If you have never travelled to a developing country, Laos would certainly give you a unique experience and probably more than just one. With its old colonial charm and vast rural areas, if you like the outdoors or just want to relax Laos has plenty to offer. When visiting Laos you will have to purchase Laos currency which is known as Kip and here are some advantages and disadvantages of using Kip.
Volume: Laos widely accepts US dollars but on arrival in the country you will probably exchange your Dollars to the local currency known as Kip, try not to change all of your cash to Kip as you will be in for a surprise and probably more money than you can carry. A definite disadvantage is the sheer volume of money; you will notice this as a tourist changing $100 US at a time but when buying a motorbike or other large items, locals often need a carrier bag or even a suitcase full of it. This brings in another problem counting your cash takes a while.
Millionaires: I guess this could be seen as an advantage as when you change your money in Laos you have become an instant millionaire. You have reached celebrity status in some countries but not in Laos as most people are millionaires here. When exchanging money the best way to do this is change a little at a time, this will give you enough local currency to pay for small items such as food, drinks, entrance fees and tipping at hotels. It isn't advisable to change large sums as you will have to carry it around with you all day and it will probably not all fit in your wallet.
Paper Currency: This is a pretty cool advantage they are no coins, which is great, no coins to lose or hear jingling in your pocket as you run for the bus. On the other hand there is plenty of paper with the largest note being equivalent to just five US Dollars
Small change: Have you ever had the problem that you want to buy something small but don't seem to have any change. This problem doesn't ever seem to happen in Laos with the biggest note hardly worth that much, it has made buying small items from markets extremely easy.
Colour Co-Ordination: Individual notes are all different colours and easy to distinguish, which is a definite advantage over the US currency and also more original with the US bills all being the same colour and size.
Closed Country: Laos is officially a closed country meaning any left over Kip you have at the end of your trip should not really be taken out of the country all no one will make a fuss, if you did take money out of Laos there would be no use for it as no one would accept an obvious disadvantage. When changing money in Laos; keep the exchange receipt that you obtained from the bank, this makes it easy to change back your unused local currency to $US Dollars without the receipt the bank will not agree to the exchange. If this fails try a local restaurant or shop to see if they will exchange it for you, albeit at a reduced exchange rate.
The last option is to keep it for other uses such as while camping you maybe cold, it would come in handy when starting a fire or if times are desperate it makes good toilet paper.
Alex Aziz has been travelling and setting up tours in South East Asia since 2000 with vast experience and knowledge of many on and off the beaten places he now spends his time between the UK and Asia. A relaxing break takes him trekking along the Ho Chi Minh trail or kayaking the rivers of Laos http://www.xplore-asia.com