Travel guide to Laos

In Laos you will find an amazing mix of cultures, from the mountain tribes in the highlands with colourful clothing to the ethnic Lao people of the lowlands. Visitors who have already been to Laos tend to agree that the country is one of the highlights of travelling in South East Asia.

Facts

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Local name
Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
Capital
Vientiane (555.100)
Size
236.800 km2
Principal Languages
Lao
Principal Religion
Buddhism
Inhabitants
4.845.800 (1997)
Government
Republic
Geography
Laos borders Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar (Burma). There are quite a few rivers in the country, the biggest one being the Mekong River, which runs the whole length of the country. This means that there are many fertile areas to exploit around the river. Two thirds of the country consists of forest areas and mountains, and only 10 percent of the country is suitable for agriculture.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The best time to go to Laos is from November to February. This is the time when it rains the least and when it is not too hot. In the mountains, May and July can be pleasant as well. The monsoon stretches from July to October. Most roads are washed away at that time.

Literature

Footprint Laos Handbook Laos: The Rough Guide

Local conditions

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Currency

Kip

Net cafes

At the moment, the only places with Internet cafés are Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected in Laos, except at expensive hotels and restaurants, where a 10 percent tipping is normal.

Timezone

When it is 12.00 in the UK (summer time), it is 18.00 in Laos. When it is 12.00 in the UK (wintertime), it is 19.00 in Laos.

Weight and Measures

In Laos they use the following weight and measurement units: Weight: kilo Length: metre

Photography

You should not photograph other people if you do not have their permission, especially not women. Otherwise, you should follow the directions at the different sights.

Drinking water

All water for drinking, for brushing teeth or for ice cubes should be boiled before use.

Electricity

In Laos they use the following current: 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Behaviour

Everyone, and especially women, should wear clothing that covers the entire body. You are not allowed to touch other people's faces or heads. Otherwise, respect other people and remember to take off your shoes before stepping into someone's home.

Business Hours

Shops are open from 8.00 to 16.00 (Monday-Friday), some small shops are open to 21.00. Offices are open from 8.00 to 12.00 and from 13.30 to 17.30 (Monday-Friday). Banks are open from 8.00 to 12.00 and from 13.30 to 17.30 (Monday-Friday).

Food and drink

Rice is the primary ingredient in meals in Laos. Most meals are made of freshly killed ingredients such as fish, chicken, pork, beef or water buffalo with vegetables and rice. Lemon or coriander are has been added to many meals to give the food a very special taste. Rice whisky is a popular drink. It is called lao lao and there are two different brands. Apart from this they brew good beer in Laos.

Disabled travellers

Conditions for disabled travellers are not good in Laos. The transport system is not highly developed nor is it efficient. There are only few places with facilities for disabled travellers, so getting around can be especially difficult if you have limited mobility.

Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January Pathet Lao Day, 6 January The Army's Day, 20 January The Women's Day, 8 March The People's Celebration Day, 22 March Boun Pimai, the New Year of Laos, 13 -15 April The International Labour Day, 1 May Children's Day, 1 June Lao Issaro, the day of the free Laos, 13 August Liberation Day from the French, 12 October Independence Day, 2 December

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are no camping facilities in Laos.

Hotels

In the big cities there are quite a few good and comfortable hotels. In small towns you might find small, local hotels with facilities that are not as good.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

In the big cities there are quite a few guest houses in good shape, but you can also find guest houses in small towns and out in the country, but they are often in a bad conditions.

Hostels

There are quite a few hostels in Laos. Most cities have at least one little, local hostel.

Local transport

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Planes

There are domestic flights between most big cities, but the number of departures varies from each season. This is why it can be difficult to book domestic flights from outside Laos. Wait until you are in the country.

Bus

There are few long distance buses in the country. Most buses go from Vientiane to other big cities. The network is not very well developed yet, and the number of departures varies according to the season.

Trains

There are no passenger trains in Laos

Taxi

There are taxis in the biggest towns of Laos, but often they only go on certain routes. In Vientiane it is sometimes possible to rent a taxi for the whole day. Most towns also have quite a few three-wheeled motorbikes which operate as taxies. Remember to settle the price before departing.

Car rental

At the moment, there are no normal car rental companies in Laos, but it is often possible to rent a car with a driver for a few days.

Boat or Ferry

No information available as yet.

Find your travel arrangement to Laos here

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