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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Laos Extends Visa Exemptions to Boost Visit Laos Year 2024

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To bolster tourism in the second half of Visit Laos Year 2024, the Lao government is set to introduce a new policy granting free visas to Chinese visitors, announced Deputy Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism, Darany Phommavongsa, on 24 June.

This policy specifically targets Chinese travelers who book their trips through accredited travel agencies. The government is also planning to offer multiple-entry visas and extend the duration of stays from 30 days to 60 days for visitors from other countries from across the world.

According to an official document released shortly after the announcement, further visa exemptions will soon be available for travelers holding passports from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, allowing a stay of up to 15 days. These exemptions can be obtained through travel agencies accredited by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism.

However, travelers holding Taiwanese passports are still required to obtain a visa slip, which will be issued upon arrival and must be returned when they leave the country.

Additionally, the Lao government will offer multiple-entry visas and extend the duration of stays from 30 days to 60 days for visitors from Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Citizens of these countries can then request multiple-entry Lao visas through their respective Lao embassies or consulates. If a visitor obtains their visa through a Lao immigration office or online, they will be granted only one-time access to the country for a duration of up to 60 days.

For travelers from Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Spain, and Greece, the visa requirement will be waived for the first visit for up to 15 days if they travel for tourism purposes.

Meanwhile, Thai visitors with a “Border Pass” or “Temporary Border Pass”, an identification document that is used in place of a passport or an ID as agreed between two countries, can now stay in Laos for up to ten days, an increase from the previous three days. Travelers from Vietnam holding similar identification documents are allowed to stay in Laos for up to 15 days.

Thai and Vietnamese visitors who enter Laos using a travel-accredited agency may travel to three neighboring provinces close to the province they first arrive in. However, they must exit the country through the same entry point.

This policy will be effective from 1 July until the end of this year.

Government Efforts to Boost Tourism During Visit Laos Year 2024

During an interview with ASEAN and Chinese media in Vientiane on 24 June, Darany emphasized that the government is currently enhancing road infrastructure in transit areas and improving access roads to popular attractions such as Vang Vieng in Vientiane Province, Kong in Champasack Province, and other areas across Laos.

As part of the plan, Darany also mentioned that the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICT) is working closely with local authorities and the tourism sector along the railway. The goal is to upgrade current tourist sites to international standards, highlighting the significant role of the Laos-China railway in attracting visitors from China. This also involves installing directional signs both in Lao and foreign languages along transit routes to assist self-driving visitors arriving from the China border.

This initiative by the Lao government aims to increase the number of visitors from China to Laos, as Chinese tourists already rank among the top visitors to the country. In the first three months of this year, Laos welcomed over 242,000 Chinese tourists, making China the third largest source of foreign tourist arrivals after Thailand and Vietnam. Throughout 2023, Laos saw a total of more than 641,000 Chinese tourists visiting the country.

The plan follows a proposal by members of the Lao National Assembly during their 7th Ordinary Session on 10 June to introduce visa waivers for more countries. Saithong Xaiyaong, a member from Champasak Province, emphasized the economic advantages of these waivers and called for careful consideration of which countries and visitors would benefit the most.

Currently, Laos provides visa exemptions to nationals from 36 countries. The specifics of these exemptions depend on whether they hold diplomatic, service, or regular passports.

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