Visa travel is the norm these days but countries like Laos have realised that it is important to make them readily available to tourists on Laos travel packages. A good Laos tour operator will certainly be able to advise you about the requirements. In most cases a visa can now be obtained on arrival; the main airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse are the most popular places of entry and each has the facility to provide a visa if needed.
Some nationals do not require visas at all but given they are available in most cases without going to a consulate there is little inconvenience any more. Visas are issued on land crossings at the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge and the Lao/Vietnam border. Passport photographs may be a requirement; it is worth carrying a couple anyway though recently the practice seems to be disappearing.
There are a number of nationalities who cannot get a visa on arrival. They include several African and Middle East nationals and it is worth listing a few as examples:
• Africa – Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Congo, Mozambique, Zambia & Zimbabwe.
• Asia – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Afghanistan.
As is standard with many countries, you will need to have at least six months’ validity on your passport and a blank page. If that is a problem passport renewals can be done before the previous passport runs out with no loss of time as the remaining months are added to the new passport. The standard visa lasts 30 days but for those born in Laos it is 60 days. Entry into Laos is not permitted on emergency documents though departure is allowed though if your passport is lost or stolen you must report that to the police and wait for a day or two to get a loss of passport document to permit you to proceed.
The prices vary with nationality which is the case in many countries of the world; often the price reflects a nation’s relationship with Laos. You can probably expect a fee of around $35 though it is important to check before departure in case things change. If you get a visa before travelling the price can also depend upon which country you apply within. Travel agencies provide a service and you should use your tour operator if you are in any doubt.
Visa extensions are available from the Immigration Departs in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse and where it is not convenient to visit any of these it may be advisable to go back across the border for a new 30-day visa. You can actually get a 60-day extension to your initial 30-day visa.
Visitors who visit the country on organised Laos tour packages will be advised about requirements and only cross borders if on an Indochina travel package at authorised points of entry. There is no need to take any risks with the authorities. There is a daily fine rate for each day a visitor overstays in Laos and the procedure will involve arrest.