Laos's currency: Everything you need to know

Created by Minh Hue at 2024-01-23 11:52:14 , Updated by Minh Hue at 2024-01-27 09:54:18
Through this guide, allow Asia King Travel to help you learn about the official currency unit of Laos, the Laotian kip, before you start your trip to this country

Money is a crucial component of traveling that has the power to make or break your trip. If you are going to travel to Laos, it is advisable to learn the basics about the Laotian currency in advance. Allow Asia King Travel to help you get an insight into the Laotian Kip, the currency of this beautiful nation.

Currency of Laos: the Laotian Kip

Laos currency: the Laotian Kip

Laotian Kip is the official currency unit of the country

The official currency of Laos is Laotian Kip, represented by the symbol ₭, and its international abbreviation is LAK. he currency is issued by the Bank of the Lao PDR. While other currencies are accepted in certain areas, the kip is predominantly used for day-to-day transactions throughout the country.

Design of the banknote

Laos currency: Design

The design of the 20,000 kip banknote

Introduced in 2012, the current banknote series has distinct historical and cultural designs. The banknotes represent the country's past with pictures of historical people, monuments, temples, and landscapes. Its unique aesthetic is enhanced by vivid colors, intricate details, traditional patterns, and Laotian lettering, which together create a visual depiction of the rich cultural identity of the nation. They are made from a special material, which is a mix of cotton, rubber, and fabric, and have a constantly gritty and textured cloth-like feel.


Laos currency: Denominations

Each denomination note has distinct colors and patterns

There are no coins in current circulation. The kip comes in banknotes of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 LAK, each featuring distinct colors and designs. The zeros may get you confused, so make sure you check the bill carefully before purchasing.

Read more: Classic Highlights Laos Tours

History of Laotian currency

Introduced in 1945, the "Kip of Free Laos” was the first Laos Kip and survived for just two years before coming under French rule. During the French occupation, it was replaced by the piastre of French Indochina from 1946 to 1953. After independence, the monarchy restored the kip as the official currency, the “Kip of Royal”, at a rate of 1 kip per piastre. In the 1970s, Pathet Lao, a nationalist communist organization, created a new currency called the "Kip for the Liberation of Pathet Lao," with a rate of 20 royal kip for 1 kip of liberation. 

Laos currency: History

The observe side of the 20 kip note in 1969

Finally, with the ascent to power of the Pathet Lao and the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1979 , the national currency was finally rebranded as the “New Lao Kip” with the rate of 100 kip of the Pathet Lao for 1 new kip. In 2010, the Central Bank printed 100,000 kip banknotes and the banknotes took it into circulation to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the capital city of Vientiane's establishment and the 35th anniversary of the Lao People's Democratic Republic's formation.

Payment in Laos


Laos is a cash economy, which means the dominant and preferred method of payment in the country is cash. From street markets to local vendors, virtually all daily transactions depend on cash. In reality, the kip is not the only accepted currency unit in this country, although it is the official currency of the nation. Besides the kip, the US dollar and the baht are two other currency units that are also widely accepted in this country.

Laos currency: Cash payment

Cash is widely accepted in daily transactions

Bills in upscale restaurants and hotels usually come in three currencies (the Laotian kip, the Thai baht, and the US dollar) for your convenience. You can use these currencies easily for big transactions in big cities. Therefore, you don't have to be concerned about whether or not you converted enough of your currency for the kip. However, it is still recommended to carry cash. It will provide convenience in some situations, especially when you make small transactions or travel to rural and remote areas of the country.

Credit Card

Laos currency: Card payment

Some kinds of international credit cards are also accepted in urban areas

In urban areas, such as Vientiane or Luang Prabang, many shops, hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls accept credit cards for payment. Foreign travelers are often approved to use Visa, MasterCard, and American Express credit cards. On the other hand, if you visit the countryside of Laos, paying by credit card may be unavailable, as cash is the only method of payment in these regions.

Mobile payment

Laos currency: Mobile payment

Tourist can also use mobile payment for convenience

Mobile payment is becoming increasingly popular in this nation, particularly in urban centers, providing convenience for tourists. You can easily link your bank accounts to the platforms of digital payment, such as BCEL One or EasyPay. You then can freely wander around the cities and busy destinations without payment being a barrier preventing you from your exploration, as long as you ensure your phone has an internet connection.

Exchange Laotian Kip

Exchange rate

Here are Laotian currency rates compared to several other currencies as of early January 2024:

Laos currency: Exchange rate

Laotian kip conversion for several other currencies

Places to exchange Kip

Banks: You can easily exchange foreign currencies for kip at most banks in Laos. They usually offer more competitive rates than other places and charge a small fee.

Laos currency: exchange at banks

Banks offer more competitive rates

Hotels: Some hotels, particularly in tourist-heavy areas, offer currency exchange services. This is convenient, but the exchange rate may not be as good as the rate that banks offer.

Laos currency: Exchange at hotels

Some upscale hotels and resorts offer currency exchange service

ATMs: ATMs are easy to find, and they are all over Laos. Withdrawing the kip from ATMs provides a safe, secure, and convenient service, but it may charge fees from your bank or the ATM provider. You should check the fees and withdrawal limits in advance.

Laos currency: Exchange at ATMs

ATMs can be found easily in Laos

Currency Exchange Booths: Currency exchange booths can be found in airports, major cities, and popular tourist areas. These booths may offer competitive rates.

Laos currency: Exchange booths

There are many currency exchange booth at airports, big cities, and busy destinations

Money changers: You can find money changers in big cities and tourist-heavy areas, near markets, shops, or restaurants. Although they provide quick and simple service, they could have higher fees or lower exchange rates, which is not really advantageous for tourists.

Laos currency: Money changers

Make sure the changers are legit and count the bills carefully

Some other tips for travelers

  • The kip is a non-convertible currency: Once you are outside of Laos, you are unable to exchange the kip for other currencies. To avoid having too much cash left over after your trip, just exchange as much as you actually need. Spend all of your kip or exchange them for your currency before you depart the nation.
  • Combine cash and credit cards: While cash is useful for small purchases, gratuities, and unexpected expenses, cards can be handy for cash withdrawals, internet reservations, and major transactions.
  • Bargain: You can bargain for almost everything in Laos, especially at markets, shops, or tuk-tuks, a kind of transportation in this country. Just remember to express your respect and friendliness towards the sellers and you will be fine.
  • Candy as change: Sometimes shop owners run out of 500 kip banknotes to change you, and they may give you candies instead. This is common in Laos, and you should accept it with a friendly smile.

Laos currency: Come to Asia King Travel

Laos is an affordable destination

Laos, in general, is an affordable destination compared to other nearby countries. This guide lists the basic things you need to know about the kip, the official currency unit of Laos. We hope it is helpful and informative for you. If you have any further inquiries, please contact us, as we will be happy to help you with all of your questions.

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