In recent years Laos has seen a steady rise of drug tourism. Ganja (marijuana) is widely available in Laos, although it’s illegal to smoke it. Tourists who buy and use ganja risk substantial “fines” if caught by police, who do not need a warrant to search you or your room. As in Thailand, there have been many instances of locals selling foreigners marijuana and then telling the police. In Vang Vieng, mushrooms and weed are offered at most backpacker bars – either straight up or baked into a dizzying array of “happy” pizzas – but you should bear in mind that plenty of travellers get sick, or robbed, after indulging.

In northern towns, tourists are sometimes approached by opium addicts who, in return for cash, offer to take the visitors to a hut or some other private place, where opium pipes will be prepared and smoked. Many Westerners feel the romanticism of doing this all-but-extinct drug is just as appealing as the promise of intoxication, but the opium prepared for tourists is often not opium at all, but morphine-laden opium ash that has been mixed with painkillers. The resulting “high” is, for many, several hours of nausea and vomiting. While real opium is not as addictive as its derivative, heroin, withdrawal symptoms are similarly painful. Visitors caught smoking opium (or even opium ash) face fines, jail time and deportation.

In addition, it’s important to consider the local implications of using drugs in Laos. There remains a serious problem with drug addiction in some rural communities, which local organizations are working hard to address, and using drugs while in the country can encourage local people to do the same, thus undoing a lot of hard work.


Everything you need to know before you set off.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Laos features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos

16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos

Professional travel photographer Tim Draper has shot images for 24 Rough Guides guidebooks, visiting far-flung corners of the world. Here he shares some of his …

07 Sep 2017 • Tim Draper insert_drive_file Article
6 special places to stay in Laos

6 special places to stay in Laos

Until the 1990s, Laos remained shut off from the outside world, and largely unknown to Western travellers. Since then, more and more visitors have come to disco…

19 Dec 2014 • Site Editor insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook