General tips for traveling to Laos in 2018
Land of a million elephants, Laos encompasses mountains, jungles and the Mekong River dominate the landscape. Devoutly Buddhist and largely undeveloped, Laos offers travelers the chance to experience rich traditions, natural beauty and a sense of Asia as it once was.
Our trips to this intriguing country include time in Luang Prabang – a perfectly preserved mix of rustic colonial architecture and gilded monasteries – and the laid-back coastal capital of Vientiane.
Landlocked Laos is a place for everyone, offering travelers the chance to travel from north to south through a diverse array of landscapes and cultures, by boat and road. In addition, many travelers have chosen to combine their experience in Laos with time in Cambodia or Vietnam by traveling overland and/or via the daily scheduled flights.
Visa requirements and departure fee: Travelers (Europeans, Americans, Australians, New Zealand) can easily obtain 15-day tourist visas on arrival in Laos, provided they provide USD 30 and one passport photo per person.
Travelers often visit Laos via its classic itineraries, such as spending a few days in Vientiane, from where the historical and cultural aspect of the nation will be enjoyed by visiting some of the country’s oldest pagodas. Also, adventure seekers often stop in Vang Vieng to relax and stop midway between Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Travelers can obtain their Laos visa upon arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport. Please note that travelers on Indochina Explorer, Bankok to Hanoi and Images of Indochina will need to obtain their Vietnam visa prior to arrival in Indochina.
Insurance: You must be fully insured as a condition of travel through Laos. The insurance should include cover for personal accidents, medical expenses, loss of luggage and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday. You can confirm your insurance details as part of your trip at the embassy and/or with your travel agent at the start of your trip. If you do not have suitable insurance, you can apply for one. Note that travel insurance can be ‘attached’ to your credit card, although normally such cover is only in effect if your trips were purchased with the card. Credit card insurance coverage often does not cover medical expenses. Please check your policy carefully. You should have adequate insurance to cover you in case you suffer from a medical problem while traveling.
Money: The official currency of Laos is kip, but US dollars are accepted almost everywhere. The Thai baht is readily accepted, albeit at a cheaper rate. Since you will accumulate kip as change for the payments you make in US dollars, it is recommended that you change either none or very little (eg 30 USD) into kip upon arrival in Laos. Also, they advise carrying a combination of US dollars in cash and traveler’s checks. Credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) can only be used in a limited number of shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Travelers transiting from Thailand to Chiang Khong/ Huay Xai can exchange money at fair rates at the Huay Xai (Laos) visa office. As your time in Laos will be limited, please carry enough cash for the duration of your trip.
Climate: Laos is affected by the annual monsoon cycle in Southeast Asia. The “wet” season is from May to October. During this time, the average temperature in the tropical lowlands is 30 degrees Celsius, while the mountains remain cooler. The first half of the “dry” season is from November to February; temperatures during this time range from 10 to 25 degrees Celsius.
Mornings and evenings in northern Laos around Luang Prabang can be quite chilly at this time of year. People traveling between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang on the Mekong should wear at least one layer of warm clothing. During the second half of the “dry” season – from March to June – the temperature can rise to 35 degrees Celsius. Many travelers prefer Laos outside the dry season; there are fewer tourists and rainfall is often limited to short afternoon showers that give a different atmosphere to the country and cities.
Luggage and Clothing: Your luggage must be clearly labeled and kept to a reasonable minimum. Airline baggage restrictions are strictly enforced and space in vehicles is limited. Porters are not always available so be prepared to carry your own bags.
Comfortable casual clothes made of cotton are best in tropical and semi-tropical climates. It is recommended to pack one set of smart casual clothes. Laundry services are available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive.
Make sure you wear:
Flat shoes and sandals for walking
Hat and sunglasses
Cross body bag
Raincoat or umbrella
Basic first aid kit
A small torch
Swiss Army Knife
Feminine sanitary products
Slide or other specialized film, if used (printing film is widely available in Laos)
Effective airline earplugs
One layer of warm clothing (for Mekong travel between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang from November to March)
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