Western Union ‘propaganda’
The easy way to transfer money worldwide is by Western Union, although, according to their own advertisements of course. The ‘only’ things you have to do is going to an agent location nearby and fill the send form. You give the form, your passport (a copy won’t be accepted) and the money you want to send, including the fee charge. Then you’ll get the receipt with all data printed on it. The important data is the MTCN, which is the number that you have to give to the receiver in order to get the money. How easy it can be …… Reality follows ……
ATM’s in Vientiane Laos can be tricky to count on. And when it’s an issue in Vientiane, you can count on it that it will be an issue in the rest of Laos too. First of all you have to get money out of an ATM. Even when the ATM’s have the correct sign/logo of Visa, still in many cases you won’t get money out. It seems to depend on many factors that we don’t know of. Things like from which country your card is. If it’s a debit or credit card and if you informed your own bank before going to Laos, so that they put it in their system and make your card work, as per the bank’s information. Another factor seem to be which bank the Laotian bank is. Many ATM’s don’t give money for one or more of mentioned reasons.
Western Union Reality
When the ATM part has been successfully passed and you got money out of it, of course in local Laotian currency called kip, then you can go to the Western Union (again). Let’s say for example that you took a total of five million kips (ca 500 euros) and want to send them by Western Union. The counter lady gives you the send form and on that you are required to fill the amount that you want to send. Only then they tell you that they don’t send kip to Europe or America.
First you’ll be told to change your kip into U.S. dollars. An explanation that from Thailand you send Thai bahts for the receiver to get paid in his/her local currency. From Denmark you send krone to a receiver in Thailand who gets paid in Thai baht, etc. This is the system. The sender pays the (terribly cheating) exchange rate of course. Not In Laos. First you need to get your kips changed into dollars. This can be a hassle in itself, taking 2 hrs, as many money changers don’t want to change the other way around, from kips to dollars. Or they don’t have bigger amounts than $200.
When you have managed to find dollars for your kips, only then you can go back to the Western Union agent to send your money. In case that you send to a country where they don’t use dollars, you’ll be screwed again. So, first you lose on exchange rate from kip to dollar. Then you lose again exchange rate from dollar to the currency of receiver. On top of a $600 amount sending, they charge you $34 fee. It’s not cheap, but do keep in mind that banks charge you about the same or more for an international transfer (unless you use cryptocurrency).
So, when you’re planning to travel to Laos. Be sure to bring enough cash, in case of ATM’s not paying out. And if you’re planning to send money by Western Union, keep above things in mind. An impression video can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AV6vEDnK2M&feature=youtu.be