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How to use my phone in Laos?

mobile phone, How to use my phone in Laos?

Are you preparing for your future trip to Laos? Are you wondering how to communicate with your friends and family during your trip?

When visiting a new country, mobile Internet is very useful to find a restaurant or cafe nearby or to stroll around cities without getting completely lost.

Mobile Internet in Laos has steadily improved over the past few years and it is now fairly easy to stay connected while visiting the country.

How to use my phone in Laos?

There are different approaches here and each of these has pros and cons. It is really up to you to decide which one will best suit your needs.

Mobile roaming in Laos

The most straightforward way to use your mobile phone in Laos is international roaming. Roaming allows you to use your phone outside of your home mobile network. Unfortunately, roaming can quickly become expensive if your home country does not have an agreement with the destination country. If you are traveling from Europe or the US, we strongly dissuade you to activate mobile roaming in Laos.

If you decide to use your mobile device in roaming mode, you should first contact your mobile provider prior to your trip and ensure that the option is available with your contract.

Once done, you can follow the below tutorial to activate mobile roaming on Android and iOS phones.

How to Activate Roaming on Android Smartphone

How to Activate Roaming on Apple iPhone

If you are traveling from Asia, you may get lucky and enjoy affordable roaming rates. The best way to find out is once again to contact your mobile provider before your trip.

For example, Unitel belongs to Viettel Group which is also available in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. If you own a SIM from Metfone Cambodia, Mytel Myanmar, or Viettel, there is a big chance you can roam on Unitel Lao for cheap!

Get a local SIM!

If roaming is a no-go, the best chance is to source a local sim card.

And don’t worry, it is very cheap! You can buy a local SIM card from the main points of entry such as Vientiane Airport or Luang Prabang Airport.

Interested to get a SIM Card delivered directly to your hotel in Vientiane prior to your arrival? Order a Tourism SIM with us!

To buy a prepaid SIM, you would have to register so do not forget to bring your passport with you when you visit the shop.

A prepaid SIM simply means that there is no contract and you simply pay your communications upfront, as you go. To credit your SIM, you would have to buy mobile top-ups. Mobile top-up can be purchased mostly everywhere in Lao PDR. You can buy top-up vouchers also known as scratch cards to keep for later, or you can recharge electronically through a point of sales (POS). Most of the supermarkets or retail stores in Laos can help you to recharge your mobile phone, look for the mobile operator sign on the door.

Once you have topped up your account, we recommend you subscribe to a data package. That is more cost-effective than consuming data directly from your mobile wallet. On average, 1GB of data will cost you less than $1 in Laos. The package’s validity period ranges from 1 day to 30 days.

You have your SIM Card, great! That is the first step.

Here once again there are multiple options to benefit from the best digital experience when traveling through Laos.

Get a local SIM Card for your smartphone

That is probably the easiest option. You would have to make sure your smartphone is SIM ‘unlocked’. If you are not sure, get in touch with your telecom provider prior to your trip.

Buy a WiFi mobile hotspot

If you only care about data, you can invest in a mobile hotspot device. This device is really useful for group travelers as it allows you to share a single mobile data connection among a group of people.

The device itself simply creates a small Wi-Fi network that is available on a limited range (a hotel room for instance).

Most hotspot devices are equipped with a battery that makes them portable.

Therefore, you can buy a local Myanmar Simcard at the airport and simply plug it into your hotspot.

If you wish to use your phone while traveling, simply attach your handset to your hotspot network and you are all set!

A mobile hotspot is quite cost-effective and prices from $50 to $150. It can be bought abroad, or in-country.


Here is a good selection of mobile hotspot devices available on Amazon.com

Huawei E5573Cs-609 Unlocked 4G LTE Mobile WiFi Hotspot Router 150 Mbps

Huawei E5577Cs-321 4G LTE Mobile WiFi Hotspot

If you run out of time, don’t worry, you can also buy this type of device in Laos.

There are two stores that we would recommend to shop for electronics in Lao PDR: LTH and Olaa. You will find below all their locations in Myanmar:

  1. Olaa Shop
  2. LTH Stores

Invest in a cheap smartphone

This option is truly our favorite. If you are traveling on your own as opposed to on a travel tour, you would likely have to call people in Myanmar whether this is to hail a tuk-tuk, touch base with your hotel, or book a table at a local restaurant. Therefore, you might need the capability to call domestic.

Laos is best visited by road or train. Skip the flight and take the time to experience the countryside. Traveling by bus is easy and cheap in Laos as well. Bus routes are managed by a wide range of private companies serving most parts of Laos. Laos buses are comfortable and reasonably safe. 

If you decide to go on a road trip, you may encounter spotty coverage despite the big progress achieved by telecom operators over the years. 

That is why it could be wise to invest in a Dual Sim smartphone.

This will allow you to use two local SIM cards from two different operators and swap from one to the other if you experience a lack of coverage.

If you already have your planned itinerary, you may take a look at this website to select the best mobile operator for your trip.

If you don’t know which local telecom operator to choose, you can take a look at the latest report from OpenSignal. As of 2020, Unitel was the fastest network in Laos.

Remember that this cheap smartphone can also be used as a hotspot if you still wish to continue using your regular phone for your daily use.

When it comes to choosing a cell phone for Laos, make sure not to buy a phone under a contract that will probably be sim locked.

Xiaomi, Samsung, and Realme are quite popular in Laos. As such, you cannot go wrong with these brands whether you buy your cellphone before or during your trip. If you are not too tech-savvy, you can be sure that people on the ground know their way around Xiaomi mobile phones and would be able to help you.

These are a few cell phones that you can invest in before your trip:


Under $100:

Xiaomi Redmi 7A

  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 439 Octa-core processor
  • 4000mAh day battery
  • 12MP AI Sony IMX486 rear camera
  • 13.8cm (5.45) HD+ display
  • 3G HSDPA and 4G LTE band, Dual SIM Slots
  • Support 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS + GLONASS, Face Identification

Around $150:

Xiaomi Redmi Note 8

  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 665
  • 4000mAh high-capacity battery
  • 48MP AI quad camera
  • 90% high screen-to-body ratio
  • 3G HSDPA and 4G LTE band, Dual SIM Slots
  • Support 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS + GLONASS, Face Identification

If you run out of time, electronics in Laos are affordable! You may find a better deal on the ground than in your home country so do your own research. 

Visit Olaa Shop or LTH stores to shop for electronics.


Conclusion

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Laos is an extraordinary country to visit. As you take your journey on the road to the Four Thousand Islands or stroll around the majestic city of Luang Prabang, mobile internet allows you to share the time of your life with your family and friends back home.

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