Getting into Laos is easier than ever, including the process for securing a visa for your stay. Travel between Cambodia and Laos continues to expand, and Lao Airlines offers direct flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Vientiane and Luang Prabang, plus from Siem Reap to Pakse (though availability may change according to the time of year).
Most visitors can obtain a visa on arrival at all of these airports, and also at the Dom Kralor/Veun Kham land crossing in Stung Treng, northeast Cambodia. The visa is a tourist, 30-day, single-entry visa that can be extended, up to 60 days, and costs between $30 and $42 depending on your nationality. You will need your passport, with at least six-months’ validity, a completed application form, which you can pick up at the entry point, two passport photos and the fee in cash, preferably in US dollars. They will take baht, but you may end up paying more because of an unfavourable exchange rate.
Some nationalities are exempt from visa requirements; for example, members of ASEAN countries can enter for varying periods, and holders of Japanese, Russian, South Korean, Swiss and Luxembourg passports can also enter visa-free for 15 days.
However, if you’d prefer to sort it out in advance, getting a visa for Laos in Phnom Penh is a simple procedure. You’ll need:
– original passport with 6 months validity;
– two application forms (available at the embassy);
– two passport-sized photos.
Tourist visas are valid to be used within two months from issue only.
According to the sign posted at the embassy, normal visa processing takes 48 hours and “very express visa” processing takes 12 hours. When I asked about the express processing, I was told that it takes one day, but sometimes two. But usually one. What about same-day processing, I asked? Yes, very express, I was told. Drop it off at 8:00 and it might be ready by 17:00. Very express processing costs an additional $10.
The office hours at the Lao Embassy in Phnom Penh are Monday to Friday, 08:00 to 11:30 and 14:00 to 17:00.
On both of our last visits — during official embassy hours — no one was available to answer our questions. We’d recommend going though a local travel agent, which may well be cheaper too, rather than the embassy direct, especially if you have a complicated or urgent request.
Embassy of the Lao PDR
#15-17 Mao Tse Tung Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: (023) 997 931
F: (023) 720 907
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 5th February, 2016.