There are many unusual names for currencies around the world. One of the more unusual names must surely be the kip, which is the official currency in use in Laos.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The kip is a decimal currency and is divided into 100 att. Although it is unusual, while there are coins in existence in Laos they are rarely used. In fact you may be able to go through an entire holiday there without seeing any at all. There are no kip coins in existence as there are only three coins anyway, all of which are denominated in the att. These are the 10, 20 and 50 att coins. The reason for the lack of coins is simply due to inflation. While in some countries inflation will lead to the smallest coins dropping out of use, in Laos it has actually led to all of them dropping out of sight. If you see any or come across any you may want to keep them as souvenirs!
Needless to say, inflation and the use solely of banknotes means there are quite a few notes to choose from. In total there are around 14 notes in existence, which is quite a lot! However inflation has had its effect here too, since the smallest six notes in value are rarely seen nowadays. These are the 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 kip notes. The ones you will see and use while in Laos are the 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 kip notes.
From past to present – the history of the Lao kip
The kip has been around for over half a century now, since it was first used back in 1952. However one form of the kip was in existence before that stage, when the Free Lao government brought in its own version of the kip between 1945-6. Although it didn’t last long – to be replaced by the French Indochinese piastre – it came back in 1952 and has been around ever since.
How to get hold of the Lao kip
The great thing about Laos is that everything is pretty cheap when you compare prices to home. This is a country where the credit card is not really used at all, so don’t worry about taking it with you. You can safely leave it at home since it is rare you’d have the opportunity to use it there.
This is a country where you’ll need to get by using cash as much as possible. It is very much a cash-based society, and although that may seem strange to some of us who are used to paying with anything but cash, this is how it is. You can use the Lao kip to pay for items but the Thai baht is also sometimes used, as is the US dollar. As such it is a good idea to take US dollars with you into the country. You might be able to use them in payment in some situations and if you can’t you can still exchange them for the kip.
Traveller’s cheques shouldn’t pose much of a problem either, even though they seem to be dying out in many other parts of the world. While you may not worry about taking them into many countries, Laos is one location where there will come in rather handy.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Lao kip
This is relatively easy to do since you can use your preferred currency converter to get the answers you need. The best way to find the kip is to use the ISO code LAK, since most converters will recognise this and take you straight to the currency you need. It might also be worth converting the kip against the US dollar, since you will need to take some of these into the country with you. It doesn’t take into account the amount of commission you’ll be charged when converting one to the other when you arrive in Laos, but it does at least give you a rough idea of what to expect. Since the cost of living in Laos is really pretty cheap, you probably won’t mind as much paying any charges on converting your cash.
There does not seem to be a UK embassy for Laos but if you require the latest information about the situation there with regard to travel, the UK government website is a good source of information. You will find the proper page at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/laos.
Travelling safely with the Lao kip
Laos is usually quite a safe country to visit but they have had a chequered past. You should be careful when visiting and exploring the country since there are still unexploded shells and similar hazards away from the towns and cities.
According to the UK government you should always carry some ID with you as this is expected of everyone in the country. This means it is not good enough to carry a photocopy of your passport as you might do in other countries; you should carry the original document instead.
As far as crime is concerned you have the usual dangers to think about – petty crime more than anything else is the biggest concern. Make sure you do not present yourself as an attractive target. Keep valuables to an absolute minimum and keep them out of sight. Steer clear of wearing jewellery if you can and make sure you don’t make a display of any cash you are carrying. If you are able to split your cash and keep it in a variety of pockets you will at least cut down the amount a pickpocket could nab if they do pick you.
If you carry a bag with you keep a tight hold of it at all times. Don’t leave it unattended and don’t hang it on the back of a chair or leave it anywhere else where it could easily ‘disappear’.
Where to spend your kips in Laos – and what to spend them on
Laos is a country in the south-eastern portion of Asia. It meets a number of other countries at its borders, with China to the north. Further round to the east you’ll find Vietnam, followed by Cambodia to the south. Then to the west there’s Thailand (hence the use of the Thai baht in Laos on occasion) and finally Myanmar lies to the north-west.
The capital of Laos is Vientiane, where people have been living since the 9th century. Relatively speaking it is a small city compared to many others in the world, and yet it still enjoys lots of visitors every year. There are some stunning sights to see in Vientiane and you could spend pretty much your entire time in the country without leaving the capital and find plenty to see and do.
Perhaps one of the best places to visit – and certainly a must-see destination – is Buddha Park. This is a charming park filled with sculptures of various sizes. There are more than 200 in all, with many images of the Buddha here. It is a very relaxing and spiritual place, and many of the sculptures are quite sizeable.
There are many temples in Vientiane and indeed across Laos, all of which are referred to as ‘wat’. Hence you will see the name of the temple with the word wat in front of it. A good example is Wat Si Muang, which can be found in the capital. The building is quite stunning with extraordinary attention to detail in the architecture.
Elsewhere in the city you cannot miss Pha That Luang, which is a stupa that is quite literally gold in nature. Not only is it big, its appearance makes it all the more impressive especially when the sun shines off it.
Finally you may like to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site vat Phou. This is in the southern reaches of the country and it is a protected series of ruins. These lie at the bottom of Phu Kao, a mountain in the region. The ruins are many hundreds of years old, hence why they have been recognised for their importance by UNESCO.
Laos is not the most natural place to consider visiting if you have never been there before. Certainly if you are thinking of going to this part of the world there are other countries that would pop into your mind first, Thailand being one of them.
However Laos does have far more to offer than you might assume, especially considering there is plenty of history here. The capital alone has an incredible amount of history to share with its visitors, before you ever consider going anywhere else. Wherever you decide to go in Laos, it is a good idea to do your research before travelling there. There are lots of sights and attractions on offer – you simply have to decide which ones you would most like to see and plan your trip from there.