Laos

Intro

Laos a fascinating country dominated by the mighty Mekong, a legendary river which name is already synonym with adventure.

It is certainly one of the most mysterious countries in South East Asia as in most parts people still live as they used to centuries ago, its people are warm and hospitable.

With a mix of impressive landscapes, of authentic architecture, the country has a lot to offer for those wishing to go off the beaten tracks. National parks, jungle and mountain treks, magnificent temples and artcrafts, impressive waterfalls and caves will leave you with an urge to come back and discover more.

Come and travel back in time with us in "The Land of A Million Elephants"!

Land tours

Laos and the Golden Triangle

Laos and the Golden Triangle

Starting in the famous Golden Triangle in Thailand, travelling by road and riverboat this tour will take you to remote parts of the mountains and forests of North Laos to meet tribes that live as they... Read More about Laos and the Golden Triangle

From: 1852 EUR | 14 days

 
Info

Useful info | Dive info

Useful info

Time

Laos Standard time is GMT +7. Laos does not observe daylight savings.

Flying time

From 15 hours with one stop in Bangkok.

Visas

Visitors must hold a full 10-year passport, with at least 6 months validity remaining at the point of return, for entry into Laos.

A 30 days visa on arrival is given to tourist from most countries for a fee that varies depending on the country, this must be paid in US dollars so make sure that you have some with you as you would get charged more in other currencies.

Visitors wishing to stay on longer than 30 days need to apply for a longer visa at their local Thai embassy before departure.

Country

Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms, Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak, uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949.

Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.

Government

Laos is a single-party socialist republic. It espouses Marxism and is governed by a single party communist politburo dominated by military generals. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Army continue to have significant influence in Laos.

Population

The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately 60% of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Various Mon-Khmer groups, theHmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 40% of the population, live in the foothills and mountains.

Economics

A third of the Laos' population lives below the international poverty line which means living on less than US$1.25 per day.

Laos is a low income economy with it having one of the lowest annual incomes in the world.Laos' strategy for development is based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbors, namely Thailand, China, and Vietnam. Its economy is accelerating rapidly with the demands for its metals. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997, and on 2 February 2013, it was granted full membership.

Geography

Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and People's Republic of China to the northwest,Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.

Its thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains, the highest of which is Phou Bia at 2,818 metres (9,245 ft), with some plains and plateaus

Weather

The climate in Laos depends on the monsoon There is a distinct rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April. Local tradition holds that there are three seasons (rainy, cold and hot) as the latter two months of the climatologically defined dry season are noticeably hotter than the earlier four months.

Money

The Lao currency is the kip, which can now be exchanged at banks in neighbouring countries due to the establishment of the Lao stock market in 2011. The largest note is 100,000 kip and uncommon; the notes in common circulation are 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 kip.

Although less common than in the past US$ can sometimes be accepted, although usually at about 5-10% less than the official rate. Thai baht can also be accepted in many areas near the border, notably Vientiane.

Beware though, that in remote places only kip is accepted and no ATMs will be available, so plan ahead. You can check the actual exchange rate with your bank or on websites such as www.xe.com

Traveller cheques / Credit card

Traveller cheques in US dollars or in euros can easily be exchanged in all the local banks and in bureau de change. Hotels will charge you extra to change money and will not always accept traveller cheques.

International credit and debit cards (Visa, American Express, Diners, Mastercard) can be used in most banks and to get cash advance in some commercial outlets however the fees for this can be quite hefty so it is better to have some cash on you before entering the country.

Health

Medical services

They are not very good in Laos, Vientiane has several medical clinics that are associated with European embassies. Otherwise, you probably have to go to Thailand for better treatment of serious injuries and illnesses. Udon Thani and Chiang Mai are generally recommended; they're only a few hours away, depending on your location in Laos

Vaccinations and health regulations

There are no required vaccines to enter Laos except for people travelling from epidemic areas. A Yellow fever vaccine is compulsory for people travelling from the following countries: Angola, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria, Soudan, Zaïre.

We recommend that you check before departure if any new health regulation comes in place. We also strongly advised that you check with your DOCTOR if you require any vaccine before leaving.

Medicines

You can source basic medicines in Laos however it is better for you to bring some essentials such as mosquito repellent, sunscreen, anti-diarrhea medication, aspirin, ect…

Water

Do not drink tap water while travelling in South East Asia, bottled water is readily available everywhere. Keep in mind that you are in a tropical climate and that you should thus drink about 2 to 3 litres more than usual.

Turista

Most travellers will experience it during their holiday, a change of climate, of food and water is enough to catch it however most of the time it will just go after a few trips to the toilet. You can take some anti-diarrheic tablets. Don’t forget to drink a lot if this happens to prevent dehydration.

Mosquitos

There are unfortunately part of any holiday in a hot country. To best protect yourself, it is advised to wear lose and covering clothes or to use mosquito sprays. Eating the local food rich in garlic and chillies will also help.

At night sleep under a mosquito net if the place where you stay is not protected enough, a fan over your bed will also keep them at bay. Malaria pills can be required when travelling in some parts of Laos for extended period of times, talk with your doctor before leaving.

The Dengue fever is also present in the country, it is mainly carried by daytime mosquitoes, most of the time people will have a high fever for a few days before it is gone. Strong complications are rare. People who had dengue fever are considered to be immune after but this might change.

Safety

Identification When in Laos, it is important to always have your passport. Crime levels are low in Laos, although petty theft such as bag snatching is not unknown, which is on the rise given the inability of authorities to prevent it.

Sexual relations between a Lao national and a foreigner are illegal unless they are married, and marriage requires special permits. Lao hotels are not permitted to allow a foreigner and Lao national in the same hotel room together.

Drugs are a large problem in Laos and should be avoided at all costs. Lao law makes little distinction between personal use and trafficking and any conviction will result in heavy fines and expulsion at best and imprisonment or even execution at worst.

Methamphetamine is widespread and often offered in "special" or "happy" shakes along the backpacker trail. Be extremely cautious of tuk-tuk drivers offering to sell you drugs, as they often collaborate with the police or a police impersonator to "shake down" ($500 is the common "fine") unsuspecting tourists. Keep in mind that often times Lao police dress as civilians.

Other useful information

Telephone and Internet

Internet cafés can be found in larger towns, however access speeds are usually painfully slow and cafe staffs have less knowledge. The most reliable connections are in Vientiane, and usually cost around 100 kip/minute, with the cheapest offering 4,000 kip/hour. However, internet security is not guaranteed and computer virus issues are often ignored. Some cafes offer free Wi-Fi-access for customers (check first if it's really free).

Many accommodations now offer free Wi-Fi. GPRS via mobile phone is also an option, especially if you have a local or Thai SIM, for those who intend to stay longer term and require mobile internet.

Opening times

Most shops are open 12 hours, 6 to 7 days a week

Official services are open Monday to Friday from 8h30 to 16h30, Banks usually close at 15.30.

Dive info

No diving in Laos :-)

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