Provinces of Laos

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Update 18 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes (formerly FIPS 10-4) is dated 2014-12-31. It assigns a code to Xaisomboun province.

"Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes, Edition 2" (GENC), a U.S. standard that's supposed to correspond to ISO 3166-2, was issued on 2014-03-31. It gives Xaisômboun the code LA-XN. The ISO website currently shows that same code. It's not clear whether the code was withdrawn during the period (2006-2013) when Xaisômboun didn't exist, or ISO didn't take cognizance of the changes.

Update 7 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes, the successor to FIPS standard 10-4, was issued with the date 2012-02-01. It removes Xaisômboun and changes the spelling of Xiangkhoang to Xiangkhouang.

Xaisômboun special region was created in 1994-06. Change Notice 1 to FIPS PUB 10-4, dated 1998-12-01, lists a division of Laos into 16 provinces, one city, and one special zone. ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-2 was published on 2002-05-21. It showed Xaisômboun special region, but called it a province. This error was corrected in ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number I-4, dated 2002-12-10. Xaisômboun special region was dissolved on 2006-01-13.

Erratum: "Administrative Subdivisions of Countries" says that Luang Prabang is the capital of Laos. It should be Vientiane. I don't know where the error originated. Source [7] says that the "administrative seat moved from Louangphrabang to Vientiane c. 1563 due to hostilities with Burmese and Thais". The Statesman's Year-Book (1959 edition) said that Luang Prabang was currently the royal capital, and Vientiane, the administrative capital.

Country overview: 

Short nameLAOS
ISO codeLA
LanguageLao (lo), French (fr)
Time zone+7


Laos was a French colony at the start of the 20th century. It was a union of two former kingdoms, Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The French administered it as a territory within the protectorate of French Indo-China. After World War II, French Indo-China was divided up into three independent countries within the French Union: Cambodia, Laos (independent on 1949-07-19), and Vietnam. See Cambodia for related information.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Laos
  2. Dutch: Laos, Lao Democratische Volksrepubliek (formal)
  3. English: Lao People's Democratic Republic (formal), Lanxang (obsolete)
  4. Finnish: Laos
  5. French: Laos m, République f démocratique populaire Lao
  6. German: Laos, Demokratische Volksrepublik f Laos n
  7. Italian: Laos m
  8. Lao: Saathiaranarath Prachhathipatay Prachhachhon Lao (formal)
  9. Norwegian: Den demokratiske folkerepublikk Laos (formal) (Bokmål), Den demokratiske folkerepublikken Laos (formal) (Nynorsk), Laos
  10. Portuguese: Laos m, República f Popular Democrática Lao (formal)
  11. Russian: Лаос, Лаосская Народно-Демократическая Республика (formal)
  12. Spanish: Laos, República f Democrática Popular Lao (formal)
  13. Swedish: Laos
  14. Turkish: Laos Demokratik Halk Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

ethnic name Lao, applied by Portuguese explorers in the plural

Primary subdivisions: 

Laos is divided into seventeen khoueng (provinces) and one kampeng nakhon (municipality or prefecture).

AttapuLA.ATATLA0118112,09710,3203,985Attapu (Muang Samakhisai)
BokeoLA.BKBKLA2205145,2164,9701,919Ban Houayxay
BolikhamxaiLA.BLBLLA2311225,27216,4706,359Muang Pakxan
HouaphanLA.HOHOLA0307280,89816,5006,371Sam Neua
KhammouanLA.KHKHLA1512337,31416,3156,299Thakhek (Muang Khammouan)
Louang NamthaLA.LMLMLA1603145,2899,3253,600Louang Namtha
OudômxaiLA.OUOULA0704265,12815,3705,934Muang Xay
SavannakhétLA.SVSVLA2013825,87922,0808,525Savannakhét (Muang Khanthabouly)
VientianeLA.VIVILA2710388,83319,9907,718Muang Phôn-Hông
Vientiane [prefecture]LA.VTVTLA2401698,2543,9201,514Vientiane
XaignabouriLA.XAXALA1308338,64611,7954,554Muang Xayabury
XaisômbounLA.XSXNLA2839,416 Ban Mouang Cha
XékongLA.XEXELA261784,9857,6652,959Ban Phone (Muang Laman)
18 divisions5,621,322230,98089,182
  • Province: Vientiane [prefecture] is a municipality.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Province codes from ISO 3166-2. For full identification in a global context, prefix "LA-"
    to the code (ex: LA-SL represents Saravan).
  • FIPS: Code from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Pc: First two digits of postal codes.
  • Population: 2005-03-01 census (source [4]).
  • Area: Source [3].

Postal codes: 

Laos uses four-digit postal codes (source [1]). They don't seem to be much used. The system was probably implemented before Xaisômboun special region was created.

Further subdivisions:

See the Districts of Laos page.

The provinces are further subdivided into muong (districts).

Territorial extent: 

The UN LOCODE page  for Laos lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Bokeo: Lao for "gem mine"
  2. Vientiane: Lao vieng: city, chan: sandalwood

Change history: 

  1. 1904: Two Siamese (Thai) provinces, corresponding to modern Xaignabouri and parts of Louangphrabang and Vientiane, annexed to Laos. Stoeng Trêng province transferred from Laos to Cambodge.
  2. 1941: The same provinces were restored to Thailand under pressure from Japan.
  3. 1947: The same provinces reverted to Laos as pre-war boundaries were restored.
  4. 1966: Name of Nam Tha province changed to Houakhong.
  5. ~1969: Capital of Xiangkhoang moved from Xiangkhoang to Phônsavan after the former was destroyed by bombing.
  6. ~1972: Name of capital of Khammouan province changed from Thakhek to Muang Khammouan.
  7. 1973-11-20: Champhon province (capital Ban Kengkok) temporarily split from Savannakhét; Vangviang province (Muang Vangviang) temporarily created from parts of Louangphrabang and Vientiane.
  8. 1973-12-26: Hôngxa province (Muang Hôngxa) and Paklay (Muang Paklay) temporarily split from Xaignabouri.
  9. ~1976: (Capitals in parentheses.) Name of Houakhong province changed back to Louang Namtha; Borikhan province (Muang Pakxan) merged with Vientiane; Xédôn (Pakxé) and Sithandon (Muang Khong) provinces merged with Champasak (Champasak); Vapikhamthong province (Muang Khôngxédôn) merged with Saravan; Oudômxai province split from Louangphrabang.
  10. 1983: Bokeo province split from Louang Namtha (formerly FIPS=LA05); Bolikhamxai province formed from parts of Khammouan (LA04) and Vientiane (LA11) provinces; Xékong province split from Saravan (LA09).
  11. ~1987: Capital of Oudômxai province moved from Ban Nahin to Muang Xay.
  12. ~1989: Vientiane prefecture split from Vientiane province (LA21); capital of Vientiane province moved from Vientiane to Muang Phôn-Hông.
  13. 1994-06: Xaisômboun khetphiset (special region) formed from parts of Bolikhamxai, Vientiane, and Xiangkhoang provinces.
AttapuLA.ATLA01112,09787,70010,320Attapu (Muang Samakhisai)
BokeoLA.BKLA22145,216114,9006,196Ban Houayxay
BolikhamxaiLA.BLLA23225,272164,90014,863Muang Pakxan
HouaphanLA.HOLA03280,898247,30016,500Sam Neua
KhammouanLA.KHLA15337,314275,40016,315Thakhek (Muang Khammouan)
Louang NamthaLA.LMLA16145,289115,2009,325Louang Namtha
OudômxaiLA.OULA07265,128211,30015,370Muang Xay
SavannakhétLA.SVLA20825,879674,90021,774Savannakhét (Muang Khanthabouly)
VientianeLA.VILA27388,833286,80015,927Muang Phôn-Hông
Vientiane [prefecture]LA.VTLA24698,254531,8003,920Vientiane
XaignabouriLA.XALA13338,646293,30016,389Muang Xayabury
XaisômbounLA.XSLA2539,416 7,105Ban Mouang Cha
XékongLA.XELA2684,98564,2007,665Ban Phone (Muang Laman)
18 divisions5,621,3224,551,100236,800
  • Province: Vientiane [prefecture] is a municipality and Xaisômboun is a special region.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes. If periods are replaced by hyphens,
    these are the same as the province codes from ISO standard 3166-2, except for the
    special zone, whose ISO code is LA-XN.
  • FIPS: Code from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Pop-1996: 1996 estimates, based on 1995-03-01 census (source [3]).
  • Pop-2005: 2005-03-01 census (source [4]).
  • Area: Provided by Karem Abdalla.
  1. 2006-01-13: Xaisômboun special region dissolved. "Longsan, Xaysomboun, Phun, and Hom districts were added to Vientiane province while Thathon district was attributed to Xiengkhuang province" (source [2]). From this date until 2013, the HASC codes for Vientiane and Xiangkhoang provinces were LA.VN and LA.XK, respectively.
  2. 2013-12-31: Xaisômboun restored as a province. I haven't been able to get any details, so I've assumed it took the same borders and capital that it had in 2006.

Other names of subdivisions: 

In transcription from Lao, some sources break names at syllable endings (e.g. Boli Kham Xai)

  1. Attapu: Atpu, Attapeu, Attopei, Attopeu, Muang Mai (variant)
  2. Bolikhamxai: Bolikhamsai, Bolikhamxay, Borikhamzay (variant); Borikane, Borikhan, Borikhane (obsolete)
  3. Champasak: Bassac, Champassack, Champassak (variant); Champassac, Khong, Pakse (French)
  4. Houaphan: Hua Phan, Huaphanh (variant); Sam Neua, Xam Nua (obsolete)
  5. Khammouan: Khammouane, Khammuan, Khammuane (variant)
  6. Louang Namtha: Haut-Mekong (French-obsolete); Luangnamtha, Muong Luang Namtha, Namtha (variant); Hiuakhong, Houa Khong, Upper Mekong (obsolete)
  7. Louangphrabang: Loang Prabang, Louangphabang, Louang Prabang, Luang Phabang, Luangphrabang, Luang Prabang (variant)
  8. Oudômxai: Oudomsai, Oudomsay, Oudomxay, UdomXay (variant)
  9. Phôngsali: Fong Sali, Phongsaly (variant)
  10. Saravan: Salavan, Salavane, Saravane (variant)
  11. Savannakhét: Svannakhet (variant)
  12. Vientiane: Viangchan (variant)
  13. Vientiane [prefecture]: Kamphaeng Nakhon Viang Chan (formal); Vientián (Spanish)
  14. Xaignabouri: Sayaboury, Xaignabouli, Xayabouri, Xayabury (variant)
  15. Xaisômboun: Saysomboune, Xaysomboun (variant)
  16. Xékong: Sekhong, Sekong (variant)
  17. Xiangkhoang: Xiang Khouang, Xieng Khouang, Xiengkhuang, Xieng Khwang (variant)


  1. [1] The U.S. Postal Service page on Country Conditions for Mailing - Laos  (retrieved 2010-11-23) has a partial list of Laotian postal codes. (First retrieved from, now a dead link, on 2007-09-02).
  2. [2] Socio-economic ATLAS of the Lao PDR, Section A: Geographical Overview . Page 6 has a map of the districts of Laos (retrieved 2010-11-23).
  3. [3] The Statesman's Yearbook 1997-98, ed. Brian Hunter. St. Martin's Press, New York 1997.
  4. [4] Dependency Ratio by Province, result from the population census 2005  (click on the "DependencyRatio" tab at the bottom; retrieved 2020-11-23). The two columns add up to the total population for each province.
  5. [5] German Development Cooperation with Laos  page has a mouse-sensitive map and some history of province formation (retrieved 2010-11-23). However, its data are in such perfect agreement with mine that I suspect they were acquired from the Statoids site; therefore, citing this page would be circular reasoning.
  6. [6] Library of Congress country study  (retrieved 1999).
  7. [7] Webster's New Geographical Dictionary, Third Edition. G. & C. Merriam, Springfield, MA, 1997.
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