The official national currency in Laos is the Kip (LAK). The symbol for the Lao Kip is ₭. The bank notes currently in circulation are 500₭; 1.000₭; 2.000₭; 5.000₭; 10.000₭; 20.000₭; 50.000₭; and 100.000₭. No coins are currently in use in Laos.
The best currencies to carry for changing to Lao Kip are US dollar, Thai baht, Euros, UK pounds, and Canadian and Australian dollar. USD and Thai Baht can be exchanged almost everywhere (in markets, mini markets and smaller stores in provinces) and can pay for large purchases, while other international currencies can only be exchanged at banks and some licensed moneychangers in major towns. The exchange rate is 1 USD = 8171 LAK, 1 EUR = 9365 LAK and 1 THB = 229 LAK.
USD and Thai Baht are widely accepted in Laos. In up-market restaurants and hotels, bills are often presented in three choices of currencies (Lao Kip, Thai Baht and US dollars) for your convenience. If you plan to go out to the countryside in remote areas, it's recommended that you exchange enough of your money to Lao Kip to cover your trip as you will not find currency exchange units outside of the capital towns of provinces, and Kip might be the only currency excepted.
It's also a good idea to carry a reasonable amount of smaller bills of Laos currency (1.000 to 20.000 Kip bills are good) to avoid hassle because local traders (especially in the countryside) often don't have enough change.
Credit cards are accepted at most major hotels and up-market restaurants and shops in Vientiane Capital and some major tourist cities in Laos.
Most banks in Laos now offer ATMs. Lao ATMs dispense only Laos currency (LAK) and daily limit is only up to 8 million kip (1000 USD). If you want to cash US dollar or Thai Baht or if you want to cash a large amount it is better to go into the bank and use their service. Banking hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 3:30pm.
(*) Don't be surprised if you are given sweets or candies instead of your 500 Kip change, it’s a common occurrence as 500 Kip notes sometimes run short.