#1 Comprehensive Lao Currency Guide


Welcome to the mesmerizing land of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, where ancient traditions, natural wonders, and the joys of the Lao currency await you at every turn. As you immerse yourself in the Lao culture and the warmest welcome you could ever hope to experience, one aspect that captivates travelers is the unique currency of the country – the Lao Kip (LAK). So, let’s set off on a journey through time and learn about the fascinating stories behind Lao currency, its history, and the country’s economic landscape.

A Walk Through History

Lao currency’s roots date back to ancient times when bartering was the primary means of trade. As civilizations evolved, cowry shells, and later silver and gold coins, were used as mediums of exchange. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the Lao Kip officially came into being.

The first series of Lao Kip banknotes was introduced in 1952 by the Banque d’État du Laos (Bank of the State of Laos). These notes, called the Free Lao Kip, featured intricate designs that celebrated the country’s cultural heritage, depicting temples, mythical creatures, and traditional motifs. Over the years, as the country faced political changes and economic fluctuations, new series of banknotes were introduced, each narrating a different chapter of Laos’ history.

Art And Culture On Paper Money

The Lao Kip banknotes are not merely a means of exchange but a canvas that reflects the nation’s identity. As you hold these notes in your hand, you’ll be captivated by the exquisite artwork that adorns them. From the serene temples of Luang Prabang to the majestic karst mountains of Vang Vieng, the banknotes showcase the splendor of Laos’ landscapes and heritage.

On the reverse side of the banknotes, you’ll find images depicting traditional Lao customs, rituals, and festivals. Whether it’s the iconic Baci ceremony or the vibrant Bun Bang Fai rocket festival, each banknote provides a glimpse into the soul of Laos.

The Kip’s Value And Exchange

Laos is known for its friendly locals and affordable travel, making it a budget-friendly destination for many. The value of the Lao Kip can be quite overwhelming at first, as the exchange rate might result in a significant stack of banknotes for even modest expenses. However, it’s all part of the unique experience of traveling in this captivating country, which remains a cash economy and where cash is still widely accepted. The official currency is issued in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 & 100,000 Kip notes.

ATMs are readily available in major towns, cities, and tourist destinations, dispensing Lao Kip as the primary currency. While some establishments may accept US dollars or Thai baht, it’s recommended to use local currency for a more authentic experience and to support the local economy. It is always worth checking the US dollar exchange rate before you arrive.

The Quest For Souvenirs

Collecting Lao Kip banknotes can become a delightful hobby during your journey. You’ll find locals who are eager to help you find the different series of banknotes, some of which may no longer be in circulation. Exploring local markets and shops can lead you to discover unique and historical notes that could become cherished mementos of your adventure in Laos.

Lao Currency - ling app

A Currency Of Hope

Beyond its artistic and historical significance, the Lao Kip embodies the aspirations of a nation that cherishes its traditions while striving for progress. The national currency serves as a symbol of hope and resilience for the Lao people, who look forward to a brighter future while preserving their cultural heritage.

Top Money Tips

  • Although tipping in Laos is not automatically expected, there is no reason not to hand over 10,000-20,000 Kip if you have enjoyed a good meal or appreciate the service provided.
  • Be very careful not to step on coins or notes deliberately, and don’t deface notes or throw them away. Disrespecting the Kip is extremely offensive and will not make you any friends.
  • Don’t bother exchanging other currencies for Kip outside Laos. Other than being hard to do, you will almost certainly get a worse exchange rate.
  • Try not to use large denomination banknotes when paying for things in Laos. Vendors are unlikely to want to accept a 100,000 Kip note, and not being able to give you change can cause embarrassment. In a land where the loss of face can cause tension, it is best avoided.

Some Useful Lao Currency Phrases

Money exchangeKaan sam lang keng
To withdraw moneyNam khao laai
To pay moneyJaa keng
To buy goodsJaa sin kaa
BankingKaan het ban
Currency exchangeKaan jaa keng dolaa
Change (money)Sakam khuan
How much does it cost?Laakha dyuua thao?
The price is…Laakha dyuua laakha
Can you give me a discount?Thee maa kaay dai nai weela dyuua?
Exact changeKhwam taek taang taang

As you venture through the enchanting world of Laos, take a moment to appreciate the captivating stories woven into the fabric of the Lao Kip. From its fascinating history to its stunning artwork, this unique currency reflects the heart and soul of this mystical land. Embrace the simplicity and charm of the Lao Kip as you create memories that will last a lifetime in this picturesque Southeast Asian gem.

Lao Currency - ling app

Improve Your Lao Language Skills With Ling App

Laos is a country where your stock with the locals will skyrocket if you attempt to speak the Lao language with them. Even if you get it terribly wrong, just having tried will be greatly appreciated. Ling app offers a range of ways to brush up on your Lao before you visit, including lessons set by native speakers and fun games and quizzes to test how you are progressing. Give Ling app a go on social media or by downloading the app at Google Play or the App Store.

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