Laos is a landlocked country with exceptional natural beauty combined with a deep culture derived from a long history. With approximately six million inhabitants, it's one of the least populated countries in the world. Even though being less developed than the other three former French Indochinese states, it does not lack in providing an unique cultural experience. The country is dominated by magnificent mountains, lush valleys and winding rivers, all of these aspects make it a perfect holiday trip for those who love nature and seek for a thrilling adventure
Laos People’s Democratic Republic (PDR)
Population: 6.8 million
Capital City: Vientiane (Pop: 810,000)
People: Over 48 ethnic groups
Currency: Kip (KIP)
Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
International Dialing Code: +856
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 11:30 and 13:00 - 17:00. Shops open from Monday to Saturday between 09:00 and 17:00 and some also open on Sunday. In Luang Prabang shops are usually open till until 19:00 or 20:00 (During Public Holidays, as well as celebration days such as Lao New Year, most businesses are closed.
Laos New Year (Pee Mai) is the most famous public holiday, celebrated on the 14th till 16th April. The Laos Pee Mai celebration mixes religious tradition with water. The water is used for the cleansing of Buddha icons in temples. Water fights during this period are getting popular, so be careful not to get drenched when travelling during this time.
Laos has three distinct seasons:
- The hot season is from March to May, when temperatures can be as high as 40°C.
- The slightly cooler wet season is from May to October, when temperatures are around 30°C, tropical rain is frequent, especially during July-August, and sometimes the Mekong river will flood.
- The dry season starts around November and lasts to March, low rainfall and temperatures as low as 15°C (can reach zero in the mountains at night), this season is when the most tourists visit the country. However, towards the end of the dry season in the northern parts of Laos, north of Luang Prabang can become very hazy due to farmers burning their fields and fires in the forests.
The best time to travel is from November through to April, when the weather is warm and dry with refreshing nights.
The official currency in Laos is the Lao Kip, which is non-convertible so you will need to bring US dollars to exchange. Banks, hotels, and jewelry shops are places where you can exchange your currency. US dollars are widely accepted in bigger cities. Please be careful with taking torn and old bank notes when you get change as these are not generally accepted. In areas near the Thai border, the Thai currency, Baht, is commonly used. Visa and MasterCard are usually accepted in many of the big hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities. ATM’s are available in larger cities and tourist spots, but there will probably be some extra costs for taking out money with a foreign bank account.
Post, telephone and internet access
Postal service are available in Laos. The best way to receive any mail is to get it sent to a post office and collect it yourself.
Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap.
Internet access is available in most major tourist places such as hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Lao laws do not allow foreigners to rent and drive a car themselves. It is highly advisable to rent a car with an experienced driver who knows the area and can speak Lao in case of any problems. Traffic conditions may vary dramatically from what you are used to, as the infrastructure in the country side is not up to date in some places.
The transportation network in Laos is slow, but comprehensive. Getting around takes time, sometimes longer than you may think, but this is all part of the unique travelling experience.
Taxis and tuk-tuks are by far is the easiest way to get from A to B in towns and cities, bargaining the price is the norm,and we suggest you try it, you might save some money.
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour if you are satisfied with their service. Hotel and station porters can also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.
Things to remember
- "Sabaidee" is the first word to learn: It’s the usual form of hello. In Laos, people greet each other with a slight bow and a prayer-like gesture, known as the ‘nop’. For foreigners and business, handshakes are becoming more acceptable.
- Laos is a strongly Buddhist country so you should behave appropriately:
+ Don't point your feet at people or prop them on furniture
+ Tuck your feet under or to the side of you if sitting on the floor, dont put your knees in the sky
+ Don't touch someone's head
+ Dress modestly, behave discreetly
+ Remove your shoes upon entering a home or a temple
- Respect for monks is part of Laotian life, and the monks take their duties seriously. Remember that monks are forbidden to touch women. Some undertake a vow of silence, and will not answer you even if they can understand and speak English. It is best not to compel them to stand next to you for a photograph, or start a conversation, if they seem reluctant.
- Things in Laos happen slowly and rarely as scheduled. Keep your cool, as the natives will find humor in any tourist showing anger. They will remain calm, and venting your anger will make everybody involved lose face and is certainly not going to solve any problem, particularly if dealing with government officials.
- Do not give money to people begging, especially children. Giving money and goods to beggars can accentuate an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely money givers. we want to promote tourism to help the country, not make it worse