Laos is an extremely cost-effective country to travel through. We travelled from the south to the north. We did this on a budget but ensured that we also got to check off bucket list items. We’ll cover in this article how to find the best Laos ATM’s, how to minimise your costs for taking money out of ATMs in Laos and the best way to pay for goods and services in Laos while you’re travelling.
Laos is primarily a cash society, and you’d be advised to plan around this to ensure that you have enough cash available and that you don’t pay over the odds for the services that you buy, whether that’s hotels, tours, food or transport.
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Arriving in Laos – Visa Payment in Cash
The Laos visa on arrival price of US$35 was paid in cash (US dollars) and our visa was prepared while we waited. Most nationalities receive a visa on arrival in Laos. Payment of this is always in cash. You can pay in Thai Baht or US Dollars. US Dollars are ALWAYS accepted.
Laos Cost Savings Tip #1 – Always carry a small stash of US Dollars. The currency is universally accepted and sometimes your only way through a border.
Using Credit Cards in Laos v Cash
Laos is still (unless you’re travelling at the highest end) pretty much a cash based society. While you may be able to use credit and debit cards for some purchases and payments in Laos you will be charged a 3% fee.
Of course you can always book online with your credit card and save the withdrawal fees – like if you head from Pakse to 4000 islands – booking online saves your cash for the islands, where there are no ATMs.
Laos Costs – All Laos ATMs have Withdrawal Fees
Money in Laos is the Laos Kip. (k).
Laos on a budget is both easy and difficult. If you’re paying cash you NEED to be aware that there is an ATM fee at ALL of the ATM’s in the country – regardless of whether your bank gives you free foreign withdrawals or not.
The fee differs between providers and they do NOT always tell you that there’s a fee, they just take it. So BE AWARE.
Reducing Laos ATM fees
Always, if offered, select to be charged by the ATM for your cash in local currency. This stops the ATM provider from using a fee called Dynamic Currency Conversion – whch means that THEY set the exchange rate (and hint – it WON’T be in your favour!)
Laos Cost Saving Tip #2: Be sure to have an ATM Card where the provider does not charge you for foreign currency withdrawals.
Laos ATMs – an overview
You will find ATMs all over Laos, but there is a low maximum transaction. Laos ATMs may only dispense 700,000k to 2,000,000k (which can be as low as US$85). There is also a variable withdrawal fee.
The Laos ATM withdrawal fee ranges from 10,000 Kip to 30,000 Kip PER million Kip withdrawn.
Laos Cost Saving Tip #3: Always ask for a receipt for your withdrawal. If you have any problems contact your bank STRAIGHT AWAY.
Main banks throughout Laos have ATMs that accept PLUS, CIRRUS, VISA, MasterCard, Maestro, Cashpoint, JCB, China UnionPay, and Diners Club.
Withdrawing money in Laos is easy, it’s just costly.
The list of Laos Banks that accept international cards includes
- BCEL Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao (Lao Government main commercial bank)
- Banque Franco-Lao (BFL)Joint Development Bank JDB
- Lao Development Bank LDB
- Phongsavanh BankPSV
You will find other banks and ATMs, but these are ventures with foreign banking partners.
Laos Currency is the Kip
Laos Kip notes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 kip. There are no Laos coins in circulation.
Always get change as soon as you can.
The Laotian Kip is a closed currency which means you cannot get hold of it outside the country and you cannot change any left over notes when you leave (apart from a couple of banks in Thailand), so be sure to change all your money or spend it before you leave Laos.
Laos Costs – ATM Laos Charges and Fees
There is maximum cash withdrawal that you can make at ATM Machines in Laos.
The Laos ATM withdrawal limit is 2,000,000 (two million) kip (that’s about US$250, or GBP174.). This is per transaction.
The ATM fees in Laos for this vary from 30,000 kip to 60,000. Laos ATM Withdrawal Fees are expensive!
Your card will also have a daily limit on withdrawals (in addition to the daily limits that your bank at home sets). This is usually a maximium of 8 million kip.
Most of the ATM’s in Laos will tell you what the current fee for a withdrawal is [note that this is in addition to any charges that come from your card provider.]
Laos ATM transaction limits and Fees
|Name of ATM||Max per withdrawal||ATM Fee||Max withdrawal per day|
|BCEL||1 million kip||20,000 kip per transaction regardless of amount||2 million kip per day|
|PSV||1 million kip||20,000 kip per million||2 million kip per day|
|LDB||1 million kip||20,000 kip per million||??|
|JDB||2 million kip||30,000 kip per transaction||2 million per transaction, multiple allowed per day.|
|ANZL||2 million kip||20,000 kip per million||8 million kip per day|
JDB ATM Fees Laos – Fees of 3%, but 24 hour availability.
There is an exception and specifically sneaky was the JDB bank ATM in Laos which took a fee (of 40,000 kip on a 2,000,000 kip withdrawal in 2015 but didn’t say it was taking one!). We tried this several times, but always after the fact, the amount was added on. Note one of our readers advises that in 2020, JDB were charging 3% on a 2 million kip withdrawal, but allowing mulitple withdrawals per day.
Laos Cost Saving Tip #4 – JDB Laos for ATM withdrawals – may not inform you of the fee, but is 3% on 2 million, is more generally available than others – thanks to Andy for the update!
Save Money on Accommodation in Laos
Pay for Hotels and hostels in advance online
As Laos was a more expensive country for us to get cash, we tried to use a credit card to pay for our accommodation. This meant using a booking site that allowed us to pay in advance on a credit card where possible.
We recommend using Hotels Combined to get the best deal on accommodation in Laos and to use a credit card to avoid paying excessive ATM charges in Laos.
When you’re exploring Laos get out into the country – we loved the Bolaven Plateau, where we overnighted at Tad Lo with the Fandee Family and their menagerie of kids and animals for US$7.37 for a cottage with a private bathroom – the cheapest place we stayed in Laos. This is another property that you can’t book online, but there are other options in the area.
Use a hotel comparison site to get the best deal
We used Hotels Combined to get the best deals in Laos and also to book our rooms and pay for them before we arrived.
Laos Cost Saving Tip #5 Book accommodation ahead and pay by credit card
Save on Booking Transport in Laos
Your transport between places can be an expensive drain on your cash resources. You can book transport between many locations in Laos online by using 12AsiaGo
Booking Tours in Laos
Whether you want to take a workshop or cook with locals, head on a zip lining tour, or a sunset trip on the Mekong River – book your adventure in advance and you’ll save.
Laos Cost SavingTip #6 – splurge on the great tours and the fabulous things to see in Laos with what you’ve saved on ATM fees!
Laos is a fabulous place to travel to and with a little forward planning you can make sure that you keep your dollars for what you really want to do and NOT bank charges! Let us konw your experiences of Laos ATM costs – and we’ll keep this updated with Lao ATM fees for today!