LAOS : A BASIC TRAVEL INFO Print

 

Area                                                       236,000 Square kilometers

Comparing to the size of U.S. states         As big as Minnesota

Borders with                                          Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, China         

Population                                              6.5 million                                         

Time Zone                                               GMT + 7:00

Religions                                                 Theravada Buddhism, Animism

Government Type                                     Socialist

Capital                                                    Vientiane

Language                                                 Lao

Passport & Visa Formalities

A passport and visa are required. The Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that visas can be issued upon arrival in Laos to U.S. citizen tourists with two passport-size photographs with a fee and you have to  have 2 empty pages available in your passport.

You can also obtain a visa in advance from Lao Embassy. For the latest information on Lao visa and fees, please contact :

Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic,
2222 S St. NW,
Washington DC 20008,
tel: 202-332-6416,
fax: 202-332-4923,

http://www.laoembassy.com.

Weather & Clothing

Two monsoons set the rhythm of rural life in Laos. The cool, dry, north-eastern monsoon blows from November to March and brings little rain. From May to early October, the south-western monsoon picks up moist air from over the Indian Ocean, bringing strong winds, high humidity, and heavy rains throughout the country.

The weather is transitional between the seasons, but even during the wet season, it rarely rains in the morning. Most of the rain comes in afternoon. Visitors should be warned that roads in the northeastern regions in particular can become flooded during the rains. Travel in these areas should be avoided during the peak of the wet seasons.

Laos enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons:
Hot Season :    March – May
Rainy Season : June – October
Cool Season :   November – February

Rainfall and temperatures vary with location and elevation. The average annual rainfall is about 1,780 mm. Temperatures range from as high as 105° F in the Mekong lowlands during the hot season to as low as 60° F in the mountains during the cool season. Be sure to bring along a sweater or jacket if you intend to visit Laos during the cool season.

Health & Immunization

We strongly recommend having good health insurance and carrying a good first aid kit. In general there is a lack of international standard medical help and hospitals. For any major health problems we recommend going to Thailand.

The government of Laos does not require you to have any vaccinations except for cholera if you are coming from an infected area. Consult your doctor for recommended vaccinations.

Malaria
The best protection against malaria is to avoid being bitten in the first place: make sure to bring along mosquito repellent. Check with your physician about taking a course of anti-malarials. If it is considered necessary given your itinerary, you might need to begin before your trip and continue for a time after you return. The greatest risk of contracting malaria is between May and October at altitudes below 3,000 ft./ 1,000 m. There is no malaria in Vientiane or Luang Prabang.


Dengue fever, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes, is often mistaken for malaria. Its symptoms are severe pain in the joints, high fever, and extreme headache. Aside from avoiding being bitten altogether (this mosquito is active in daytime and is often a striped variety), there is no prevention available. Hospital treatment is urgently required.

The Centers for Disease Control provides an International Traveler’s Hotline offering recorded messages or faxes on current health risks. Call 877 394 8747 or visit cdc.gov/travel for suggested immunizations and food/ water precautions For other health-related inquiries, call 404 639 3534 (8 a.m. 4:30 pm EST)

Customs & Declarations

You must declare currency worth over US $2000.00. You also have to declare if you are bringing any antiques into Laos.

Money, Credit Cards & ATM

Currency
The local currency is the kip. The US dollar and the Thai baht are very popular alternatives that are widely accepted, especially for bigger purchases. It is not unusual to be quoted a price in kip, pay in US dollars and receive Thai baht as change.

You can exchange U.S. dollar and Thai baht at hotels, banks or any foreign exchange shop licensed by the Bank of Lao PDR.  


Credit Cards

Visa, Master Card are accepted in most of the hotels, tourist restaurants and big stores in city.

ATM

ATM machines are available only in Luabang Prabang and Vientiane. You can withdraw only local money Kip from the machine.  The Kip is useless outside the Laois, so make sure you exchange it back before you leave Laos.

Culture & Etiquette

As with all cultures everywhere in the world, there are some general rules of conduct that a traveler in Laos should follow. It is best to avoid the time around 11 a.m. when visiting a wat as this is when monks usually take their morning meal. Women should not attempt to shake the hand of a monk, hand anything to him, or sit beside him since monks are not allowed to touch women. When talking to a monk, try to keep your head lower than his.

When sitting down, feet should point away from the altar and main image. Arms and legs should be fully covered when visiting wats and shoes should be taken off before entering. A small donation is advisable, and it is appropriate to kneel down when giving it. In general pointing with the index finger is considered rude. Patting children on the head should be avoided, as it is the most sacred part of the body. The traditional form of greeting is with hands together, prayer-like, and with head bowed, as in most parts of Asia, but handshaking is done more frequently these days.

Miscellaneous

When you arrive at the airport or border

When you arrive at the airport or border, someone from our local supplier will meet you at the airport who will be displaying your name. You will be then transferred to your to hotel.  In case,  because of earlier or delayed flight, if you do not  see anybody to pick you up, then give a call to the local tour operator listed on the “Local Operator’s Contact Detail” which is in the information package you have received from us before you left U.S.

SAFETLY & SECURITY

Laos generally has a low rate of violent crime, but travelers should remain aware of their surroundings and exercise appropriate security precautions.

ELECTRICITY:

The electric current for the whole of Laos is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles.

Telephone, Ineternet & Wifi

International direct dialing is available, though limited. There are cyber cafes in the cities like Vientiane and Luabang Prabang. Wifi is avaialble in most of the hotel these days.

Shopping

If you are thinking of purchasing any products, which you cannot carry with you, then think twice before you purchase it. The salesman or guide may tell you that they would pay the shipping charges to your address. However, besides the shipping charge, you must understand that there are other charges involved at your end, which they may not be aware of, such as destination charges, custom clearance fees, warehouse fees and other fees. By the time, the product reaches your home; the chance is high that you will also receive a bill for all the other charges, which might be higher than the cost of product itself. So, unless you are very sure about these charges, shipping anything home is not suggested. 


TIPPING

Tips are accepted and very appreciated by tour guides and drivers, restaurants. Generally 10% of the bill while you eat out. 

Below is a general idea on tipping to guide and driver in the group size beween 2-5 people.  If there are more than 5 people in the group, a little more would be expectd. The mentioend tipping is to be divided by the number of people in the group.  The tips can be more or less depending on the services you get from them.

Tour Guide :  US$ 8 a day

Driver  :         US$  6 a day