Residents in Laos are still seen actively traveling to neighboring Thailand despite high inflation and fluctuating foreign currency prices.
Since the reopening of the Lao-Thai borders in May 2022, there has been a noticeable increase in visitors from Laos to the northeastern provinces of Nong Khai and Udon Thani in Thailand.
Images shared on social media show long lines of cars from Laos at the Lao-Thai Friendship bridge, indicating that these economic factors are not deterring people from crossing the border.
“I travel across the border nearly every week, most of the time it is to go put petrol in Thailand,” said Sisawath Sighnorath, a university student in Vientiane who frequently travels across the border. “I believe the petrol there is cleaner, it is also cheaper to use the Union Pay rate, which is cheaper than the black market rates and the official government rate.”
According to Union Pay’s official website, the exchange rate is LAK 549,787 to THB 1,000. Where the Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL)’s current exchange rate sits at LAK 596,300 to THB 1,000.
Laos’ petrol price currently sits at LAK 23,230 per liter, whereas in Thailand it sits at THB 37.98 per liter (LAK 22,631 according to BCEL’s current exchange rate for 9 October).
“A lot of people go for petrol and to buy household appliances, but they also go for the hospital services,” said Vanh Saysavanh, a Lao resident who also frequently travels to Thailand.
“For household appliances, there is much more variety and you can buy it in bulk, like if you buy it from Makro,’” another Lao resident told The Laotian Times. “As for hospital services, the hospital over there is cleaner and they provide better services.”
Other than traveling for petrol, or hospital services, Laotians tend to cross the border for leisure or religious activities.
In June this year, Pornsom Nisaard, Assistant Chief Executive Officer of Udon Plaza Company Limited, said that over 10,000 people, comprising of mostly Thai and Lao nationals, have been visiting the UD Town shopping center every day.