The official national currency in Laos is the Lao kip (LAK). Kip notes come in denominations of 500; 1000; 2000; 5000; 10, 000; 20, 000 and the recently printed 50, 000 kip.Three currencies are used in Laos: Lao kips, US dollars and Thai baht, the latter two are readily acceptable in large cities and towns at most business.
Please note that only new crisp notes are accepted in Laos. US$100 notes receiving a better exchange rate; US$ notes of the series number before 1996 as well as US$100 notes with the series number CB, dirty and/or damaged notes, or notes with any writing on it are not accepted in Laos. Please bring some small changes with you for your convenience.
A growing number of hotels, up market restaurants and gift shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang accept Visa and Master Card, and to a much lesser extent Amex and JCB. Outside of these three towns, credit cards are virtually useless and kip is more preferred. Major banks in Laos like Banque pour le Commerce Extérieur du Lao (BCEL) has branches in Vientiane, Luang Prabang,Vang Vieng; Savannakhet and Pakse offer cash advances/withdrawals on Visa credit/debit cards at a 3% transaction fee, other banks may have slightly different charges. Advances/withdrawals can be made in Lao kip only when it’s not possible to withdraw US dollars or Thai baht.
Travelers may get cheered to know that ATMs have made a tentative landing in Laos. But before you get overexcited, the ATMs are only available in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and there is a maximum of 700,000 kip (about US$70) a time, with each withdrawal incurring a US$2 fee from BCEL. Taking your plastic into the bank itself might be cheaper if you have to pay relatively high charges to your home bank on each overseas withdrawal. Please note that ATMs dispense cash in Lao kip to Visa and Master Card accounts only.