Filming in Laos
Classical Asia, One of the Regions Best Kept Secrets
Often overlooked in favor of its better-known neighbors, landlocked Laos remains one of Southeast Asia’s best kept secrets and possesses many hidden natural, cultural and historical gems for avid film makers. Stretching from the dramatic forest-clad Himalayan foothills and glittering ancient temples of the north to the thousands of tropical islands, dipterocarp forests and thundering waterfalls in the deep south, Laos possesses a timeless charm, dramatic landscapes and a laid back culture that have combined to captivate visitors from far and wide for decades.
For such a small country, Laos is surprisingly diverse in terms of its people, and biodiversity. Colorfully dressed hill tribes populate the higher elevations, while in the lowland river valleys, coconut palms sway over the Buddhist monasteries of the ethnic Lao. The country also retains some of the French influence it absorbed during colonial days. The Lao government has increasingly been opening it’s doors to foreign film productions to the point where it is now, for the first time emerging as a viable filming destination for a wide range of film makers. With over 19 years of regular film fixing experience in almost every province of Laos, we know very well how to get things done here efficiently and effectively.
With Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia modernizing rapidly, many regions of Laos remain almost unchanged from centuries past. With a significant proportion of the population having Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese or Khmer heritage, the expansive and lightly populated rural areas of Laos could double for any of the nations in former eras.
It is a legal requirement in Laos for all foreign film crews to obtain a filming permit issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Media Department. Separate permissions are usually required for specific locations such as national parks, historical parks or religious establishments that have their own administrations, we can efficiently arrange all permits on your behalf throughout Laos. You can download the film office permit application form here.
Permit Processing time frame: The permit processing time frame depends upon the complexity of the shoot and the number of government agencies and other entities involved. A straight forward shoot within a single province can usually be processed within 3 weeks (however we strongly advise allowing longer). On the other hand, if a shoot that visits national parks, historical sites, religious sites or several different provinces which all require separate paperwork processing, the time frame will increase accordingly. With few exceptions its usually possible to obtain even the more complex permits within 6 weeks. In one case, we obtained permits in one week that several other fixers in Laos had been unable to obtain in over a decade. The point is, in Laos, the right contacts can be critical.
While filming it is a requirement that foreign film crews are accompanied by a government watcher and usually at least 1 x government security person. Laos is not considered a dangerous country yet the security person is typically a stipulation of provincial authorities.
A fee per day is charged for this service + costs if filming in a remote area. In many cases the monitoring officer will only pop in from time to time, however watcher fees are charged in advance and are non-refundable. On large multi camera shoots, the government may require that multiple watchers attend.
Film Permit processing Costs
The complexity and work load of processing each permit varies as greatly as the technical complexity of different film shoots. Therefore it’s only possible to provide an accurate permit processing estimate once some details on the shoot specifics have been provided. Feel free to send through some basic details on your shoot including: A brief Description of the program with a rough filming schedule noting the filming locations. With this information in hand we’re able to come back quickly with a permit processing estimate.
1. A letter made by the assigned local coordinator, informing the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Media Dept of the purpose of applying for a shooting permit.
2. An assignment letter made by the foreign filmmaker, indicating the local coordinator that they have hired.
3. An application form. Download here:
4. Supporting documents needed for permit consideration:
- A treatment
- Final script
5. A schedule of filming in Laos informing the period of filming and locations.
6. Name list, passport numbers, positions and arrival dates of foreign film crews.
After the completed documents are submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It will take at least 14 working days to grant a shooting permit. We strongly advise allowing more time.
Film crews can arrive in Laos on a regular tourist visa. For most nationalities (Europe, US, UK, Japan, Australia and NZ) a tourist visa is obtained on arrival at the international airport costing $30-$40 per visa.
At the immigration arrival area, the crew will be issued with a media ID card from the ministry of foreign affairs representative who will accompany the shoot.