Home Contact  
You are here : Home - Laos Travel Guide

Today:

Laos Travel
Laos Tours
Laos Hotels
Laos Travel Guide
Cambodia Travel
Cambodia Tours
Cambodia Hotels
Cambodia Travel Guide
Vietnam Travel
Vietnam Classic Tours
Halong Bay Cruises
Mekong River Cruises
Vietnam Adventure Tours
Vietnam cycling Tours
Motorbiking tours
Honeymoon Tours
Beach Relaxation
Vietnam Package Tours
Sapa Package Tours
Vietnam Daily Tours
Kayaking & Diving Tours
Trekking Tours
Vietnam Special Tours
Incentive & M.I.C.E
Build your Trip
Vietnam Hotels
Hotels in Sapa
Hotels in Hanoi
Hotels in Halong
Hotels in Hai Phong
Hotels in Hue
Hotels in Danang
Hotels in Hoian
Hotels in Nha Trang
Hotels in Phan Thiet
Hotels in Dalat
Hotels in Saigon
Hotels in Can Tho
Hotels in Vinh
Hotels in Phu Quoc
Hotels in Ninh Binh
Hotels in Thanh Hoa
Hotels in Vung tau
Hotels in Chau Doc
Other Location
Vietnam Travel Guide
Hanoi Travel Guide
Sapa Travel Guide
Dien Bien Travel Guide
Halong Travel Guide
Hai Phong Travel Guide
Ninh Binh Travel Guide
Vinh Travel Guide
Hue Travel Guide
Da Nang Travel Guide
Hoian Travel Guide
Nhatrang Travel Guide
Dalat Travel Guide
Saigon Travel Guide
Phan Thiet Travel Guide
Chau Doc Travel Guide
Cantho Travel Guide
Phu Quoc Travel Guide
Ha Tay Travel Guide
Lang Son Travel Guide
Laocai Travel Guide
Mai Chau Travel Guide
My Tho Travel Guide
Myson Travel Guide
Backan Travel Guide
Tay Ninh Travel Guide
Tuyen Quang Guide
Vinh Long Travel guide
Travel Service
Vietnam Cars for Rent
Vietnam Train Tickets
Vietnam Flight Tickets
Vietnam Visa Services
Vietnam Hire tour guide
Travel information
Vietnam Travel Tips
Vietnam Travel News

 

Laos Travel Guide

 

Employment

Entry/Visas

Laos Hotels

Formerly one of three French Indo-Chinese states, Laos is slowly becoming a tourist hotspot. With the new and well-equipped Luang Prabang airport now catering to direct flight from Chiang Mai in Thailand this recent trend can only continue. While still not as developed as some of its Asian neighbours there has been a slow but steady build up of tourist related facilities and infrastructure. There are now enough amenities to make travelling to Laos accessible for non-adventure types but equally huge swathes of the country are untouched and visited by relatively few travellers. While there be sure to take advantage of this fact as Laos will not remain immune to the hordes of tacky tourist traps forever. It is no exaggeration to say that there has never been a better time to visit Laos.

There are some security risks to be aware of when travelling in Laos particularly concerning the Xaysombourne Special Zone, travel to and around this area is advised against. There is also a risk of banditry which is most pronounced in the north of the country. It is recommended that you only travel in rural areas during day light and the you exercise caution.

  • Currency: Laotian New Kip (Kp) = 100 cents

  • Time Zone: GMT + 7

  • Language: Laotion although French, English and Vietnamese are also spoken

  • Telephone Services: Country code +856, Direct dialling is not available

  • Emergency Numbers: Not present

Climate

Laos benefits from a relatively predictable and tropical climate, complete with the associated temperatures. There is a monsoon season between May and October and a dry season from November to April. Throughout the year expect hot weather with slightly chillier climates in areas of high altitude. Lightweight cotton clothes are advised with at least one sweater for travel to upland areas.

laos-weather

Things to see and do

The capital of Laos is the city of Vientiane, situated on the banks of the River Mekong the city is home to plenty of temples, shrines, monuments and markets. The biggest tourist attraction is probably the Wat Pha Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This 16th century former royal temple is now a museum and houses a collection of Buddha statues from throughout Asia. The other must-see temple is the Wat Sisaket which is the oldest temple in Vientiane. It also houses a museum of its own with a very modest entry fee off 1000 Kip, this is under 10p in British money. There is also a magnificent triumphal arch called the Anousavari Monument which was built in 1962 to commemorate the lives of people who died defending Laos. Also of interest is the Lao National Museum, the cultural hall and the forested enclave containing the Wat Sokpaluang temple.

The city of Luand Prabang is often quoted as the jewel of Laos. This tiny city houses just 16,000 inhabitants and has been virtually unaffected by the gradual creep of Western culture across Asia. The main tourist attractions are its literally dozens of historic temples. The Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Wisunlat temples are in particular worth visiting. Within half an hours drive are the Pak Ou caves which contain hundreds of Buddha images and the impressive Kuang Si waterfalls south of the city.

If you are looking for something a little different then you will no doubt be fascinated by the Laos "Plain of Jars". This area is situated in the Xieng Khuang province and is littered with enormous stone jars in five major groupings. These jars are of unknown origin but comparison with local rock indicates that they did not originate in the area. The most accessible site is Thong Hai Hin which is set up to deal with tourists and is also the site of the largest 6 and a half tonne jar.

Travel

There are only two methods of travel in Laos, along the river in a variety of boat tours ranging from standard ferries to speedboats or by road. River travel is somewhat expensive and the ferries are notoriously slow so most travellers opt for overland travel. Buses now link all of the provinces and major cities but the standards can vary dramatically from converted pick-ups right through to modern coaches. Services are run by private individuals and as a result there is no real central resource for information on bus routes. The best bet is to ask for advice from your hotel or hostel staff. Many people opt to hire a car in order to get around Laos, it is not recommended to drive yourself since the driving style is somewhat hazardous for those not used to it. However agencies such as Vietnam Horison Travel dot Com are able to supply hire vehicles with a local driver.

Accommodation

Tourist accommodation is somewhat sparse in Laos, in the major cities such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng there is a modest number of good hotels available. Elsewhere it can be difficult to find accommodation, there are generally a selection of village hostels and guesthouses but it is advisable to contact a tour operator with experience in Laos to help you arrange accommodation or simply for advice.

Recently the Laos governments has built "ecolodges" in Laopako, Nam Mgum and Luang Namtha in a bid to encourage eco-tourism to the country. These lodges are specially constructed to have as little impact on the environment as possible and are open to visitors all year.

Health

Outside of Vientiane healthcare is practically non-existent. Even in the capital the standard of treatments is basic at best and you will normally have to pay in cash before being treated. Costs of repatriation or air evacuation are extremely high and may be necessary should you require emergency medical treatment. For this reason it is essential that you have adequate travel insurance for the duration of your stay in Laos.

Vaccinations are recommended for typhoid and polio, these can be obtained from your local GP for around £40. Cholera is also present in the country and you should seek advice from your GP regarding relevant vaccinations. Malaria is also present in the country including strains resistant to chloroquine, you should seek your GP's advice on what anti-malaria treatment to carry with you.

The water is unsafe to drink and all water used for consumption or washing should have been boiled or otherwise sterilised before use. Dairy products are un-pasteurised and should be avoided. Fruits and vegetables should be washed, peeled and where possible cooked before consumption. Meat should be thoroughly cooked and where possible eaten hot.

Entry requirements

All visitors to Laos require a passport valid for at least 6 months after arrival in Laos. In addition all visitors require a visa for the duration of their stay. Tourist visas are available from your local Laos Embassy, Vientiane Airport, Luang Prubang Airport, Friendship Bridge or Savannakhet. Tourist visas are valid for 15 days and cost approximately £20, multiple entry visas are available from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. All further visa or immigration related enquiries should be directed towards your local Laos Embassy or consulate.

Addresses

There is currently no Laos representation in the UK, visa and immigration enquiries should be directed to:

Ambassade de la Republique Democratique Populaire Lao 
74 Avenue Raymond Poincaré 
75116 
Paris 
France 
Tel: +33 7 30 97 31 53
Fax: +33 1 47 27 57 89

There are no British Consular services in Laos but in an emergency British Nationals should contact the Australian Embassy:

Australian Embassy 
Rue J. Nehru Quartier Phonexay 
P O Box 292 
Tel: +856 21 413 600 
Fax: +856 21 413 601

Local tourist information can be acquired whilst in Laos at the National Tourism Authority:

National Tourism Authority of Laos People's Democratic Republic 
BP 3556 
Avenue Lang Xang 
Vientiane 
Laos 
Tel: (21) 212 248 
Fax: (21) 212 769.
 

Employment

Labelled the poorest country in South East Asia, Laos is a developing country whose people are very much integrated into traditional values of living and hospitality. Most who travel to this country in a gap year or otherwise generally do not do so with the intention of finding work. Employment is hard to come by and is unlikely to pay very well. Instead, people take part in the development process as volunteers teaching English, or go to Laos simply for the environment. Laos is a mountainous country and neighboured by Vietnam and China, many expedition organisations lead treks through these countries.

Paid Work

If you do find any paid employment in Laos it will be as an English teacher. Hourly rates can be as much as $7 (approx. £4.22), remember that there is a low cost of living in Laos. Teachers are often required to have a degree and TEFL qualification, so this type of work is not always suitable for those on a gap year before university. The main area to find such work as this is Vientiane where many colleges and schools employ English teachers.

Volunteering

Most teaching opportunities in Laos are more likely to be voluntary than paid as is the case in many developing countries. A lot of volunteer organisations operate throughout Asia offering teaching positions, but given Laos' low population, it is often missed out by such schemes. Nevertheless, asking around schools in Vientiane will very likely find you teaching work and although it is unpaid it is often very rewarding. Try Nita Kindergarden and Primary School, Lao International College, and JM International College, all in Vientiane. Most schools will provide you with food and very often accommodation. Gaining a TEFL qualification before you leave the UK will also be very much to your advantage.

VentureCo

VentureCo's 16-week programme combines aid projects with expeditions from Cambodia, through Vietnam, to Laos, and finally China. The first three weeks are spent in what is known as 'cultural orientation' consisting of visiting various places guided by a team who introduce you to the culture and traditions of the countries, and learning the Khmer language. The following four weeks consist of community aid work in Koh Kong, involving teaching and food distribution to underprivileged children. A 9-week expedition then follows taking you through Vietnam: Saigon, HoiAn, China Beach, and Hue City; Laos: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and the Mekong River, and finally China: Kunming, Lijiang, the Yangtze, Xi'an, Beijing, and finishing with a trek on the Great Wall of China. Programmes with VentureCo are self-funded and can cost you up to £5000, which includes travel, food, accommodation, transport, and fees for the activities themselves.

Pacific Challenge

Pacific Challenge arranges a 58-day expedition through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The nature and orientation of the trek is very much similar to that of VentureCo. However, Pacific Challenge is an American company and so departure is from Los Angeles, but if you are planning on travelling to the USA first you could always combine the two expeditions. In 2004 the expedition to Laos departs on September 18th and will cost $4950.

Top

Laos Religion

Laos has a rich cultural heritage with religious art and architecture forming the cornerstone of artistic traditions. There exists across the country a plethora of distinctive monuments and architectural styles. One of the most notable structures is That Luang, the great Sacred stupa, in Vientiane. It's dome like stupa and four-cornered superstructure is the model for similar monuments across Laos. Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many stupas are said to house sacred Buddha relics (parts of Buddha's body).

Generally, Hiragana Buddhists cremate the dead body then place the bones in the stupa, which are set around the grounds of temples. Different styles of architecture are evident in the numerous Buddhist wats. Three architectural styles can be distinguished, corresponding to the geographical location of the temples and monasteries. Wats built in Vientiane are large rectangular structures constructed of brick and covered with stucco and high-peaked roofs. In LuangPrabang, the roofs sweep very low and unlike in Vientiane, almost reach the ground. These two styles are different from the wats of Xiengkhouang where the temple roofs are not tiered.

Lao religious images and art is also distinctive and set Laos apart from its neighbors. "The Calling for Rain" posture of Buddha images in Laos, for example, which depicts the Buddha standing with his hand held rigidly at his side, fingers pointing to the ground, can not be found in other South East Asian Buddhist art traditions.

Religious influences are also pervasive in classical Lao literature, especially in the Pha Lak and Pha Lam and the Lao version of India's epic Ramayana. Projects are underway to preserve classic Lao religious scripts, which were transcripts onto palm leaf manuscripts hundreds of years ago and stored in Wats.

Another excellent example of the richness of Lao culture is in its folk music, which is extremely popular with the people throughout the whole country. The principle instrument is the Khaen, a wind instrument, which comprises a double row of Bamboo-like reeds, fitted in a hardwood sound box. The Khean is often accompanied by a bowed string instrument or saw. The national folk dance is the lamvong, a circle dance in which people dance circle around each other so that ultimately there are three circles: a circle danced by the individual, another one by the couple, and a third one danced by the whole party.

Top

Laos History

Laotian Kingdoms
In 1353, after Laos had first been ruled by Khmers from Angkor, then by Thais from Sukhothai, Prince Fa Ngoum founded the Kingdom of Laos or "Lane Xang", as it was called at the time, as a sovereign state. It extended over present-day Laos as well parts of what is now North Thailand. The first capital of Laos was Luang Prabang. King Fa Ngoum made Buddhism the national religion.
In the 15th century the Vietnamese temporarily occupied the Laotian Kingdom and Luang Prabang.
In the 16th century Vieng Chan (Vientiane) developed into a parallel capital of the Laotian Kingdom. Burma, the dominant power in Southeast Asia in the16th century, gaining strong influence over Vieng Chan. Nevertheless, in 1563 King Setthathirat made Vieng Chan the official capital of Laos.
In 1575, the Burmese occupied Vieng Chan and stayed for seven years.
After two parallel Laotian kingdoms had developed in Luang Prabang and Vieng Chan, they were reunited in 1591 under King Nokeo Koumane.
In 1700 Laos broke up into three kingdoms: Luang Prabang, Vieng Chan and Champassak to the South.
After the Siamese capital Ayutthaya had been conquered and sacked by Burmese armies, Laos, in 1767, again fell under full Burmese rule. But after only a few years the Siamese kingdom, with its new capital Bangkok, grew stronger and Laos again had to obey Siamese overlords.
In 1827 the Laotians under King Anou rebelled against the Siamese but were soon defeated. The Laotian state disintegrateed.

Colonial Times
In 1868, after having annexed South Vietnam as a colony and having turned Cambodia into a French protectorate, the French sent an initial expedition to Laos to investigate the Mekong trade route to China.
In 1886 France received permission from Siam largely ruling Laos to install a vice consulate in Luang Prabang. In 1887, Siam, anticipating French expansion, vacateds large parts of Laos.
In 1893 France declared the Mekong the official border between Laos and Siam. Might is right; Siam accepts the unilateral decision of big-gun France. Laos officially became a French protectorate.
However, France had only limited interest in her new possession. Paris sent Vietnamese officials to Laos to set up an administration but did little to develop the Laotian economy.
In September 1940, after France was invaded by Germany, Japanese troops occupied Indochina without meeting any resistance.
Officially the word was that the French colonial power left all military installation for the Japanese troops to use; in exchange the French colonial administration remained in office. Therefore the years of World War II brought less destruction to Laos than, for instance, to the fiercely contested Southeast Asian states of Burma and the Philippines.
In East Asia, World War II ended August 14, 1945, with the capitulation of Japan. Subsequently, France tried to re-establish herself as a colonial power in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
On September 1, 1945, Laos declared its independence. France refused to accept this, and retaliated by sending troops into Laos. A guerilla war against the French colonial power started.

Independence
On July 19, 1949, France formally granted Laos independence. For almost three decades, from 1949 to 1975, the political situation in Laos was highly confusing. Three factions struggled for power: 1. Conservatives, commanding, among other forces, a 30,000-men army of the Hmong (Meo) hill tribe; 2. Neutralists, organized by Prince Souvanna Phouma; 3. Communists, lead by a feudal prince, Souphanouvang (a contradiction Marx had not anticipated).
The civil war among the three rival factions was, however, not fought as fiercely as the civil wars in Vietnam or Cambodia. Several times in three decades coalition governments were formed, including all three factions. The neutralists usually led the coalitions.
From 1964 to 1973 the US fought a secret war in Laos against Laotian communists as well as North Vietnamese troops channeling war material to the Vietcong in South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Min Trail through Laos.
After the US forces began their retreat from Indochina in 1973, the right-wing government in Vientiane was replaced by a coalition government of neutralists and the communist Pathet Lao.
In 1975, after communist troops conquered the capitals of Vietnam and Cambodia, the communist Pathet Lao gained sole power in Laos. While in Laos, too, parts of the population were detained in re-education camps, there wasn't the kind of revenge as in Cambodia. Former neutralist Premier Minister Souvanna is not even arrested, just demoted in rank to government advisor.
In the following decades Laos cultivateed a close relationship with Vietnam. The most powerful man in communist Laos, General Secretary of the Revolutionary Party of the People, Kaysone Phomvihan, is half Laotian and half Vietnamese.
In March 1991, at the fifth congress of the Revolutionary People's Party, far-reaching changes of the economic structure of the country were decided. As in China and Vietnam, private business, free-market competition and foreign investment are permitted in order to accelerate the economic development of the country. However, as in China and Vietnam, political leaders are not inclined to share power in a multi-party system.

Top

Laos Culture

Laos has a rich cultural heritage with religious art and architecture forming the cornerstone of artistic traditions. There exists across the country a plethora of distinctive monuments and architectural styles. One of the most notable structures is That Luang, the great Sacred stupa, in Vientiane. It's dome like stupa and four-cornered superstructure is the model for similar monuments across Laos. Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many stupas are said to house sacred Buddha relics (parts of Buddha's body).

Generally, Hiragana Buddhists cremate the dead body then place the bones in the stupa, which are set around the grounds of temples. Different styles of architecture are evident in the numerous Buddhist wats. Three architectural styles can be distinguished, corresponding to the geographical location of the temples and monasteries. Wats built in Vientiane are large rectangular structures constructed of brick and covered with stucco and high-peaked roofs. In LuangPrabang, the roofs sweep very low and unlike in Vientiane, almost reach the ground. These two styles are different from the wats of Xiengkhouang where the temple roofs are not tiered.

Lao religious images and art is also distinctive and set Laos apart from its neighbors. "The Calling for Rain" posture of Buddha images in Laos, for example, which depicts the Buddha standing with his hand held rigidly at his side, fingers pointing to the ground, can not be found in other South East Asian Buddhist art traditions.

Religious influences are also pervasive in classical Lao literature, especially in the Pha Lak and Pha Lam and the Lao version of India's epic Ramayana. Projects are underway to preserve classic Lao religious scripts, which were transcripts onto palm leaf manuscripts hundreds of years ago and stored in Wats.

Another excellent example of the richness of Lao culture is in its folk music, which is extremely popular with the people throughout the whole country. The principle instrument is the Khaen, a wind instrument, which comprises a double row of Bamboo-like reeds, fitted in a hardwood sound box. The Khean is often accompanied by a bowed string instrument or saw. The national folk dance is the lamvong, a circle dance in which people dance circle around each other so that ultimately there are three circles: a circle danced by the individual, another one by the couple, and a third one danced by the whole party.

 

Customized tours | Terms & conditions | Privacy policy | FAQs | Travel News | Link exchange

©  Vietnam Travel Channel