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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 travellers an opportunity to experience rich traditions, natural beauty and a sense of Asia as it once was.
Our journeys to this intriguing country include time in Luang Prabang – a perfectly preserved blend of rustic colonial architecture and gilded monasteries – and in the laid back waterside capital city, Vientiane.
The landlocked destination os Laos is a place for everyone, offering travellers the chance to travel from north to south through a diverse array of scenery and cultures, by boat and by road. In addition, many travellers have chosen to combine their Laos experience with time in Cambodia or Vietnam by traveling overland and or through the daily flights that have been scheduled.
Visa requirements & departure tax: Travellers (European, American, Australian, NZ), can easily obtain 15 day tourist visas on arrival in Laos, subject to the furnishing of 30USD and one passport photo per person.
Travellers often visit Laos through its classic routes such as spending a few days in Vientiane from where the historic and cultural aspect of the nation will revel by visiting some of the oldest pagodas in the country. Also, adventure seekers will often stop at Vang Vieng to chill out and get their half way stop in between Vientian and luang Prabang.
Travellers can obtain their Laos visa on arrival at Luang Prabang international airport. Please note that Indochina Explorer, Bangkok to Hanoi and Images of Indochina travellers will need to obtain their Vietnam visas in advance of arriving in Indochina.
Insurance: You must be comprehensively insured as a condition of travelling through Laos. Insurance should include coverage for personal accident, medical expenses, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday. You may confirm your insurance details as part of your trip with the embassy and or with your travel organizer at the start of your journey. If you do not have appropriate insurance you may apply for one. Note that travel insurance may be ‘attached’ to your credit card, although usually such cover is effective only if your travel arrangements have been purchased with the card. Insurance cover from credit cards often does not include payment of medical expenses. Please check your policy carefully. You must have adequate insurance to cover you in the event you suffer a medical problem while travelling.
Money: The official currency of Laos is the kip, however United States dollar cash is accepted almost everywhere. Thai baht is readily acceptable, although at less favourable rates. As you will accumulate kip as change from payments you make in USD, it is recommended to change either nothing or very little (eg. 30USD) into kip upon your arrival in Laos. Also, ts advised to carry a mix of USD cash and travellers cheques. Credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) can be used in only a limited number of shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Travellers crossing from Thailand at Chiang Khong/ Huay Xai can change money at fair rates next to the Huay Xai (Laos) visa post. As your time in Laos will be limited, please bring enough money for the duration of your trip.
Climate: Laos is affected by the annual Southeast Asian monsoon cycle. The ‘wet’ season is from May to October. During this time, the tropical lowlands average 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 the north of Laos around Luang Prabang can be quite cool at this time of the year. People travelling between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang on the Mekong should bring at last one layer of warm clothes. During the second half of the ‘dry’ season – from March to June – the temperature can rise to up to 35 degrees Celsius. Many travellers prefer Laos outside the dry season; there are fewer tourists, and rainfall is often limited to brief afternoon showers which lend a different atmosphere to the country and towns.
Baggage & clothing: Your baggage should be clearly labelled and kept to a reasonable minimum. Luggage limits on airlines are strictly enforced and space on 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. Packing one set of smart casual clothes is advisable. Laundry services are available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive.
Make sure you bring:
Flat walking shoes and sandals
Hat & sunglasses
Raincoat or umbrella
Basic first aid kit
Swiss Army pocketknife
Women’s sanitary products
Slide or any specialised film if used (print film is widely available in Laos)
Effective, airline type ear plugs
One layer of warm clothes (for travelling on the Mekong between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang from November to March)
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