Laos Destination Guide | Fast Cover

Laos

If you feel that it's time to get off the beaten path and start exploring a truly unique destination then Laos is the place! Get your passport, ensure you have up-to-date travel insurance for Laos, and head to this simply beautiful hidden gem of Asia.

Laos

Laos Travel Insurance Map

Capital City: Vientiane

Laos Monuments

Laos Key Facts

  • Flag

    Laos Flag

  • Size

    238,800 km2

    (84th largest)

  • Population

    6,695,166

  • Laos Location

    South East Asia

  • Travel Insurance

    For Laos travel insurance, select 'Asia' Region

  • International Calling Codes

    856

  • Cities

    Pakse
    Savannakhet

  • Language

    Lao

    French

  • Religions

    66% Buddhism
    30.7% Satsana Phi
    1.5% Christianity

  • Currency

    Kip

    Get current exchange rates from

    XE Currency Converter

  • Driving

    In Laos they drive on the

    right side of the road

Visit the Laos Tourism Website for more information

When is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit Laos is between the months of October and late February, which correspond to the most pleasant months of the dry season.

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Boat transport

Transport Information

  • Airports (52, 1 international)
  • Railways (mostly to destinations outside of Lao)
  • Highways and roads of varying quality
  • Various boats (slow boat, speedboat)
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World Heritage Sites

  1. Town of Luang Prabang, which represents a unique blending of Lao urban structures and European colonial architecture
  2. Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape, an exceptional testimony to the cultures of southeast Asia
  • Average Annual Temperature

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    26 degrees

  • Average Annual Rainfall

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    1650 mm

Climate Information

The climate in Laos is typical for the countries in the South East Asian region, featuring tropical monsoon rains. Monsoon rains tend to happen across the country between the months of May and October. Between November and February it tends to be cool and dry. March and April are definitely the hottest month and generally dry, though a little bit of rain is not uncommon. 

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Official Holidays

January 1 - New Year's Day
January 6 - Pathet Lao Day
January 20 - Army Day
February 19 - Chinese New Year
March 8 - International Women's Day
March 22 - Day of the people's party
April 13 - Pi Mai (Lao New Year)
May 1 - Labor Day
June 1 - Buddha's Birthday
August 13 - Lao Issara
December 2 - National Day Laos

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Why Visit Laos?

Laos offers the charm of Southeast Asia without the usual crowds. It is still quiet, with many places dominated by backpackers and budget travellers, see Vat Phou and other UNESCO World Heritage sites

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Things To Do In Laos

  • Walk around Luang Prabang and discovers its unique architectural heritage
  • Go tubing in Vang Vien
  • Visit the country's capital Vientiane and see its many pagodas
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Travel Tips For Laos

  • Make sure to always have your passport or a copy of your passport with you
  • If you want to visit temples or private houses, firstly dress respectfully with long trouser and a sleeved shirt and secondly, take your shoes off
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Laos Food

Food in Laos follows the general theme of the region: very spicy with fresh vegetables, lots of herbs, and more bitter than sweet. The national dish is a glorious combination of minced meat and herbs (usually mint) dressed with lemon and a lot of chili  - laap. Rice is a staple and usually served sticky. As you will discover, eating rice with your hands is both fun and frustrating at the same time (make sure to eat with your right hand). Tan maak hung is a delicious spicy green papaya salad that is dressed with fermented crab and a strong fish sauce. Desserts in Lao are generally a combination of rice and tropical fruits, which is surprisingly delicious. Make sure to try some khao tom, which is steamed rice with bananas wrapped in a banana leaf, or khanom kok, which is a coconut dumpling made on a griddle and sometimes topped with green onion. The selection of fruit in Lao is absolutely amazing, so if you don't feel for a sweet and savory dessert, have try some fruit. For adventurous eaters, make sure to try jeow bong, which is a sweet and spicy chili paste made with water buffalo skin. 

Laos Travel Health & Safety Warnings

  • Laos is generally safe, though petty theft and robberies can be a problem in bigger cities. Make sure you have up-to-date travel insurance for Laos.
  • Certain parts of the country are known to have malaria, so make sure to check out where you want to go beforehand and stock up on anti-malarials. It is also prudent to bring a good mosquito repellent with you, as dengue fever is also present.
  • Do not drink the tap water.
  • Be aware that sexual relations between a Lao nationals and foreigners are illegal
  • Landmines are a problem in the north and east of the country, and if you see warning signs do not enter the area.
  • It is best to avoid drugs at all cost as they tend to bring hefty prison sentences and prison in Lao is not a place you want to be.

About Laos

While the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia are Thailand and Vietnam, if you want to experience pure, unspoilt Asia, the place you want to head to is the Kingdom of Laos. This small nation is still untouched by modern demands, offers beautiful and unspoilt nature, and the people of Laos are charming.

 

 

Where to go in Laos:

The capital of Laos is the city of Vientiane. The first thing most travellers to Laos will notice is that it is a lot more relaxed than its neighboring countries. This holds true in the capital city as well. This city is not only famously relaxed, it’s also known for its many temples and pagodas. A good place to visit while you’re in town is the Lao National Museum, which has some interesting historical exhibits that give you a good sense of the country's history.

Most of the city center can be explored comfortably on foot - one or two of the temples do merit a bus or tuk-tuk ride though. While not in the city itself, Buddha Park offers quite a unique attraction: it contains a remarkable collection of concrete sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities, as well as imaginary beasts.

North of the capital is the former capital city of Luang Prabang, which in its entirety is one UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s notable for its combination of traditional and colonial architecture and is often referred to as the most charming city in Asia, and once you see it you will understand why. It’s a true pleasure to randomly walk through the city, as there is something to discover and see at every corner.

   

Once you have seen enough of the city, there are many areas out of town that are nice to explore. Kuang Si Falls is a great day trip (be mindful of leeches in the water though), and a fun place to meet other travellers. Alternatively, you can explore Pak Ou Caves, also known as the famous Buddha caves, and finish your trip at the local village where Laolao, the local rice spirit is made. There are also two elephant sanctuaries and a butterfly park outside of Luang Prabang. 

If this area of the country just feels a little bit too crowded for your taste, the best place for you will be southern Laos. This is probably the least visited area in the country, and while it can be tricky to get around, it’s well worth exploring. The city of Pakse is the capital of this part of Laos and the ideal (and only) base for exploring the Mekong and Sedone Rivers. 

From Pakse you can catch a bus to Si Phan Don, the famous 'four thousand islands'. This area is home to a beautiful range of islands set in the dramatic Mekong River.

There is something wonderfully low-key about this place, and if you hike around a bit you are as likely to come across the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia (which is here, by the way) as you are a local farmer and his cows. Many travellers come to relax and just enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

 
   

A great way to experience the local culture is to locate the nearest temple that offers a herbal sauna - a refreshing and wonderful experience.

While Laos is a safe country for travellers, you do want to ensure you bring anti-malarial medication with you, as certain areas of the country are known as malaria hotspots. It also pays to bring mosquito repellent, as dengue fever is common. As with most places in Asia, avoid drinking the tap water and opt for bottled water instead. Also, organise travel insurance for Laos before you set off on any adventures here. 

The food in Laos is strikingly similar to the cuisine of northern Thailand. You will generally find wonderfully flavorsome food combinations, although sometimes a bit on the hot side.

Laos is particularly known for its spicy green papaya salad, which is delicious even though the fermented crab meat and the strong fish sauce may need a bit of getting used to. Another famous Lao dish to try is laap, which is a minced meat and herb salad dressed with chili and lemon juice.

Laos is gaining in popularity, but remains largely undiscovered by most western travellers. It truly is a great place to come to explore a different, less developed side of Asia.

 
   

For more information on Laos, visit the Laos Tourism Website.

 

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