COUNTRY GUIDE

Laos

Laos is Southeast Asia’s best-kept secret. What this landlocked nation lacks in beaches it more than makes up for in timeless charm. Its soft-spoken people, colourful hilltribe communities and vast stretches of waterfall-filled wilderness contribute to an ‘undiscovered’ quality few destinations can match. Laos is tranquility incarnate, and the perfect place to visit for a transformative getaway.  

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). EXO Travel 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. 

From CHINA 

To LAOS 

Visa available upon arrival

Mohan, Yunnan 

Boten, Luang Nam Tha 

Yes

Kunming or Xishuangbanna 

Xiengkok riverport, Luang 

Nam Tha

No

From MYANMAR 

To LAOS 

Visa available upon arrival

Vangpung, Thachilek 

Ban Mom, Bokeo 

No

From THAILAND 

To LAOS 

Visa available upon arrival

Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai 

Houay Xay, Bokeo 

Yes

Nakaxeng, Loei 

Kaenthao, Sayabuli 

Yes

Loei 

Botene, Sayabuli 

Yes

Houaykhone, Nan 

Nam Ngeun, Sayabuli 

Yes

Nongkhai, Nongkhai 

Friendship Bridge, 

Vientiane

Yes

Bungkham, Nongkhai 

Paksan, Bolikhamsay 

Yes

Nakorn Phanom, Nakorn 

Phanom

Thakhek, Khammouane 

Yes

Mukdahan, Mukdahan 

Savannakhet, Savannakhet 

Yes

Chongmek, Ubon Ratchathani 

Vangtao, Champassak 

Yes

From CAMBODIA 

To LAOS 

Visa available upon arrival

Trapaeng Kriel 

Nong Khiang 

Yes

From VIETNAM 

To LAOS 

Visa available upon arrival

Page 2

Tai Trang, Dien Bien (Lai Chau) 

Taichang, Phongsaly 

(Sobhoun)

Yes

Namxoi, Thanh Hoa 

Nameo, Huaphanh 

Yes

Namkan, Nghe An 

Namkan, Xiengkhouang 

Yes

Cau Treo, Ha Tinh 

Nampao (Laksao), 

Bolikhamxay

Yes

Chalo, Quang Binh 

Naphao, Khammouane 

Yes

Lao Bao, Quang Tri 

Densavanh, Savannakhet 

Yes

Bo Y, Kontum 

Phoukua, Attapeu 

Yes

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 Prabang and Vientiane accept VISA and Master Card but in other parts of the country often only cash is accepted.  

Do

Our custom private tours of Laos showcase the best this enchanting country has to offer. From witnessing chanting monks to experiencing its historic sights, our custom Laos tours are designed to cater to different styles of travel whether it’s cultural, adventure, or family. Browse, get some ideas then contact a travel consultant to discuss an ideal itinerary, suited to your exact interests and travel needs. 

6 Days / 5 Nights
Laos

Celebrate Pi Mai In Luang Prabang

  • Experience Lao New Year rituals
  • Explore the natural wonders of Luang Prabang
  • Appreciate the architecture of ancient temples
  • Watch the spectacular Miss Pi Mai Parade
  • Take part in ‘Baci’, an old Lao tradition
7 Days / 6 Nights
Laos

Mini - Multi Sports Northern Laos

  • Partake in early morning alms
  • Picnic at Kuang Si Waterfalls
  • Cycle remote Nong Khiaw
  • Paddle or cruise Nam Ou River
  • Explore iconic Pak Ou Caves
4 Days / 3 Nights
Laos

Cycling - Exploring Luang Prabang by Bike

  • Cycle around Luang Prabang
  • Explore the Mekong River
  • Visit Countryside villages
  • Observe skilful craftsmen
  • Dine like a local

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 lemongrass, chilly, 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. 

Hours of Business

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).  

Internet

Major hotels throughout Laos have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet and most now some wireless broadband access. Check with reception for fares (often free of charge) 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 generations.  

Money & ATMs

The kip is the currency unit of Laos and are presently in distributions of 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100000 kip. US dollars, Euros and Thai baht are also accepted in many places and can be more convenient to carry than great wads of the local currency. Banks, hotels and jewelry shops all offer currency exchange. Banks are typically 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 1,000,000 – 2,000,000 per transaction). VISA and MasterCard are accepted at larger hotels and restaurants throughout the country. NOTE: Should you wish to pay a bill expressed in Lao Kip with USD, ask for the exchange rate or ask your EXO Travel guide for assistance. 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.   

Post 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.  

Public Holidays

14 February: Wat Phou Festival, Champasak 

14-16 April: Boun Pi Mai (Lao New Year) 

13 May: Boun Visakhaoucha (Buddha’s Birthday) 

June: Naga Rocket Festival (Bolikhamxay Province, 60km from Vientiane) 24 August: Boun Khao Padabdin (Rice Festival) and Boat Racing (Luang Prabang) 08-09 October: Boun Ok Phansa (End of Buddhist Lent) and Boat Racing (Vientiane) 06 November: That Luang Festival (Vientiane) 

1 January
Fri
New Year Day
8 March
Mon
Women's day
14 April
Wed
New Year
1 May
Sat
Labor's day
26 May
Wed
Visakha Boussa Day
1 June
Tue
Children's Day
20 July
Tue
Women's Union Day
24 July
Sat
Boun Khao Phansaa
20 October
Wed
Boun Ok Phansaa
26 November
Fri
That Luang Festival
2 December
Thu
National Day

Reading List

  • Enchanting Laos – Mick Shippen – Tackles the mountainous and landlocked Laos and its sense of mystery that intrigues traveller’s mind. Regarded as Southeast Asia’s sleepy backwater for many years.
  • Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos – Brett Dakin – An expatriate memoir of two years spent in Laos
  • A Short History of Laos, The Land in Between – Grant Evans & Milton Osborne – A comprehensive history of Laos from the pre-modern dynastic era to the present day
  • Bamboo Palace: Discovering the Lost Dynasty of Laos – Christopher Kremmer – The author’s travels in Laos became a quest to solve one of Indochina’s enduring mysteries – the fate of a 600-year old royal dynasty
  • The Ravens – Christopher Robbins – An in-depth look in to the American government’s ‘secret war’ in Laos from 1961-75.
  • Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos – Natacha Du Pont de Bie – A refreshingly laid-back guide to Lao food
  • The Last Century of Lao Royalty – Grant Evans – covers Lao royalty’s engagement in all the major events of the country in the last century up to the 1975 Communist revolution, forms a rich and complex narrative.
  • Lao Folktales – Steven Jay Epstein – a selection of the best-known and best-loved Lao folktales that have entertained the Lao people for generations.
  • LAOS: Culture and Society – Grant Evans – A study of culture and society in Laos, issues associated with all the surrounding societies and cultures concerning their origins and contemporary developments.
  • Creating Laos – Soren Ivarsson – This book examines the process through which Laos came into existence under French colonial rule through to the end of World War II.
  • Shooting at the Moon – Roger Warner – the CIA covert war in Laos.
  • Buddhist Kingdom Marxist State – Martin Stuart-Fox – Examines the history and politics of modern Laos from its establishment as a French colony in the late 19th century to the communist state it is today.
  • The Lao Kingdom of Lan-Xang – Martin Stuart-Fox – Provides a narrative account of the great Lao kingdom that flourished in the middle Mekong region between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries.
  • Laos: From Buffer State to Crossroads? – Ruth Banomyong – It provides a full, frank, and engaging survey of Laos today, assessing its history, prospects, and hopes.
  • Festivals of Laos – Martin Stuart-Fox – This book explores the most important festivals of Laos and offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into the spiritual and communal life of the Lao people.
  • Food From Northern Laos – Dorothy Culloty – The little known cultures and cuisine of Northern Laos (Lao PDR) are showcased in the recipes of its local ethnic group.

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. 

See

Discerning travellers will love our Laos day trips, featuring half-day, evening or full-day tours that explore fun and fascinating aspects of this laid back countries’ culture, character and landscape. From visiting a UNESCO heritage town to crafting Laos textiles and discussing meditation with local monks, our Laos day trips reveal the inside view on the unique Laos culture. 

Laos
Half Day

Exploration de Muang Khoun

  • Découvrez la capitale perdue de l'ancienne Muang Khoun
  • Arrêtez-vous devant un ancien stupa et émerveillez-vous devant ses vestiges
  • Visitez un temple qui a été lourdement bombardé pendant la guerre secrète
Laos
Full Day

Découverte de Luang Prabang

  • Baladez-vous au milieu des sites classés au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO
  • Découvrez Luang Prabang avec un guide local expert
  • Apprenez la diversité ethnique du Laos au musée TAEC
Laos
Full Day

Immersion culturelle à Luang Prabang

  • Rejoignez les chefs locaux dans un cours de cuisine laotien
  • Offrez-vous un massage traditionnel laotien
  • Soyez béni au cours d'une magnifique cérémonie traditionnelle du Baci

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. 

Stay

Be captivated by the mysterious beauty of Laos, spend time in our carefully selected range of preferred accommodation. From old colonial-style hotels to charming river resorts, our best hotels in Laos offer the widest range of quality accommodations you need to ensure the perfect stay, each having an excellent reputation and being reliable favorite with our clients over many years. 

Luang Prabang

Victoria Xiengthong Palace

Luang Prabang

Villa Santi Resort

Luang Prabang

Villa Santi Hotel

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 (therefore GMT+6 in summer time). 

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. EXO Travel Laos employ arguably the best tour guides in Laos and we specialise in arranging tours with private driver and tour guide. 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 guest houses have them for rent at reasonable rates. In Luang Prabang, EXO also has its own fleet of electric-powered bikes for a fun, eco friendly ride around town! 

Visa

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. 

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. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.

Weather

Dry season in Laos is October through April, while wet season runs May through September. Intermittent rainfall typically falls between March and through June usually early morning or at night, which also happens to be one of the hottest times of the year. 

REGION
1 Jan
2 Feb
3 Mar
4 Apr
5 May
6 Jun
7 Jul
8 Aug
9 Sep
10 Oct
11 Nov
12 Dec
VIENTIANE
LUANG PRABANG
/ NORTH REGION
/ BOLAVENS TRAIL
PAKSE AND
SOUTH REGION

Pleasant Weather, No Rain

High Heat and Humidity

Tropical Climate, Possible Intermittent Rain

Tropical Climate, High Chances of Rain

Possible Risk of Typhoons and Storms

Cool to Cold Temperature (At Night)