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Facts

Population

6,500,000

Capital City

Vientiane

Language

Lao

Plug types

Voltage: 220V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Buddhist

Currency

Kip (LAK) exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +7 hours

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  • What to expect

    A journey into Laos is a journey into an Asia long lost. Laos presents visitors with a beautiful travel experience rich in atmosphere, natural beauty and culture.

    ILaos is the least developed and least populated of all Southeast Asian nations. Laos is a landlocked country and its landscape is dominated by mountains and rivers, which you will see on tour. The Mekong River is the main waterway and is the source of much fishing and farming activity, and village life. Lao people are warm and welcoming to foreigners who are able to visit after several decades of relative isolation from much of the western world.

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Flight times

From London

approximately 16 hours

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Events

Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed here. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our USA-based Asia specialists for details.

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  • 1 January is a public holiday celebrating New Year's Day

    . Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 8 March is International Women's Day

    , where Lao women are honoured with celebrations in homes and offices. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 13-15 April is Buddhist New Year

    in Laos, considered the most important celebration of the year. It is marked by throwing buckets of water on the streets, fairs, processions and cultural shows. Banks, public offices and many businesses will be closed, along with some wats and museums in major centres.

  • 1 May is International Labour Day

    , honouring the contribution of workers. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • August/September - A Boat Racing Festival

    is held in Luang Prabang. Some streets along the Mekong are blocked, and hotels are heavily booked. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 12 October is Liberation Day

    , commemorating the end of war in Laos in 1975 and the victory of the Pathet Lao. Banks will be open, but public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • Mid-October - A Boat Racing Festival

    is held in Vientiane. Some streets along the Mekong are blocked, and hotels are heavily booked. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • November (first full moon) - The That Luang Festival

    is held in Vientiane, an annual religious festival spanning three days and nights. Thousands of monks descend on the capital for the festivities.

  • 2 December is National Day

    , a public holiday commemorating the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975. Banks, public offices and many businesses will be closed, along with some wats and museums in major centres.

  • 24 December to 3 January is the International New Year period

    . Most banks and public offices are usually only closed on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

  • Health & Fitness

    Travellers to Indochina should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. In remote areas medical facilities can be particularly basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Indochina include malaria, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/ AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks.

    We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs; it is recommended you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for current health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.

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  • Visa Information

    Travellers on all of Insider Journeys’ Small Group Journeys can easily obtain 30 day tourist visas on arrival in Laos at Vientiane, Luang Prabang Pakse airports. The price of a Lao visa varies according to nationality and is 30 USD for holders of Australian and New Zealand passports, 35 USD for holders of USA and UK passports, and 42 USD for holders of Canadian passports. Visas cost an extra 1 USD on weekends and public holidays. Payment should be made in USD cash and a passport photo must be provided. It is your responsibility to ensure all visa and entry requirements are met prior to arrival in Laos, so please confirm in advance that you will be eligible for a visa on arrival.

    Note: as with all destinations Laotian visa regulations are subject to change. We strongly advise that you check with the Lao embassy or nearest Australian consulate prior to travel in Laos. Although we can offer guidance, please do be aware that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa.

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  • Safety and security

    Laos is a very safe country, despite being one of the poorer nations in the region. However, you should apply common sense as you would when travelling anywhere: make sure your spending money is out of sight and near your body and keep jewellery to a minimum.

    Even in Vientiane, you will feel safe walking at night, however Laotians tend to go to bed early so the streets are quiet after 9pm. Always carry a hotel address card with you when you go out so you can show taxi drivers.

    While on holiday in Laos, you should keep a photocopy of your airline tickets, passport and credit card numbers separate from the originals in a safe place. Most hotels have room-safes for deposit boxes at reception where you can store valuables. Read our safety guidelines for further information.

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Reading

 

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  • Culture Shock: Laos (Times Books International), by Stephen Mansfield

    . Useful insights into the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Lao culture in an easy reading format.

  • Shooting at the Moon, by Roger Warner

    . A lucid, moving and fascinating account of the CIA’s role in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s, covering the events leading up to the American carpet bombing of the Plain of Jars. It also discusses the ultimately futile and tragic role played by the Hmong in the Indochina arena.

  • A Short History of Laos, by Grant Evans

    . A concise yet very useful history of the ‘land of a million elephants’, featuring interesting discussion on reform attempts of the past decade, and the future of this under-populated country surrounded by growing giants, Thailand, China, and Vietnam.

  • Stalking the Elephant Kings, by Christopher Kremmer

    . The first edition of this light read recounts the author's intrepid investigation into the fate of the last King in Laos, his wife, and son. 'Bamboo Palace' by the same author has just been published, shedding new light on the mystery of the Royal family disappearance.

  • Ant Egg Soup, by Natacha Du Pont De Bie

    . Best-seller in the United Kingdom, this travelogue is focused around the author’s quest for authentic Lao food, and includes recipes collected during her travels. A light, very enjoyable read.

  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman

    . A culturally insightful and heart rendering account of a severely epileptic Hmong child, and her migrant parents’ encounters with the mis-directed efforts of a Western health care system.

Useful words & phrases

  • Hello (or hi)

    Sa-bai-dee

  • How are you?

    Jao sa-bai-dee bor

  • I'm fine, thank you

    Khoi sa-bai-dee

  • Thank you

    Kop-chai

  • What is your name?

    Jao seu nyuang

  • My name is…

    Khoi sue...

  • How old are you?

    Jao chak bpee

  • I am …years old

    Khoi...bpee

  • How much is ...?

    Ahn nee tao dai

  • It's too expensive!

    Peng lai

  • No

    Bor

  • Yes

    Jao

  • Excuse me /I'm sony

    Khor tord

  • I want /I don't want

    Khoi ao /Khoi bor ao

  • Goodbye

    Lar-kom

  • Getting around

    Arrival and departure transfers

    Arrival transfer: If you have booked an arrival transfer for your Laos holiday, you will find your driver waiting for you in an Insider Journeys t-shirt and carrying an Insider Journeys signboard with your name on it.

    Road: Most roads in Laos well paved and in good condition. When travelling by road we generally use late model air-conditioned minivans or minibuses.

    Air: Some tours involve domestic flights. Lao Airlines operates a relatively modern fleet, however schedules frequently change, which can result in alterations to your tour programme.

    Boat: Some tours involve boat journeys along the Mekong River. This is a great opportunity to view river life, and will provide you with terrific photo opportunities. Western-style toilets are present on boats on Mekong River boat trips between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang.

    Other: Tuk tuks, bicycles and your feet.

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  • Internet

    Internet: Internet services are widely available in main urban centres, and rates are usually minimal. Most of the larger cities and towns' restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars have complimentary Wi-Fi.

    Phone: Fixed line phone calls and faxes, most often found in hotels, can be the most expensive, usually from 4 USD to 6 USD per minute. It is possible to use your cell phone in Laos, although you may need to organise roaming with your service provider prior to travel. Coverage will be less consistent in rural regions.

    Mail: It usually takes 7-10 days for international post to reach its destination, with rates similar to those in Western countries. Ensure you send mail on a registered basis, or delivery times will be much longer.

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  • Food & drink

    Lao cuisine has been heavily influenced by its neighbours, Vietnam and especially Thailand but it is also very distinctive in its own right and many local dishes can be quite spicy. Ingredients include vegetables, freshwater fish, beef, duck, pork and chicken. Food is often flavoured with fermented fish sauce and chillies. Vegetarians are well catered for. Please ensure your tour leader or local guide is aware of special dietary requirements in advance so he or she can assist with ordering suitable food.

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  • Tipping

    If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. You are free to tip as much or as little as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.

    Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your Local guide, driver or Tour leader, please let us know.

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  • Swimming

    Some hotels in Laos have swimming pools. There are no required safety standards such as secure fencing so it is imperative that children are supervised near and around the pool areas. Note that UNESCO regulations do not allow for hotels insider the old quarter of Luang Prabang to have swimming pools. Lao people are very modest and proper swimming attire should be worn at all times.

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  • Responsible travel

    Insider Journeys practices a thorough, realistic responsible travel policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Asia’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Asia. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we largely work in a developing part of the world. For more information on our approach to responsible travel click here.

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