Laos phone numbers have the format
+856 20 654 321 where "856" is the country code for Laos. Numbers starting with 20 are mobile numbers, while all others are landlines.
- Laos Country Code is "+856".
- International Call Prefix is "00".
- Laos Call Prefix is "0".
- Laos articles here use the convention "+856 xx xxxxxx" except for emergency numbers which use local format with leading zero, "0xx xxxxxx"
Internet cafés can be found in larger towns, however access speeds are usually painfully slow and cafe staffs have less knowledge. The most reliable connections are in Vientiane, and usually cost around 100 kip/minute, with the cheapest offering 4,000 kip/hour. However, Internet security is not guaranteed and computer viruses are abundant.
In most cases, Wi-Fi is the best option. Most Western-style cafés offer free Wi-Fi-access for customers. Most accommodations (even budget places in Vientiane) now offer free Wi-Fi.
GPRS via mobile phone is also an option, especially if you have a local or Thai SIM, for those who intend to stay longer term and require mobile Internet.
Mobile phone usage in Laos has mushroomed, with four competing GSM operators. Two of these offer roaming services. Calling people on the same network is always cheaper than calling another network, but there is no clear market leader. Tourist and expats tend to prefer Tigo or M-phone (Laotel), while locals use any of the four networks.
- Beeline (formerly known as Tigo) has agreements with over 100 International phone networks. See roaming with Tigo. Another popular choice, they also have low-cost international rate of 2000 kip/minute to many countries, if you buy their SIM card and dial "177" instead of "+".
- ETL Mobile is known to have better coverage in rural and remote parts of Laos. However, in Laos "better" certainly does not mean "everywhere". They seem to have low-cost international call service too. [www] .
- Unitel or starphone (the old name of this network) is available too.
Local prepaid SIM cards can be purchased in various shops and stores without any paperwork. But be aware almost all of network traffic (including phone or fax) is tapped by the government.
As another options, there is Thai GSM coverage close to the Thai border (including a significant part of Vientiane), and Thai SIM cards and top-up cards can be bought in Laos; in addition, DeeDial International Call Cards are available. Thus, if you already have a Thai number, you can use the (generally cheaper) Thai network and/or avoid buying one more SIM. However, beware - if you have a Thai SIM which has International Roaming activated it will connect to a Lao network when the Thai network is not available, and the roaming charges will be significantly higher.
Postal service in Laos is slow, but generally reliable. Other paid options such as Fed Express, DHL, and EMS exist in various locations. Though these services are much more expensive, they are more reliable.