Hot Air Balloon over Vang Vieng, Laos
Hot Air Balloon over Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is a small town north of Vientiane, on the Nam Song River in Laos. It's surrounded by striking limestone mountains and caves.
Photo by Yosi Bitran

LAOS

Asia

Laos Travel Information

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Key facts

Capital:

Vientiane (Viangchan)

Location:

Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Currency:

kips (LAK)

Area:

236,800 sq km

Population:

7,574,356 (July 2021 est.)

Languages:

Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages

Religion:

Buddhist 64.7%, Christian 1.7%, none 31.4%, other/not stated 2.1% (2015 est.)

TimeZone:

UTC+7

Tel Code:

+856

Weather

Laos is a landlocked country located in Southeast Asia, it has a tropical monsoon climate, with three main seasons:

  • the rainy season from May to October
  • the cool season from November to February
  • the hot season from March to April

Rainy season

The rainy season, from May to October, is characterized by heavy rainfall, high humidity, and flash floods in some areas. This is not the best time to visit Laos for those who want to enjoy outdoor activities or sightseeing, but it's a good time for those who want to experience the country's lush, green landscapes.

Cool season

The cool season, from November to February, is the most popular time to visit Laos. The weather is dry, mild, and comfortable, making it perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing. The skies are clear, and the visibility is good, which makes it a great time to visit the country's many temples and historic sites.

Hot season

The hot season, from March to April, is characterized by high temperatures and humidity. The weather can be quite uncomfortable, making it less favorable for outdoor activities or sightseeing.

In general, the best time to visit Laos is from November to February, when the weather is dry, mild, and comfortable, making it perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing. However, it's always worth checking the weather forecast for the specific regions you plan to visit, as the weather can vary depending on the location.

Transportation

Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, has a relatively underdeveloped transportation infrastructure, which can make getting around a bit of a challenge. However, there are still several transportation options available for travelers.

Bus

Buses are the most common and affordable way to get around Laos. They connect most major towns and cities, and are a good option for long-distance travel. However, the buses can be old, overcrowded, and in poor condition, and the roads can be in bad shape, so the journey can be bumpy and uncomfortable.

Mini-bus or Songthaew

Mini-buses and songthaews are a more comfortable option than regular buses and are available in most towns and cities. They are generally more expensive than buses but are a good option for shorter journeys.

Boat

Boats are an essential transportation option in Laos, especially when traveling through the Mekong River. There are many different types of boats available, from slow boats to speedboats, and they can be a great way to explore the remote areas of Laos and see the local way of life.

Tuk-Tuk

Tuk-tuks are a popular and convenient way to get around in Laos' towns and cities. They are relatively inexpensive and can navigate through traffic easily.

Motorbike or Scooter

Renting a motorbike or scooter is a popular option for travelers who want to explore Laos at their own pace. It's a great way to see the country's beautiful scenery, but it can be dangerous due to poor road conditions and lack of safety regulations. It's also important to remember that Laos drive on the right side of the road.

Train

There is no regular train service in Laos, but occasionally there are tourist trains that run between Vientiane and the Thai border, or between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. These trains are mainly for tourism and not for regular transportation.

It is important to note that transportation options may vary depending on the specific location you are visiting in Laos, and it's always a good idea to check the availability of transportation options before you travel.

Accommodation

Laos is a developing country, and as such, accommodation options can vary greatly in terms of quality, price, and location. There are several options available to travelers, including:

Hotels

Laos has a wide range of hotels, from budget guesthouses to luxury resorts. Prices vary depending on the level of comfort and service you require. In the main tourist areas, such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Vang Vieng, you'll find a good selection of mid-range and luxury hotels.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses are a popular and affordable accommodation option in Laos. They are generally small, family-run establishments that offer basic rooms and facilities. Guesthouses can be found in most towns and cities, and they are a great way to experience the local way of life.

Hostels

Hostels are a budget-friendly accommodation option and are more common in the main tourist areas and cities. They usually offer dormitory-style accommodation and shared facilities, and they can be a great way to meet other travelers.

Homestays

Homestays are a great way to experience the local culture and way of life in Laos. They are often located in remote or rural areas and offer a chance to stay with a local family and learn about their daily life.

Resorts

Laos has a growing number of luxury resorts, many of which are located in remote and scenic locations. These resorts offer a high level of comfort and service, and they are perfect for those looking for a more upscale experience.

Camping

Camping is an option for those who want to explore the remote areas of Laos. There are several camping sites in national parks and protected areas, but camping in the wild is not allowed.

It's important to note that accommodation options may vary depending on the specific location you are visiting in Laos, and it's always a good idea to check the availability of accommodation options before you travel.

Money

Money Tips for Travel

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans to avoid any potential issues with international transactions.
  • Bring a mix of cash, credit, and debit cards--and possibly a travel money card.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.
  • Make sure to have a backup option for accessing money in case your primary method doesn't work.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • NEVER accept currency conversion at ATMs! Always get your home bank to convert at much better rates.
  • Think about getting a Wise or other travel debit card; these can provide much better rates and some free ATM withdrawals.

ATM and Credit Cards

  • Research the availability of ATMs and credit card acceptance at your destination before you depart.
  • Keep your ATM card in a safe place and be mindful of your surroundings when using it.
  • Try to stick to using ATMs that are affiliated with major banks.
  • Keep your credit card information safe and secure, and be aware of potential scams.
  • Make sure your cards have the necessary security features, such as chip and pin.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.

Exchange Rates

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • Be careful of places that may offer to exchange money at rates that seem too good to be true.

Mobile

When traveling, getting mobile access is very important these days. If you are working remotely, wanting to update social media, or need to access your banks SMS authentication messages having a reliable service is a must. At WhereNext we recommend:

eSIM

Services such as those offered by our partner, Airalo, allow you to easily order and install an eSIM for different countries or regions that you are traveling in.

Dual SIM phone

If you have a phone that supports dual SIM's then you can get a SIM on arrival for each country, this is probably better done at a telco store rather than at the airport.

Extend your home plan

Depending on where you live and your mobile service provider you may be able to extend your plan to cover mobile roaming at reasonable rates.

Keep your primary SIM

With the amount of accounts we all have that require two factor authentication via SMS, keeping a constant number for these accounts is a must.

Community

There are several online communities and platforms that you can use to meet people while traveling, both for making new friends or for networking professionally. Some popular options include:

Facebook groups

There are many Facebook groups dedicated to connecting people while traveling, from expat groups and travel communities to groups specific to certain cities or regions of the country. You can search for groups based on your interests or location and connect with others who share similar interests.

Meetup

Meetup is a platform that allows you to find groups of people that share your interests in your local area. There are Meetup groups all around the world, and they cover a wide range of topics, such as language exchange, sports, and cultural activities.

Internations

Internations is a social network for people who live or work abroad. It has a large community of expats and organizes regular events, activities and gatherings that allow members to connect and socialize.

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with local hosts, who offer free accommodation and a chance to experience the local culture. It's a great way to meet locals and make friends!

Reddit

Reddit has a large community, and there are several subreddits dedicated to connecting expats and travelers. You can use it to ask questions, get advice, and connect with others who are also living or traveling in the country.

Linkedin

LinkedIn is primarily a professional network, but you can also use it to connect with people who work in the same industry or have similar backgrounds. It can be useful to connect with people before you arrive and establish a few professional contacts to help you get started.

At WhereNext, we use Nomad List as a global community and then research more local ones for our destination. These are just a few examples of online communities you can use to meet people; please suggest any others that you think are appropriate for this destination.

Insurance

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It covers a wide range of needs--even some you might not expect!

Medical Coverage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for medical expenses if you become ill or injured while traveling. This can include coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and emergency medical transportation. It's also a good idea to ensure that your travel insurance covers COVID-19 related illness and delays!

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Travel insurance can provide coverage if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unexpected events such as illness, weather, or travel bans. It can also provide coverage if your trip is delayed or if your travel provider goes out of business.

Lost or Stolen Luggage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for lost or stolen luggage, as well as personal items such as passports and electronic devices.

Emergency Assistance and Evacuation

Many travel insurance plans offer emergency assistance services, such as providing information on local hospitals and doctors, assistance with replacing lost or stolen documents, and help with arranging transportation in the event of an emergency. At WhereNext we have partnered with Global Rescue for evacuation services, which are highly recommended if you are undertaking dangerous activities or are travelling to dangerous parts of the world.

Liability coverage

Travel insurance can also provide liability coverage in case you cause an accident or harm someone while you are traveling.

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It can help cover the costs of medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost or stolen luggage, and more. It's always a good idea to review the coverage and compare the different options available before making a decision. At WhereNext we both use and have partnered with Safety Wing for general travel insurance.

Entry Requirements

Here are some general travel tips regarding entry requirements that apply across all countries:

Passport

Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in the country you are visiting. Some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport is set to expire within a certain period of time.

Visa

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if you need a visa. Some countries require a visa for entry, while others do not. Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance of your trip as the process can take several weeks. Check the latest Visa requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Health Requirements and COVID-19 Rules

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if there are any health requirements for entry. Some countries require vaccinations or proof of medical insurance. Check the latest health requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Travel Insurance

Consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if you are traveling internationally. Travel insurance can cover you in the event of trip cancellation, medical emergencies, and other unexpected events. Our travel insurance partner is SafetyWing. For dangerous activities and/or countries consider a rescue service like those offered by our partner, Global Rescue.

Customs

Be familiar with the customs and laws of the country you are visiting. Some countries have strict laws regarding drug possession, alcohol consumption, and dress codes.

Currency

Check the currency exchange rate and make sure you have enough local currency for your trip. Some countries may not accept credit cards or travelers cheques, so it is always good to have some cash on hand. At WhereNext we recommend use a Wise debit card, which provides low cost currency conversions and ATM withdrawals.

Research the country

Research about the culture, customs and laws of the country you are visiting. It will help you to understand the place more and also prepare you better for the trip.

Contact Information

Make a copy of your passport and keep it in a separate place from your passport. Also, leave a copy of your itinerary and contact information with a friend or family member at home.

COVID Status

I am vaccinated 
Laos Open
Test
Not required
Quarantine
Not required

Check Visa Requirements

      Things to Do

      Laos, also known as the "Land of a Million Elephants," is a Southeast Asian country known for its natural beauty, tranquil temples, and laid-back way of life. From exploring the ancient temples of Luang Prabang to trekking through the lush rainforests of the Bolaven Plateau, Laos offers a diverse range of activities for visitors. Here are the top things to do in Laos that will leave you mesmerized:

      1. Explore the Temples of Luang Prabang

      Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many ancient temples and monasteries. The town is a perfect blend of traditional and modern Laos, where visitors can explore the temples, visit the local markets, and experience the local culture.

      2. Take a Boat Trip on the Mekong River

      The Mekong River is a major river in Southeast Asia and is an important source of fish for the Laos people. Taking a boat trip on the river is a great way to see the local villages and learn about the unique way of life of the people who live there.

      3. Visit the Kuang Si Waterfall

      Kuang Si Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall located in the outskirts of Luang Prabang. The waterfall is a great place for swimming, picnicking and taking in the natural beauty of the island.

      4. Visit the Plain of Jars

      The Plain of Jars is an archaeological site located in the Xieng Khouang province, where visitors can see the ancient stone jars scattered over the plateau. The jars are believed to be from the Iron Age and are one of the most mysterious archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.

      5. Visit the Wat Si Saket

      Wat Si Saket is a Buddhist temple located in Vientiane. The temple is one of the oldest in Laos and is home to thousands of small Buddha statues.

      6. Visit the Vientiane Night Market

      The Vientiane Night Market is a lively market located in the capital of Vientiane. The market is a great place to buy local crafts, fruits and spices.

      7. Visit the Pha That Luang

      Pha That Luang is a Buddhist stupa located in Vientiane. The stupa is considered to be the most important national monument in Laos and is an important religious site for the Laotian people.

      8. Take a Cooking Class

      Laos cuisine is a delicious blend of flavors and spices, and taking a cooking class is a great way to learn more about it. Classes typically include a visit to the market to buy ingredients, a demonstration of the cooking techniques and a meal of the dishes prepared.

      9. Visit the COPE Visitor Center

      COPE Visitor Center is a museum located in Vientiane that provides information about the impact of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on Laos. The center aims to raise awareness about the issue and the ongoing efforts to clear the UXO.

      10. Visit the Xieng Khouang Province

      Xieng Khouang is a province located in the northeastern part of Laos. The province is home to many ancient temples and archaeological sites, as well as natural beauty, such as the Phu Khao Khuay National Protected Area, a limestone mountain range, and the Phonsavanh plain, where visitors can see the ancient jars.

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