SAFETY AND SECURITY
There have been random shooting incidents near Xaisomboun town, in Xaisomboun Province, since late 2015.
If you must travel to this region despite our advisory, avoid travel after dark, be extremely cautious and follow the advice of local authorities.
Risk levels for Laos
Street crime is prevalent in cities and towns, including Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, and occasionally involves violence.
Bag theft occurs frequently. Thieves on motorcycles grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, other motorcycle drivers and their passengers.
Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
Do not show signs of affluence, and avoid travelling late at night.
Break-ins at hotels and guesthouses occur. Armed robberies occur occasionally.
Local police may not have the capacity to respond to crimes, especially at night.
Sexual assaults occur, particularly in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. Be particularly vigilant along hiking trails.
Safe travel guide for women
Be wary of money counting scams (currency exchange). Don’t exchange large sums of money in one transaction. Get local currency from the bank or an ATM instead of a currency exchange kiosk.
Report any incident of crime or scams to the local tourist police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, before you leave the country.
SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS
Never leave your food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Some food and drinks, such as “happy pizzas” and “special shakes,” may contain unspecified amounts of opium and other unknown substances. These items are sold in areas frequented by tourists, particularly in Vang Vieng. While these items may be easily accessible, taking any amount of opiates can be dangerous. Foreigners, including Canadians, have died as a result of drug overdoses.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance constitute a risk across the country, particularly in the Plain of Jars, in Xiengkhouang Province, as well as in the Laotian-Vietnamese border areas, including those traversing the former Ho Chi Minh Trail. Follow the advice of local authorities, and only travel on well-used roads and paths.
Road travel in Laos can be hazardous, as vehicles are often poorly maintained and road conditions are poor, especially during the rainy season.
Drivers have little regard for traffic regulations and do not follow safe driving practices.
Livestock often stray onto the roads, causing accidents.
Travel should be undertaken only during daylight hours.
Travellers involved in traffic accidents have been required to pay compensation for property damage or injury, regardless of who the police determine to be at fault. Laotian insurers will generally only meet a small proportion of the costs of an accident and refuse to cover compensation, which can be the largest expense.
Do not leave your passport as collateral when renting vehicles, including motorcycles. Read rental contracts thoroughly to ensure that the vehicle is correctly insured to cover damages and theft. Only rent from reputable companies, as some companies have been known to “steal” the vehicle, particularly motorcycles, and claim for the loss.
Public transportation is unreliable and limited after dark. River travel is common in Laos. Safety standards are minimal. Speedboat travel is especially dangerous during the dry season (November to May). Lifejackets and helmets should be provided to and worn by passengers.
Do not travel on or across the Mekong River after dark. In some areas, the Laotian military has been known to shoot at boats after dark.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Only undertake adventure sports, such as zip-lining and rock climbing, with a well-established and reputable company that has insurance.
Tour operators may not adhere to international standards. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of the installation or equipment, refrain from using them. Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance.
Exercise extreme caution and carefully consider your safety when engaging in river-based sporting activities, including in Vang Vieng. Travellers have died or been seriously injured while taking part in river-based activities such as tubing or jumping/diving into the river. River levels can fluctuate considerably and debris can make river-based activities dangerous.
If engaging in adventure tourism:
- never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- obtain detailed information on each activity before setting out and do not venture off marked trails
GENERAL SAFETY INFORMATION
Tourist facilities outside Vientiane and Luang Prabang are limited.
Security officials may place foreigners under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines and email messages may be monitored. Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.