Laos: Expert tips and facts
Find all the answers to your questions in our Laos travel guide.
Laos is a peaceful inland nation and is one of Southeast Asia’s hidden gems. The stunning natural beauty of forested mountains and valleys teeming with wildlife combined with a fascinating Buddhist culture make Laos a superb destination for those seeking an adventurous and authentic cultural experience.
Before you set out, it’s always a good idea to gather all the essential information about a destination. From language to currency, culture and heritage and what to eat, our destination experts share their top tips in our Laos travel guide.
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Visa and entry
All nationalities, with the exception of some Asian countries, Switzerland and Luxembourg must have a tourist visa to enter Laos. Apply for a visa through a Laotian embassy or consulate in your country. If visas are needed, or if visas have already been approved, please provide our team you’re your passport and applicant details at least 10 days before the date of travel so that arrangements can be made.
If you do not want to send off your passport or need your passport for travel, you can obtain a visa on arrival at international airports or borders. This fee is US $37 per person for most nationalities. Please be aware that sometimes there can be long queues when obtaining a visa on arrival and that you need to bring payment in US dollars, along with two passport photos.
The only vaccine required by international regulations for Laos is yellow fever, and proof of the same will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow fever zone within the last 6 days prior to entering southeast Asia. Malaria and Dengue fever are a problem in Laos.
Medical facilities and services in Laos, are extremely basic, limited, and do not meet western standards. Facilities in rural areas are often non-existent. Serious cases should be referred to suitable hospitals in Thailand. The ambulance services in Laos are ill-equipped and may not always be available to respond to Emergencies. While imported beauty products are available in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, you are advised to pack staples like sunscreen, contact lens solution, tampons and mosquito repellent.
Language, power and communication
The official language is ‘Lao’ or ‘Laotian’, but many tribal languages are spoken too. French, Vietnamese and some English are also spoken. Thai is well understood in Laos as well as Russian and Chinese. Older Laotians may speak some French and younger Laotians may speak some English or even Russian.
Metric system and its official electrical unit is 220V, 50Hz. Power blackouts are frequent even in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. After dark, it’s best to keep a flashlight or candles handy. In most hotels adapters are necessary for French and American sockets.
The country code for Laos is +856. The General Post Office (GPO) offers public phones for national and international calls. There are also many card phone booths available. Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies.
Currency, cash and cards
The official currency of Laos if the Lao Kip (LAK).
Besides the US Dollar, Thai Baht is the only other currency that is acceptable for most small scale transactions. Although only kip is legally negotiable in everyday transactions, in reality 3 currencies are used for commerce: kip, Thai baht (B) and US dollars (US$).
In larger cities and towns, Thai baht and US dollars are readily acceptable at most businesses like hotels, restaurants and shops. It is illegal to use US dollars and Thai Baht for larger transactions.
An increasing number of hotels, restaurants and gift shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang accept Visa and MasterCard, and to sometimes Amex and JCB. Outside these places credit cards are of little use. Banque pour le Commerce Extérieur Lao (BCEL) branches in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Savannakhet and Pakse offer cash advances/withdrawals on Visa credit/debit cards for a 3% transaction fee.
Get in touch with us for the most up to date information and Laos travel guide. Our destination experts are happy to advise you further and plan an obligation-free, private and custom Laos tour itinerary for you.
Undiscovered Laos Destinations: The Hidden Gems
You may have heard about popular Laos destinations and what they offer, such as the morning alms-giving ceremony in Luang Prabang of Laos, an enchanting boat cruise on Mekong River at Champasak to see the rare Irrawaddy water dolphins, and the French colonial architecture of Vientiane in Laos.
Cultural Highlights of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
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