Laos Money & Tips

The official currency of Laos  is the Kip  (LAK),  but most of the population prefer U.S. dollars and Thai baht. These two currencies are readily acceptable at most businesses, including hotels, restaurants and shops.

The paper notes come in denominations of ₭ 500, ₭ 1000, ₭ 2000, ₭ 5000, ₭ 10000, ₭ 20000 , ₭ 50000 and recently printed ₭ 100000 encourage Lao people to use the national currency instead of U.S. dollars and Thai baht. Coins are not used in Laos. The Kip rate is set by the government against a basket of currencies, reflecting movement of the US dollar against the Thai baht and others. 1 USD has remained around ₭8,000 for several years, and 1€ or $1.13 is equal to ₭9,400.

The history of Lao Kip is dating back in 1945 when Lao currency was called Free Kip. However, the name changed to Royal Kip in 1952 or also named piastre in French. In that era, there were both coins and banknotes.

In 1976, Pathet Lao Kip replaced Royal Kip following the Pathet Lao's takeover of the country. There was also a change in 1979 when  Lao PDR Kip or Lao Kip or New Kip replaced Pathet Lao Kip (100 Pathet Lao Kip = 1 Kip (Lao New Kip)).

The 1979 Lao Kip, initially came in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Kip denominations. The 500 Kip notes were added in 1988 followed by 1,000 Kip in 1992, 2,000 and 5,000 kip notes in 1997, 10,000 and 20,000 kip notes in 2002, 50,000 kip in 2006 and 100,000 kipnotes in 2012.

At present no notes under 500 Kip are in circulation.

 

1. Exchange

Currently, tourists can change major currencies at airport, banks, hotels, and authorized exchange bureaus. Major hotels often offer the same rate as banks but smaller hotels may charge an extra fee for exchange. Laos banking hours are Monday through Friday 0830 - 1530 (8.30am to 3.30pm). Reduced staff during their lunch break which in Laos can be anywhere between 11.00am and 2.00pm!  At many  banks , the damaged notes will not be accepted. If you deposit a damaged note, the bank will charge you some fees.

Unless you want to keep Lao banknotes as souvenirs, change your kips back into baht or dollars BEFORE you leave. They cannot be exchanged outside the country, except at Bangkok Bank, Nong Khai (also sub branch in Tesco), where you will get about 10% less than in Laos. You could also try at the bus station near the Friendship Bridge. In Bangkok, the train, bus station or airport where people on their way to Udonthani, Nongkhai or Vientiane might change Lao money for you, but expect a bad rate.

 

2. ATM Service

Laos has several banks with international ATMs including ANZ Laos, JDB,  BCEL, BFL, LDB and PSV which accept PLUS and CIRRUS network cards for VISA, MasterCard, and possibly JCB, Discovery and Diners Club. ATMs are available in major cities of Laos such as Vientiane, Pakse and Luang Prabang ,and now also in smaller towns like Xieng Khouang,  and  Xieng Khouang. ATMs dispense Kip in ₭10000 , ₭20000, ₭50000  and ₭100000  denominations, with a limit of  ₭1 000 000 for each withdrawal and a daily limit of ₭8 000 000. The transaction fee is around US$ 2 per a withdraw and  may be more or less depending on the bankers. 

 

3. Credit Cards

Actually, major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and JCB cards have been accepted in most major cities of Laos such as Vientiane and  Luang Prabang.  You can use credit cards at  high-end hotels, shops and restaurants and some mid-range places as well. Keep in mind that you will often be charged extra for using a credit card (another 2-4% on your bill). You need  to prepare enough cash  because  credit cards are often not recognized  out of the major cities.

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