Luang Prabang Airport Guide

Luang Prabang Airport Guide: What You Need to Know

“Oh, no, we’re doomed!” This is precisely what crossed my mind when I realised how bad the SGD/LAK exchange rate at Luang Prabang International Airport is. You don’t want to make the same mistake as me. Let me show you what you need to know before arriving at Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang International Airport

1. Visa Requirement

Before flying, check whether you need a visa to enter Laos. If you don’t, great! If you do, check whether you can get Visa on arrival (VOA), where and how you can get the VOA.

2. Buying SIM Cards

After you got your passport stamped, before you exit the arrival gate, you will see a row of telecommunication provider booths selling SIM Card with or without data, such as Laotel, Unitel, Beeline.

During our visit in October 2017, Beeline offered 3GB 7-day data sim card for USD 4. Meanwhile, Laotel offered 5GB 3-day data sim card for USD 3, and 1.5GB 7-day data for USD 3.

We didn’t buy from them because we had neither USD nor local currency at that moment. It’s okay not to buy SIM card from the airport because you can get slightly cheaper SIM card at the town. We bought Laotel SIM card from its office at opposite Morning Market; we paid 20,000 kip for a SIM card with 1.5GB data and 7 days validity.

3. Changing Money

Laotian Kip (LAK), Lao’s currency, is not available in Singapore, the country where I’m living in. So, I had 2 options: either bring SGD or USD to Laos and change money there. Logically, I want to change money only once to minimise exchange rate loss, thus, I bring SGD to Laos. And what I found later left me speechless. If I go to Laos again, I will bring USD instead of SGD.

The official exchange rate according to Google is 1 SGD to 6,100 LAK. However, at the airport, the exchange rate is 1 SGD to 5,500 LAK. That’s a huge difference of 10%! Unwilling to lose so much, we decided to change 50 SGD first, and try to find a better rate at the town. PS: The SGD/LAK rate at the town is not better than airport’s rate.

Generally, if you hold Asian currencies, you’ll get better exchange rate at the airport. For Western countries’ currencies, the rates are slightly better at the town, not much difference though. Below are the exchange rates at airport and town in October 2017. To check bank’s latest exchange rate, see BCEL’s exchange rate.

Luang Prabang International Airport - Money Exchange

Left: exchange rate at airport; Right: exchange rate at night market (Oct 2017)

The money changers in Luang Prabang accept these 13 foreign currencies: USD, CAD, EUR, GBP, CHF, AUD, JPY, KRW, CNY, VND, THB, SGD, MYR. If you don’t hold any of these currencies, or if you hate the terrible exchange rate at Luang Prabang’s money changers like me, read point #4 below.

4. Withdrawing Money

We decided to withdraw money from ATM instead of changing our SGD to LAK at money changers. We used BCEL ATM because they charge only 20,000 kip. We withdrew 1,500,000 kip. After service charges and commission fees, our final exchange rate is 1 SGD to 5707 kip, which is slightly better than money changer’s rate!

You can find many ATMs at the airport as well as the town. Here are the ATMs at the airport.

Luang Prabang International Airport - ATM

5. Transportation to Town

The main transportation from the airport to town is a taxi. It costs 50,000 kip/3 persons.

Luang Prabang International Airport - taxi counter

Tuk-tuk is not allowed to pick passengers from the airport. If you want to get a tuk-tuk, you need to walk out of the airport. We tried to find tuk-tuk, and we were lucky to find one as we exited the airport building. We paid 40,000 for a one-way journey to our guesthouse which is located near Morning Market.

6. Food

There is a small café at the airport in case you need food.

Luang Prabang International Airport - Food

7. Shopping

There are shops for you to buy souvenirs, but personally, I’d buy souvenirs at Night Market at the town.

Luang Prabang International Airport - souvenir

Souvenir shops and travel service

8. Wrapping Service

For departing passengers, there’s a wrapping service before check-in. The price ranges between 15,000 and 40,000 kip.

Luang Prabang International Airport - wrapping service

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9 Comments on “Luang Prabang Airport Guide: What You Need to Know

  1. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Your clear comparison of Airport exchange rates vs. city rates is extremely useful. I usually assume that airport FX is going to be much poorer than in the city. I will be changing Thai Baht, so in this case I am actually better off changing money at the airport.Though the difference is less than $ 5 US total if I change 20,000 thb. The one thing missing is the rate from the BCEL or BFL banks in the city. I plan to have that information handy when I arrive. Nonetheless this is excellent information.

  2. Hi again, I have been able to find BCEL’s Thai baht fx rate in October 2017, it was only a tiny fraction higher that the city rate, and a fraction lower that the airport rate. Will check again on arrival, but looks like changing at the airport is not a bad idea.

    • Hi M, Horting, thanks for your info about BCEL THB rate in Oct 2017. Yeah, it’s a good idea to compare airport’s rate and BCEL online rate on your arrival! All the best and have a nice trip in Luang Prabang!

  3. Hi, why do you say you would bring USD instead of SGD? (I guess with the current USD rise it’s even applies even more?)

    • Hi Owen, I have explained in point 3 that USD/LAK exchange rate at the airport is 10% higher than the official rate 🙂

  4. Hi,
    You will saying withdraw from ATM is a better option, May I know you are using credit card or Debit card to do the withdraw? Thanks !

    • Hi, I used debit card to withdraw, because my credit card company charges expensive fees if I withdraw using credit card.

  5. Thank you for the article!

    I generally avoid ATM because of the fees and the unfavourable rate at the exchange offices.

    Just discovered a new mobile app for my next trip Fairswap. It allows to exchange cash currency in real-time by meeting with each other at a pre-agreed location.
    Widely, you can post your need in foreign currency and if there is someone nearby facing the reverse need, then he can contact you and you will meet him and make the swap.

    Could be a good way to change before travelling or get rid of some leftover after holidays

    • Hi Fabienne,

      Wow, Fairswap sounds like a really good idea! Had I known this last year, I would’ve used it! Thanks for the info 🙂

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