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Cash and ATMs in Laos: All you need about cash, cards, ATMs, fees, and currency exchange

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Laos in Southeast Asia is a gem gem known for its mountainous terrain, culture and monasteries. From the tranquil town of Luang Prabang and the mysterious Plain of Jars to the vibrant capital of Vientiane and the serene 4,000 Islands, Laos offers a peaceful and authentic experience. To navigate this laid-back country with ease, it’s important to understand the local currency and cash, ATMs in Laos and available payment options. This guide will provide you with the financial insights needed to explore the untouched beauty and rich cultural tapestry of Laos with confidence and tranquility.

Cash or card?

Even in small towns, cash is what you’ll need most of the time. Keep it handy for around 90% of what you’ll want to pay for.

Cash in Laos for:

Street shopping
Food from local restaurants, especially in less touristy areas
Many hostels and budget hotels
Entry fees for some temples, museums, and historical sites
Street food vendors
Local trains (in some areas, ticket machines might not accept cards)
Many tour operators, especially local or small-scale ones
Tips and gratuities in many places
Tuk-tuks and local taxis
Public buses
Small purchases
Local markets and bazaars

Card for:

Upmarket hotels
Car rentals
Entry fees for major tourist attractions and theme parks in major tourist areas
Fancy sit-down restaurants in major tourist areas
Online bookings for hotels, flights, and tours
Good looking coffee shops in major tourist areas
Spas in major tourist areas
Professional pre-paid taxi booking services (such as in larger cities)
Expensive tour operators
Shopping in malls and branded stores in major cities
Tailoring services in major cities

So where to get cash in Laos?

ATMs, or
Currency exchange

Find ATMs in Laos at?

In Laos, more than 1,300 ATMs serve the cities and some towns, courtesy of top 6 banks. But ATMs are less frequent in remote areas and islands. You’ll usually find them at airports, market squares, and main tourist areas.

These are the places where it will be difficult to find ATMs:

Small airports
Regional bus stops
Interior of the villages
In small towns, off the main streets
Religious places
Remote resorts and retreats

Popular banks with ATMs

The most popular ATMs in Laos are:

Lao Development Bank
BCEL
BFL
Phongsavanh Bank
LaoViet Bank

Global ATM alliance: Global ATM Alliance is a partnership among many banks in the world to allow its customers to withdraw cash from all partner banks abroad without any ATM fee. Many banks in the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and Latin America are part of the Global ATM Alliance, including Bank of America, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and others. BUT, there is no local bank in Laos part of this network. So don’t rely on this.

Where to find currency exchanges?

For currency exchange in Laos, you can use:

Authorised currency exchange centres: Available in tourist areas like Vientiane and Luang Prabang, local brands are the norm as big brands are scarce.
Gold shops: Unique to Laos and some Southeast Asian countries, gold shops often offer currency exchange with excellent rates and no fees.
Banks: Convert your currency to Kip at bank branches, especially for currencies like US dollars, Euros, Pounds, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, and Singapore dollars. A commission of 0.5% to 2% per transaction is typical.
Hotels and airports: Currency exchange services are available, but rates may not be the best. Some larger hotels may offer rates similar to banks.
Tips:

Avoid exchanging at airports due to poor rates.
Beware of the black market to avoid scams.
Bring new notes for better rates or lower fees.
For US dollars, larger bills typically yield higher rates.

Accepted currencies:
Laos mainly accepts its local currency Lao Kip (LAK or ₭). Don’t be shocked with notes like ₭ 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000! These are denominations but their value is insignificantly low compared to the US Dollar, Euro or Pound.
US Dollar: US Dollars and Thai Baht is also accepted in touristic areas but exchange rate in these payments will be poor. So pay in Kip unless you like losing a lot of money!
Euro: Not accepted
Pound: Not accepted

Know the ATMs in Laos

Foreign debit and credit cards usage

Absolutely, Laos’ ATMs are very receptive to cards from overseas.

Types of cards at ATMs

ATMs in Laos will mainly accept Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, Plus, JCB and American Express. Don’t expect a lot of them to accept Diners, Discover, RuPay cards.

Types of cards to swipe

Swiping is typically hassle-free with Visa and Mastercard, yet you may encounter some places that also accept Amex and other cards, albeit to a lesser extent.

Opening hours

ATMs are almost perpetually open, providing service 24 hours a day, throughout the week. Standalone ATMs are consistently accessible, though some within bank branches observe the hours of 9 am to 3 pm.

Workings and functionalities of the ATMs

Laos has modern ATMs akin to those in developed economies, complete with similar functionalities. Some may hold onto your card until the transaction is complete, so don’t leave it behind.

ATM names

Word ATM is widely used

PIN type

ATMs in Laos primarily accept 4-digit PINs. Some ATMs may accept longer PINs, but 4 digits are standard.

Also, many merchants used old machines which require a magnetic stripe on the card and not just a chip-and-pin card.

Language options

In Laos, ATMs offer Lao and English, and sometimes Thai. If these are unfamiliar, consider using Google Translate’s camera for live translation, but take your time as it may not be entirely accurate.

Know the foreign exchanges in Laos

Foreign debit and credit cards usage

Currency exchanges prefer hard cash for exchange. Visa is accepted at many places, mastercard next. Please be mindful of the fees you will pay if you use your card at a currency exchange.

Opening hours

Cash is the usual preference for currency exchanges. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at several locations. Always be aware of the fees when you choose to use your card.

Languages to interact in

Staff at currency exchanges in Laos can usually interact in English, Lao and sometimes Thai.

Exchange names

If you need to exchange cash in Laos, look for a ‘Currency Exchange’, ‘Forex’, ‘Money Exchange’, or just an ‘Exchange’.

Laotian ATMs’ withdrawal limit and ATM Fees

Withdrawal limit: ATMs typically restrict the withdrawal per transaction from ₭1.5 million to ₭2 million.

ATM fees: Here’s the good news! In Laos, the range of ATM fees goes from ₭ 0 to ₭ 40,000 depending on the issuing country of your card and logo on your card (Visa, Master, etc.).

Ways to avoid high fees

Use the low fee ATMs in the country.
Use the ATM Fee Saver app to find fee-free or low-fee ATMs.
Opt for “Decline Conversion” or “Without Conversion” during ATM transactions.
Consider getting fee-free cards from your home country.
For more in-depth insights and alternative methods, check out our detailed article, Withdrawing cash abroad? 9 best ways to save foreign ATM fees.

Avoid no-fee exchange offices at all costs to get cash

in Laos – If they say no fee, which means they account for their fee in the exchange rate. Nothing is ever free in currency exchanges
Avoid using credit and debit cards for direct transactions

Ways to find fee-free ATMs in Laos

Using the ATM Fee Saver app, find fee-free ATMs, currency exchanges, and money transfer facilities in Laos. It lists the fees for foreign card users at Laosese ATMs and their withdrawal limits specific withdrawals in Laos. After selecting an ATM, the app’s navigator will guide you to its location. It includes information for 50 countries, Laos being one of them.

Cash in Laos and safety

Carrying cash

Carrying a sensible amount of cash in Laos is generally safe and necessary. To ensure the safety of your cash:

Spread your cash across various locations.
Use a safety belt or fanny pack for some of your cash.
Avoid showing a large amount of cash in public.
Don’t reveal all your cash when making payments.
Preferably store your wallet in your front pocket.
Be cautious with your belongings in crowded public spaces.

Safety at ATMs in Laos & currency exchanges

Generally speaking, ATMs in Laos are equipped with security measures such as cameras and guards, and incidents of crime in their vicinity are relatively low. However, pickpocketing is a more common occurrence. Follow these tips:

Use ATMs Inside Bank Branches: Prefer using ATMs located within bank premises, as they are typically more secure and less prone to tampering.

Monitor Your Transactions: Keep a regular check on your card transactions via your bank’s mobile app or online banking service. Promptly report any suspicious activity.

Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi: Exercise caution when using public Wi-Fi for banking or credit card transactions. For enhanced security, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Keep Your Card Visible: Ensure that your credit card remains within your sight during transactions. Be cautious of merchants who take your card out of view.

Carry a Backup Card: It’s wise to carry an additional credit card while traveling, so you have an alternative in case of any issues with your primary card.

For currency exchanges, always opt for authorized and registered establishments.

FAQs

Fee-free ATMs in Laos and possible to withdraw cash free of cost?

Depending on the issuing country of your card and logo on your card (Visa, Master, etc.), you may be able to get fee-free withdrawals at ATMs, otherwise expect to pay between ₭ 20,000 to ₭ 40,000 per ATM transaction to get cash in Laos.

Foreign cards from US, UK, India, China, Europe accepted?

Absolutely yes! You can usually use cards from the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and other countries at ATMs in Laos

Bitcoin ATMs

No, there are no Bitcoin ATMs in Laos.

Foreign banks’s presence in Laos

Bank of America: No
Citbank: Nope.
Barclays: No.
HSBC: Not present
Standard Chartered: No

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