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  7. Laos prepares to introduce an eVisa

All international visitors for a single entry visa max of 30 days

VIENTIANE: News that Laos will ease its visa application process with a brand new eVisa service is a welcome move for tourists planning a trip to landlocked Laos.

The Lao PDR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to a report published in the Vientiane Times, will launch the new service this June.

All international visitors to Laos will be eligible to apply online for a single entry visa with a planned maximum stay of 30 days, a senior official from the ministry’s Consular Department explained.

In the report published by Vientiane Times, last Friday, the ministry’s consular department said the eVisa would be valid for 30 days. Travellers who want to stay longer, or make multiple trips to other neighbouring countries and return to Laos to extend their holiday will still need to apply for a multiple entry visa at the nearest Lao PDR embassy or consulate.

The ministry claims it will streamline the process and make it convenient to apply online for a visa after they have booked airline tickets and hotel accommodation.

Travellers can apply for a visa-on-arrival at airport checkpoints and at major land border checkpoints such as the one at Nong Khai in Northeast Thailand.

The 30-day visa-on-arrival is the standard option for most travellers. Fees vary according to the nationality with Canadians paying the highest fee at USD42, while other nationalities pay USD30 to 35.

It is also possible to pay in Thai baht (THB1,500) the exchange rate is higher raising the cost to around USD45.

For the few nationalities not on the VoA list they need to apply for a 30-day tourist visas at the nearest Lao PDR embassy, which takes around three working days.

It will also give travellers in countries that do not have a Lao PDR embassy a convenient alternative to the visa-on-arrival option. Usually, there are long queues at the visa-on-arrival counters at airports and after a long trip skipping that queue would be a bonus that eVisa travellers could enjoy.

Laos needs to make visiting the country more convenient especially at land checkpoints where travellers often encounter “overtime fees” at all hours of the day.

Few details are available, but if Laos follows the lead of neighbour Myanmar, credited with having the most efficient and user-friendly eVisa, it will outsource the process to an eVisa supplier that has a strong track record. They usually add a service fee which would probably increase the overall visa fee by around USD5 per application. Thailand hired VSF Global to manage its eVisa service that started earlier this year.

It should also address the issue of multiple visa entries as more tourists are now crossing borders with neighbouring countries more than once during their trip to Southeast Asia. At present, the visitor would need to obtain a new visa-on-arrival at around USD30 a trip to re-enter Laos after spending time in a neighbouring country. However, it would benefit travellers if they could enjoy multiple reentries to Laos within the period of their 30-day visa-on-arrival.

The country welcomed 4.1 million visitors in 2018, an increase of 8.2% after two disappointing years and is now hoping to pass the target of 5 million in 2019.

(Source: Vientiane Times plus additional reporting).

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