Located in the middle of Indochina, Laos shares its borders with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Burma. Relaxed, lovely, and warm, this serene Buddhist nation is reminiscent of an Asia in the distant past. Tourism here is in its very early stages, so our highest priorities are preserving Laos’ unique cultural heritage and its absolutely pristine environment. Discover delightful Luang Prabang, the Buddhist heart of the country. Observe saffron-robed monks with their black lacquer bowls in the early mornings as they modestly wait for alms from the faithful. In the countryside of Luang Prabang, in remote areas like the Plain of Jars in the west or Pakse in the south,meet the exuberant Mountaineers,a peaceful people with a tradition of living in harmony with nature. Visit Vientiane and wander the calm boulevards, stopping for a cup of nostalgic French coffee streetside. More than half of the country is comprised of dramatic mountains and forests, making it the ideal location for active, exciting “green” activities. Hike the Annamite Chain and other mountain ranges, view stunning waterfalls and limestone grottoes. Take a cruise on the Mekong River, the ‘mother of all rivers” and escape into an almost forgotten world. If you would prefer a more relaxing, more soothing holiday, Laos also boasts a very high level of accommodations and superb cultural places of interest. Adventures Asia staff is ready to help you plan your ideal journey. We will create your unique Laotian adventure with particular attention to responsible tourism and sustainable advancement of the people.
A cool dry season last from November through February, and a hot dry season is in March and April. Generally, monsoons occur at the same time across the country, although that time may vary significantly from one year to the next. Rainfall also varies regionally, with the highest amounts– 3,700 millimeters annually–recorded on the Bolovens Plateau in Champasak Province. City rainfall stations have recorded that Savannakhét averages 1,440 millimeters of rain annually; Vientiane receives about 1,700 millimeters, and Luang Prabang receives about 1,360 millimeters. Rainfall is not always adequate for rice cultivation, however, and the relatively high average precipitation conceals years where rainfall may be only half or less of the norm, causing significant declines in rice yields. Such droughts often are regional, leaving production in other parts of the country unaffected. Temperatures range from highs around 40°C along the Mekong in March and April to lows of 5°C or less in the uplands of Xiangkhoang and Phôngsali in January.
IMMUNIZATIONS BEFORE TRAVELLING TO LAOS
The following immunizations are recommended for travelers in Southeast Asia. Consult your doctor or local health department to discuss which ones you need:
Diphtheria and tetanus: Combined vaccinations for these two diseases are usually given in childhood and should be boosted every ten years.
Hepatitis A: Vaccination provides immunity for up to ten years and involves an initial injection followed by another six months to one year later.
Typhoid: Vaccination takes the form of an injection or capsules.
Meningococcal Meningitis: This vaccine is only recommended for travelers making extended visits to rural, Protection lasts for three years.
Rabies: People making longer trips to remote areas should consider rabies vaccination, which involves three injections over a period of three to four weeks.
Japanese B Encephalitis: People on trips of a month or more to areas suffering from recent outbreaks should consider getting this vaccine, which involves three shots over one month.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR TRAVELLING TO LAOS
You should bring a money-belt to safely carry your travel documents and cash, and ensure that your luggage has a lock. Bring photo-copies of your passport and visa. When flying into or within Vietnam, you will probably be given baggage claim tags (they will be stuck to the back of your ticket). Keep these, as you will need to show them when leaving the airport.
SAFETY TIPS WHILE TRAVELLING IN LAOS
In general, Laos is very safe for travelers. Violent attacks are rare, although theft is a problem. When possible, secure your valuables in the hotel safe. Remember to record your traveler’s cheque numbers and credit card info—just in case.
Do not leave your wallet or mobile phone in the back pocket of your pants or anywhere else that’s easily reached (like an outer zip-up compartment on a backpack). Be especially vigilant in markets and other crowded places like ports and train stations.
You’re always better off skipping cyclos or motorbike taxis at night; ask your hotel or restaurant to call a reputable taxi firm. Always ask your local guide for his/her mobile phone number, you may need to contact them in case of emergency.
In Southeast Asia, revealing clothing is unacceptable off the beach. Shorts are generally fine—as long as they aren’t too short. People tend to dress as well as they can afford to – Asian people are often astonished by some travelers’ choice of dirty and tattered clothing.
Light cotton and linen clothing is best in tropical climates. When visiting pagodas, temples, shorts and tank-tops are unacceptable. Your knees and shoulders must be covered. Footwear and socks must be removed in pagodas. Shoes are usually removed upon entering private homes too.
In terms of behavior, public displays of affection between men and women are considered shocking. On the other hand, it’s perfectly normal for a pair of men or a pair of women to link arms or hold hands. Upon meeting someone new, people may simply nod to each other or may shake hands. Using both hands to shake someone’s hand is a warm gesture of respect.
Beckoning someone by crooking your finger is very rude. The correct way to call someone over is to extend your hand with the palm down and flap your fingers towards your wrist. To ask for the bill in a restaurant or shop, extend one hand in front of you with the palm raised and pretend to write on your palm with the other hand.
The majority of men in Southeast Asia smoke. While flights are non-smoking, very few restaurants or bars offer non-smoking seating.
DRINK PLENTY OF BOTTLED WATER
Tap water, even from hotels, is never safe to drink. During the summer months you should be drinking a minimum of 2 liters per day from sealed bottles. Do not accept water with broken seal. If you drink tea, coffee and alcohol you should increase water intake accordingly as these drinks can lead to dehydration. Whatever you take, please bear in mind it is not recommended to drink with ice if you are not sure which water source they use to make ice cubes. Anyway, most restaurants have cold drinks in the fridge or you can have the restaurant waiters/ waitresses put your drinks in the ice-chest to keep them cold.
TOILETRIES & MEDICATION
While imported beauty products are readily available in major cities, you’d be wise to pack staples like sunscreen, contact lens solution, tampons and mosquito repellent, as well as prescription medication. Many medicines are available in Indochina without prescriptions, but they may be out-of-date or of poor quality.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling 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. During the winter months warm clothing is needed for visiting the north of Laos. Visitors to Buddhist countries should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
The Kip is the currency unit of Laos. Us Dollars and Thai Baht are also accepted in the many places and are certainly more convenient to carry than great wads of the local currency. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 15:00. Traveller cheques can be exchanged at banks and some hotels in the major cities. Visa Card and MasterCard are now accepted at the larger hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. 24-hour ATMs are found in main towns such as Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Xiengkhouang, Savannakhet and Pakse.
SHOPPING & SHIPPING
If you go shopping throughout Indochina & Burma, bargaining is necessary. It is also recommendable to check prices of the same items in the neighborhood before reaching a deal. If you choose to ship items home, we highly recommend that you buy shipping insurance and check the policy details. As shops are not responsible for damages incurred en route, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Country code: 856
INTERNET IN LAOS
Popular tourist destinations in Laos offer easy Internet access.
ZEN TRAVELLING IN LAOS
We suggest these tips for traveling successfully in Laos (and anywhere else, for that matter!):
- Try your best to smile and be pleasant.
- Don’t complain loudly.
- If you want to criticize someone, do it in a joking manner to avoid confrontation
- Expect delays – build them into your schedule.
- Never show anger – ever! Getting visibly upset is not only rude; it will also cause you to lose face
There are lots of things you should and shouldn’t do when visiting Laos, but don’t worry, if you have any query or need local assitance, please feel free to contact us at Adventures Asia to have an affordable, safe and local journey in Laos.