Money Matters in Laos

dsc_4148.jpgThe kip is the official currency of Laos. It’s quite volatile and many businesses will accept Thai baht or dollars, especially near border areas.

Not so long ago you had to bring wads of money into Laos because there were no bank machines. Getting money is a lot easier these days. ATMs are now popping up in the main cities including Pakse and Savannakhet in the south. You shouldn’t rely entirely on ATMs. They are prone to breakdowns.

Bring at least a third to half of the cash you’ll need in U.S. dollars or Thai baht. You can bring Euros too but they’re not as common.

In the countryside, it’s good to have enough kip on hand to see you through to the next city. Even if you find someone who will take a foreign currency, you’ll get a poor rate of exchange on the deal compared to going to a bank or swapping your cash at a money changer in a market.

The standard street rate of 8,000 kip to the dollar given in hotels is nearly 10 percent below the dollar’s true value. The rate for Thai baht in guesthouses is nearer the official exchange rate so if you have a choice between swapping dollars or baht in a hotel, use the baht.

Credit cards are rarely accepted in Laos except in upmarket hotels, shops and restaurants.


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