The official currency is the Lao Kip (L-KIP). US dollars or Thai Baht are accepted in the main cities as are Euros in banks and for payment in some hotels and restaurants in major cities.
The exchange rate is US$ 1 = 8167 Laos KIP, and 1 Euro = 8751 Laos KIP (Exchange rate update in December 2016).
Traveller’s cheques can be cashed only at major banks and usually incur a 2% to 5% transaction fee.
Visa and Master cards are accepted now in most hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and in a few restaurants and shops in the main towns (Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse ), but can also be subject to 2% to 5% transaction fees.
You can also get cash advances with your credit card either from ATMs or from foreign exchange offices (subject to 2% to 5% transaction fees).
Depending on the country you are travelling from, the best advice is to bring either cash in USD or Euro. Note that exchange rates for small and big notes vary, so we would recommend you to bring some small notes in US dollars to cope with initial expenses on arrival then either 100 USD or 100 Euro bank notes.
Be careful, banks and foreign exchange offices do not usually take old, scribbled or even stained bank notes. Please check opening hours, as some banks close at 4 pm
SHOPPING (What to buy in Laos)
Lao Silk: One thing that is most worth buying in Laos is handmade Lao silk, which can be tailor-made into traditional Lao dresses. Silk products like table runner, bedspread and scarf are also popular souvenirs when people travel to Laos. They are cheap to get with a price from only some dollars.
Handicrafts: Most hill-tribe people livPakseing in Laos make a living by creating outstanding handicrafts that sold for local and foreign markets. That’s why it is suggest purchase their work to support their family. Famous handicrafts include textiles, baskets, handmade incense, wood and stone sculptures, natural papers, all of which can be found either in local markets or the remote villages you visit.
Silver: You might notice the silver belt, silver earrings, bracelets worn by Lao women, including school students and government officers. Accessories made of silver are common to see in Laos, where produces genuine silver as Thailand does. Figures and animal images are hammered into large silver bowels, which were once used for religious ceremonies. Now for visitors, they are delicate gifts for relatives and friends.
Arts: Paintings made by local artists are worth buying when you are doing Laos tours. They are easy to pick up at night markets and often sold by the river. If you wish to meet something of higher quality, go to the local galleries, where works by better known painters are on display. Exhibition held at Art School of the National University is also a good place to find talent’s paintings.
Lao Coffee: It goes a little different from the one you find in Vietnam. The truth that Laos is the best place to grow coffee among Southeast Asian countries proves the excellent quality of its coffee products. In streets and duty free shops, Lao coffee is sold like hot cakes. So why not try it and bring the flavor home?
Replica of Antiques: Since Laos is an ancient country with a long history, antiques are inevitably hot articles that collectors are chasing after. For visitors, Lao antiques and Buddhist artifacts are prohibited brought out of the country or they’ll be fined ruthlessly. Our suggestion is buy the replica of antiques, such as clothes, carvings, potteries and coins.
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