How to get contact in Laos?
Internet cafés can be found in larger towns, however access speeds are usually painfully slow and cafe staffs have less knowledge. The most reliable connections are in Vientiane, and usually cost around 100 kip/minute, with the cheapest offering 4,000 kip/hour. However, internet security is not guaranteed and computer virus issues are often ignored.
Wi-Fi with Mac/Linux laptop or iPad are recommended. Some cafes offer free Wi-Fi-access for customers (check first if it’s really free). Many accommodations now offer free Wi-Fi. GPRS via mobile phone is also an option, especially if you have a local or Thai SIM, for those who intend to stay longer term and require mobile internet.
Note, that connection quality in Laos is abysmal, even when compared with neighboring countries. Wi-Fi in most if not all accommodations will be painfully slow and very unreliable. Using mobile internet is not a solution either, as even in Vientiane mobile data connection is very poor. You will probably be able to check your email sooner or later, but if you need reliable internet connection e.g. for work purposes – you are in the wrong country.
Mobile phone usage in Laos has mushroomed, with four competing GSM operators. Two of these offer roaming services. Calling people on the same network is always cheaper than calling another network, but there is no clear market leader. Tourist and expats tend to prefer Tigo or M-phone (Laotel), while locals could have any of the four networks.
- Lao Telecom has agreements with some 30 international networks – see roaming with Lao Telecom.
- Beeline (formerly known as Tigo) has agreements with over 100 International phone networks – see roaming with Tigo. Another popular choice, they also have low-cost international rate of 2000 kip/minute to many countries, if you buy their SIM card and dial “177” instead of “+”. However, as of February 2009, Tigo’s coverage is still said to be poor away from larger towns.
- ETL Mobile  is known to have better coverage in rural and remote parts of Laos. However, in Laos “better” certainly does not mean “everywhere”. They appear to have low-cost international call service.
- Unitel or starphone (the old name of this network) is available too.
Local prepaid SIM cards can be purchased in various shops and stores without any paperwork. But be aware that most networks, also including phone and fax traffic, are tapped by government order.
Postal service in Laos is slow but generally reliable. Other options are Fed Express, DHL & EMS, and exist in various locations. Although these services are much more expensive, they are more reliable.
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