protection and security.

Driving a car in Laos is a manageable way to organize an itinerary when roaming around the wonders of the state. It gives an exceptional freedom to create unforgettable experiences abroad. Having an IDP also saves a foreign visitor from headaches on making the time productive. To own an IDP, go to the International Driver’s Association website. It has perfectly streamlined procedures on how to apply for one.

Work as a Driver

Passionate tourist drivers who wish to expand their niche in operating a vehicle abroad may find a perfect match driving job in Laos. It may oblige a foreigner to submit several requirements, but the overall experience is worth trying. Though scoring a job offer in Laos is more effortless, applicants should never forget to ensure the employer’s credibility they are dealing with work-related matters.

Another significant element to consider is the driving age of the foreign driver. The applicant must be at least 18 years old and a legal owner of a valid driving license in Laos. International citizens may surrender their foreign driver’s license and convert it into a Laotian Driving License. You will first be issued a temporary Lao driving license.

Work as a Travel Guide

Any non-Laotian citizen may try their luck in searching for a travel guide work in Laos. It’s a brilliant move in boosting the nation’s tourism sector. Expats must be able to present a legitimate job deal offer under a local agency in Laos. With that, they may now move forward in completing the necessary documents for a work permit. In acquiring an employment visa in this country, there are no exemptions for the international people.

For foreigners who will push through with getting a professional job in Laos, below are the standard requirements that they need to have.

  • Fully Accomplished Lao Visa Application Form
  • Foreign Passport (valid at least six months)
  • Latest Passport size colored photo
  • Cover Letter for Employment
  • Professional Work Contract
  • Supporting Travel Documents
  • Confirmed Flight ticket
  • Sponsorship
  • Accommodation

Aside from these requirements, you also need to be knowledgeable of the Lao culture to fully perform the job exceptionally.

Apply for Residency

Unfortunately, the Lao PDR Government has yet to impose a direct long-term stay for foreigners. Possible alternative ways only apply to nationals with a vital role in the government sector and business investors. Though residency is not yet a good thing in Laos, tourists can still extend their tourist visas. However, they cannot perform work using a tourist visa. They can only have a more extended stay in the country.

Let go first the worries about not being eligible for a permanent residency. The Laos government is working to establish regulations for granting residence permits to an alien inhabitant. Tourist driving in Laos is the only legal thing for now.

Other Things to Do

Though residency is not applicable yet, there are still other things that you can do to acquire an extended stay in the country. Surrendering a domestic driver’s card to have a Lao Driver’s License is a huge decision to obtain a more extended stay in Laos. But. the experience is worth trying. Of course, learning what you must and not do when having a Laos driving test is essential.

What Are the Requirements Needed to Convert a Native Driver’s License into a Laotian Driver’s License?

Surrendering a foreign driver’s license abroad means an international citizen is willing to live like a Laotian in the country. Temporary foreign resident workers qualify to convert their domestic driver’s license to Laos’s driving license. They must have to present documentary requirements to obtain the nation’s driving card. Also, they need to reside in the state for six months to be eligible.

To keep an applicant informed about what to bring to the district police office that handles driving licenses in Laos, kindly refer to the details stated below.

  • Work Employment Certificate
  • Temporary Resident and Work Permit
  • Valid Foreign Passport
  • Three pieces of Passport size photographs
  • Fee of 50,000 Kip

What Are The Useful Dos and Don'ts When Taking A Driving Test in Laos?

Aspiring drivers who are about to schedule a driving test abroad must know the crucial reminders to note. It is a helpful tip to score a passing remark on the test. The driving examination usually comprises the physical, theory, and actual operation of a vehicle. It usually takes place in the state’s official driving center.

Here are the vital do’s and don’t that an applicant must jot down for a reviewer of driving in Laos. It can help a newbie to relax and exercise the mind before settling on the actual test day.

The Do’s

  1. Set the alarm to arrive 30-minutes earlier than the scheduled time.
  2. Exercise the formal greetings to Lao instructors.
  3. Be wise enough to reserve a date for a driving test online.
  4. Relax and have some breathing exercises to calm.
  5. Showcase a professional poise and vibe when doing the basic turns on the road.
  6. Fasten the seatbelt first before switching on the vehicle.

The Don’ts

  1. Never tolerate disobedience with the road rules.
  2. Displaying too-much skills will only increase the hazardous risks on the highway.
  3. Sleeping late at night, which is the day before the driving exam, will reduce the energy in giving the entire focus on the roadway.
  4. Communication is okay, but excessive talks can be a distraction.

Other Work Opportunities

Driving is not for everyone. Only those who are passionate and determined can push through. However, it doesn’t end there. In Laos, the typical professional work is English teaching. The primary one is serving as an intern or volunteer in an international organization like WHO and UN. Many ex-pats also search for vacancies in some embassies and consulates. Trying an opportunity to those organizations is a promising alternative.

Top Destinations in Laos

Laos is a prosperous jewel of Southeast Asia for its notable diversity in history and culture. The significant influence of various arts, lifestyles, customs, food, and iconic festivals adds to the sovereign state’s engaging ambiance. Though the neighboring territorial lands often overshadow Laos, it is still a marvelous treasure of the Southeast Asian continent

In spotting the untouched gems of this gorgeous nation, it will be worth experiencing Laos’s driving journey, especially from another foreign state, like Thailand. Travelers don’t have to bother booking a flight ticket to cross borders. They can simply opt to have a highway-bound trip on land. So, hurry now and start crafting plans for an incredible driving in Laos.

Kuang Si Waterfalls Photo by Simone Fischer

Kuang Si Waterfalls

Witnessing magical wonders is indeed a fancy dream to wish to be authentic. Kuang Si Waterfalls is a fantastic waterfall in the state. It is a natural treasure that gloriously cascades its stunning three-tier falls. Down the falls is a collection of lagoons where explorers can have a luxurious dip and enjoy the irresistible landscapes embracing the site. Hikers can have a leisurely climb up to the peak of Kuang Si. Go to the wooden footbridge. It only takes 15 minutes to complete.

Natural wanderers should save the date of their trip around December to May. It is a perfect period to see the majestic lagoons beneath the waterfalls. It’s the end season of monsoon rains so expect glamorous sunshine on those months

Driving Directions:

  1. From the Luang Prabang Airport, head to the southwest to reach the roundabout zone. Take the first exit to continue driving through the Phetsarat Road.
  2. In Manomai Rd and Route 1, turn right.
  3. After passing Route 1, turn left to the last street before proceeding to the nearest designated parking space.

In driving a vehicle through this pathway, tourist drivers should never forget to obtain an IDP from the International Driver’s Association. In case an IDP is lost, tap the customer service of IDA. State the name, address, contact number, tracking code, and zip code for your driving license in Laos’ replacement.

Things To Do

Maximizing the joyous vibe surrounding the Kuang Si Waterfalls will be fascinating if you got to try any of these enthralling activities.

  1. Swim at Kuang Si Waterfall

    Taking a swim on Kuang Si Waterfall is a must. Its mesmerizing clear waters attract travelers several times. But, before you can have a rewarding dip, heading for a five-minute walk on the trail is a must. That’s how you will personally see the gorgeous waterfalls up to six levels.
  2. Tour at Moon Bear Sanctuary

    If you don’t have the mood for a swim, you may want to have an educational time first at the Moon Bear Sanctuary. You will get the chance to find out their lifestyle and survival habits in the environment. Another exciting highlight is you will have the opportunity to watch the staff’s work on protecting the bear’s lives.
  3. Shop at a Small Food Market

    When you prefer to buy some local souvenirs and goods first, you can stop first at a small food market once you finish settling your car at the parking area. There are many rows of vendors selling various local dishes and handicrafts.
  4. Explore at Pak Ou Natural Caves

    After a splendid retreat session in Kuang Si, digging for some epic historical landmarks is a wise addition to the itinerary. The Pak Ou Natural Caves features two fascinating caverns, the Tham Ting and Tham Theung. It displays an extensive collection of Buddha figurines, which already exist for centuries.
Elephant Photo by Irene Grace Tolentino

Elephant Village Sanctuary

Advocates of animal rehabilitation and protection will have a meaningful trip in this specialized sanctuary intended for Elephants. The Elephant Village Sanctuary is a paradise in Luang Prabang that houses Asian elephants for rescue and treatment. Explorers can learn the essence of preserving these giant creatures as they are among the world’s endangered species.

Besides an educational voyage in this sanctuary, it also gives Luang Prabang’s residents an employment opportunity. Visitors can check out the site any day of the week. But, the ideal time to begin the wanderlust journey in the village is before 9 AM. It’s one way to avoid the extreme heat from the sun.

Driving Directions:

  1. Pass to the southwest from Luang Prabang Aiport before turning left to access the roundabout section. Proceed to the second exit.
  2. After the roundabout, turn left to reach the Rte Luang Prabang. Look for a secured parking area before leaving the vehicle.

Do note that extra caution and vigilance are mandatory when driving a car or a motorbike through Laos’s roads. It’s better to take precautionary measures than to create a road accident in the middle of the highway. When driving through Laos’s district, a navigation app is a great help.

Things to Do

Preservation is a crucial matter to the Elephant Village Sanctuary. It’s a sacred mission of the site to protect the Asian Elephants from any danger. To fully enjoy the fantastic adventure in the sanctuary, here are the enticing engagements you can try while on the site.

  1. Join the Basic Mahout Training Courses

    Day trip adventure will be more exciting if you will sign up to take a basic Mahout training. It is a course where tourists can have the chance to interact with the massive animals. Of course, the main game is providing proper care for the elephants. You can learn how to bathe them, make food, and even the excellent process to bring them to medical care.
  2. Trek at the Jungle

    After an educational course, you may want to continue your adventure by checking out the trekking trails that will lead you to the Khamu Village and the majestic Tad Sae Waterfalls. Be sure to go along with a local guide to inform you about the ethics and demeanor you must act upon meeting them.
  3. Eat at the Khmu Village

    When you opt to have a short ride on an elephant, it will bring you to the Khmu village, where locals will send you their warmest welcome and give a meaningful story about their lifestyle, culture, and tradition. Of course, they will also invite you to try their tasty Lao cuisine. It will be an unforgettable exploration in a lifetime.

Kong Lor Caves

Situated in the Phou Hin Boun National Protected Area is the historical Kong Lor Caves. It highlights its epic cave system that spans beyond 7 kilometers. With its exceptional stretch, it is now among the longest ones in the world. Exploring the beautiful cavern, tourists should ready for an ultimate darkness to fill their sights.

The dry season is the ideal exploration time in Kong Lor. Explorers can target any dates from November to March. Be sure to come prepared as getting wet is inevitable. There is an entrance fee to pay upon arriving at the site. Do note that availing of a travel guide is the best way to know the place.

Driving Directions:

  1. If coming from Wattay International Airport, drive to the northwest to traverse the Rte Luang Prabang/Souphanouvong Ave/Route 13.
  2. When approaching Ave Lane Xang, turn right to access Route 13. Make another right turn to reach the second exit at the roundabout.
  3. In the middle of Route 13, proceed to the second exit at the roundabout section to make a left turn in Route 8/AH15.
  4. After passing Route 8/AH15, continue heading to the Nam Hai Bridge.
  5. At the first cross street, turn right and spot for the parking area near the cave.

Things to Do

The legendary Kong Lor Cave is not only for cavern enthusiasts. It can also cater to diggers of the past, water sport adventurers, and thrillers. To have engaging ideas on what to do, here are the best activities you can check out.

  1. Boat ride at the Kong Lor Cave

    If you are curious about what’s going on inside the cave, taking a boat ride to explore the cavern is the main game. Before hopping on a boat, you will have to wear a life jacket and a torch for you to have epic sightseeing inside the site. After settling the protection gears, you will have to cross over a bridge and follow the signs leading to the entrance. A resident travel guide will tour you, so better listen and obey their rules.
  2. Swim at Nam Hin Bun River

    Right after a thrilling excursion inside the Kong Lor, taking time to cool off by swimming in the Nam Hin Bun River is a fantastic idea to relax. The area is safe for dipping. There’s no need to worry if you don’t see such signs or marks around.
  3. Bike at Tham Nam None

    Cycling around the Tham Nam None is a fun thing to experience when visiting the Kong Lor. The said place is another massive cavern, which is a famous hub for biking. You may rent out a bicycle at the nearby guesthouses for $2/day. Beware of getting too far, as you might encounter danger.

Reference

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