Laos uses the Lao Kip (ISO 4217 Code: LAK) as its currency.
In everyday life or in informal writing only Kip is used to refer to Lao currency. Yes, there is also a currency symbol for Kip, here it is ₭.
The bank notes (as pictured) currently in circulations are 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 Kip. No coins are currently in use in Laos.
Many websites refer to the unit of Laos money as "New Kip". This maybe because the Lao Kip has been through some changes in recent times.
In 1945 the Lao currency was called Free Kip.
In 1952 Free Kip was replaced by Royal Kip. It was also called piastre in French. In that era, there were both coins and banknotes.
In 1976 Royal Kip replaced by Pathet Lao Kip following the Pathet Lao's takeover of the country.
In 1979 Lao PDR Kip or Lao Kip (LAK) or New Kip replaced Pathet Lao Kip, 100 Pathet Lao Kip = 1 Kip (LAK).
The 1979 Lao Kip, initially came in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Kip denominations. The 500 Kip notes were added in 1988 followed by 1,000 Kip in 1992, 2,000 and 5,000 Kip notes in 1997, 10,000 and 20,000 Kip notes in 2002, 50,000 Kip in 2006 and 100,000 Kip notes in 2012.
Notes under 500 Kip are not in circulation nowadays.
Lao Coins: Coins were removed from circulation decades ago.
At the time of this writing (early January 2018), 1 LAK worths around 0.00012 USD, or 1 USD = 8,300 LAK (if this would make it easier to understand).
Update (May 2020): The exchange rate is around LAK 8,980 per USD1.
Use the currency converter below to check the current rates
If you are like most people, you would want to get everything prepared before arriving in a destination country, and exchanging money to the currency of the country you are traveling to will be in the list, I am sure.
However, you cannot do much when it comes to exchanging your money to Lao currency as you cannot buy Lao Kip (LAK) outside Laos.
The first points you can exchange Lao Kip is on your arrival in major airports in Laos and main ports of land entry such as Lao-Thai Friendship bridges and international border crossing points.
Usually the exchange rates in these ports of entry are lower than those in town. If you would like to save a bit here and there, it is a good idea to exchange only a small amount to LAK, just enough to get by until you reach major town.
In most provinces of Laos, currency exchange offices/units are readily available (at the banks and in most big markets). Exchange rates vary from bank to bank, but are usually not that much different.
It is important to remember that you cannot exchange or use Lao Kip outside Laos, so... make sure you convert it back to a currency you can use elsewhere before you leave Laos unless you want to keep it for your notes collection.