The Pathet Lao government has had little interest in tourism, and foreigners are rarely granted permits to travel outside Vientiane. Although individual tourist visas are difficult to obtain, the government's official tourist organization, Inter-Lao Tourisme, has been issuing growing numbers of visas to tour groups. The main tourist destinations are Vientiane, with its Buddhist pagodas, and the city of Luangphrabang at the junction of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers in the North.
In 2000, Laos recorded 737,208 visitor arrivals and receipts from tourism reached $114 million. That year there were 7,333 rooms in hotels and guest houses and a total of 12,857 beds.
According to 2002 US government estimates, the cost of staying in Vientiane was about $107 per day. Stays in other small towns may be as low as about $30 per day.