Laos – Personal Safety
Laos is a peaceful country inhabited with friendly and hospitable people. It’s one of the safest and most relaxing places you can visit and take your holiday in. In fact, the country is considered as the 45th most peaceful country according to the 2017 Global Peace Index, only ranking lower than other South East Asian countries Malaysia and Singapore.
Having said that, every traveler should always take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and stress-free travel. One of the basics before embarking on your trip is to always, always check and follow any warnings your home country might have issued that might be related to your trip. Always keep yourself informed on travel advisories and even news concerning the places you intend to visit and even places where you intend to stop over or that’s included in your route.
Aside from this, here are a few tips to ensure your safety during your trip to Laos:
General precautions during your stay:
- Always carry proper identification, such as your passport if you’re a tourist or your ID card if you’re staying in the country on a long-term basis. Although tourists are seldom checked, police can still approach and ask for your identification. Failing to do so will get you in trouble.
- Try to avoid traveling on the roads during public holidays such as the Lao New Year.
- Do not walk aimlessly alone around the city or town late at night.
- When commuting around the town or city, avoid back alleys or streets, as most of them tend to be dark and not well-lighted, making them places where muggers focus on.
- Keep your valuables discretely — in a small pouch that you’re always conscious of, or in pockets within your clothing.
- Ensure that you have your driving license if you intend to drive.
- If you intend to rent and drive motorcycles and bikes, always use and wear helmets. The country sees a lot of road accidents so try to use personal safety equipment when out on the roads.
- Do not put your valuables in the motorcycle or bicycle basket, as there have been cases of drive-by theft. Always keep your valuables on your person.
- Laos is a tropical country, so mosquitos and related illnesses such as dengue fever are common. Try to avoid mosquito bites by bringing and using mosquito repellant during your stay. You can opt to wear light-coloured yet covered clothing during the day and especially at night, and use mosquito nets whenever you intend to take a nap outdoors and when you stay in accommodations that do not offer air conditioning.
- Do note that tap water in the country is unsafe to drink, although ice cubes served with your drinks in restaurants and in the cities are considered safe. Locals in provinces or remote cities drink from wells and rivers — some boil their drinking water while some don’t. You can accept if locals offer you a drink of water but you don’t have to drink it outright.
- Bottled water is readily available and reasonably-priced, so you won’t have any problems with drinking water in the city. Although the same might not be the case in more remote areas, so its better to carry enough with you if you intend to to travel outside of the city.
- Aside from drinking water, you should also carry a few snacks with you if you’re traveling to remote areas as not all areas have restaurants or food stalls.
- Always stay on the right side of the law during your stay in the country. Laos still upholds the death penalty over offences such as dealing drugs, rape, or treason. Drug possession and use can also incur heavy penalties. Never purchase or use drugs or opium even from locals as they might report you to the authorities.
- Sex and child-sex tourism are serious crimes so avoid it at all costs.
While visiting attractions:
- Stay within identified paths and do not venture into unidentified paths or unknown territory including remote jungles. The Americans heavily bombed the country during the Indochina war from 1964 to 1973, and as such, still has a number of unexploded ordinances (UXO). Although the area around major tourist destinations have been cleared and declared safe, venturing into unmarked paths increases the risk of stumbling upon a UXO.