Fast Facts

Vientiane; 716,000
236,800 square kilometers (91,429 square miles)
Lao, French, English, various ethnic languages
Buddhist, animist, other
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $1,800
Literacy Percent:
Flags: Laos
Map: Laos

Laos is a poor, landlocked, and mountainous country in Southeast Asia. Agriculture, mostly subsistence farming, dominates the economy. Most people live in the valleys of the Mekong River and its tributaries, where rice can be grown on fertile floodplains. Soon after independence from France in 1953, the country fell into turmoil; in 1975 the communist Pathet Lao seized power with help from North Vietnam. Many fled the regime, and the U.S. resettled some 250,000 Lao refugees. One of the few remaining communist states, the economy is hampered by poor roads, no railroad, and limited access to electricity.


  • Industry: Tin and gypsum mining, timber, electric power, agricultural processing
  • Agriculture: Sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee; water buffalo
  • Exports: Wood products, garments, electricity, coffee, tin

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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