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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 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

    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: 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 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.

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

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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.

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

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