Moving to Laos

Moving to Laos

Laos Score
Shithole Paradise

What is Laos?

living in laos flag

Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia and a rising economy power

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a landlocked Southeast Asian country, bordered by China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand.

Basically, it’s located in the center of continental Southeast Asia, so it provides an easy access point to the surrounding nations.

Laos is a one-party socialist republic, which probably evokes a sense of negative foreboding in your mind … and it should.

Laos became a French protectorate at the end of the 19th century, gained independence in 1953 and became a constitutional monarchy.

Of course, a civil war erupted because of the communists (like it happened in China and other nations).

This lasted until 1975 (the end of the Vietnam War) and then the communists gained power.

Laos was heavily dependent on aid from the Soviet Union, which obviously ended upon its collapse in 1991.

As you can imagine, it hasn’t been on good terms with the West for most of the 20th century, but in 2004 trade relations with the US were normalized.  

Laos gets income through generating electricity from rivers and selling that to the neighboring countries.

Despite the shabby picture this paints, Laos is in fact one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an average annual GDP growth of about 6% based on the former decade, but before that it attained a very healthy 7.4%.

However, you have to take this with a grain of salt, because Laos receives serious development aid from other nations and international sources.

This definitely boosts its economic growth, and if this aid were to stop because Western nations are collapsing, Laos’ development could grind to a halt.

Laos’ landscape consists of mountains, thick forests, and some plains and plateaus.

Its climate is mostly tropical savanna, with monsoons and a pronounced rainy reason.

Southeast Asia, in other words.

As is usual with an authoritarian regime, human rights abuses like torture, kidnapping, murders, arbitrary detentions, persecution of minorities and restrictions on civil liberties are the name of the game in Laos.

Fun fact: Laos is a prominent producer of the opium poppy.

Cannabis is technically illegal, but is widely available, even in restaurants, where it gets served in cake, pizzas and so on.

living in laos map
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Requirements for moving to Laos

Visiting Laos isn’t very difficult: you can easily get an eVisa for a stay of up to 30 days, extendable up to 90 days.

A Business Visa is an option for a stay of up to one year.

However, after that it becomes trickier, and residence and citizenship are really not worth pursuing.

The cost of living isn’t very high at all, but I would say the language barrier could hinder your moving to Laos.

English proficiency is very low, and although French is used by the government, odds are you won’t be able to order food at your local restaurant in that language.

What is the cost of living in Laos?

The cost of living in Laos is low, but not the lowest in Southeast Asia … for some reason.

If you earn around $1,200 to $1,500 a month, you should be okay living in Laos.

I would strongly recommend you earn at least double that amount, to account for accidents, unexpected costs such as bribes and going for the highest standard of living you can get in this rather poor country.

In other countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, you can get by with even less money than that, and you get a better quality of life for it … so it’s really weird Laos is relatively more expensive than those countries.

Less bang for your buck, so to speak.

Benefits of living in Laos

  • Good climate

    The average temperature of Laos is really comfortable, 27 C – 80 F, with a rather low amount of rainy days and plenty of sunshine. However, the humidity is pretty high

  • Decent visa system

    You can get an eVisa for a stay of up to 30 days, which can get extended up to 90 days

  • Safe

    As a tourist/foreigner, you usually shouldn’t have to worry about the civil rights abuses the Lao people have to deal with, and Laos is pretty safe for us … unless you do something illegal or deemed inappropriate by an official. Be prepared to whip out your wallet in that case, or enjoy your time in jail

  • Growing economy

    Laos has a rapidly growing economy, with an average growth of 6% over the last 10 years

  • Low to moderate cost of living

    If you earn $1,200 to $1,500 a month you shouldn’t have many issues living an okay life in Laos

  • Good location

    Laos is in the middle of continental Southeast Asia, which means it is ideally suited as a base to explore the other countries … geographically speaking at least

life in laos for expats

Downsides of living in Laos

  • Authoritarian government

    Laos is just like every other shithole socialist country, ruled by a one party government which of course is rampant with corruption and power abuse

  • Low English proficiency

    Laos ranks pretty damn low on the English Proficiency Index

  • Poor infrastructure

    It’s a developing country, so don’t expect things to work as they would in countries such as Singapore or even Thailand

  • Low life expectancy

    On average, the life expectancy is 63 for men, 67 for women. Nearly 2 decades less than in prosperous nations, yikes!

  • Taxes on international income

    Like to live in Laos on a permanent basis? Expect to pay 25% taxes on your international income

  • Shitty residence and citizenship options

    Getting permanent residence and/or citizenship in Laos aren’t really viable options at all for most people

  • High corruption

    As can be expected with an authoritarian government, corruption is rampant, and if you dabble with semi-illegal things like cannabis, expect to have to fork over cash when the cops catch you

Moving to Laos - by the numbers

Laos Score
Shithole Paradise

Climate: 8.1/10

Hours of sunshine (8/10) Temperature (9.5/10) Rainy days (9/10) Humidity (6/10)
27 C – 80 F

Level of English: 2/10

Very Low Proficiency

Cost of Living: 7/10

Minimum Annual Wage Average monthly cost single person

Taxes on international income: 6/10

5 to 25%

You’ll be paying 25% if you earn around $1,000 a month and stay more than 183 days per year in Laos.

Corporate taxes are between 20 and 35%.

Economic growth: 9/10

Average GDP growth over the last 10 years: 6%

Safety: 8.5/10

Global Terrorism Index (10/10) Intentional homicide rate (7.5/10) Rape rate (8/10)
No reliable numbers, but crime rates seem very low overall

Visa: 4/10

  • Visa (8/10)

    You can get an eVisa which lets you stay in Laos for 30 days for tourism purposes. Some countries can even get a Visa on Arrival. These can be extended up to 90 days. Other options are Business visas, which can be obtained for a stay of up to a year

  • Permanent Residence (2/10)

    You can get it, but it requires you to have lived in Laos for about a decade and you need to stay in the country for 10 months per year. You could also have a stable business, or do a good deed to aid the nation’s development. However, you do need to have a relative in Laos willing to act as a guarantor, so … fuck that

  • Citizenship (2/10)

    Possible once you’ve got permanent residency, speak, read and write Lao, and have renounced your previous citizenship. Fuck that

Moving to Laos

How is life for expats in Laos?

Life for expats in Laos is average at best.

  • The cost of living is low, but not as low as in neighboring and, in most regards better, countries
  • English proficiency is low, so there’s almost always a language barrier
  • Sure, the climate is great, but the same can be said about other Southeast Asian nations
  • The economy is growing at a decent pace, but, again, likewise in other similar countries

So Laos has some advantages, but none that cannot be found in its neighbors, apart perhaps from the prevalence of cannabis. if you’re into that.

And those countries don’t have to deal with the many red flags Laos has, such as the socialist and corrupt government, subpar infrastructure, shitty residence and citizenship options, and so on.       

In short: take a trip to Laos and experience the country, but honestly I don’t know why you’d consider Laos as a base for your flags, when there are plenty of better options nearby such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore.

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