Traveling to a new country often requires staying connected to the internet for various purposes, such as navigating through maps, finding local attractions, or keeping in touch with loved ones back home. In Laos, a country known for its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, having a reliable internet connection can significantly enhance your travel experience. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to the mobile internet landscape in Laos, helping you choose the best option for your needs.

The Mobile Internet in Laos

I. Mobile Internet Coverage and Speed in Laos

To make an informed decision about your mobile internet needs in Laos, it’s essential to understand the current state of coverage and speed offered by local mobile network operators.

1. Laos Mobile Internet Coverage

Laos has made significant strides in expanding its mobile network infrastructure in recent years. The major mobile operators, such as Unitel, Lao Telecom, and ETL, have invested heavily in improving coverage across the country, particularly in urban areas and popular tourist destinations.

Coverage Maps Top Best Mobile Operators in Laos
  • Unitel: Unitel has the widest 4G/LTE and 3G coverage footprint in Laos, reaching all major population centers as well as many towns and villages along highways. However, coverage can be patchy in remote mountainous regions. Still, Unitel provides reliable high-speed internet to most populated parts of the country. Service is available to around 80-90% of the population but drops off significantly in more isolated zones.
  • Lao Telecom: As the incumbent operator, Lao Telecom’s network spans most cities and towns nationwide on its 3G and expanding 4G networks. Yet coverage is less robust than Unitel’s in remote rural communities. High-speed networks have rolled out rapidly in Vientiane and Luang Prabang in recent years. However, availability lags behind Unitel in hard-to-reach regions.
  • ETL: ETL focuses on Southern Laos, particularly the major urban areas of Savannakhet and Pakse. Here, 4G coverage is widespread with speeds around 10Mbps. However, coverage significantly drops off beyond the main towns in this region. Services are limited nationwide, with little to no signal available in the North
  • TPlus: TPlus has grown its network considerably in recent times but coverage remains more inconsistent than rivals. It relies more on 3G than 4G currently. Connectivity is centered on major population centers with varying connectivity in smaller towns. Services have expanded to cover more of the North and Center but coverage gaps persist compared to larger competitors

However, it’s important to note that coverage can vary depending on your location. While major cities like Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse enjoy extensive coverage, remote areas and rural regions may still experience patchy or limited connectivity.

2. Laos Mobile Internet Speed

Mobile Internet in Laos - Internet Speed
Mobile Internet Speed in Laos. Source: Speedtest by Ookla

The average mobile internet speeds in Laos have improved substantially in recent years, thanks to the adoption of newer network technologies such as 4G LTE. 

According to data from Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index, Laos ranks 86th globally for average mobile internet speeds according to the index. Download speeds currently average around 29.84 Mbps in major cities like Vientiane but can fall to between 1-5 Mbps in more rural areas due to more limited 3G network coverage. Upload speeds average 14.75 Mbps

National Ranking:

  • Vietnam: Ranks higher at 53rd with average mobile download speeds over twice as fast at over 50 Mbps even in smaller towns, thanks to more widespread 4G adoption.
  • Cambodia: Ranks slightly lower than Laos at 96th, with download speeds around 26 Mbps in cities but slower rural connectivity.

The landlocked mountainous terrain of Laos continues to hamper network expansion and upgrades, contributing to its relatively slow internet compared to its more connected peers. However, speeds are improving as operators expand 4G nationwide.

Recommendation: Based on the current mobile internet landscape in Laos, travelers are advised to consider mobile operators like Unitel or Lao Telecom for the best coverage and speeds, ensuring a reliable internet experience for both locals and visitors alike.

II. Mobile Internet in Laos: Connection Options for Tourists

As a traveler in Laos, you have several options to stay connected to the internet. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to evaluate your specific needs and preferences to make the best choice. To help you compare these options, here’s a table summarizing the pros, cons of each connectivity option:

OptionProsConsPrice Range (USD)
Public Wi-FiFree, readily availableLimited coverage, security risks, slower speedsFree (may require purchase)
Pocket Wi-Fi/Mobile HotspotPortable, reliable, secureInitial cost, battery limitations$5-$15 per day (rental) or $50-$150 (purchase)
eSIMNo physical SIM, easy setupLimited data, compatible device required$5-$20 per GB
Local SIM CardAffordable rates, better coverage/speedsRequires unlocked device, visit store$5-$20 for a starter pack
International RoamingNo setup requiredExpensive, potential limitations$5-$20 per day (or more)

When choosing the best option, consider factors such as the duration of your stay, the number of devices you need to connect, and your budget. For longer stays or those who require reliable and high-speed internet access, a local SIM card or eSIM solution may be the most cost-effective and convenient choice.

Laos eSIM is becoming an attractive alternative for travelers visiting Laos thanks to its convenience over traditional SIM cards. With an eSIM, users are able to digitally activate a mobile data plan directly on their device without having to hunt for a local SIM card. This provides hassle-free connectivity throughout a trip. LaoseSIM.com offers affordable and convenient eSIM data packages starting from as little as $6.90. Their range of short-term pass plans provide high-speed 4G/LTE data and coverage across multiple countries without the need for physical SIM cards.

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III. Mobile Internet Rates in Laos

Mobile internet rates in Laos are generally affordable, making it an attractive option for travelers. However, it’s essential to understand the different data packages and pricing structures offered by local mobile network operators to make an informed decision.

Connectivity OptionCostDescription
Free WiFiNo direct costAvailable in many hotels, cafes and restaurants. Speeds may vary.
Pocket WiFi rental$5-10 per dayAllows WiFi tethering to share internet on multiple devices.
Prepaid SIM card$2-5 for SIM, daily data 500MB-$2, monthly 2GB-$5Best for longer local trips. Purchase at airports or stores.
eSIM10-15GB for 10-15 days $7-15, regional pass $15-30Hassle-free option for travelers. Instant activation upon purchase.
Domestic data roaming500-1000 KIP/MBOnly use within Laos as an emergency backup due to expense.
International roaming256-512 KIP/MB for dataVery expensive for calls/SMS.

IV. Best Mobile Operators in Laos

With several mobile network operators offering services in Laos, it can be challenging to determine which one offers the best coverage, speeds, and value for your needs. Here’s a closer look at some of the top mobile operators in Laos:

OperatorCoverageSIM Card Price RangeProsCons
UnitelWidest coverage across Laos including most rural areas. Strong 4G network.$2-5Largest network with fast speeds. Wide rural coverage.Most expensive plans.
Lao TelecomNationwide 3G/4G coverage of main cities and towns. Expanding rural network.$2-5Wide coverage. Government-backed reliability. Low pricing.Slower speeds than competitors.
ETLFocuses on major cities/towns in southern Laos like Savannakhet and Pakse.$2-5Fast network in core operating zones. Cheaper plans.Very limited coverage outside of key cities.
TPLusGrowing coverage in major provinces and some rural connectivity. Reliant on 3G.$2-3Inexpensive SIMs and plans. Improving services.:Network quality and coverage varies greatly between regions. Gaps in remote areas.

When choosing a mobile operator in Laos, it’s important to consider factors such as coverage in your intended travel destinations, data package offerings, and customer support. While Unitel is generally regarded as the best overall option, Lao Telecom and ETL can also provide reliable and affordable services, depending on your specific needs and budget.

Compare the key factors of mobile operators in Laos to find the best option for your needs

V. FAQs

Do I need to unlock my phone to use a local SIM card in Laos?

Yes, if you plan to use a local SIM card in Laos, your phone will need to be unlocked from your home network provider. Most modern smartphones can be easily unlocked by contacting your carrier or following online tutorials.

Can I purchase a SIM card or top-up my data plan at the airport?

Yes, many mobile operators in Laos have kiosks or authorized resellers located at major airports, such as Wattay International Airport in Vientiane. You can purchase a local SIM card or top-up your existing data plan upon arrival.

Is it safe to use public Wi-Fi in Laos?

While public Wi-Fi can be convenient, it’s important to exercise caution when using it, as these networks are often unsecured and susceptible to security risks. It’s recommended to avoid accessing sensitive information or conducting financial transactions over public Wi-Fi networks.

Can I use my eSIM service from home in Laos?

Some eSIM providers offer international data packages that can be used in Laos, but it’s important to check with your provider for coverage and pricing details. Using an eSIM from your home country may be more expensive than purchasing a local SIM card or eSIM package in Laos.

How do I top up my data plan or purchase additional data in Laos?

Most mobile operators in Laos offer various options for topping up your data plan or purchasing additional data. You can typically do this through physical top-up locations (convenience stores, kiosks), online portals, or by dialing a shortcode from your mobile phone.

VI. Conclusion

Staying connected to the internet while traveling in Laos is essential for enhancing your overall experience. With the country’s rapidly improving mobile network infrastructure and affordable data package offerings, travelers have several options to choose from.

Remember, being well-informed about the available options and planning ahead can ensure a seamless and connected travel experience in this beautiful Southeast Asian country. Embrace the convenience of mobile internet and make the most of your journey through Laos.

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