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Vang Vieng - Laos’ misunderstood paradise

It’s time to start planning your Laos getaway

This year the coronavirus pandemic has brought international travel to an abrupt halt. Plans we’d made to continue ticking destinations off our bucket list in 2020 have been put on hold and we’ve all been spending more time than ever at home.

If you’re reading this blog it’s probably because you too suffer from a dose of wanderlust and will no doubt be starting to feel restless and eager to embark on your next adventure. Although it may not be possible to travel overseas right now, why not use the extra time you have to plan your getaway and make it the trip of a lifetime.

With its enchanting forests and waterfalls, Laos is the perfect destination if you’re looking forward to an adventure and a real change of scenery. The history and culture of this Southeast Asian nature are fascinating, with many temples to explore and traditions to experience.

Can I travel to Laos now?

Beautiful places to visit in Laos

The answer to the question can I travel to Laos right now is, unfortunately, probably not. Commercial flights to Laos have been grounded and most foreign tourists are not allowed to enter with visa services temporarily suspended. However, borders will be reopened as soon as it is considered safe to do so. Laos has remained relatively unaffected by the virus, with few reported cases and no reported deaths, limiting travel to the country is the best way to keep cases low.

Currently, only essential trips to Laos are possible including for medical evacuation, humanitarian work, diplomatic missions and repatriation. The government of Laos has also been considering granting entry to foreigner experts and other overseas nationals required for other essential work. Travellers who do fall into one of these categories need to get an entry permit from the Laos Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreigners who can enter the country need to present the following:

  • Certificate of Entry issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Completed Health Declaration form
  • ‘Fit to fly’ certificate issued a maximum of 72 hours before departure

There’s a free COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport and all travellers must undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated location.

As we have all seen, the coronavirus pandemic is evolving quickly with the global situation changing from day-to-day. It’s more important than ever to stay up to date with the latest travel information as entry restrictions may be changed at short notice.

Lockdown restrictions are being eased in Laos

Mekong River Laos. jpg

The good news is that restrictions within Laos are now being eased. Like in many parts of the world, lockdown measures were introduced at the start of the pandemic in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading. Residents were told to leave their homes only to buy food and for other essential purposes.

Non-essential stores closed, gatherings were banned, and leisure activities restricted. The relatively low number of confirmed coronavirus cases would suggest that these measures have had the desired effect.

The government of Laos has been gradually easing restrictions since June, allowing more businesses to resume their activities. The following are just some of the services that are now up and running after a temporary period of suspension:

  • Sports events and competitions (without spectators)
  • Night markets
  • Restaurants with special authorisation
  • Cinemas with social distancing measures in place
  • Construction projects and factories

Whilst the easing of such measures may not have a direct impact on travellers, the lifting of restrictions is a positive sign that the country is returning to some degree of normality.

It’s likely that, when considered safe to do so, borders will be opened progressively. Laos may follow the example of other parts of the world when it comes to reducing and removing entry bans.

The EU, for example, has drawn up a set of requirements that third nations must meet to be added to the safe countries of origin, taking into consideration data such as the infection rate and overall response to the crisis. Such criteria are usual in welcoming travellers from overseas whilst at the same time protecting and prioritizing public health.

The government of Laos is yet to announce its approach but it’s likely that tourists from least affected regions will be the first to be granted entry.

General travel and visa requirements

Laos Party

Familiarize yourself now with Laos visa and general entry requirements and, when it is possible to travel, you’ll only have the fun stuff left to organise. Most travellers, including those from the US and UK, need a visa to enter Laos.

The Laos eVisa system is the easiest way to get yours. The application process is fully online, you simply need to complete the electronic application form and upload a copy of your passport digitally.

Visa processing generally takes up to just 3 working days and, once approved, the permit is sent straight to you by email. You can spend up to 30 days with the eVisa, plenty of time to discover the most beautiful places in Laos and enjoy a long-awaited break from your daily routine.

Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always been a sucker for an adventure. As a kid he was lucky enough to live for many years in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s developed a taste for seeking out new cultures. So much in fact he now travels the world as a trading digital nomad, exploring sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, street food, playing carrom, and fine wine and knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Laos, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations.

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