Citizens of Brunei and Myanmar (14 days), Japan, Luxembourg, Russia, South Korea, and Switzerland (15 days), Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are exempt from visa requirements. (30-day period)
Most (but not all) countries may get a visa on arrival at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse airports, as well as the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge between Nong Khai, Thailand, and Vientiane, and on the Lao/Vietnam border. It is also accessible when entering through Stung Treng (Cambodia), but guesthouses in Cambodia and the Lao embassy in Phnom Phen will pretend it isn’t so that they may charge for visa services. One passport picture (perhaps two in Lao embassies) is needed when applying for a tourist visa or obtaining a visa on arrival, but you may be able to pay a USD1 charge to have your passport photo scanned upon arrival.
Prices vary by nationality and range from USD35 to USD42 for Americans, USD42 for Canadians, USD45 for Australians, and USD30 for Chileans. EU nations should pay USD30 as of June 2013, with no further processing fees unless you forget to provide a passport photo. It is also possible to pay in Vietnamese dong, Lao kip, or Thai baht, however due to the mark-up, travelers should carry US dollars.
Visas may be acquired from Lao embassies/consulates in advance. The cost varies by country and embassy; it is usually USD20, but it may be as high as USD63 (in Kuala Lumpur). Processing timeframes vary as well; typically, it takes 2-3 days to obtain a visa, but you may be able to pay an additional modest fee (about USD5) to receive it in as short as one hour. Travel agents in Phnom Penh can obtain the visa the same day (for a fee of up to USD58), while acquiring it through the embassy takes a few days. For most countries, obtaining a visa through the embassy in Bangkok costs approximately 1,400 baht, with an additional 200 baht for “same day” processing. Getting one at the border is both cheaper and faster.
The Lao PDR consulate in Khon Kaen, Thailand, also issues visas. The consular personnel speaks Thai and English (to a limited extent). Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 13:00 p.m. to 16:00 p.m. In February 2012, many modifications were made, including an increase in fees that are now comparable to those paid by the Laotian Embassy in Bangkok.
Visas cost 1,400 baht (USD45) for Americans, Britons, and residents of many EU nations, 1,200 baht (USD38) for Australians and New Zealanders, 1,700 baht (USD54) for Canadians, and 600 baht (USD20) for Chinese. Officially, visas may be picked up the following day for 200 baht, alternatively they can be granted in one hour for 200 baht. Only baht is officially accepted, however if you don’t have any, they may accept US money. Note that there has been a reported rate of 30-31 baht to the US dollar, making it more costly than obtaining one on arrival and paying in US dollars. Given that obtaining a visa at the border for many countries may cost between USD20 and USD42, acquiring a visa at the border is both cheaper and faster. Note: If you need a visa for Laos and are traveling the direct bus from Khon Kaen to Vientiane, the bus operator will not give you a ticket unless you already have one.
Visa-on-arrival services are available at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse international airports, as well as all border crossings (see below), including now overland from Cambodia. In February 2010, Visa on Arrival services were launched in Voen Kham, Cambodia (north of Stung Treng). The price ranges from USD30 to USD42 if paid in US dollars, but is much more if paid in Thai baht, and border authorities will not take Lao kip. The fee is typically 1,500 baht if you pay in Thai baht (about USD47-48). A USD1 “out of office hours/overtime” cost at Vientiane’s Friendship Bridge, as well as a minor entrance stamp price of 10 baht to USD1, may be imposed.
Entry permit extensions (sometimes known as “visa extensions”) are available from the Vientiane Immigration Department, the Luang Prabang Immigration Department, the Pakse Police Station, and perhaps other places. Extensions are not available in Savannakhet, Laos’ second city, but you may make a border run to Thailand for a fresh 30-day visa. The cost is USD2 per day plus a minor “form fee” of 5,000 kip (Pakse) to USD2 per day (Luang Prabang). The procedure is simple: show up in the morning with your passport and one picture, fill out a form (which is done for you in Luang Prabang), and return in the afternoon for your extension.
If you need to stay longer than two weeks and are near the Thai border, it may be more cost efficient to cross the border (entry to Thailand is free for most western countries) and return right away to get a fresh 30-day Lao visa.
Extensions are also available via agencies in other parts of Laos. They will courier your passport from Bangkok to Vientiane for approximately USD3 each day for a minimum of 7 days.