Laos Country Guide
The Country Guide
While most of the year is hot and humid, Laos enjoys a tropical climate with two distinct seasons. The rainy season is from the beginning of May to the end of September, and the dry season is from October through April. The yearly average temperature is about 28 degrees Celsius, rising to a high of 38 degrees Celsius during April and May.
In Vientiane a low temperature of 19 degrees Celsius is to be expected during January. In mountainous areas, however, temperatures drop to as low as 14-15 degrees Celsius during the winter months, and during cold nights, can easily reach the freezing point. The average precipitation is highest in Southern Laos, where the Annamite Mountains receive over 3,000 mm annually. In Vientiane rainfall is about 1,500-2,000 mm, and in the Northern provinces only 1,000-1,500 mm.
When to visit
- The best time to visit Laos is between November and April.
- The hot season from March to May is very dry and certain river trips are not possible.
Clothing during the hot season, January to April, bring light clothes in cotton and linen, sunglasses and a hat all year long. Sunscreen and bug repellant is also recommended.
From November to December, the cold season, it is a good idea to bring warm clothing such as sweaters and jackets for the morning and evening, and even more so if you are visiting the mountainous regions of the North.
From May to October, during the rainy season, it is best to have waterproof clothing. It is best to wear easily removable shoes or sandals when visiting the temples.
When visiting temples and people's homes, if you sit down, avoid pointing your feet forward as this is considered offensive behaviour and try to sit in a kneeling position.
All visitors entering Laos must possess valid passports. Visa can obtained from Lao Embassies and Consulates abroad. Or visa on arrival can be obtained at the international Checkpoint.
Visa is validity starts from day of entry into Laos: 30 days (can be extended twice in Vientiane for 30 days ). Visas must be used within three months of being issued. All visitors' passports should be valid for at least six months.
Citizens of Japan, The Republic of Korea, Russia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and ASEAN member countries (with valid passports) are exempted from Lao visa. The citizens of these countries can enter Laos and stay for 15-30 days without a visa. For longer stay, a visa is required.
Travelers holding passports from the following countries must obtain their visas at Lao Embassies or Lao Consulates abroad before entering Laos:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Jordan, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya ( Libyan Arab Jamahiriya ), Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Syria ( Syrian Arab republic), Swaziland, Tong, Turkey, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
International & Domestic Flights
There are four international airports in Laos: Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Pakse Airport in Champassak, Luang Prabang International Airport and Savannakhet. Wattay in Vientiane has regular service from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kunming, and Kula Lumpur.
Direct flights are available to Luang Prabang from Bangkok, Hanoi and Chiang Mai. Lao Airlines has regular service to all domestic destinations and a number of regional capitals. Major international carriers with flights to Laos are Bangkok Airways,Thai Airways International, Vietnam Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Air Asia.
Recently Lao Airlines operates some new routine from Vientiane to Singapore, Incheon (South Korea) ; from Luang Prabang to Jinghong ( Yunnan province/China) and from Pakse to Danang and Saigon (Vietnam) . Bangkok Airways also has new daily flight from Bankok to Vientiane.
There is no departure tax if using a land crossing, though on weekends and evenings you may be required to pay a small "overtime fee", generally not more than $1. If you're flying out of Vientiane or Luang Prabang international airport, there is a departure tax of US$10, but as of early January 2009 this fee was being incorporated into the price of airline tickets, so there's no longer any need to pay in person at the airport.
Overland: You can access Laos by road from Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Yunnan Province in China. There are presently 13 international border crossings where 15-day visa on arrival may be obtained. The most popular entry point is Vientiane's Friendship Bridge that crosses the Mekong and connects Laos to Thailand, but there are also checkpoints at Boten in Luang Namtha (Laos-China), Houeisai in Bokeo (Laos-Thailand), Sop Hun in Phongsaly (Laos-Vietnam), Na Meo in Houaphan (Laos-Viet Nam), Namkhan in Xieng Khouang (Laos-Viet Nam), Nam Phao in Bolikhamxai (Laos-Vietnam), Thakhaek in Khammouane (Laos-Thailand), Na Phao in Khammouane (Laos-Viet Nam), Dene Savan (Laos-Viet Nam) and Dan Savanh (Laos-Thailand) in Savannakhet and Vang Tao in Champassak (Laos-Thailand). If you have already have a visa you may enter Laos from Cambodia at Veun Kham. Within the country, major north-south and east-west roads are sealed and there is regular bus service to all provincial and district capitals.
River: If you enter Laos at Houeisai (Bokeo), Thakhaek (Khammouane) or Dan Savanh (Savannakhet) it is necessary to take a short ferry ride across the Mekong River. After crossing from Chiang Khong in northern Thailand to Houeisai, many people proceed directly to Luang Prabang via the Mekong. If you are heading north to Luang Namtha a two-day journey on the Namtha River, is a memorable adventure that takes you through lush forest and requires an overnight in your boatmen's home. There is also regular boat service on the Mekong from Pakse to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Vat Phou, and throughout the Four Thousand Islands in the far south.
A train operates daily between the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (Vientiane Capital) and Nongkhai (Thailand) connecting Laos to Thailand.
The Kip (LAK) s the official currency of the Lao PDR and the following bank
notes are currently in circulation: 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000 and 50,000 Kip.
The best currencies to use when exchanging money are: US Dollars, Euros and Thai Baht. You can exchange your currency at the bank, airport, or at a foreign currency exchange office.
Visa is the most common. Master Card and American Express are accepted at most banks in the larger towns (such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang), and in the big hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.Laotian food is based on fish, buffalo meat, pork, poultry and especially herbs. It is always being freshly prepared and not being preserved. Other than sticky rice, which can be eaten either sweet or sour, or fermented and is eaten with fingers, Laotian food is very rich in vegetables and is often browned in coconut oil.
If you want to use your mobile phone in Laos, the simplest and cheapest way is to buy a prepaid phone card from most mini-marts or phone shops for around US$10. The major phone providers are Tango and Laotel. Otherwise check if your phone company has international roaming coverage in Laos.
Wireless is available free of charge in most guesthouses, hotels and some cafes in the main tourist centres.
The usual voltage is 220V. Power supplies can be erratic, so be prepared to be flexible. Plugs with two round pins are more popular than the three-pin. If you have any devices needing a special outlet, please bring its adapter kit. The best investment is the universal AC adapter, which will enable you to plug it in anywhere.
Only drink purified bottle water. Bottled water is readily available and some hotels provide complimentary bottles. Carry a bottle with you throughout the day. Luxury Travel Ltd provides you fresh tissue and drinking water during touring days.
Lao cuisine may be little known outside the country, but it is considered one of the healthiest cuisines.
This is due to its affection for fresh vegetables and herbs, which appear in almost every Lao meal. Both meat and fish are usually grilled or steamed and as a result, the flavours are fresh and the dishes are low in fat. Laotian cooking not only uses cultivated vegetables, but often wild fruit or vegetables picked from the forests are used as well. Laotian food has a unique flavor and some dishes can be spicy to the un accustomed foreigner. An essential part of enjoying Lao food is Beer Lao. Described as the Dom Perignon of Asian beers, it can be found anywhere throughout the country, from the corner shops to the five-star hotels.