How to send money to the fast growing economy of Lao PDR.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or more widely known as Laos, is a lower to middle-income economy bordering China, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Among its population there are 49 broad ethnic groups and 4 linguistic groups.
The country offers a diverse amount of opportunities, and it has one of the fastest growing economies in the East Asia and Pacific area.
Canada and Laos have had long-standing economic ties since the mid 1950s. The relationship focuses on deepening community relationships and developing security and safety throughout Laos. In Canada alone, over 25,000 individuals are of Lao origins. This has created a need for money transfer services between the two nations.
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Case study: Comparing money transfers companies for sending money to Lao PDR
Ailani has decided to move to Canada for a year to live and work close to her extended family who live in Ontario. She studied in Laos and has student debt.
Now, as a successful young working woman, Ailani wants to pay back some of the study loans she had to take out through her years of study and also invest in her parents lives in Laos. She does a study of all the money transfer companies available to send money back to Vientiane in Laos and draws up the table below based on CAD$1,000.
|Money transfer company A||Money transfer company B|
|Exchange rate||$1 CAD = 6,304.43 LAK||$1 CAD = 6,305.79 LAK|
|Amount of LAK received in Laos for 1,000 AUD||LAK6,304,371.00||LAK6,305,691.00|
|Transfer time||Minutes||2-5 days|
|Transfer options||Phone, online or in person||Online, phone, mobile app|
|Difference in LAK||LAK1,302|
Although the difference between the two companies minimal at only LAK1,302 more with money service provider B, the transfer fees differ greatly. Money transfer company B charges only CAD$30, which will save CAD$10 on each payment compared to transfer company A. If she sends money every month, this fee alone will save $120 in just one year.
How should you compare transfer companies when sending money between Lao PDR and Canada?
- Exchange rates. Some specialist money transfer companies will offer a more competitive exchange rate than a bank, but might hide high fees inside the exchange rate. Compare both the exchange rate being offered and the cost of the transfer to understand how much the transfer will cost you in total.
- Pickup methods. Some companies, like Moneygram, can only send a USD amount which will be picked up at an agent location and will still need to be exchanged into LAK, which will need to happen at a bank. This will mean losing out to the exchange rate. Western Union sends the cash pickup in LAK, while receiving the money in a bank account is also an option.
- Fees. The fees can in some instances vary quite a bit, depending on the type of transfer service used and whether it’s above or below certain minimum and maximum amounts. Generally speaking, the fees tend to be higher if the transfer is sent in a shorter amount of time.
- Bank-to-Bank benefits. Some of the big Canadian banks may allow transfers to Laos, but will require a call or visit to a branch to determine their rates and fees.
- Turnaround time. The turnaround time for available companies ranges between a couple of minutes and five days. Anything longer than that is not worth paying for compared to what the competition offers.
- Transfer methods. You can often choose between sending the money in person from an agent location or sending the money online. Sometimes you can send mobile payments or payments over the phone.
- Transfer options. These include recurring payments, spot contracts and one time payments.
- Minimum/Maximum transfer amounts. The available options offer freedom in having a wide variety of minimum and maximum amounts.
- Customer service. All companies should offer some kind of customer service, whether it’s in person, over the phone, email or online chat. Some companies will be available 24/7, while others may only be available a few days a week. A physical bank branch might yield the fastest results if you are looking to have a problem solved quickly.
What are your options for sending money to Lao PDR from Canada?
- Money transfer services. The money transfer companies that can send money to Laos from Canada are Moneygram and Western Union. Moneygram and Western Union have a long history of international money transfers and can send cash for pickup within minutes.
- Banks. Some of the big Canadian banks may be able to send transfers to Laos, including RBC, TD and Scotiabank. This may be due to relationships these banks have with a local bank in Laos called Canadia Bank Ltd. Visit a local branch to determine the available currency options and costs involved.
How can you receive money from Lao PDR in Canada?
- Money transfer services – Moneygram and Western Union will both allow a person to send money from a local agent in Laos to Canada for cash pickup or to a bank account.
- Banks – As mentioned above, clients of the Canadia Bank Ltd. may be able to send money to some banks in Canada.
Safe ways to send emergency cash transfers to Laos
Emergency money transfers can be sent from Canadian branches of MoneyGram and Western Union and can be picked up in Laos at multiple locations. Below are locations for some of the bigger areas in Laos. Some Canadian banks may also be able to transfer emergency cash funds to the Canadia Bank Ltd. for pick-up at certain locations.
Cash pickup locations in Lao PDR when using Western Union and Moneygram
- Lao Development Bank
Chanthabouly, Muang Chanthaboury District
Vientiane Capital, Vientiane Capital 2700
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 3:30pm,
Saturday and Sunday, closed
- Acleda Thongkhankhan Service Unit
Thongkhankham Village, Chanthabouly
Vientiane, Vientiane 856
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday, closed
- Meexay Market Pakse Service Un
Pakse Champasak, Champasak
Monday to Sunday, 8:30am to 5pm
- 410 Unit 30
Monday to Sunday, 8:30am to 4:30pm
Thatluang Kang Village
Saysettha, Vientiane Capital
Monday to Sunday, 7am to 6pm
- Bcel – CPS
Lukmuang Village Champasak Province,
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm,
Saturday and Sunday, 12pm to closing
Tips for picking up cash in Lao PDR
With some transactions, the actual amount received will not necessarily be received in the native currency of Laos. Note that any currency exchange can only happen at an official bank outlet in Laos.
Timing is also important in Laos and most money transfer services won’t offer services after 5pm. This means that Ailani and her parents will need to time the trips well with workdays to visit an agent location before it closes – or before available currency runs out.
Always take along something to carry the money in so others do not suspect you have a lot of cash on you. Carry the cash in a way that fits into your normal day in life, for example, an envelope in your briefcase or an inside pocket in your jacket.
What are the steps to send money to Lao PDR?
When sending money to a recipient in Laos
- You will need the full details of the recipient and your photo ID
- The agent location
- Amount and currency that you would like to send
- In some cases, you will first need to register an account (especially with an online transfer method)
When you send or receive money to a bank account
- The full bank name and also very importantly, the BIC/SWIFT or the alternative the local banks require to receive international money Canadian transit numbers may be needed.
- The bank account number and branch number
- Recipient details
- The correct amount and currency
What do you need to pick up cash?
- Your photo ID or government form of ID like a passport or driver’s licence
- The tracking or reference number of the money transfer
- For added safety, have a copy of the transaction receipt and the details of the sender