UPDATE: As of March 20, 2020, due to the Coronavirus outbreak Laos has suspended all visas on arrival, e-visas, and tourist visas issued at Lao diplomatic missions overseas. In other words, you can’t get a tourist visa for Laos right now. Not that you would want to anyway, because the country is under lockdown for all but essential activity, as are most other countries in the world. Stay home, stay safe. I’ll leave the rest of this article here for reference when, someday, travel restrictions are lifted.
Summary: Between January 2020 and June 2020, Laos is removing their Visa on Arrival (VOA) programs at some land borders and small airports. Visas on arrival are still available at the major airports and some land crossings – details below.
How did I find out? Recently a traveler emailed me to say she was turned away while trying to cross from Vietnam to Laos at the Dien Bien Phu / Tay Trang border crossing. I’ve updated that article (which focuses on issues with Vietnam e-visas) with a warning, and will lay out what I know about the Laos VOA situation below.
If you search for “Laos Visa on Arrival” on google, most of the information is now out of date. So I thought I’d publish an up-to-date article in hopes of spreading this new information more quickly.
Where are Laos Visas on Arrival Available in 2020?
According to this helpful source (in French), the Lao government is no longer issuing visas on arrival at certain land borders as of January 2020, with more added to the list in March 2020 and June 2020. This means it’s no longer possible to cross into Laos at these borders without arranging a visa in advance.
According to the Tour Mag article above, these are the affected border crossings and timelines. I’m reproducing them here to make life easier for English-speaking travelers, since the original article is in French.
January 2020: VOAs no longer granted at these land borders:
- Pang Hok / Tai Trang (Vietnam border)
- Nam Soie / Nameo (Vietnam border)
- Nam Ngeune / Houay Kon (Thai border)
- Nam Phao / Kao Cheo (Vietnam border)
Note: I’ve already heard, as of late January 2020, of at least one traveler being denied a VOA at Pang Hok / Tai Trang.
March 2020: VOAs no longer granted at these land borders and airports:
- Nam Kan (Vietnam border)
- Koua Nam Hueang / Luey (Thailand border)
- Savannakhet Airport
June 2020: VOAs no longer granted at these land borders:
- Na Phao / Cha Lor (Vietnam border)
- Phou Kuea / Quangtoum (Vietnam border)
VOAs have never been granted at these land borders:
- Ban Meuang Mom / Vang Poung (Burma border)
- Pakxanh / Beungkane (Thailand border)
VOAs still available (in theory) at these land borders and airports:
- Wattay / Vientiane International Airport
- Pakse / Champassak Airport
- Luang Prabang International Airport
- Bo Ten / Bo Hane (China border)
- Golden Triangle (Thailand / Burma border)
- Houay Xay / Chiengkhong (Thailand border)
- Friendship bridge 1 (Thailand border)
- Thanaleng station (Thailand border)
- Thakhek / Nakornopanom (Thailand border)
- Densavanh / Lao Bao (Vietnam border)
- Friendship Bridge 2 (Thailand border)
- Vang Tao / Song Mek (Thailand border)
- Nong Nok Khiene / tra Preng Kriene (Cambodia border)
Strangely, as of January 30, 2020 the Laos Department of Immigration has yet to update their website with this information. However, I’ve received a report of a traveler being denied a VOA at Pang Hoc / Tay Trang, so it seems the change is real.
Other Types of Laos Visas
If you’re traveling overland from a neighboring country at one of the no-VOA borders, you will need to get your Laos visa in advance. There are several ways to do this:
Laos Visa in Your Home Country
If your trip isn’t too long and you already know roughly when you’ll be entering Laos, you can apply for your visa at the Laos embassy in your home country.
Requirements and procedures vary by country, so check the website of the Laos embassy in your country for details. For example, here is the information for US citizens wishing to apply the Laos Embassy in the US.
Laos Visa in a Neighboring Country
For travelers moving overland between countries, it’s common to get your visa for the next country in a major city along your route. For example, travelers going from Vietnam to Laos can apply for a Laos visa at the Laos Embassy in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
Requirements and processing time vary by location, so look up the details for the specific city you’re interested in. Forums on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet Thorn Tree are often good sources of recent information.
If you’re planning to enter Laos at any of the land borders affected by the VOA change, this won’t help you. The only two land borders where eVisas are valid – the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridges I and II – apparently still issue VOAs anyway. But, I’ll include the details here for completeness.
For travelers from these countries entering Laos at one of the five major locations below, you can apply for a Laos eVisa in advance. You will apply and pay online, download an approval letter, and present it at the port of entry when you arrive in Laos.
As of January 2020 the Laos eVisa is valid at these ports of entry:
- Wattay International Airport (Vientiane)
- Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I (Vientiane)
- Luang Prabang International Airport (Luang Prabang)
- Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge II (Savannakhet Province)
- Pakse International Airport (Champasack Province)
Laos is a wonderful country to travel in – safe, friendly, relaxed, and beautiful. I spent over a month traveling in Laos by bicycle in 2018 and it was my favorite country of the trip.
Don’t let visa issues stop you from going. With a little bit of preparation, you can get your Laos visa in advance and cross at any border you like. Once you’re in, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time.
If you’re headed to Southeast Asia, you might also find these helpful:
- How to Visit Angkor Wat Independently
- Safety and Solo Female Travel in Cambodia
- 9 Important Must-Do’s Before Traveling Abroad
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