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Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, located at the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula. It is bordered by Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, China and Myanmar to the northwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest. In terms of land area, Laos is a large country, covering 236,800 square kilometers. However, it is a small country in terms of population, having just over 7 million people living across its area.
Laos is one of the least visited countries in Southeast Asia, but it is currently experiencing a significant increase among international visitors. Last year over about 4 million tourists visited the country and around 800,000 of them came from China. From beautiful temples and French-inspired architecture to beautiful waterfalls and lush jungles, Laos is an exciting destination to visit. Besides tourists, the country is also welcoming an influx of expats and foreign investors from all around the globe.
Learn more about the Laos apartment market through trends and average prices.
Vientiane, the charming capital of Laos, is the most populous city in the country with over 700,000 people living across its area. It was once a French trading post, which is why many colorful original colonial architecture can be found. It is now a hub for the country’s café culture, affordable spas, riverside markets, busy nightlife scene, and golden temples. Most visitors come to this city to visit the Lao National Museum, see the Great Stupa, admire the Victory Gate or Patuxai (Laotian version of Arc de Triomphe), and trek through Phou Kao Khouay.
Besides Vientiane, another popular area in Laos is Luang Prabang. Most people use this city as their first or last stop in Laos before traveling to/from Thailand. It is a relaxed city with epic sunsets over the Mekong River, a lively night market, and incredible waterfalls known as Kuang Si Waterfalls. It also has 33 temples and French colonial architecture. The most famous attraction in the city is the Buddha Caves (Pak Ou Caves), which is home to 6,000 Buddha statues that the locals use for worship. Its Royal Palace (Haw Kham), which was made into a wonderful museum, is also worth a visit. It holds a wide range of items of historical and cultural importance.
Along with Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng is also frequented by international visitors. It is a hub for outdoor adventure in the country. Visitors can spend their time hiking the jungles or having a relaxing day on the river.
Apartments in Lao vary widely in terms of size, style, and are mostly built in low-rise and mid-rise apartments. In general, apartments in the country can be divided into three types: standard apartment, high-end apartment, and serviced apartment.
Standard apartments in the country are usually unfurnished and offer standard amenities, such as parking spaces. High-end apartments are mostly more modern and offer more facilities, such as private parking spaces, 24-security systems, and sometimes, gyms and swimming pools. They usually have shops, restaurants, or a minimarket on the ground floor.
The most luxurious type of apartment is serviced apartments. These are usually fully furnished, located within the city center, and offer numerous upscale amenities that may include fitness centers, outdoor swimming pools, designated parking spaces, gardens, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, as well as 24-hour security systems, such as security guards, CCTVs, and card or fingerprint-lock system. They may also offer other services such as housekeeping and laundry, giving residents a convenience, hotel-like lifestyle. Serviced apartments mostly offer residents the luxury of having restaurants, cafes, shops, and mini market right outside their front door.
In terms of unit size, all types of apartment typically offer studio to one to four-bedroom apartments. Studio apartments have the smallest size of residential space. It only has a single room that acts as the bedroom, living room, and dining room/kitchen. The only room separated by walls in studio apartments is the bathroom.
Laos offers a fairly affordable cost of living for most foreigners. However, it is important to be aware that the country is not super cheap. Its economy has experienced significant development in the last 2 decades, resulting in a higher quality of life and an increase in prices. The cost of living is generally the same as, or slightly less than Thailand, but a bit higher than in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Lao Kip (LAK) is the official currency used in Laos. While the official exchange rate from 1 USD is approximately 9,103 LAK, some establishments or vendors do not use this exchange rate and will exchange foreign currency based on their own figures. Therefore, when exchanging your money in the country, make sure to always pay attention. In some cases, Thai Baht and US dollars are accepted and even preferred to pay for services and goods in the country. ATM machines are widespread in major tourist areas. However, since many establishments and vendors do not accept debit or credit cards, it is wise to have some cash on you.
Theravada Buddhism is the largest religion in Laos, accounting for around half of the country’s population. There are also non-Buddhist local religions, which are followed by about two-fifths of the population. Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Baháʼí Faith are present in the country, since, in theory, the country’s constitution provides freedom of religion. However, in practice, many government officials actually restrict the right to practice.
Laos has a more conservative culture and Laotians are very welcoming and friendly. This helps many foreigners to adjust and experience the traditions of the country. Laotian, or Lao Language, is the official language, while French and English are identified as minority languages.
Different visa categories are available for foreigners who want to live or stay in Laos long-term. The type of visa you will need to apply for depends on the reason you are relocating to the country. Some of the most common types of visa are 30-day business visa (NI-B2), longer-term visas for experts and their dependents (C-B1), officials (S-A2), and diplomatic staff (D-A1).