Laos Country Report
The ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) government is stable and faces no political opposition. The government continues to gradually open the country to foreign investment in agriculture, construction, hydropower, and mining. Economic growth is about 7% per annum, among the highest in the region. Slow bureaucratic processes, corruption, and a non-independent judicial system present operational and legal risks. Protests are rare and mainly involve non-violent sit-ins over environmental issues. Industrial action is absent because the umbrella trade union is a government agency and labour issues will probably be resolved between the government and management. Tax rates are low on a regional basis.
The government allows for 100% foreign equity ownership in most sectors. However, a slow bureaucracy and high levels of corruption in a form of bribery represent clear impediments to business. Infrastructure, other than the main routes, is poor, but new road and rail links are being built with China, Thailand, and Vietnam. There are low risks of industrial action, given that the umbrella labour union is a government agency and the government's zero tolerance of any forms of criticism of its policies. Labour costs are low, but skilled labour supply is poor.
In March 2016 and November 2015, attacks using small-arms and one improvised explosive device (IED) in Luang Prabang and Xaysomboun provinces apparently targeted government forces, Chinese nationals, and Lao workers in the vicinity of a Chinese facility, killing at least five people; the motivation was unclear but the incidents highlight the risks remaining in central Laos. The Hmong ethnic insurgency in central and northern Laos ended with the 2004 ceasefire. Drug trafficking criminal gangs in the northwest pose a moderate risk to cargo on the Mekong River, but increased government patrolling mitigates this risk. There are no indications of risks from Islamist militant organisations.
Risks of interstate conflict are very low. The Lao government has good relations with its neighbours Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Joint Chinese, Lao, Myanmarese, and Thai anti-piracy patrols on the Mekong River are unlikely to interfere with the passage of commercial vessels. An insurgency in central and northern Laos led by Hmong minority guerrillas ended in 2004 with a ceasefire. However, a series of small-arms and bomb attacks against passenger vehicles, Chinese contractors, and Lao military in northern Laos between November 2015 and March 2016 highlighted isolated but still present security risks there.
Strict government control within the one-party state means that political protests are rare. The ethnic-Hmong-based insurgency ended with a 2004 ceasefire, and Hmong protests are unlikely. There is an absence of strong NGO movements, and most local protests against infrastructure projects take place because of forced relocations or environmental concerns and are peaceful. There remains a limited risk of violence involving residual anti-government insurgents or active criminal groups. The police or security forces will probably forcefully remove such protesters if they block access to project sites.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all individuals traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Laos is situated in an active seismic zone.
The rainy season lasts from May to November and particularly affects the southern part of the country and the areas along the Mekong River.
Plane crashes (domestic flights) are not rare in Laos (several Yuen-7 and Yuen-12 planes serving domestic routes have crashed over the past few years). Travel by boat on the Mekong River can also be dangerous due to poor safety standards. Furthermore, roads are often in poor condition, particularly during the rainy season. Finally, travelers are advised against taking public transportation (buses, minibuses) as it is often unsafe.
The rainy season (monsoon) begins in April and ends in October. The hottest months of the year (30°C to 35°C) are April, May, and October. The dry season (November to February) is pleasant with relatively mild temperatures. In higher elevations, temperatures become cool, even cold, in December and January.
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz