“Untamed natural beauty”
Laos is one of those almost-undiscovered travel destinations that is too quickly becoming a stop on the main tourist trail. It’s a land of incredible contrasts – beautiful scenery, raging rivers, poor infrastructure, great food, fabulous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and incredibly poor people. The country is slowly awakening to the possibilities of adventure and eco-tourism, but there is still a long way to go.
Laos remains relatively isolated and undeveloped. This land-locked mountainous country is gaining a reputation as an eco-tourist destination. Its many rivers criss-crossing the country and unspoiled national parks are ideal for activities such as trekking, kayaking and caving.
The number of tourists is expected to continue increasing over the next few years as more and more people discover the delights of this laid-back country, the kindness and lightheartedness of Laos’s unique hospitality, and experience Buddhist ritual and culture in a way that might add tranquility to your travels.
Laos is a country not to be missed. It’s Southeast Asia’s most untamed natural beauty.
When to Visit
The ideal time to visit Laos is the cool season between November and February. By November, the rains are usually over, all rivers are navigable and roads are passable.
LAOS INTERESTING PLACES
Located north of Central Laos on the banks of Mekong River and ancient capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom Luang Prabang is the jewel of Laos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient royal city is surrounded by mountains at the junction of the Mekong and its tributary, the Nam Khan.
Vientiane, the capital of Laos is on the Mekong River, surrounded by fertile plains. Pronounced ‘Wieng Chan’ by the locals, this relaxed city offers a number of interesting wats (temples) and lively markets. The most important national monument in Laos is Pha That Luang, the Great Sacred Stupa, representing both Buddhism and Lao sovereignty.
PLAIN OF JARS
One of Asia’s most mysterious ancient attractions the Plain of Jars sites spread out around the newly rebuilt town of Phonsavan and make for Laos’s most enigmatic tourist draw. Legends surround the hundreds of jars and a visit will quickly reveal that, like Stonehenge and other prehistoric sites, their original purpose can still only be guessed at.
SI PHAN DON- THE 4000 ISLANDS
These islands the Si Phan Don – The 4000 Islands – have become a legend amongst travelers, offers relaxing on the beaches, seeing the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia, exploring the smaller waterfalls, spotting the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin. Si Phan Don is definitely worth a visit as the whole landscape is stunning.
The province of Champasak has rich and grand history dating back over two millennia. The ruins of the Khmer temple Wat Phu are located here. Another worth seeing feature of this province is its beautiful waterfalls of Selabam, Khonphapheng, and Liphi.
The Bolaven Plateau of Laos is famous throughout the world for its coffee. The plateau is also a center for the Mon-Khmer culture with many tribal villages The plateau also has lovely waterfalls like the Tat Lo. An elephant trek is a great way to see this area. The region is known for its colorful tropical forests and is home to many rare species of plants and animals.
Savannakhet, Laos is the place to go when you want to see some of the best colonial architectures in the world. This quiet town is the second biggest in Laos and is near the Thailand and Vietnam borders where tourists hardly go. If you want an uninterrupted getaway, then you will surely find it here.
OFFICIAL NAME: Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR)
TIME: GMT + 7
INTERNATIONAL CODE : +856.
AREA: 236,800 sq km (91,400 sq miles)
POPULATION: 6.2 million (2008)
The official language is Lao; however, many tribal languages are also spoken. French, English. Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese are spoken.
Buddhist 60%, animist and other 40% (including various Christian denominations 1.5%)
Laos has three distinct seasons. The hot season is from March to May, when temperatures can soar as high as 40°C. The slightly cooler wet season is from May to October, when temperatures are around 30°C, tropical downpours are frequent (especially July-August), and some years the Mekong floods.
The dry season from November to March, which has low rainfall and temperatures as low as 15°C (or even to zero in the mountains at night), is “high season” (when the most tourists are in the country). However, towards the end of the dry season, the northern parts of Laos — basically everything north of Luang Prabang — can become very hazy due to farmers burning fields and fires in the forests.
220 volts, 50Hz. (European & US plugs)
Laos is a landlocked country bordered to the north by China, to the east by Vietnam, to the south by Cambodia, and to the west by Thailand and Myanmar. Around 70% of Laos’ terrain is mountainous, reaching a maximum elevation of 2,820 meters in Xieng Khouang Province. The landscapes of northern Laos and the regions adjacent to Vietnam, in particular, are dominated by rough mountains.
The Mekong River is the main geographical feature in the west and, in fact, forms a natural border with Thailand in some areas. The Mekong flows through nearly 1,900 kilometers of Lao territory and shapes much of the lifestyle of the people of Laos. In the South, the Mekong reaches a breadth of 20 kilometers, creating an area with thousands of islands.
People’s Republic since 1975. Gained independence from France in 1953
HEAD OF STATE
Choummaly Sayasone since June 2006
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh since June 2006
ATMs are slowly being introduced, particularly in Vientiane, but do not rely on them.
Mon-Fri 0830-1600. Some banks remain open during lunch.
Major credit cards are accepted in the more upmarket hotels and restaurants only in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. ATMs are slowly being introduced, particularly in Vientiane, but do not rely on them.
Lao Kip (LAK; symbol ₭) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of ₭50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 10, 5 & 1.
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import and export of foreign currency is unrestricted, subject to declaration of amounts more than US$2000 on arrival.
Limited acceptance and often with a hefty commission charge. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in US Dollars or Thai Baht.
PASSPORT AND VISA
To enter the country, visitors need a passport with at least six months validity.
Those requiring visas should obtain them in their home country before traveling to Laos. Visas are available on arrival at Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airports, as well as at the major Laos-Thai border crossings for nationals of those countries without Laos representation. Visas allow for a maximum stay of 15 days (one extension possible) Citizens of US, UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland and other EU needs visa to enter Laos. ASEAN countries don’t need entry visa.
Travelers to Laos do not have to pay duty on 500 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco; 2 bottles wine, or 1 bottle of other alcohol; and jewelery up to 500g, provided they are from countries not bordering Laos.
The international airports at Vientiane and Luang Prabang are served by national carrier Lao Airlines and a few others, including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways (Luang Prabang only) and Vietnam Airlines. Some seats on flights of Vietnam Airlines are reserved for Lao Airlines (codesharing / better price). Pakse is the third international airport, with flights to/from Siem Reap (Vientiane – Pakse – Siem Reap by Lao Airlines) and from/to Hochiminh city.
Laos Travel Advice
There have been 2 reported incidents of drug rape during 2009. You should be careful about taking drinks from strangers and be wary at bars, clubs, restaurants and parties.