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Laos Guides

Vientiane Travel Guide

The capital of Laos is booming. Driven by rising foreign investment, plenty of foreign aid workers and more urbane youth, change is coming as quickly as in any city in Asia

Eating in Vientiane

When we arrived in Vientiane this time and heard an expat describe the city’s eating as “dollar for the dollar the best in the world”, we thought he’d had one too many happy pizzas

Drinking in Vientiane

Vientiane is no longer the illicit pleasure it was when Paul Theroux described it, in his 1975 book The Great Railway Bazaar, as a place in which “the brothels are cleaner than the hotels, marijuana is cheaper than pipe tobacco and opium easier to find than a cold glass of beer”. 

Entertainment in Vientiane

Like everything else, Vientiane’s entertainment scene is picking up as money and politics allows, though the range fairly limited. You could make your way through all of Vientiane’s live music venues and nightclubs in a couple of hours. It would have taken a few years ago. Bowling and cinema are also gaining popularity. By law entertainment venues must close by 11.30 pm, though most push it to about mid night.

Shopping in Vientiane

Just about anything made in Laos is available for purchase in Vientiane, including hill-tribe crafts, jewellery, traditional textiles and carvings. The main shopping areas in town are Talat Sao (Morning Market), the eastern end of Th Samsenthai (near the Asian Pavilion Hotel), Th Pangkham and along Th Nokeo Khumman.

Food and Drinks

Lao food doesn’t have the variety and depth of the more famous cuisine of neighboring China, Thailand andVietnam, but you can eat well in Laos if you take the time to learn a little about the cuisine while you’re there. While few people travel to this country with food as their prime objective, a little experimentation can take you a long way towards appreciating the cuisine can be very rewarding.

Climate Charts

The annual monsoon cycle that affect of mainland Southeast Asia produce a dry and wet monsoon climate with three basic seasons for most of Laos. The southwest monsoon arrives in Laos between May July and lasts into November.

Dangers & Annoyances (Laos)

Over the last 15 years or so Laos has earned reputation among visitors as a remarkably safe place to travel with little crime reported and few of the scams so often found in more places such as Vietnam, Cambodiaand Thailand. 

Travelers with Disabilities

With its lack of paved roads or footpaths (sidewalks) – even when present the latter are often uneven – Laospresents many physical obstacles for people with mobility impairments. 

Festivals & Events in Laos

Festivals in Laos are mostly linked to agricultural seasons or Buddhist holidays. The word for festival in Lao is bun. 

Gay & Lesbian Travel in Laos

For the most part Lao culture is very tolerant of homo-sexuality. Although lesbianism is often either denied completely or misunderstood. 

Lao Holidays

Public Holidays
Schools and government offices are closed on these official holidays, and the organs of state move pretty slowly, if at all, during the festivals mentioned on opposite.

Travel Insurance

As always, a good travel insurance policy is a wise idea. Laos is generally considered a high-risk area, and with medical services so limited it’s vital to have a policy that covers being evacuated (Medivaced), by air if necessary, to a hospital in Thailand

Money in Laos

The official national currency in Laos is the Lao kip (LAK). Although only kip is legally negotiable in everyday transactions, in reality three currencies are used for commerce: kip, Thai baht (B) and US dollars (US$).

Photograph & Video

Lao is fantastic destination for photography and if you take the following into account there is no reason why you won’t come away with some great shots – without upsetting anyone.

Laos Postal Services

Sending post from Laos is not all that expensive and is fairly reliable, but people still tend to wait until they get to Thailand to send parcels. If you’re heading to Cambodia, you’re better off posting your parcels from Laos.

Shopping in Laos

Shopping in Laos is improving fast. The growth in tourist numbers has been matched, if not exceeded, by the number of stores flogging fabrics, handicrafts and regional favorites from Vietnam and Thailand. 

Tourist Information in Laos

For years a visit to Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) was little more than a waste of time, with a brochure or two to prove you wasted it.


Visa to Laos

Having finally realized that people will stay for longer if they get a longer visa to start with, the Lao government now issues 30-day tourist visas on arrival at several official international border crossings and at the international airports at Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse. 

Women Travelers in Laos

Laos is an easy country for women travelers though you still need to be sensitive to a set of cultural mores that hasn’t been watered down as much as in many parts of Thailand.

Business Hours in Laos

Government offices are typically open from 8am to 11.30am or noon and from 1pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.


Laos Travel Information

After years of war and isolation, Southeast Asia’s most pristine environment, intact cultures and quite possibly the most chilled – out people on earth mean destination Laos is fast earning cult status among travelers.

Laos Adventure Travel Guides

Boating

With public boats disappearing from Laos’s many waterways, do-it-yourself boating is increasingly the way to see some of Asia’s most stunning and untouched wilderness.

Traveling with Children

Like many places in Southeast Asia, traveling with children in Laos can be a lot of fun as long as you come prepared with the right attitudes, physical requirements and the usual parental patience.

Embassies & Consulates in Laos

Of the 75 or so nations that have diplomatic relations with Laos, around 25 maintain embassies and consulates in Vientiane.

Telephone & Fax System in Laos

Laos has come a long way in a short time on the telephone front. While most Lao people are still not connected, the introduction of mobile phones and, in recent years, WIN phones has allowed some truly remote villages to get connected without the need for expensive landlines.

Getting Laos and Getting Away

Transport infrastructure in Laos is barely recognizable considering what existed a few years ago. Huge, foreign-funded road on projects have transformed the network of rough dirt tracks into relatively luxurious sealed affairs. 

Destination: Vientiane, Laos

SITUATED on the banks of the mighty Mekong River, sleepy Vientiane is one of the world’s smallest capital cities. To say Vientiane is relaxed is something of an understatement. This is a city that rises late, sleeps early and is lethargic in between.


Vang Vieng

Nestled beside the Nam song (Song River) amind stunningly beautiful limestone karst terrain, Vang Vieng provokes a mix of responses. It's more of a love and hate relationship - which parts of you love depend on who you are.

Wat Phu Champasak

Admission US$3, children 8 & under free – Open: 8 am – 4.30 pm
The ancient Khmer religious complex of Wat Phu is one of the highlights of any trip to Laos. tretching 1400 m up to the lower slopes of the Phu Pasak range (also known more colloquially as Phu Khuai or Mt Penis), Wat Phu is small compared with the monumental Angkor-era sites near Siem Reap in Cambodia. 


Lifestyle

Maybe it’s because everything closes early, even in the capital, that just about everyone in Laos gets up before 6am. Their day might begin with a quick breakfast, at home or from a local noodle seller, before work.

Politics & The Economy

At first glance the politics and economy of Laos seem simple enough: a one- party system is controlled by ageing revolutionaries that themselves have me a new elite, who have the power to control the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, can squash any dissent and cooperate enough with foreign donors to keep the aid dollars coming in. But this generalization is just that – the reality is more complex.

Ethnic Groups

Laos is often described as less a nation state than a conglomeration of tribes and languages. And depending on who you talk with, that conglomeration consists of between 49 and 134 different ethnic groups. (The lower figure ii that now used by the government).

Population

Laos has one of the lowest population densities in Asia, but the total population has more than doubled in the last 30 years, and continues to grow.

Women in Laos

For the women of Laos roles and status vary significantly depending on their ethnicity, but it’s fair to say that whatever group they come from they are seen as secondary to men. 

Religion

About 60% of the people of Laos – mostly in lowland, with sprinklings of tribal Thais – are Theravada Buddhists. Theravada Buddhism was apparently introduced to Luang Prabang (then known as Muang Sawa) in the late 13th or early 14th centuries, though there may have been contact Mahayana Buddhism during the 8th to 10th centuries and with Tant Buddhism even earlier.

Arts

The focus of most traditional art in Lao culture has been religious, specifically Buddhist. Yet, unlike the visual arts of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, lever encompassed a broad range of styles and periods, mainly become has a much more modest history in terms of power and because existed as a political entity for a short period. 

Sports

Like most poor countries, you won’t read much about Laos when the Olympic circus sets up its tent. Laos has never won an Olympic medal or much else in the international sporting arena, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete sporting black hole.

The National Psyche

It’s hard to think of any other country with a population as laid back as Laos. Baw pen nyăng (no problem) could be the national motto. On the surface at least, nothing seems to faze the Lao and, especially if you’re arriving from neighbouring China or Vietnam, the national psyche is both enchanting and beguiling.

Life in Laos

Villages are small, dusty/muddy depending on the season, and full of kids. You’ll be billeted with a family, usually with a maximum of two travelers per family. 

Pakse

Founded by the French in 1905 as an administrative outpost, Pakse sits a the confluence of the Mekong River and the SeDon ( Don River ) and is the capital of Champasak province. 

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