Dangers & Annoyances (Laos)

Over the last 15 years or so Laos has earned reputation among visitors as a remarkably safe place to travel with little crime reported and few of the scams so often found in more places such as Vietnam, Cambodiaand Thailand. And while the vast majority of Laotians remain honest and welcoming, things aren’t quite as idyllic as they once were. The main change has been in the rise of petty crime, such as theft and low-level seams, which are more annoying than actually dangerous. That’s not to say Laos is danger free.  However, most dangers are easy enough to avoid.

Dangers & Annoyances (Laos)

Better roads, better vehicles and fewer insurgents mean road travel in Laos is quite safe, if not always comfortable. It’s not yet possible to totally rule out the threat from armed bandits or insurgents, though it is miniscule. And while the scarcity of traffic in Laos means there are far, far fewer accidents than the daily horror on Vietnam’s roads, accidents are still the major risk to travelers.

With the H’mong insurgency virtually finished, travel along Rtes 7 and 13, particularly in the vicinity of Muang Phu Khun and Kasi, is as safe as it has been for decades. There have been no reported attacks on traffic for more than two years. However, you might still have in armed soldier on your bus, just to make sure. If you’re still nervous – and it’s true that two Swiss cyclists were murdered during an ambush on Rte 13 in 2004 – ask around in Vientiane or Luang Prabang to make sure this situation remains secure before traveling along Rte 7 to Phonsavan or Rte 13 between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

After speedboats, and assuming you’ll not be walking through any minefields, the law of averages suggests traveling by road is probably My the most dangerous activity in Laos. Having said that, there are relatively few reports of bus crashes and the like, and the lack of traffic and quality of roads makes collisions less likely too.

When riding in buses, you may be able to cut your risk of serious injuries if you choose an aisle seat towards the middle of the bus; these are generally more comfortable too. If you can’t get an aisle seat, the right side is usually safer as it cuts down the risks in the event traffic your conveyance is side- swiped by oncoming traffic. It’s worth carrying on your person the number of your embassy in Vientiane and the number of Aek Udoro Hospitalin in Udon Thani, Thailand, to call for help if necessary.

The speedboats that careen along the Kong and Nam Ou Rivers in northern are as dangerous as they are fast. We recommend that you avoid all speedboat travel unless absolutely necessary.

While Lao are generally trustworthy people and theft is much less common elsewhere in Southeast Asia, it has in recent years. Most of the reports we’ve heard involve opportunistic acts that you are aware of them, are fairly easy avoided.

Money or goods going missing from hotel rooms is becoming more common, so don’t leave cash or other tempting items (such as women’s cosmetics) out on show. If ride a crowded bus, watch your luggage don’t keep money in your trousers pocket. If you ride a bicycle or motorcycle in Vientiane, don’t place anything of value in the basket – thieving duos on motorbikes have been known to ride by and snatch bags from baskets. Also in Vientiane, we’ve had several reports of (usually) women having daypack stolen after they’ve changed money near BCEL bank on the riverfront – be careful around here.

Other reports involve theft on buses between Vientiane and Luang Prabang and on the slow boat between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. Simple locks on your bags are usually enough to discourage the lightfingered.

Tags: Dangers & Annoyances
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