There is always much confusion among foreigners living in Laos about the required licenses to drive.
So what kinds of licenses are needed to drive in Laos ? These are the four possibilities to legally drive a vehicle in Laos:
1) Lao driving license
Laos allows foreigners living & working in Laos to take a driving test within the country to obtain a domestic license. The Lao driving license is valid for a period of 5 years.
2) Temporary Lao Driving License
This driving license is basically a transcript of the Expat’s national driving license (the driving license issued by the Expat’s home country) and is valid up to one year. The temporary license is only given to Expats living and working in Laos, possessing the necessary paper work (including work permit etc). This license is only valid inside Laos.
3) International Driving License
The international driving license is issued by the Expat’s home country (normally valid for one year) and again is based on the Expat’s national driving license. Laos being a signatory to the United Nations’ Road Traffic Convention, these International Driving Licenses are valid to drive a car in Laos.
4) Thailand, Vietnam, China and Cambodia driving license
According to the Transport’s Traffic Management Division, the government has signed bilateral agreements with Thailand, Vietnam, China and Cambodia that allows drivers from those countries to drive freely in Laos as long as their licenses are in English or accompanied with an official translation into English. The same applies for Lao people driving in those countries.
In conclusion and to answer many Expats question, it is not possible to use the Expat’s national driving license to drive in Laos. We understand that some policemen will wave you through if showing a national (non-Lao) driving license, however this is fully up to the discretion of the police force. By Lao law it’s not possible to use the national (non-Lao) driving license.
A driver’s license will always state what types of motorized vehicles a person may operate. Different categories of license often exist for different types of motor vehicles. In Laos, you need to have “Category A” for driving motorbikes and “Category B” for cars up to 8 passengers and max 3.5t
Most important for Expats to know is that many Lao insurance provider to not cover claims should the driver (Expat) use a national (non-Lao) driving license.
For example, the insurance policy wording of Toko Assurance states the following: “The aforementioned persons are only entitled to claims under the Provisions of this Policy provided at the time of the accident, the driver has fulfilled the requirements required by the regulations on the driving of said vehicle and any other rules and regulations in Lao PDR governing the ownership and use of said motor vehicle including possession of a valid driving license (not suspended nor expired) and of which the driver must be the valid holder, and be of the legal driving age.”
Or with other words, the insured person needs to posses one of the four above mentioned driving license. You may want to check with your insurance provider what their practice is in regards to driving licenses.
Having said that, J&C Insurance Brokers, being the largest insurance agency in Laos, has special agreements with their insurance providers, which waves this exclusion, so that all J&C clients are covered as long as they use a valid national driving license .
If you have any questions regarding the driving licenses or if you wish to receive an insurance quote for your car or motorbike, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or get a quote here: car or motorbike
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