For the bulk of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, Laos has remained a relatively reclusive country with a strict immigration policy and very few foreigners permitted to enter, since borders were closed in late March 2020.
Even those who could secure permission to enter required a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test and an on-arrival test, then served 14 days of quarantine at a government-designated facility, at their own expense.
A mandatory tracking device cost a further US$200, and mandatory insurance had to be purchased on arrival for US$100 (both in cash only).
Even to leave the country, you had to apply to your embassy several days in advance, for the necessary approval.
Thanks to falling case numbers, however, the government of Laos has now announced a reopening of all international borders and a reinstatement of pre-COVID Visa on arrival and e-Visa policies, effective from 9th May 2022.
Furthermore, fully vaccinated travellers do not require pre-departure or on arrival COVID-19 tests to visit Laos, making it only the fifth ASEAN nation to have no testing requirements at all for these individuals, meaning two-way test-free trips from Singapore.
Laos lifts border restrictions
From 9th May 2022, Laos has reopened its land, air and sea borders to all citizens and foreign residents.
With pre-COVID immigration rules reinstated, visa-free entry is now permitted for those holding the following passports (number of days in brackets):
- Brunei (14)
- Cambodia (30)
- Indonesia (30)
- Japan (15)
- Luxembourg (15)
- Malaysia (30)
- Mongolia (30)
- Myanmar (14)
- Philippines (30)
- Russia (30)
- Singapore (30)
- South Korea (30)
- Switzerland (15)
- Thailand (30)
- Vietnam (30)
Singapore passport holders can visit Laos for up to 30 days without a Visa.
Visitors of most other nationalities (e.g. Australia, France, UK, USA) may obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days, for a fee.
Visa on arrival can be extended twice, not exceeding a total of 90 days stay in Laos. Extensions are processed within the country, for a fee.
e-Visas are available for those ineligible for visa waiver or visa on arrival, but must be applied for prior to departure.
Your passport must have at least six months’ validity remaining in order to travel to Laos. If you require a visa on arrival, you must have two blank pages in your passport to travel, otherwise your airline may refuse boarding.
Laos has now adopted very simple COVID-19 requirements for those travelling from overseas:
- Fully vaccinated travellers do not require any pre-departure or on arrival tests.
- Unvaccinated travellers aged 12 or above will be required to take a pre-departure antigen (ART) test, administered a maximum of 48 hours before their trip to Laos (based on departure from the first embarkation point).
- There are no quarantine requirements.
Laos will accept proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in Singapore, provided your final vaccine dose was administered at least 14 days prior to travel. A booster dose is not required to be considered fully vaccinated.
Laos does not require travellers to hold an insurance policy to enter the country as tourists.
However, visitors with COVID-19 will be responsible for all treatment costs, even if contracting the virus after arrival.
We would therefore strongly recommend having adequate coverage.
For example, here’s what the Australian government tells its citizens, regarding healthcare and insurance when travelling to Laos:
What’s it like in Laos now?
Life in Laos has largely returned to normal in recent months, allowing tourists to enjoy trips there as they did pre-pandemic, now that the borders have reopened.
- There are no longer domestic travel restrictions within Laos. No authorisation is required to move between provinces, for fully vaccinated travellers.
- All public places and public services reopened on 9th May 2022.
- Restaurants, entertainment venues and karaoke bars are now allowed to reopen.
- Businesses must maintain COVID-19 measures, such as mask wearing, temperature checks and social distancing.
- You should bring along proof of vaccination at all times, since some venues still require this.
Flights from Singapore
Prior to COVID-19, Scoot was operating flights from Singapore to both Luang Prabang and Vientiane in a ‘triangle’ routing three times per week, having taken over both destinations from SilkAir in April 2019.
The low-cost carrier is currently flying twice weekly only to Vientiane, with services every Tuesday and Saturday, ideal for four-night or three-night trips.
For flights to and from Luang Prabang, or for more frequent service to and from Vientiane, one-stop itineraries via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi are possible.
Land travel from Laos to Thailand
If you wish to travel from Laos to Thailand by land, do be aware that not all border checkpoints are open.
You will also need to comply with Thailand’s latest entry requirements (Thailand Pass), which requires application several days before travel.
The Thailand Pass site lists applicable land border entry points from Laos.
Laos – Singapore travel
Fully vaccinated travellers returning from Laos to Singapore by air will follow the latest Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF) process, as outlined below, which is already test-free and quarantine-free.
Singapore Vaccinated Travel Framework
- Be fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, or be aged 12 or under in the current calendar year (i.e. born in 2010 or later, for 2022 arrivals)
- Submit your SG Arrival Card (SGAC) within three days of arrival to Singapore
- Apply for an entry visa (for visa-required nationalities only)
- Take any flight from or via any country to Singapore and enter quarantine-free
This recent relaxation of testing requirements for travel to Laos now means fully vaccinated passengers will have a two-way test-free and quarantine-free journey when making a trip from Singapore.
We’ve been very keen to explore Laos for a few years, but unfortunately we never managed to visit there before COVID-19 hit.
This relaxation of border restrictions including no testing for fully vaccinated travellers seems like a great opportunity to make a trip, given that tourist numbers are likely to remain low for at least a few more months.
Laos is the fifth out of 10 ASEAN countries to ditch all testing for vaccinated tourists (after Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia), further expanding the list of regional two-way test-free trips for almost all Singapore residents.
Even those who haven’t been fully vaccinated can enter Laos, by taking a simple and typically-inexpensive antigen test, 48 hours before departure.
(Cover Photo: Anna Hoch-Kenney)