Getting a SIM Card in Laos in 2024 – The Definitive No-Nonsense Guide

sim card laos

Looking to get a SIM card during your travels in Laos in 2024? We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive, no-BS guide. Skip the affiliate link nonsense and tourist traps – we’ll show you how to get the best deal on a local Lao SIM with maximum data, talk time and validity for your money.

Why should you trust this guide?

I’ve been travelling full-time across Southeast Asia for years, and Laos is one of my favourite destinations to explore slowly. Over multiple extended trips, I’ve bought and used SIM cards from different Lao SIM Card providers, and tested them to see which are best. This guide is constantly updated with first-hand experience and tips from our community of readers – our only motivation is saving you money and hassle by sharing what works on the ground.

I’ve been to some very remote places, so I know which cards work best all around Laos.

Getting a SIM Card in Laos (TL;DR)

Here’s how to get a SIM Card in Laos (TL;DR):

  • You can get a SIM card at the airport if it’s an absolute necessity but it’s better to:
  • Get in some transport like a TukTuk and ask your driver to take you to a place where you can get a SIM
  • Make sure you’ve got your passport to purchase and register the SIM
  • If you’re there short-term you can get a tourist package for 7 days, if long term, go for a monthly plan
  • You can choose between Unitel, Lao Telecom or TPlus offering 4G/LTE data for 30 days (Unitel is best)
  • Expect to pay around 50,000-100,000 Kip ($3-6 USD) for a 30-day package with 5-10GB data
  • Staff will set everything up for you in the shop, just insert SIM and you’re ready

I personally bought a Unitel SIM Card. They’re quite hard to set up by yourself because you have to call some numbers that you probably won’t know and it will display some messages in Lao language telling you what to do next. Just ask the shop to set it up for you, they will set it up at no extra cost.

Unitel has by far the best coverage and speeds for the price in Laos. However, if you’re going to rural places virtually none of the SIM cards will work consistently throughout your journey in Laos. When travelling on a motorbike and on buses through rural villages, signal would drop continually. There is no way to get around this, unless maybe you get Starlink.

If you’re crossing the border from Thailand to Vientiane (at Nong Khai), after you get on the bus, walk out, turn right and cross the road – you’ll find a bunch of shops selling SIM cards that will help you set them up. Ours cost around 200-300 baht ($5-8) for a 30-day plan with 5-10GB of data.

If you’re flying into Luang Prabang, get to the centre and find any general store. Most will sell SIM cards and set them up for you.

Don’t Fall for the Airport SIM Trap

Like most countries in the region, the SIM cards and data packages sold at airports in Laos are a bad deal aimed at separating cash from unwitting tourists. The packages offer expensive rates, low data caps and short validity periods.

Unless having data the moment you land is an absolute necessity, avoid these airport kiosks like the plague. Prices can be 2-3 times higher than what you’ll pay just a short distance away in the city.

But how do you get out of the airport if you have no data?

Most airports have free WiFi and you can book using any of the Taxi apps available in Laos. I personally recommend Kokkok Move, or Loca, but here’s a short list if you want to choose from more:

  • Kokkok Move (cheapest, great service)
  • Loca (best, most reliable, but most expensive)
  • Indrive (not as active, works on a kind of bidding system)
  • Xanh SM (worst)

It costs around 35,000 KIP ($1.64 USD) for a short journey (usually a few KM)

Purchasing A SIM Card At The Airport

There are 2 main airports in Laos:

  • Wattay (Vientiane)
    • Unitel Shop
    • Lao Telecom Shop
    • ETL SIM Shop
    • TPlus SIM Shop
  • Luang Prabang Airport
    • Unitel
    • Lao Telecom
    • ETL
    • TPlus

I recommend getting the Unitel SIM as it’s the best priced, with the best coverage and speeds. Plans will set you back 70,000 KIP for 7 days and 250,000 KIP for 15 days ($3 – 12). If you want to save a little money and still have good service, Lao Telecom is the next best call, from 60,000 – 100,000 KIP ($3-5)

Top tip: if you’re coming by slow boat to Laos, you can purchase SIM cards at the boat piers and at the borders. There are usually people selling them by the border

I wouldn’t recommend this completely though, because the selection is small and you commonly have to set these up by yourself and Lao SIM cards are ridiculously annoying to set up.

    Where to Buy a SIM Card in Laos

    Once you get to your hotel or guesthouse, your first step is to ask your host about the nearest location to purchase a SIM card.

    There are a few main options depending on where you’re staying:

    • General stores
    • Branded provider stores/kiosks (Unitel, Lao Telecom, TPlus)
    • Phone shops/minimarts
    • Convenience stores like 7-Eleven (rare in smaller towns)

    No matter where you buy the SIM, you’ll need to provide your passport to register it. The clerk will handle everything for you on purchase and we recommend you let them, because the set-up process is pretty difficult.

    In Vientiane

    If you arrive by bus here from the border, simply go out of the bus station, turn left, cross the road, and you’ll see a load of phone shops selling accessories. Go to one of these shops and purchase a SIM card, the clerks will help you set them up.

    If you haven’t arrived by bus, simply head to the centre, and find a general store/any shop that has phones outside the front. Here you’ll be able to get a SIM Card. You could additionally head to 7/11, or a mall for one of the official phone shops.

    In Luang Prabang and Other Cities

    In other cities like Luang Prabang, Pakse or Savannakhet, there aren’t many branded stores and phone shops around the downtown areas, but there are a lot of convenience/general stores that will sell you SIM cards. It’s best to get one here. You’ll also find a bunch of booking/tourist office services that offer SIM cards too, but they generally charge a small premium. It’s not much if you’re fine paying it, and it’s pretty convenient too.

    In Rural Areas

    If you’re heading off the beaten path, your guesthouse host is your best resource for finding the nearest place to purchase a SIM card in that particular town. It may be a small phone shop or a convenience/general store on the main street.

    Most rural areas have a general store that will sell SIM cards. It’s best to ask the hotel staff. Not all hotel staff speak English that well in the more rural areas in Laos, so you’ll most likely be on your own. But if you point to your phone and make a call gesture with your hands, then hand them Google maps with a Lao language keyboard up, usually they get the picture and will be able to type in a shop where you could purchase a SIM and data.

    The Best SIM Card Providers in Laos

    As of today, there are 4 main telecom providers operating national mobile networks in Laos:

    • Unitel (best coverage) – 32mb/s
    • Lao Telecom – 25mb/s
    • TPlus – 5.75mb/s
    • ETL Mobile (only 2G/3G coverage) – 8.05mb/s

    For tourists, your choice will likely come down to: Unitel or Lao Telecom. Both offer wide 4G/LTE coverage, packages designed for visitors, and have English-speaking staff in the major cities.

    laos sim card speed test


    Unitel is regarded as having the most robust and widespread 4G network across Laos, even in rural areas. And, as the market leader, they usually have the most compelling promotions and tourist packages available.

    Lao Telecom

    Formerly the state-run provider, Lao Telecom has rapidly expanded its 4G coverage in recent years to better compete with Unitel. Their networks and packages are generally comparable, though Unitel is still seen as having a slight edge.


    The Russian-owned Beeline has built out 3G/4G coverage focused on the border areas and some smaller towns and villages where the two larger providers haven’t saturated. Their packages can be a more economical option in certain regions.

    ETL Mobile

    The fourth player ETL Mobile is still limited to just 2G/3G networks. The coverage and speeds are pretty bad, and you’ll likely want to skip them as a tourist unless you’re gonna be in very rural areas.

    How To Top Up Your SIM Card in Laos

    Topping up your Lao SIM card with additional data, minutes or package renewals is very straightforward. You have a few different options:

    • Top up at general store/convenience store
      • Purchase a re-load card, with a scratchable code. You dial *123# and then enter the code.
    • Using your SIM card provider’s app (don’t always accept foreign cards)
      • Download the Unitel, Lao Telecom or other app, login with your number and use your credit card to purchase a package
    • Top up at the designated phone store for your SIM (Unitel, Lao Telecom etc.)
      • You can also top up at the official stores, just head in and tell the clerk how much you want

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