Starting a business / charity in Laos


After travelling to and falling in love with Laos, my partner and I are thinking of relocating and starting a business, as well as a charity, over there.

We currently live in Sydney Australia, but are keen to relocate by the end of this year.

We are not too sure as to what we would like to start and are also not too sure what it would be like to live in Laos. The main thing for us at this stage is to try to understand what the environment is like for ex-pats wishing to live and start their own businesses and charities in Laos.

If anyone has worked, or started their own business/ charity in Laos, would you mind please sharing your experiences with me?

Looking forward to hearing from you!
Many Thanks in Advance

If you've got lots of money to spend on charity or invest in a business you have no idea about, then go ahead and relocate to Laos. There'll be plenty of people willing to take it off you. There are many NGOs 'doing good' already, by the way.

Are you sure you're 'in love' with a whole country after spending probably a short time on holiday there - and not just dreaming that life will be so much better for you than in Australia?

Starting a business, especially as you have no idea what to do, will not be easy - in any country.

Whatever you decide, don't burn your bridges.

Hi Somsanuk,

Thank you for replying to my message. Thanks for your concern about whether we are making the right decision or not. I had a look at your profile and see that you are Welsh but are living in Laos.

Your message worries me a bit. Are there things that I need to look out for when investing in Laos? We do not have a lot of money, so your somments about people wanting to take it off us is very concerning. If you could expand on your thoughts, it would help me immensly.

Also, have you relocated to Laos, or are you there temporarily. I would love to understand a bit more about your situation.

Thanks again for your reply. I hope to hear from you soon.

Hi Bernie

Sorry for the delay and discouragement. I have had a business in Thailand which was reasonably successful but difficult due to the bureaucracy and paperwork involved. Lao would probably be even more so, but I now derive my income from outside (online) and I would not wish to try and do business locally. Even those with previous experience of business and living in South East Asia struggle especially if they don't understand the local language.

If you are thinking of moving to Laos, come and spend a few months here to see what life is like before making any commitment to business or social work. It may suit you; it may not. But if you haven't lived and worked in a foreign country or different cultural environment, it will take time to adjust. It's not the same as spending a short holiday.

You might find some useful information at which devotes several pages to expat life in Laos.

Best wishes


P.S. I'm not Welsh; I didn't see England when I registered, looking only for United Kingdom or Great Britain!


I am Lao, if you would like to have more information about living in Laos I can answer to your questions.

Yes, I think spending some time a bit longer than normal vacation will give you ideas and understand more of the culture, etc.

Starting any business or charity here is not really easy but there is opportunity for sure. I am working for an NGO supporting children education in rural areas, thus I can give you insight education context and issue related to rural development. As for business matter, I am not expert in this field.

Best wishes


Hi Kham,

Thank you very much for responding to my message.

I am currently focussed on getting approval to start a business in Laos. Once this is complete and we are up and running, I will contact you to understand more about you and what you are doing to support childrens' education.

This may take a few months but please be patient with me.

Many thanks again for responding.


I am wishing to open Indian restaurant in vientian... i was running before in thailand, ...anyone will tell me, how is prospect for indian food in vientian or any other city in laos..?

This website specialises in just this kind of topic - life in Laos for expats and locals. Have a look:

Difficult to start a business in Laos. And fraught with problems like having to pay bribes to local authorities etc. 

Charities can be problematic as the Lao authorities will look closely as to what you are looking to do in Laos. They do not like charities that are religiously based.

There are bars for sale or lease but difficult to find something that would not need you to keep a 24/7 eye on it.

Even if you set up something with a local partner you are likely to get ripped off. 

You would definitely need to spend a few months here looking around and sounding the place out.

Sorry to be blunt but I have been coming and going from Laos for many years now and have still to find something business wise that would suit me and that did not require 24/7 supervision.

Hi..Bernie.. How re you? I'm Nitha from Malaysia and currently living in Singapore with my Hubby. I read about ur charity and starting new bussiness.. Are u now in Laos? what type of business are u keen on? For ur info i love charity too. well, currently i'm attached with a Global Biz which related to charity. If u re interested v can further more..


Hi Bernie,

Are you in Laos now and your project is running now? Where are you in Laos?

Can you share more about your project?

hi kham,can you tell me if a foreigner can own a business in laos?i was planning a small italian you need a local partner?a lot of paperwork?best regardss,alessandro.

Hi Alessandro,yes a foreigner can won a business in Laos. Yes, it needs some paper works especially for setting up and tax matters.But not too demanding in terms of regulations e.g. health (food safety), etc.

hi everyone...i live in Laos. i would like to do a business like textile and export laos silk. but i don't know how yo export to others countries and how to find markets in others countries. who interesting to be a partner.. please give me some advice about how to find the markets and partner.

thanks a lot,

I be interested to start a lot of schools in poor areas, but how to get qualify teachers will be the problem. I feel that education is what a lot of the poor areas need in order to elevate themselves above poverty. anyone know how to go about that will be appreciated.

charlie x :

I be interested to start a lot of schools in poor areas, but how to get qualify teachers will be the problem. I feel that education is what a lot of the poor areas need in order to elevate themselves above poverty. anyone know how to go about that will be appreciated.

I would suggest that you look at first getting a teaching qualification that is accepted by teaching institutions here.
Then find a teaching job to give you the experience and learning of how the education system works.

Start the job,  then make contact with people who can assist you in your venture.  Use expat teachers as your base requirement and pair them up with a local teacher so as to then help the local in learning and then they can be promoted.

There are schools being built here in Laos which are funded by the various embassies here in Vientiane.

hi stumpy,
I've taught at tertiary institutions (colleges and universities) in America and Australia, so I hope that I would be qualify to teach at the primary and secondary schools in Laos?

yes, getting native speakers of English to teach in rural areas seem very difficult per my conversations with those local schools. most of these people stay only at the tourist areas, such as ventiane, phonsavan, vangvieng, luangprabang, or pakse, but don't go to the rural areas.

adequate pays for teachers seem to be the major problem in the rural areas, so this issue must be addressed. will the current Laos government allow the education systems from America, France, Australia or other first world countries to be deployed in Laos?

Australian education systems are up and running in the international schools here in Vientiane albeit in conjunction with the Laos system. 
KIS teaches half under the New South Wales system from Australia and the Lao system.
AIS is the same. 

I cannot see this dual system being taught in local rural schools any time soon as there is not the demand for it. Rural children will learn under the Lao system and then more than likely work on the land alongside their parents.  There are not jobs in these areas that warrant someone learning English and those who want to will go to the English language centres in Pakse or wherever if the family has the financial resources to pay for it. 

I agree that inadequate pay is a factor in getting quality teachers in these areas.

it's good to know that the aussie education system is in laos.

teachers need to be highly paid as well as highly respected by all. in laos, teachers are very poorly paid and many said they often don't get pay so they rather work in other fields to earn their living. I think there are too many people in laos who see little value of education, that is the very root of country's development pace.

English is just one of the world's languages, and might I say a very imprecise language compare to others. language is just a form of communication, so any other language would be almost as useful. but all other subjects are the same throughout this planet, such as math, geology, biology, psychology, and so on. there is no excuse not to know these subjects as any other student in any other country? but in laos, it seems to be lost in time.

When I worked here for the Asian Development bank on road construction 85% of the population did not work but were subsistence farmers living off the land. Of the 15% left, 80% of them worked for the government and the balance for private enterprise. Govt income was wholly dependent on handouts from various countries. 

Now that has changed dramatically with private enterprise taking off over the last 10 years thanks to the younger generation who have been exposed to Western society and better educated. 

Education means very little still to people in rural areas, only in Vientiane and to a lesser extent Pakse and Luang Prabang.

let's hope that laos keeps on changing for the better. let's hope that new PR law gets going so maybe more private enterprises will be in laos too.

does the Asian Development Bank has loan programs to start small enterprises for the local people. a classmate of mine from Cambodia did his PhD thesis on how to startup small enterprises with local people, and last I heard was that he was trialing this work in his country. I would very much like to do something similar for Laos, if there is finance available.

like my classmate, I think starting with a $1 million USD revolving loan pool should be sufficient to get a lot of small enterprises off the ground. it's the concept of doubling the penny and teaching how to fish :)

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darn, I just left laos. any other way to discuss or for you to send me more info?

ok. any questions please send to my e-mail: khamhiane[at]

thank you and Email has been sent. looking forward to hear from you soon.

@charlie x

Please keep us in the loop as any information may well be of interest to the members of the Lao forum..... :)

please contact me at ***
I will help in finish what i started. i spend the money already. need u just be there

Hi there,i know this is a old message but hope you're still up for this.I could set up a stream for export market btw i am also looking forward to moving to laos if things work up as i wish them to.

I live in Phonsavan, Laos and have been here for a few months.  I have been to Thailand 23 times and Laos about six or seven times and can tell you from "first hand experience" that it is really difficult to start a business in either country.  I went through $65,000 in three years trying to start a business in Thailand that never got "off the ground".  Laos would be much more difficult than Thailand as they are a communist country and also poorer than Thailand; so you would have to bribe (or make regular "payments") to the local authorities (trust me on this one-I have been down that road more than a few times).  Also, I think you would have to have a native Laos person to put the business' name in.  "Good Luck" with that one.  If you put your hard-earned dollars in a local Laos person's name; you will quickly see it disappear!  Just my advice...  Like I said; I've been here for a while, even speak the local language fairly well and still people will try to "rip me off".  I wouldn't even think about trying to start a business here.  It is, however a lovely country with lots of friendly people (and a few not-so-friendly).  "Good Luck" with any venture you choose.

kermila :

hi everyone...i live in Laos. i would like to do a business like textile and export laos silk. but i don't know how yo export to others countries and how to find markets in others countries. who interesting to be a partner.. please give me some advice about how to find the markets and partner.

thanks a lot,

I am interested too to start a business and have relevant experience too. we can discuss this . please send private message to me *** if you are interested

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