How to Get a Laos Visa for US Citizens

The stunning Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang, Laos
The stunning Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang, Laos

Imagine starting your day swimming through a bright turquoise pool beneath a waterfall, or soaring high above the rice paddies and riverbank homes in a hot air balloon. You’re in Laos, a fascinating country brimming with tropical rainforests, golden temples, and soaring mountainous peaks that is guaranteed to excite all types of outdoor enthusiasts and travelers.

Before you start your journey to this dazzling Southeast Asian country, you’ll first need to obtain the correct tourist visa for Laos. The type of visa needed to enter the country depends entirely on your nationality. For United States citizens, this means getting a Laos visa on arrival.

A visa on arrival means that US citizens can apply for the visa directly at the Laos airport or border. It’s a fairly straightforward process, which means you’ll be exploring the Buddhist shrines of Vientiane or colorful night markets of Luang Prabang in no time!

US citizens are required to have the following documents and papers when applying for the visa on arrival:

  • A US passport with two blank visa pages and a minimum validity of six months from the arrival date in Laos
  • A completed and signed Laos visa application form
  • Two color passport style photographs
  • Cash (in US dollars) for the visa application fee

It’s crucial that you have the necessary documents in hand before you arrive at the airport or border. Nobody wants to be stuck bribing Laos border patrol to desperately let them enter the country!

There are over 22 ports of entry where US citizens can obtain the visa on arrival. This includes four international airports, and 18 different border checkpoints if you’re hopping between the other Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China. Don’t worry if you haven’t printed out the visa application form beforehand because it’s also available at each of these different points of entry.

While the process to get the visa on arrival is simple and virtually painless, you might be waiting in long lines with other tourists. If you’re just stepping off of a long, exhausting flight and would rather breeze past the queues, then think about applying for a visa beforehand at the Embassy of Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The visa may cost more upfront, but the time and effort saved waiting in line could be worth the extra few bucks!

Once they stamp the tourist visa in your passport, you’ll be allowed to stay and wander around Laos as you please for 30 days. However, if you’re eager to spend more time indulging in delicious street snacks or soaking in the famous Laotian sunsets, then the tourist visa can be extended for an additional 90 days!

Laos is a cultural, hidden gem nestled amongst the hectic, bustling cities of its neighboring Southeast Asian countries. While 30 or even 90 days will never be enough time to explore all the main sites and attractions, it will at least give you a taste of what this amazing, marvelous country has to offer.