What Is the Lao Kip (LAK)

LAK is the currency symbol for the official money of Laos, which is known as the Lao kip, sometimes also known as the Laos dollar. One kip is made up of 100 att.

As of August 2020, 1 U.S. dollar is equal to approximately 9,100 LAK.

Key Takeaways

  • The Lao kip (LAK) is the national currency of Laos.
  • The kip became official currency in 1952, but were introduced several years earlier prior to its national independence when it replaced the French Indochine piastre.
  • Laos has relied on both France and then China to print its official kip banknotes for circulation.

Understanding the Lao Kip

The Lao kip replaced the Indochinese piastre in 1945, 4 years before Laos officially gained independence from France. It became the official currency in 1952. The title of the kip has gone by several names since its introduction in 1945. Before being known as the Lao Kip it was known as the Free Lao Kip, the Royal Kip, the Pathet Lao Kip and the Lao PDR Kip. The kip floats freely against other currencies.

The original 1952 att coins contained holes in the middle, similar in nature to Chinese coins, and they were minted in aluminum. These coins have not however been in wide circulation in the country since before the fall of the Soviet Union. Att coins stopped being minted in 1957.

The banknote, or paper currency, was originally printed in France, in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 kip. The LAK symbols are ₭ and ₭N. Since they originally entered circulation, the Lao Kip has grown to include 200, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 notes. The most recent addition of the 100,000 note occurred in 2010 and was in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the capital of Laos, Vientiane. Banknotes were initially printed in France until 1975 and then were printed in China.

A Brief History of Laos

Laos, or Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Asia. Laos was originally colonized by the French in the late 19th century. The country was involved in several wars, including World War II, the Indochina wars and eventually the country’s own civil war. In 1975 Laos moved to a communist rule. Currently the country is a unitary single-party people’s republic, with one legislative house that contains both a president and a prime minister.

The official language of the country is Lao; however, the country is also home to a large population of people who speak French, English and Vietnamese. The country is surrounded by China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Laos experiences monsoon season, which means they have both a rainy season and a dry season. The country sees monsoons every year which helps to grow many of the orchids and palms the country is known for. The region is diverse, with some of the mountain ranges experiencing a cooler climate. There are over 200 species of mammals in the country, as well as many amphibians and birds. Due to its challenging regional layout, Laos does not have many major exports to speak of.

With the economic reforms that came after the fall of the Soviet Union, Laos began to develop its economy by opening the country up for tourism. The income brought in by travelers has helped to reduce the country’s debts and decrease their need for international aide.

Laos's economy today relies on investment and trade with its neighbors: Thailand; Vietnam; and especially China. Laos is mineral-rich, with exports including precious and industrial metals. The Laotian economy grew at a rate of 4.7% in 2019, with an inflation rate of 3.3%.