South Korean visitors, backpackers, business travellers, package tourists, honeymooners and independent adventurers alike can now stay in Laos for up to 30 days without a visa. Could your country be next?
Coming into force September 1, the extension was announced on Thursday, August 30 by the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The Government of Laos had agreed to grant the extension under the existing unilateral visa exemption agreement.
The extension to 30 days for more visitors is seen as a way to boost the tourism industry and fortunes of local communities and attractions countrywide in the current Visit Laos Year 2018 and beyond.
As Laotian Times has reported, South Korean visitors have proven to be a key market in Laos, with some 170,000 visitor arrivals in 2017.
Social media’s Instagram is increasingly populated with young fashionable Koren’s posts with the hashtag #라오스 (#Laos in Korea’s Hangul Script) numbering more than 270,000 posts to date.
A majority of Korean visitors continue to travel the well-honed Vientiane- Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang route, either in tour groups or as independent travellers.
The extension of visa-free status to 30 days duration is expected to permit more travellers from the Korean peninsula to spend more of their valuable time, won and kip in a broader range of tourism offerings across the culturally and bio-diverse, landlocked yet increasingly “land-linked” country, located at the heart of the Mekong sub-region
The move comes as Laos seeks to broaden the range of offerings and experiences available to visitors to the country including those making return visits.
The prospect of wealthy independent travellers with time to explore the country and spread the economic benefits widely is an attraction for tourism policymakers and businesses alike.
Some industry observers increasingly see 15-day limits as an unwelcome and unnecessary restriction to those visitors wishing to spend more time in the country or travel to the more rural or remote areas of Laos.
Lao tourist visas generally grant permission to the holder to spend 30 days consecutively in the country.
South Koreans now join travellers from most ASEAN nations as well as Mongolia with 30 days to spend in Laos sans visa.
Travellers hailing from ASEAN’s Myanmar and Brunei can go visa-free in Laos for a fortnight while visitors from Japan, Russia, Switzerland and Luxembourg are able to enjoy visa-free in-country travel for 15 days.
Photo: K-Plus Entertainment