General tips for traveling to Laos in 2018

Land of a million elephants, Laos encompasses mountains, jungles and the Mekong River dominates the landscape. Devoutly Buddhist and largely undeveloped, Laos offers travelers the chance to experience rich traditions, natural beauty and a sense of Asia as it once was.

Our trips to this intriguing country include time in Luang Prabang – a perfectly preserved mix of rustic colonial architecture and gilded monasteries – and in the laid-back waterfront capital, Vientiane.

The landlocked destination of Laos is a place for everyone, offering travelers the chance to travel from north to south through a diverse range of landscapes and cultures, by boat and road. In addition, many travelers have chosen to combine their Laos experience with time in Cambodia or Vietnam by traveling overland and or via the daily flights that are scheduled.

Visa Requirements & Departure Tax: Travelers (European, American, Australian, NZ) can easily obtain a tourist visa for 15 days upon arrival in Laos subject to providing USD 30 and one passport photo per person.

Travelers often visit Laos through the classical itineraries, such as a few days in Vientiane from where will enjoy the historical and cultural aspect of the nation by visiting some of the oldest pagodas in the country. Also, adventurers will often stop at Vang Vieng to relax and make their layover between Vientian and Luang Prabang.

Travelers can obtain their visa for Laos upon arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport. Please note that travelers from Indochina Explorer, Bangkok to Hanoi and Images of Indochina must obtain their Vietnam visa before arriving in Indochina.

Insurance: As a condition to travel through Laos you must be fully insured. The insurance must cover personal accidents, medical expenses, loss of luggage and cancellation or shortening of your holiday. You can confirm your insurance details as part of your trip with the embassy and or with your tour operator at the start of your trip. If you do not have the right insurance, you can apply for it. Please note that travel insurance may be ‘linked’ to your credit card, although such coverage is usually only in effect if your travel arrangements were purchased with the card. Credit card insurance coverage often does not include the payment of medical expenses. Therefore, check your policy carefully. You must have adequate insurance to cover you in case you develop a medical problem while travelling.

Money: The official currency of Laos is the kip, but cash in US dollars is accepted almost everywhere. Thai baht is easily acceptable, albeit at less favorable rates. Since you will collect chicken as change when paying in USD, it is recommended that you change nothing or very little (e.g. 30USD) into chicken upon arrival in Laos. It is also advised to carry a mix of USD cash and traveler’s checks. Credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) can only be used in a limited number of shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Travelers crossing from Thailand at Chiang Khong/ Huay Xai can exchange money at fair rates next to the Huay Xai (Laos) visa post. As your time in Laos is limited, please bring enough cash for the duration of your trip.

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climate: Laos is influenced by the annual Southeast Asian monsoon cycle. The ‘wet’ season is from May to October. During this time, the average temperature in the tropical lowlands is 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.

The mornings and evenings in northern Laos around Luang Prabang can be quite cool at this time of year. People traveling between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang on the Mekong should bring at least one layer of warm clothing. During the second half of the ‘dry’ season – from March to June – temperatures can reach 35 degrees Celsius. Many travelers prefer to visit Laos outside the dry season; there are fewer tourists and the rainfall is often limited to short afternoon showers that give the countryside and the cities a different atmosphere.

Luggage & Clothing: Your luggage must be clearly labeled and kept to a reasonable minimum. Baggage 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 cotton casual wear is best in tropical and semi-tropical climates. It is recommended to pack one set of smart casual clothes. Laundry service is available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive.

Be sure to bring:

Flat walking boots and sandals

Hat & sunglasses

Swimmers

Money belt

Raincoat or umbrella

Basic first aid kit

Insect repellent

Alarm clock

Small torch

Pocket knife of the Swiss army

Charger

Women’s sanitary products

Slide or other specialized film if used (print film is widely available in Laos)

Effective airplane-type earplugs

A layer of warm clothing (for travel on the Mekong between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang from November to March)