The kip is the Lao currency, which has recently been convertible at banks in neighboring countries after the creation of the Lao stock market in 2011. There is a Lao bank that exchanges kip at the Nong Khai-Vientiane land border (opens at 09:00) and there is a Vientiane airport that trades kip (opens at 09:00). (straight and right of the Visa on Arrival desk).
The biggest note is 100,000 kip, which is very rare (although you may get some from the ATM). The 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000 kip notes are in widespread use. If you withdraw the maximum amount of 1,000,000 kip from an ATM, you may get 20 50,000 kip notes. This makes transporting big amounts of kip inconvenient. Although less frequent than in the past, USD is sometimes accepted, albeit at a rate that is typically 5-10% lower than the official rate. Many places along the border, including Vientiane, accept Thai baht. However, keep in mind that only kip is accepted in rural areas, and ATMs will not be accessible, so prepare beforehand.
The euro is also accepted in more touristic areas and banks. So, if you’re from a eurozone country, pack some just in case. This may be less expensive than converting your euros to baht or USD and then back to kip.
In addition to Vientiane, ATMs have recently emerged in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Savannakhet, Tha Khaek, Pakse, and Luang Namtha, among other important towns. The biggest bank, BCEL, accepts both Visa/Cirrus and MasterCard/Maestro, although there are usually USD1-2 fees.
A cash advance from a credit card is available at many banks, travel agencies, and guest homes. This is usually accomplished by taking a cash advance in USD from the card; the card issuer will usually charge a fee (around 3%), the Lao bank will charge about 3%, the agent providing the cash advance may (or may not) charge another 3%, and the amount will then be converted from USD to kip at an unfavorable rate, costing another 5% or so. As a result, these transactions are considerably more costly than taking cash from an ATM in other nations. When compared to USD, Euros have poor conversion rates in Laos, thus obtaining a cash advance in USD and converting it to kips may save you money compared to carrying euros with you. Expats in Vientiane often get cash via ATMs in Thailand’s Nong Khai and Udon Thani, where the limit per transaction is typically 20,000 baht, or 10 times the amount available in Laos.
In banks, the usage of ATMs and credit cards is contingent on computer functioning, staff computer abilities, power outages, telephone network outages, holidays, and other factors. A few tourists have been forced to leave the nation early since they were unable to withdraw money to continue their journey. Always have some cash with you. Outside of large cities, changing money may be almost difficult.
Banks provide competitive rates, and private exchange booths may be found in most tourist locations.
At noon, many businesses begin an hour-long lunch break, while others adhere to the (now-defunct) official French two-hour break. Except for restaurants and a few stores, almost everything is closed on Sundays.