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Useful information for trips to Laos

Useful information to prepare for your trip to Laos

AIRLINES
International: The national carrier Lao Airlines, as well as Thai Airways, Siem Reap Airways, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines serves the international airports at Vientiane, Pakse,
Savannakhet, and Luang Prabang. Low-cost carrier Air Asia has begun routes from Kuala
Lumpur to Vientiane and China Southern flies to the capital from Kunming.


Domestic: Lao Airlines serves the domestic routes and connects the capital city Vientiane to major destinations in the country.

 

AIRPORT TAX
All international and domestic airport taxes are included in the price of the tickets. (subject to change without prior notice from airlines and authorities)


ARRIVAL IN LAOS

By Air
There are no direct flights from Europe or very few from other countries to Laos. The most
frequent connections are from Bangkok (Thailand), Hanoi (Vietnam) and Siem Reap (Cambodia). Travel authentic asia will generally not be able to offer you attractive intercontinental fares - you will be better off consulting your local travel agent or searching the internet. However, we do offer attractive regional flight arrangements once you are already in Asia.
The two main international airports are Wattay International Airport in Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airport. The smaller Pakse Airport serves the international flight to/from Siem Reap and Savannakhet Airport offers flight to/from Bangkok.

By Land
Laos shares borders with Myanmar and China to the north, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south and Vietnam to the east.

 

 

 

FromCHINA

ToLAOS

Visaavailableuponarrival

Mohan,Yunnan

Boten,LuangNamTha

Yes

KunmingorXishuangbanna

Xiengkokriverport,Luang

NamTha

No

 

FromMYANMAR

ToLAOS

Visaavailableuponarrival

Vangpung,Thachilek

BanMom,Bokeo

No

 

 

FromTHAILAND

ToLAOS

Visaavailableuponarrival

ChiangKhong,ChiangRai

HouayXay,Bokeo

Yes

Nakaxeng,Loei

Kaenthao,Sayabuli

No

Loei

Botene,Sayabuli

No

Houaykhone,Nan

Nam Ngeun,Sayabuli

Yes

Nongkhai,Nongkhai

FriendshipBridge,

Vientiane

Yes

Bungkham,Nongkhai

Paksan,Bolikhamsay

No

NakornPhanom,Nakorn

Phanom

Thakhek,Khammouane

Yes

Mukdahan,Mukdahan

Savannakhet,Savannakhet

Yes

Chongmek,UbonRatchathani

Vangtao,Champassak

Yes

 

 

FromCAMBODIA

ToLAOS

Visaavailableuponarrival

TrapaengKriel

NongKhiang

Yes

 

 

FromVIETNAM

ToLAOS

Visaavailableuponarrival

TaiTrang,DienBien(LaiChau)

Taichang,Phongsaly

(Sobhoun)

Yes

Namxoi,ThanhHoa

Nameo,Huaphanh

Yes

Namkan,NgheAn

Namkan,Xiengkhouang

Yes

CauTreo,HaTinh

Nampao(Laksao),

Bolikhamxay

Yes

Chalo,QuangBinh

Naphao,Khammouane

Yes

LaoBao,QuangTri

Densavanh,Savannakhet

Yes

BoY,Kontum

Phoukua,Attapeu

Yes

 


BUSINESS HOURS

Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 11:30 and 13:00 – 17:00. Shops open from Monday to Saturday between 09:00 and 17:00 and some also open on Sunday. In Luang Prabang shops often open later until 19:00 or 20:00 (During Public Holidays as well as celebrations such as Chinese New Year, most businesses are closed. Public holiday information can be found below)

 

CLOTHING
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Laos. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. Warm clothing is needed for visiting the
northern Laos during the winter months from November to February. Visitors to Laos should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.

 

CREDIT CARDS
The use of credit cards is still not widespread in Laos. Most upscale hotels and many shops and restaurants in Luang Prbang and Vientiane accept VISA and Master Card but in other parts of the country often only cash is accepted.


ELECTRICITY
Lao uses 220V. Power outlets usually feature two-prong round or flat sockets however, there is no set standard. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.


ENTERTAINMENT
There is not much in the way of western style entertainment in Laos but Vientiane and
Luang Prabang have good restaurants and quite a few bars and nightclubs. In the rest of the country, entertainment is mainly confined to the hotels and mainly tourist-orientated restaurants.

 

FOOD
Lao cuisine has many similarities to Thai with lots of aromatic herbs and spices such as lemon grass, chilies, ginger and tamarind used to flavor dishes. Sticky rice, or kao niao, is
the main ingredient in Lao cuisine, usually served with fermented fish and a fish sauce
similar to that used in Vietnamese cuisine called nam pa. Chicken and pork dishes are also popular but beef is expensive in comparison. Soups served with noodles, bamboo shoots and fresh vegetables can be found everywhere.


HEALTH
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera,
hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in parts of Southeast Asia and it is advisable to take precautions especially if traveling off the beaten track. Medical facilities
are rather limited in Laos but you can easily find good medical facilities in the main Thai
towns and along the Thai-Lao borders. It is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling in case evacuation is needed (usually to Bangkok or Singapore). If you are on any
medications, please bring an adequate supply of pills with you as it can be difficult to find within the country.


INSURANCE
We highly recommend that all travelers to Southeast Asia purchase Travel Insurance which covers medical evacuation by air. In case of an emergency, be sure to collect all receipts
and invoices, as well as a copy of the medical report, for your insurance company.

 

INTERNET
Major hotels throughout Laos have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet and some have wireless broadband access. Check with reception for fares and facilities. Cyber cafes are easily found in major towns and cities and prices are reasonable- around 1USD per
hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a
computer to landlines or mobile phones worldwide. Most Internet cafes are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.


LANGUAGE
The national language of Laos is Lao, which is closely related to Thai and is spoken in many different dialects. Lao, like Thai, is a tonal language. In Luang Prabang and Vientiane,
English is widely spoken and French is still spoken by many government officials and educated members of the older generation.


MONEY & ATMs
The kip is the currency unit of Laos and are presently in distributions of 1000, 5000, 10000,
20000 and 50000 kip. US dollars, Euros and Thai baht are also accepted in many places and
are certainly more convenient to carry than great wads of the local currency. Banks, hotels, and jewelry shops all offer currency exchange.
Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 15:00. In Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, and other major towns you can find ATMs to withdraw money (ATMs distribute only Lao kips with a maximum of around 1,000,000 per transaction). VISA and Master Card are now accepted at the larger hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
For everyday expenses, we recommend carrying a mix of US dollars and kip. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use US dollars. For tuk tuks, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use kip. Make sure you always have a stock of
small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change especially in the countryside.
The BCEL Bank can change American Express Travellers’ Cheques for Lao kip or US dollars in cash. Note that a 3 % or 5% commission is charged. Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept Travellers’ Cheques and they can be difficult to exchange outside of the main cities.

 

POSTAL MAIL
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to North America costs about 9,500 kips and takes
10 days to two weeks to reach its destination.

 

RELIGION
As in the neighboring countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion and saffron-robed monks are a common sight in Laos. There are also
a small number of Catholics and Protestants.

 

SAFETY
Laos is generally a safe country. Nevertheless and as a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In some tourist sites you may encounter some insistent souvenir sellers. A polite but firm “No, thank you” usually will suffice.

 

SHOPPING
The best buys in Laos are ethnic minority handicrafts and textiles. The Lao sarong or pha sin made from silk or cotton is popular souvenir. Other souvenirs to look out for include silverware, in particular from Luang Prabang, and wood carvings.


TELEPHONE
Most hotels have IDD phones and fax machines, however these services are expensive in Laos. Internet cafes offer cheaper dialing rates although the quality is not always great and away from the major cities it may not always be possible to make international calls. If you
have worldwide coverage, you can bring your mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls which again can be expensive. The Lao mobile network is cheap and affordable. Local SIM cards can easily be purchased in the main cities and international rates are around 2000 kip per minute.

 

TIME
Laos is GMT + 7 and does not operate on a daylight-savings system.

 

TIPPING
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Laos. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and
station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.

 

TRANSPORTATION
Lao laws do allow foreigners to rent and drive a car themselves. It is highly recommended to arrange a self-drive package in advance to get road maps, suggested stops and advice on driving in Laos as traffic conditions may vary dramatically from what you are used to.
If you wish to hire a driver, please remember that in Laos drivers are only drivers. Tour guides must be licensed by the National Tourism Authority

For in-town transportation, 3-4 seater tuk tuks (motocycle-pulled carts) are the most popular options with larger sangthaews (also called jumbos) available to carry up to 12 people. Laos towns are small enough to be toured by bicycle and most hotels and guestshouses have them for rent at reasonable rates.


VISAS
Approval is no longer required for visas to Laos. Foreign tourists are generally admitted into Laos for 30 days with a visa on arrival (obtained at most border check points) without prior authorization or for 30 days with a visa issued at a Laotian embassy. This costs 30-42 USD
(depending on nationality) and requires the filling in of an application form and two
passport photos. An additional 1 USD/person can be charged if you arrive on a weekend or public holiday. Two passport-size photos are required and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected departure date. Please contact your local Lao embassy for the most accurate information.

 

WEATHER
Laos has a monsoon climate featuring a dry and a wet season. The dry season lasts from
November to May with the cooler period in December and January. At its coldest temperatures fall to as low as 15ºC. It is coldest at night, in the early mornings and at higher altitudes. During the hot period of the dry season, between March and May, temperatures can reach the high 30’s ºC. Rainfall in the wet season varies according to
altitude. Generally speaking, the monsoon season produces severe rain that lasts for short periods of time. The wet months vary according to location. In Vientiane, they are from May to September; in Luang Prabang, August is far wetter than any other month.

Laos is sunny year-round and we highly recommend bringing sun protection from your home country. Wearing sun screen and a hat are the best ways to avoid heatstroke and sunburn.


WATER
Keep in mind to always clean your fruits and vegetable with purified water or to peel them. Bottled water is safe for Westerner and easy to find in most of places. Wash your hand before eating.