Travelers hoping to enter Laos, including Lao citizens and foreign residents, have expressed disappointment regarding unclear entry requirements.
A recommendation issued yesterday and circulated among the media led many to believe that entry procedures would be streamlined, allowing for online registration in place of complicated paperwork.
The recommendation, issued by the Covid Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggested that travelers returning to Laos would be able to do so without requesting a Certificate of Entry.
However, sources close to the Ministry today have said that despite the recommendation, the Certificate of Entry (COE) requirement remains in place.
Obtaining a COE has proven difficult for many, with complicated procedures requiring authorization from a number of ministries, as well as the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control.
The massive amount of paperwork required has led returning foreign workers and Lao citizens to turn to brokers and middlemen, who charge extra fees for speeding up the process.
“Many of our employees need to travel frequently in and out of Laos. It’s been so difficult arranging the COE that we have simply asked a broker to handle things for us,” a representative of one NGO told Laotian Times.
The few tourists arriving in the country under the Green Zone Travel Plan have faced similar problems, with travel agents saying they have also had to use middlemen to fast-track the COE process.
At the same time, the country rolled out its “Green Pass” online portal for visa and entry applications earlier this month.
“After yesterday’s notice, we don’t currently know if we should be using the Green Pass system when coming to Laos, or applying for a COE, or both. It’s very confusing,” one foreign worker told Laotian Times.
Members of the tourism industry in Laos have remained unenthused regarding the country’s reopening policies, which currently do not allow free, independent travel.
“Despite continued relaxation of measures in neighboring countries, Laos seems unable to decide if it really wants tourists to come back or not,” one frustrated tourism operator told Laotian Times.
“On the one hand, reopening plans and visa portals are a good attempt at making things easier. But policies and procedures should be more clearly communicated so that travelers and returning citizens can better understand exactly how and when they could come to Laos,” he said.