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TRAVEL GUIDE TO LAOS

 

We’ve gathered the following information for  you in preparation for your trips which we thought were appropriate.  If you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-785-1233.


Airport Taxes

Airport departure taxes for international passengers are included in the price of the air tickets. However, such policy is subject to change by government authorities without notice.

Baggage

On Domestic flights, passengers are allowed 44 pounds of luggage per person. On International flights, passengers are allowed two pieces of checked luggage. Excess luggage fees will be charged if you check more than the stated allowances, and these charges are your responsibility.  At most major airports, baggage carts are available for your luggage, usually for a small additional fee.

On board luggage at the sum of 3 dimensions of 115cm is limited.

Climate & Clothing

Laos has only two seasons, dry season starts from November to February and rainy season starts from June to October, which means that Laos can be visited throughout the year.

Shorts, short skirts or revealing clothing are not appropriate especially when visiting temples or any religious site. Laos is a conservative Buddhist culture and improper dress can be offensive. Please dress with respect for the local culture. Lightweight, easy to care clothes of cotton and cool fabrics are ideal all year round. A pullover or jacket from November to February is recommended, especially when traveling to the northern part of Laos.  Wear sensible walking shoes which can be easily removed when required. Sandals, thongs or flip-flops (available locally) are very convenient footwear.

Communications

International calling and fax facilities are available but limited to major towns and hotels. Internet cafes are now also available in major towns. However, the speed maybe slow and staffs have less knowledge.

Postal services is reliable but can be slow, but outgoing mail is fairly reliable and inexpensive.

Currency

The local currency is the kip. The US dollar and the Thai baht are very popular alternatives that are widely accepted, especially for bigger purchases. The exchange rate at the time of writing is 7.800 kip to US$1, but it is advisable to check this rate before traveling, as inflation is high. The denominations are 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 Kip. It is not unusual to be quoted a price in kip, pay in US dollars and receive Thai baht as change. US dollars and Thai baht can be changed at hotels, banks or any foreign exchange shop licensed by the Bank of Lao PDR.

Most local shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards. Visa, Master Card and American Express payment facilities are increasingly being set up throughout the country. A surcharge is usually added.

Customs Regulations

Your valuables ( jewelry, cameras, electronic equipment, etc.) should be declared on your customs declaration form upon arrival. Receipt of purchase and an export permit voucher for locally bought goods such as gems and jewelry may be required upon departure.

Electricity

The voltage in Laos is 220-230 Volts AC. Electrical appliances will require an adapter that can change the shape of the plug prongs, as well as an electrical voltage converter that will allow a normal 110-volt American appliance to take the 220 Volt current. Electricity: 220V. However, electricity supply can be unreliable in smaller towns.

Food & Water

Lao food is spicy and delicious. There are many similarities between Lao and Thai food, although the former is slightly influenced by Chinese cuisine. Lao dishes are distinguished by the use of aromatic herbs and spices. Rice, especially sticky rice served in small bamboo containers, is the foundation for all Lao meals, and almost all dishes are cooked with fresh vegetables, freshwater fish, poultry, duck, pork, beef or water buffalo. Lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander give the food its characteristic taste, and various fermented fish condiments are used to salt the food. There is also a well-ingrained Vietnamese culinary tradition, and Chinese food is never hard to find. Laos has inherited a sophisticated and tasty colonial legacy. French cuisine is widely available, with street cafes serving delectable fresh croissants, baguettes, pain au chocolate and a selection of sticky pastries.

Although towns have access to safe water, less than a third of the countryside can claim the same. Avoid all water that hasn’t been thoroughly boiled or sterilized and drink only sterilized water or soft drinks. All water and ice-cubes that are served to you in restaurants in the cities are safe for consumption. You should not eat any uncooked vegetables and do not eat any fruit that you haven’t peeled yourself. Make sure that fish and meat is well cooked.

Health Matters

The government of Laos does not require you to have any vaccinations except for cholera if you are coming from an infected area. Please consult your doctor for recommended vaccinations.

Avian influenza (H5N1) continues to be a concern in Laos. Avoid visiting poultry farms and connect with animals in live food market. For more information, please refer to the Department of State’s influenza sheet.

We strongly advise an insurance to be purchased in advanced, also having good health insurance and carrying a good first aid kit. In general there is a lack of international standard medical help and hospitals. For minor ailments, the Vientiane International Clinic offers good service. For any major health problems we recommend going to Thailand.

Holidays

New Year’s Day – Jan 1st
Pathet Lao Day – Jan 6th
Army Day – Jan 20th
Woman’s Day – Mar 8th
People’s Party Day – Mar 22nd
Boun Pimai, Laotian New Year – 2 days in April
Labor Day – May 1st
International Children’s Day – Jun 1st
Lao Issara, Day of the Free Laos – Aug 13th
Day of the Liberation from French – Oct 12th
Lao National Day – Dec 2nd

Passports & Visas

A visa is required for travelers of all nationalities entering Laos. Tourist visas for stays of up to 15 days can be obtained upon arrival. The fee is approximately US $35, payable by cash. Tourist visas can be renewed for another 60 days at $2 per day.

Time Difference

Standard time in Laos is 7 hours ahead of GMT, 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Tipping

Tipping has become increasingly customary in Laos, especially in tourist areas – these include porters, chauffeurs,  tour guides, and in upscale restaurants. Foreign currency, especially U.S. dollars, is appreciated. On tours tipping of $10-$12 per person per day is customary.

Transportation

Laos is a mountainous country with no railway and few good roads. With the Mekong River being such a prominent topographical feature it is not surprising that it plays a significant role in communications and life. There are slow boat services for tourists who want to experience life on the river between some towns. Speedboats are also an option for travelers with a tight schedule, though not always recommended.

Tuk Tuks are the most popular means of transport within cities. These 3-wheeled vehicles with two benches placed sideways in the back can be found everywhere. Taxis are not normally metered, so your fare is negotiable. Always negotiate before setting off. All airport transfers and sightseeing included in your tour are provided by private car and English-speaking guide.

What to Pack

Valid Passport. Travelers Checks. Copy of Your Airline Ticket. Mosquitoes repellent. Your Medicines. Departure documents. Travel alarm clock. Camera(s), batteries & films. Sunscreen/Tan lotion.  Pocket size Kleenex. Extra luggage locks/keys. First Aid kit. Soft, foldable slippers. Extra set of eyeglasses. Folding Umbrella.  Comfortable walking shoes.