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The Nam Song River in Vang Vieng, Laos

Living in Laos

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 05, 2023

Summary: People describe life in Laos as laid-back and relaxed. Expats love the friendly locals, the stunning natural beauty, the low cost of living, and the delicious food. The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,000 to $1,500 per month, depending on lifestyle. The population of Laos is approximately 7.2 million people, and the largest cities are Vientiane (the capital), Savannakhet, and Luang Prabang. The cons of living in Laos include the lack of infrastructure and modern amenities, the limited job opportunities, and the language barrier. Additionally, the healthcare system is not as advanced as in other countries, and the internet connection can be unreliable.

What do I need to know about living in Laos?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Laos, they said:

"When retiring in Laos, it is important to be aware of the visa requirements, healthcare options, cost of living, and taxation laws in the country. Visas for long-term stays can be obtained through several routes including retirement visas and business visas. Healthcare options are limited and it is recommended to research healthcare providers and insurance before moving to Laos. The cost of living in Laos is lower than much of the rest of the world, which can be beneficial to retirees. However, taxation laws should still be carefully examined to ensure compliance and avoid penalties when filing. It is also important to familiarize yourself with the local culture and customs, as well as the language," remarked another in Laos.

"Things here run very differently. It's slow and has to be done a certain way. It's best to go with the flow. Come here with an open mind and you should be ok! Don't expect much of a nightlife as there isn't one," explained one expat.

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What do I need to know before moving to Laos?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Laos, they said:

"You should familiarize yourself with the language - Lao is the official language, but many also speak English and French. Climate wise, Laos has a tropical monsoon climate with three seasons - the cool and dry season from November to February, the hot season from March to May, and the rainy season from May to October. Laos is a largely cash-based economy, and so travelers should plan to carry enough cash for their entire time in Laos. There are also usually limited ATM options, so have a back-up plan for emergency. Health-wise, it’s best to get vaccinations and malaria pills before you go. Additionally, a valid passport and visa will be needed to enter the country. Lastly, be aware that the cultural norms and customs may be different to what you are used to, and respectful behavior goes a long way," explained one expat living in Laos.

"No advice. Depends on your style of life. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado in a cabin with no electricity, running water, and snowed in 3 months of the year," said another expat in Vientiane.

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How do I find a place to live in Laos?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"To find a place to live in Laos, you can look into renting a local house or finding a shared space in a hostel. You can also explore apartment and house rental websites, such as Laos Property Listings, Laos Real Estate, and isanrent.com. In addition, you can check classifieds and expat forums for recommendations. For more permanent arrangements, consider working with a local real estate agent to help you navigate the rental market. Finally, Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and other online platforms often have local listings available," said another person in Laos.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Laos?

"Expat homes and apartments in Laos typically range from modern high-rise apartments and townhouses in the capital city of Vientiane, to single-family villas in smaller cities like Luang Prabang. Apartments and townhouses often have open-plan designs that combine the kitchen, dining and living areas, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Furniture is commonly simple and minimalistic, and air-conditioning is common in larger cities. In rural areas, expat homes are typically simple, single-family bungalows with basic furnishings and limited luxuries. Internet access and satellite TV are often available in larger cities, allowing expats to stay connected with home," said another expat in Laos.

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What is the average cost of housing in Laos?

If you are thinking about moving to Laos, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The cost of housing in Laos varies depending on the type of housing, location, and amenities, ranging from low-cost rental apartments to high-end condominiums. In general, monthly rental prices for basic apartments range from as low as three to seven hundred U.S. Dollars per month in Vientiane, the country’s capital and largest city, to two to three hundred U.S. Dollars per month in rural areas," remarked another expat in Laos.

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How do I meet people in Laos?

When we asked people living in Laos about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"One of the best ways to meet people in Laos is by attending local festivals, such as the Water and Fire Festival celebrated in Vientiane every April. Additionally, seeking out Laos-related events and language exchanges in your area or joining Laos-focused social media groups or websites can help you find and connect with others who share an interest in Laos or who are Lao themselves. Additionally, visiting some of the country’s tourist highlights, such as the Xieng Khouang Plain of Jars, or local markets will all likely provide chances to meet people and learn more about the culture," explained one expat living in Laos.

"It all depends what you are interested in. For women there is WIG (Womens International Group) who do various activities. There are many sporting clubs (Rugby, Australian Football, etc). A volunteer group called Paws for Thought who focus on animal welfare in Lao. Most are advertised in the Vientiane Times OR on facebook/internet.," said another expat in Vientiane.

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What should I bring when moving to Laos?

People living in Laos were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"When packing for a move to Laos, consider packing items such as clothes for warm and cool weather, sturdy shoes, medicines, toiletries, kitchen supplies, a flashlight, insect repellent, sun protection, a laptop, international electrical adapter plug, basic language books, maps, valid passport and travel documents," explained one expat living in Laos.

"1. Heavy socks, jackets, and sweaters 2. Hand tools: electric drill, electrical 3. M/C jacket, helmet boots, gloves," said another expat in Vientiane.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Laos?

We asked expats in Laos what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"The major banks in Laos that offer a wide range of financial services and products, including bank accounts, include Vientiane Bank, Lao Development Bank, LienVietPost Bank, BCEL, and Lao-Viet Bank," remarked another in Laos.

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Will I be able to find a job in Laos?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Laos, they reponded:

"Yes, it is possible to find a job in Laos. The labour market in the country is steadily growing, and includes a wide variety of job opportunities, such as those in the service industry, tourism, agricultural and resource industries, and foreign businesses operating in the country. Finding a job can be made easier with the help of different websites and organisations, such as the Laos Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the United Nations Development Programme. Additionally, many foreign businesses offer expat or intern positions, so if you speak multiple foreign languages it could be an option," remarked another expat in Laos.

"There aren't a lot of career opportunities here. Most wouldn't come here UNLESS they already have a job in Lao ready to go. I guess the main industry would be in mining," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

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What is life like in Laos?

When we asked people living in Laos what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Living as an expat in the Canarian Islands offers a great opportunity to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle in the islands' warm and sunny climate. There is a diverse range of activities and attractions available in the area, from outdoor pursuits such as hiking and swimming to cultural activities like visit museums and art galleries. Expats can also find a variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife to enjoy. Additionally, most cities in the Canarian Islands offer an array of international events, such as music festivals and sports competitions. Learning the local language is an important way to experience the local culture, and knowledge of Spanish is essential for dealing with everyday affairs. With its everyday amenities and unbeatable weather, living as an expat in the Canarian Islands is an experience that anyone can enjoy," remarked another in Laos.

"For Lao people, all of the above! For many foreigners here it's mostly spending time getting to know Lao, visiting its more popular places, socialising etc. It all depends on what you want to do and spend most of your time on. For my family it's sport, socialising and seeing what Lao has to offer," explained one expat.

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What do expats in Laos appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Laos often appreciate the friendliness of the locals and the relaxing atmosphere. The country is known for its diverse religious and cultural traditions, which include Buddhism, animism, and traditional festivals. Laotians are also known for their hospitality and willingness to share experiences and culture with foreigners. Nature is a big part of life in Laos, and the natural beauty of the country is a big draw for many expats. The vibrant street life, affordability, and unique cuisines are also highly appreciated," explained one expat living in Laos.

"Laid back friendly people. Appreciative of anything you do for them. Respectful of elders," said another expat in Vientiane.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expatriates often face a range of challenges when living in a new country. This can include cultural differences and unfamiliar customs, adapting to a different language and learning the language, navigating a new health care and educational system, managing separation from friends and family, difficulty finding employment and dealing with visa regulations and restrictions, and adjusting to the cost of living in the country. Additionally, expatriates may find it hard to establish a sense of belonging to their new environment and to learn enough about the culture to blend in," said another expat in Laos.

"Learning Lao, shopping at the market for food, making sure the family is happy, getting my sense of direction (which is terrible)," added another person living in Vientiane.

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Is there a lot of crime in Laos?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Crime in Laos is generally very low in comparison to many other countries. Although there have been some reports of organized crime, such as drug trafficking and some occasional violent crimes, Laos is still considered one of the safer countries in Southeast Asia. With that being said, travelers should exercise caution and remain aware of their surroundings, as petty theft does exist," remarked another expat in Laos.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Laos accepting of differences?

"Laos has a rich cultural and linguistic diversity, with approximately 48 ethnic groups among its population of 7.3 million. People in Laos are generally accepting and tolerant of religious, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences. The Lao government has been active in promoting and protecting the rights of minorities and advocating for harmonious racial relations. People in Laos enjoy socializing and celebrating traditional festivals, both of which foster a sense of unity, acceptance, and celebration of diversity," remarked another expat in Laos.

"I think people here are quite accepting of differences. Some are open to it. A lot of the older people though not so much. As long as you come here with an open mind and are respectful of Lao customs and beliefs etc then you shouldn't have a problem," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

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What are the schools in Laos like?

"Laos has both public and private schools. The curriculum in public schools follows the Ministry of Education's standards and consists of a combination of locally-developed and imported materials. Private schools provide a more comprehensive education and focus on different curriculum. The majority of these schools are bilingual, offering classes in both Lao and English. Generally, the quality of education in these private institutions is significantly higher than in the public sector," remarked another parent with kids at in .

"Contrary to some 'reviews' that were clearly written by either dismissed and disgruntled former staff in order to discredit the school and those written by 'parents' that do not even have a child at this school - Just ignore them. Go with your heart. The school is full, it now has 4 campuses, its accredited by Cambridge university in England and Cambridge oversee all curriculum material. The school has a fleet of over 10 buses now to collect and drop off students," explained one expat living in Vientiane, 3 campuses and Luang Prabang, Laos.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

The Nam Song River in Vang Vieng, Laos

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