Visiting Vientiane, the capital of Laos, one essential item for travelers in Vientiane is a local Laos SIM card. Having an active SIM allows you to access maps, translation apps, ride shares, and stay connected with friends and family back home. It also prevents expensive roaming charges from your home carrier.
In this guide, we provide need-to-know details for getting connected in Vientiane:
Table of Contents
I. Which Mobile Operator Is The Best In Vientiane?
There are several main mobile operators to choose from in Vientiane:
|SIM Card Price Range (Kip)
|SIM Card Price Range (USD)
|Widest 4G coverage nationwide including all major cities and towns
|$1.20 - $3.60
|Largest network, best coverage
|Can be more expensive than other providers
|Nationwide 3G/4G coverage including cities and main roads
|$0.60 - $2.40
|Low prices, regular promotions
|Coverage not as broad as Unitel
|Nationwide 3G coverage, some 4G in major urban areas
|$0.60 - $1.80
|Limited 4G coverage compared to others
|Mainly focuses on Vientiane and largest cities, some rural coverage
|$0.60 - $2.40
|Cheapest data plans
|Limited network coverage, stays in main areas
Unitel is the top recommended mobile operator for tourists traveling to Laos. With Unitel’s reliable connectivity, tourists can use mobile data for navigation on the go, sharing photos and videos with friends back home, or online lookups without worrying about lacking a signal.
While Unitel’s SIM cards and data plans may cost slightly more than competitors, the value you get from being able to count on strong reception everywhere makes it worthwhile, especially for peace of mind during travel.
So, for tourists who only visit Laos occasionally, the coverage benefits of Unitel are well suited to keep them connected during their travels without having to worry about blind spots in network access.
II. Best Vientiane SIM Card and cost
Here are the best mobile SIM card options for visitors in Vientiane, Laos along with their costs:
Best Vientiane SIM Card and cost
|SIM Card Price
|Around 20,000 kip ($2.40)
|Vientiane and nationwide
|Lao Telecom (LTC)
|Around 10,000 kip ($1.20)
|Smaller data bundle
|Vientiane and nationwide
|Around 5,000 kip ($0.60)
|From 1GB for 30 days
|Mostly Vientiane, limited outside
|10,000 kip ($1.20)
|From 2GB for 30 days
|Focus on Vientiane, limited beyond
For reliability and flexibility within Vientiane, the Unitel or LTC SIM provides the best and most consistent experience. TPlus SIM is very affordable for basic connectivity.
Unitel has excellent 4G and transparent prepaid packs. With coverage across 95% of Vientiane, speeds routinely reach 25-50 Mbps down. For heavy data users, the 20 GB monthly pack is a superb deal.
If traveling to rural Laos, Lao Telecom has better regional reach. But their prepaid options lag Unitel’s on price and speed in major tourist areas like Vientiane.
III. Where to buy A Laos SIM card in Vientiane
Visitors have a couple convenient ways of getting connected after landing at Wattay International Airport:
1. Getting a Laos SIM Card at Wattay Airport
Right after customs and baggage claim, multiple Unitel and Lao Telecom desks sell SIM cards in the arrivals hall. Both operators stock standard and tourist prepaid packs. Simply provide your passport to purchase a nano-SIM.
While it’s convenient to purchase a SIM card upon arrival at Wattay Airport in Vientiane, there are some drawbacks travelers should be aware of. Getting a SIM at the airport allows quick connectivity, but the selection may be limited and prices could be inflated compared to buying downtown.
So this option is really only suitable for travelers who need immediate connectivity upon landing or have no time to purchase a SIM elsewhere.
2. Getting a Prepaid Laos SIM Card in Vientiane
All major mobile operators have dozens of authorized resellers across the capital. Look for signs with provider logos on main streets. Grab a local map to find the nearest shop.
Prices are 10-20% cheaper buying direct from retailers rather than the airport. Just remember to carry passport, they will need to register your SIM purchase. Cash is preferred but some vendors accept credit cards.
Here are some another good options for where to get a SIM card once you’re in Vientiane, Laos:
- 7-Eleven: Convenient store locations all around the city that sell SIMs for all major carriers. Try the one on Lane Xang Ave.
- Mini-marts: Small shops along side streets often sell SIMs as resellers. Try those near your accommodation.
IV. eSIM for Vientiane Travelers – A Smart Alternative
If you’re traveling to the vibrant city of Vientiane, an eSIM is a smart wireless solution that offers significant advantages over a physical SIM card:
- No need to buy multiple SIM cards when visiting multiple countries
- Remotely switch plans to optimize data and calls
- Built in data saver/firewall security
- Share plan allowances with travel companions
- Avoid SIM card loss, damage, or theft
With Laos eSIM, you don’t have to worry about finding local SIM sellers or waiting in lines at the airport. The entirely digital eSIM allows instant activation online so you can get connected to superfast 4G/LTE data right away via your phone’s mobile settings. This means no disruptions to your messaging apps, social media, or navigation while on the go in Vientiane.
With flexible data packages starting at only $6.90, a Laos eSIM is undoubtedly the most convenient and cost-effective way for visitors to stay plugged in during their Vientiane adventure.
V. Things to Prepare When Buying SIM Card in Vientiane
To purchase any SIM card in Vientiane, tourists must provide:
- Passport – This verifies identity for mandatory SIM registration
- Cash – Local currency (Kip) is preferred by most vendors
- Unlocked device – Confirm your phone works with foreign SIMs
While rarely asked, having a passport photo and photocopy of key pages can expedite the process. Know your passport number in advance.
Some higher end hotels, cafes, and airports have Credit/Debit card support. But cash remains most convenient for SIM top ups around town.
VI. Tips and Recommendations
Experienced Vientiane visitors recommend:
- You’ll need to present your passport when purchasing a SIM to comply with registration regulations. The seller will need to make a photocopy of your passport details.
- Get extra data – apps can consume packs quicker than expected
- WhatsApp is great for calling and messaging internationally for free over WiFi or data. Get maps loaded offline like Google Maps.
- Carry mobile provider support numbers in case of issues
- Outlets are two-pronged. Consider a universal adapter. Many cafes offer charging ports.
While most tourists have no problems, rarely errors can occur during activation or refills. Having proof of purchases and account credentials is useful if needing to contact customer support.
Can I use dual SIM phones in Vientiane?
Yes, dual SIM devices work normally with Lao provider plans. Just insert the local nano-SIM and use data/calling balances accordingly.
Do I need to show passport/ID to get a SIM card in Vientiane?
Yes, a passport is mandatory during signup process to verify identity. Photocopies are not accepted according to regulations.
Can I use my Vientiane SIM card in other parts of Laos or neighboring countries
Generally no – Most prepaid SIMs only function in Laos due to roaming restrictions. But some premium plans may include regional calling/text.
Can I top up my SIM via international credit cards?
Unfortunately no – International credit/debit cards don’t work for direct top ups. Bring enough cash for data packs or international top up services.
How long does it take to activate my SIM card in Vientiane?
Normally under 10 minutes if all documentation is ready. Simply power on phone and connectivity should begin shortly.
A local Laos SIM card unlocks convenient access to maps, travel apps, location services, calls, texts and mobile data during your Vientiane visit. For ultimate flexibility, a Laos eSIM sets up in seconds.
Wherever your adventures take you in magical Laos, a local SIM helps create priceless memories. Capture stunning photos and easily share the moments with friends & family anywhere in the world!