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Facts

Population

6,500,000

Capital City

Vientiane

Another fact

Answer

Plug types

Voltage: 220V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Buddhist

Currency

Kip (LAK) exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +7 hours

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  • What to expect

    One of the charms of Laos is that tourism here is still developing, and at a slow pace. While there are some stunning luxury accommodation options in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and some fine restaurants, you may find that the style and speed of service is not the same as you would find in Australia or other destinations Asia.

    It is important that you try to be patient and deal with any frustrations in a calm manner; the Laos people are warm and welcoming, but anger is not well-tolerated. Like Thailand, Laos features a strong Theravada Buddhist culture, which is central to daily life.

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Flight times

From Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth

approximately 12 hours

Adelaide or Brisbane

approximately 15 hours

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Events

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

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  • 1 January is international New Year's Day.

  • 8 March is International Women's Day

  • 13-15 April, Pii Mai (Lao New Year)

    Taking place over three days in mid-April, Lao Pii Mai is the biggest Lao party of the year. You can expect parades, dancing, beer-drinking and lots of water – the Lao use it for washing homes and Buddha statues, and dowsing everyone from monks, to family and passers-by.

  • 1 May International Labour Day.

  • August/September - Luang Prabang Boat Racing Festival

    accommodation is limited and some sections of the old town are not accessible.

  • 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

    in Vientiane. Expect some road closures and limited hotel accommodation

  • November (on the first full moon)

    , the three-day That Luang Festival occurs at the full moon of the 12th lunar month. During this time, thousands of monks gather in Vientiane for festivities.

  • 2 December is National Day

    Commemorates the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975.

  • Health & Fitness

    As with travelling to other parts of Asia, you need to take precautions when visiting Laos. Some of the diseases known to exist in Laos include hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever, diphtheria, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We strongly recommend you consult your doctor with regards to vaccinations and up-to-date health advice at least a month before you leave Australia.

    Medical care facilities are basic, even in the capital Vientiane. Any serious medical treatments will likely require transfer to Bangkok.

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  • Visa Information

    Most travellers, including citizens of Australia, need a visa to enter Laos. Australian travellers can obtain a 30-day tourist visa on arrival at most overland border points and at the airports in Vientiane, Pakse and Luang Prabang. The current price for Australian passport holders is currently 30 USD (USD cash only, passport photo required). Visas cost an extra 1 USD on weekends and public holidays.

    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: by S. Mansfield

    . An easy to read introduction to Laos.

  • Shooting at the Moon, by R. Warner

    . A fascinating account of the CIA’s role in Laos through the 60s and 70s, covering the major events leading up to the United States' bombing of the neolithic remains of the Plain of Jars. It discusses the tragic role played by the Hmong people through the Indochina wars.

  • A Short History of Laos, by G. Evans

    . A short history of the Laos, including significant chapters dedicated to reform attempts of the last 10 years and the author's attempts to predict the future of this land-locked nation.

  • Stalking the Elephant Kings, by C. Kremmer

    . This timely and 'light' book steps you through the author's investigation into the fate of the last King in Laos and his family.

  • Ant Egg Soup, by N. Du Pont De Bie

    . Best-seller in the UK, this book is centered on the author’s quest for authentic Lao cuisine. It includes recipes collected during her travels and some highly lucid accounts.

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 a Travel Indochina t-shirt and carrying a Travel Indochina signboard with your name on it.

    Road: For six travellers or more, air-conditioned Hyundai with 25-40 seats are used. If you are travelling in a smaller group, travel will be by air-conditioned minibus or modern sedan car. Metered taxis are cheap and plentiful in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

    Air: Domestic flights in Laos are on Lao Airlines, and the planes are quite new. Schedules often change at short notice and can affect your travel plans.

    Boat: Many of our Small Group Tours to Laos include some boat travel on the Mekong, and it is a wonderful way to get around the country.

    Other: Tuk tuks, bicycles and your feet.

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  • Internet

    Internet: Internet is generally inexpensive in Laos and readily available in Luang Prabang, Vientiane, either in your hotel or at an internet cafe. Many cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels in these centres provide free WiFi.

    Phone: Mobile phones can be used if you have roaming enabled, though coverage outside urban areas can be inconsistent. The cheapest way of calling overseas (or locally) is via a VOIP service such as Skype. International phone and fax fees in hotels are expensive and you cannot make reverse charge calls in Laos.

    Mail: International mail from Laos generally takes ten to fourteen days to reach its destination. Prices are equivalent to Australian postal rates.

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  • Food & drink

    You will find the food in Laos has a lot in common with neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. Fish sauce, coconut milk, chillies, lemongrass and galangal are all common features, and dishes are usually served with sticky rice, rather than steamed rice.

    Some specialities worth trying are som tam, a spicy green papaya salad, and laap, made with minced chicken, pork or fish. Vegetarians are generally well catered for, with vegetarian options often highlighted on a menu or in a separate section.

    Tap water should be avoided however bottled water is readily available and provided on a complimentary basis by most hotels. The local beer, Beerlao, is considered by many to be one of the best beers in Asia.

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  • Tipping

    Tipping is a personal matter, and you should never feel obligated but when travelling in Laos, a tip is often an appropriate way to show your appreciation for great service.

    If you are joining one of our Small Group Tours, your Western tour leader or local guide or will ask for a small sum at the beginning of your stay in Laos. This will be used to tip hotel porters and boat crews during your trip. This means that you do not have to worry about having small change on hand, and helps to prevent over-tipping. You may also choose to show your appreciation for Travel Indochina guides, drivers and tour leaders with a tip; however, it is not compulsory to do so.

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  • Swimming

    Laos is landlocked, so you will not be swimming at any surf beaches but, depending on your itinerary, there may be opportunities to swim in waterfalls and rivers. These areas are often quite remote and unpatrolled, so you will need to take precautions and act sensibly with regards to your own safety.

    Many hotels and resorts in Laos have swimming pools. Similar common sense precautions apply.

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  • Responsible travel

    Travel Indochina is committed to responsible travel in Laos and while travelling you may have a chance to partake in traditional cultural activities and support sustainable projects.

    Baci welcome: A feature of many of our holidays in Laos the traditional Lao welcome (baci) ceremony in a family home.

    Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE): This inspiring organisation assists with rehabilitation for victims of UXO and traffic accidents.

    Big Brother Mouse: This wonderful organisation sets out to improve the literacy levels of Lao children. You may like to purchase books for ‘drop off’ to schools or villages during your trip.

    ElefantAsia: Travel Indochina has sponsored ‘Elephant First Aid Kits’, designed to empower elephant owners to care for this endangered native of Laos.

    Makphet: Eat delicious food and support a good cause. Travel Indochina sponsors a student at this restaurant and hospitality training restaurant in Vientiane.

    Mai Savanh: Based in Vientiane, this fair-trade enterprise provides employment and income for underprivileged women while helping to maintain the traditional art of Lao silk weaving.

    Ock Pop Tok's 'Living Crafts Centre': Gain a true sense of the place of bamboo in Laos daily life as you learn the ancient art of bamboo weaving.

    Read more about our responsible travel projects in Laos and the rest of Asia.

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