LAOS GENERAL INFORMATION
International airport tax: US $ 10 per outgoing international passenger at
Vientiane Wattay airport, at Luang Prabang and Pakse airports.
Domestic airport tax: US $ 0.5 per outgoing domestic passenger at all domestic
Laos – 3rd edition 2003 – Asia Horizons – Pat Parisot and Vincent Marchand
Laos – 4th edition 2002 – Lonely Planet – Joe Cummings
Luang Prabang – 2001 – SEAMEO Regional Center for Archeology and Fine Arts –
Treasures of Luang Prabang – 2000 - Editions Routes de la Soie – H. Rattanavong,
B. Siripaphanh, M. Derepas and P. Gay
Petit Fute Laos - 1999 - Nouvelles Editions de l'Universite – Collectif
Laos – 1999 – Hirmer – Ann Helen and Walter Unger
Laos Handbook – 1998 – Footprint Handbook, Joshua Eliot and Jane Bickersteth
Treasures of Laos – 1997 - Editions Routes de la Soie – H. Rattanavong, B.
Siripaphanh, M. Derepas and P. Gay
Lao Textiles and Traditions – 1995 – Oxford University Press – Mary F. Connors
Laos can be visited throughout the year. However those planning to travel
extensively by road in the Northern part of the country and/or in the south of
the Boloven Plateau should avoid the last two months of the rainy season when
some countryside roads may be impassable.
Laos enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons. The dry or cool
season begins end of October and lasts until end of February (average 20-25° C).
Take along a pullover or jacket during the cool season, as nights can be cold,
especially in the mountainous areas such as Luang Prabang, the Plain of Jars,
Saravane and Houeixai (0-5° C). The hot season lasts from March to June,
light cotton clothes and hats are recommended (average 35° C). From June to
early October is the rainy season (average 25-30° C). Most precipitations come
in the afternoon and in the evening. Rainfall varies considerably from area to
area with the highlands in the Phou Louang range along Lao / Vietnam border
receiving the more precipitation (300+ mms per year). Vientiane average 150/200
mms per year and Luang Prabang 100/150 mms per year.
Visitors traveling between end of March and beginning of April should be aware
that in the mountainous areas, slash and burn cultivation causes smoke that
alters the weather. Domestic flights may also be delayed or cancelled.
CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE
The local currency is the KIP. Notes come in denominations of 100, 500, 1000,
2000, 5000, 10.000 and 20.000 Kips.
The rate of exchange as per the time of printing is approximately 10,450 Kip to
one US Dollar and 13,340 Kip to one Euro. In Vientiane, notes of most
international currencies can be exchanged either at banks or at licensed
moneychangers. Outside Vientiane, most provincial banks and licensed
moneychangers accept only US Dollars, Thai Bahts and sometimes Euros. Only major
banks accept traveler’s cheques. It is best to carry U.S Dollar bills in small
denominations. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels and up-market
shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
CUSTOMS AND FORMALITIES
Arrivals at Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse International airport are
generally rather casual events. Carry-on bags are usually not inspected if that
is all you have brought. For checked-in baggage, when claimed at counter,
passengers are sometimes required to declare if they have brought antiques and
silver items with them. Simple formalities should be observed also when entering
the country overland.
Passengers have to complete immigration and customs declaration forms during the
arrival flight or upon arrival and must submit these documents on arrival.
Discovery Indochina representative or guide will meet travelers at the exit
point in the arrival hall after immigration and customs clearance. Our
representative or guide will display a Discovery Indochina signboard with the
name of guests or group for easy recognition.
The electric current is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles.
Starting from July 2005, Lao Airlines operates domestic flights from Vientiane
Wattay airport on Turboprop ATR 72 for main domestic destinations such as Luang
Prabang, Houei Xay, Xiengkhouang, Oudomxay, and Pakse, and Y 12 Chinese
aircrafts for other domestic destinations such as Luang Namtha and Samneua.
From province to province, domestic flights are operated on Y 12. International
flights are operated either on Turboprop ATR 72.
Lao Airlines & Thai Airways International operate daily flights from / to
It is possible to fly daily from / to Hanoi, four times a week from / to
Ho-Chi-Minh City and six times a week from / to Phnom Penh with Lao Airlines or
Vietnam Airlines. Lao Airlines operates three times a week from / to Siem Reap
and Chiang Mai and twice a week from / to Kunming ( Yunnan, China ) , China
Eastern flies once a week from / to Kunming.
Eva Air flies from Taipei to Vientiane
twice a week .
Direct flights from / to Bangkok are operated daily by Bangkok Airways which
flies also five times a week to Danang. Lao Airlines operates three times a week
from / to Chiang Mai .
Thai Airways International flies twice a week Chiangmai
to /from Luang Prabang .
Lao Airlines operates directs flights three flights a week
from / to Siem Reap .
Baggage allowance on international flights and between Vientiane and Luang
Prabang is limited to 20 kg per person and 15 kg on other routes. Baggage can be
stored at hotels until return.
Domestic flights in Laos are prone to last minute schedule changes
and cancellation without ANY advance notice, especially during the peak travel
season of October through March. It is not uncommon for flights to be
delayed or even canceled once passengers have checked-in at the airport.
Discovery Indochina Laos makes every effort to keep clients informed about
flight timings, however, travelers must be reminded of the vagaries of air
travel due to local weather conditions, etc. Our offices will advise you of any
change affecting your itinerary and if required will book alternative travel
plans. These may be at a reduced or increased cost. Should there be an increase
in cost. Should there be a reduction in cost and a refund
will be considered if any.
Laos has abundant food supplies and their cuisine is simple and fresh.
Sticky rice is the staple of the Lao diet and food is enhanced by such spices as
lemongrass, hot chilly , peanuts, coconut milk and ginger. In addition to
Lao cuisine, the larger hotels also serve a wide variety of Continental,
Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. In the smaller cities, when the hotels only have
one restaurant, ordering a-la-carte may involve a slight wait, consequently it
is advised that you take advantage of the large and diverse buffets available at
these hotels to minimize any delay.
Never drink (or brush your teeth with) water from the hotel tap, no matter what
category of hotel you are staying in. Bottled mineral water is available at all
hotels throughout Laos. Do not have any ice in your drinks as this is
often made from water that has not been purified. The most popular
beverage in Laos is the domestically produced Beer Lao. Lao coffee, grown
in the fertile south of the country, is some of the best in the world.
All Discovery Indochina tours are based on full board arrangements with
Continental or American breakfast, lunch and dinner. For full day excursions or
overland journeys, picnic lunch can be provided if no adequate restaurants are
GENERAL ADVICE ON TRAVELING IN LAOS
Use an insect repellant against mosquitoes, especially when traveling up-country
and in forested areas.
Since Laos has a hot and humid tropical climate, casual and light clothing is
best all year round, preferably made from natural fibers. A sweater or jacket
may be useful in hill areas, particularly during winter months, when evenings
can be quite cold. A windproof jacket is essential when touring along Mekong
River during November to February. An umbrella or raincoat is recommended if
visiting the country during the monsoon months (June-September). A hat and a
high-factor sun block cream are advisable a protection against the hot tropical
sun when sightseeing outdoors. Shoes are generally removed at the entrance to
Color standard films (such as Kodak, Konica or Fuji) are available in the main
cities. But slide films, B/W films, video films and camera batteries as well as
any specialized photo or video equipment should be brought with you. Photography
and video in airports and near any military installations and government offices
are forbidden and discretion should be observed when photographing people
especially monks and hill tribes.
Useful, too, is a flashlight, for exploring caves or details of temples
interiors, which are often not properly illuminated.
An adequate supply of any essential medication should be brought along, as
certain medicines may not be available locally. A spare pair of eyeglasses or
contact lenses is also advisable. Extra personal insurance is recommended in
case of illness, or situations where medical evacuation by air is required, as
Laos hospitals are generally not up to international standards.
HOW TO GET TO LAOS
By air: Presently, Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse are the three
international airports where arrival / departure of international passengers is
Overland: The country can be entered or exited overland at the following
immigration checkpoints, which are open daily from 08.30 AM to 05.00 PM:
* Friendship Bridge from / to Nongkhai (Thailand) crossing Mekong
River by shuttle bus (from 06.00 AM to 10.00 PM)
* Houei Xay by crossing Mekong River by ferry from / to Chiangkhong
(Thailand) (from 08.00 AM to 06.00 PM)
* Thakek from / to Nakhon Phanom (Thailand) by ferry
* Vangtao from / to Chongmek and Ubon Ratchatani (Thailand)
* Savannakhet from / to Mukdahan (Thailand), actually by ferry. At the end
of 2006, the bridge crossing Mekong river will be completely
* Sam Neua ( Nameo) / Pa Hang on route N0 6 to Vietnam
* Nonghet, Xiengkhouang Province, from / to Nam Kan (Vietnam)
* Denesavanh from / to Lao Bao (Vietnam)
* Namphao, Borikhamxay province, from / to Lak Sao (Vietnam)
* Tong Kham /Chalo , route N0 12, which link Thakek to Vinh or Dong Hoi
* Attapeu/Kontum (Bo-Y border)
* Veunkham from / to Stung Treng (Cambodia) by boat
* Boten, Luang Namtha province, from / to Bohan and Mengla (Yunnan, China)
Laos is at the first stage for Internet global network. Following are the
Internet addresses, which provide relevant information on Laos
The official language of Lao PDR is Lao. It is spoken throughout the country as
well as the Vientiane’s dialect. In spite of the colonial past, French remains
the second language and English is in common use among business sectors and
young generations, even though they are not widely spoken except in the capital
and in major tourist sites such as Luang Prabang.
Laos runs at GMT + 7 hours, it lies in the same time zone as its neighbors
Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Working hours: Government offices are generally open Monday to
Friday from 08.00 AM – 12.00 PM, and from 01.00 – 04.00 PM. Shop and private
business offices open and close a bit later and usually stay open during
Discovery Indochina Laos opens from 08.00 – 12.00 PM, and from 01.30 – 05.30 PM
from Monday to Friday. On Saturday, we open only in the morning from 08.00 –
The National Biodiversity Conservation Area (NBCA) system was established in Lao
PDR in 1993. NBCAs are multi-purpose areas and not national parks in the
conventional sense. This means people live inside the NBCA and harvest some
animals and plants as rural livelihoods. There are 19 NBCAs in the whole
country. Currently the NBCAs have very different levels of access to foreigners.
There are many unique animals still found in Laos, but they are hard to see,
because they are still hunted. Several animal species are on the verge of
extinction. To slow these declines, do not buy or eat wildlife in the
restaurants and be very careful with fire especially during the dry season.
People living in the NBCAs often belong to minority ethnic groups. When
traveling in these areas, please dress modestly and respect local traditions. Do
not touch anything that may be of religious significance and always ask before
taking close-up portraits. Also do not give anything to the children and do not
give medicine but to a doctor or a nurse.
POST AND COMMUNICATION
The General Post Office (GPO) is located next to the Morning Market in
Vientiane. Its branches are available in the main cities and almost in all
the districts through the country. It offers postal services and public
telephone for local, national and international calls. In the major cities,
telephone card cabins are available for domestic and overseas calls. Phone cards
can be purchased at the shops nearby or at Lao Telecom Company. Most hotels in
the main cities have IDD lines but calls are expensive. Mobile phones are also
largely used in the main cities but roaming works only with Thai operators and
the coverage does not extend to the whole country. The normal mail service is
inexpensive and generally reliable. For urgent or valuable mail (either or
to /from Laos), it is advisable to use EMS or other courier service.
PASSPORT AND VISAS
Visas are required by all nationalities (subject to exceptions for local
neighboring people and ASEAN countries )
Visas can be obtained either from Lao Embassies and Consulates abroad or upon
arrival at following immigration checkpoints:
* Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse airports
* Friendship Bridge in Vientiane (opposite Nongkhai, Thailand)
* Houei Xay (opposite Chiangkhong, Thailand)
* Boten, Luang Namtha province (opposite Bohan, Yunnan, China)
* Nonghet, Xiengkhouang Province (opposite Nam Kan, Vietnam).
* Savannakhet (opposite Mukdahan, Thailand)
* Denesavanh (opposite Lao Bao, Vietnam)
* Vangtao (opposite Chongmek, Thailand)
* Namphao, Borikhamxay Province (opposite of Lak Sao, Vietnam)
* Thakek (opposite Nakhon Phanom, Thailand)
Important note: Travelers arriving from Cambodia overland at Veunkham
immigration checkpoint must have their Lao visa arranged and stamped prior to
arrival at the Laotian border.
The visa fee is US$ 30 per person, 2 passport photos are required for each visa
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2005 – 2006
FRI02 DEC Lao National Day
MON02 JAN International New year
THU08 MAR International Women Day
THU12 APR Lao New Year
FRI13 APR Lao New Year
SAT14 APR Lao New Year
TUE01 MAY Labor Day
If any of the holidays listed above falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the pre or
post working day might also be observed as a holiday.
Many handicrafts can be found at the common markets. The Morning Market (Talaat
Sao) in Vientiane is known for its superior silk weaving, metal work, and
woodcarving. The Central Market in Luang Prabang also offers a great variety of
souvenirs, from silk weaving, Sa paper handicraft, silver items, basketworks to
hill tribes’ costumes and jewelry. In Luang Prabang, traditional Hmong
embroideries are to be found at the ethnic market as well as at the night
market. Up market handicraft stores are available in Vientiane and Luang
Travelers should avoid purchasing antiques and other cultural pieces, such as
bronze drums or gongs and Buddha images. Since the export of antiques is subject
to the approval of Ministry of Culture, souvenirs may thus be seized when
leaving the country. If you travel in from a neighboring country and have
bought any antiques or silver pieces, when arriving in Laos, you are recommended
to declare these items to customs.
Bargaining is essential for all souvenirs shopping because most of
shops do not stick selling prices on
the items . Reduction may vary from 10-20%.
Silk and cotton are woven in different styles according to the techniques of
each province. The best place to buy is in the villages themselves, where
you can watch the weaving process and get wholesale prices.
The artisans produce well-crafted carvings in wood, bone and stone. Subjects can
be everything from Hindu and Buddhist mythology to themes from every day life.
Pipes seem to be plentiful in Laos and sometimes have intricately carved bone or
bamboo shafts, along with engraved ceramic bowls. To shop for carving, look in
antique or handicraft stores.
Please be aware that what may be described as authentic or valuable items
such as gems, high value antiques or carpets are often fakes or highly
overpriced. Several stores will offer you certificates of authenticity. In most
Local shopping is ALWAYS at the discretion of the traveler.
The Northern hill tribes and Luang Prabang people do some of the best silverwork
in Laos. Gems such sapphires and rubies are also sometimes available. However,
jewelry is generally not up to international standards and buyers should use
caution when purchasing gems.
Clients are NOT OBLIGED to visit any shops at the urging of the local guide or
drivers. We make every effort to remind guides that clients are not to be
pressured in any way regarding shopping.
Tipping is at the discretion of the client and is not required and obligatory .
For those clients traveling on a group tour your tipping for porterage and all
specified sightseeing is included. All of your guides have been fully pre-paid
and you are under no obligation to tip them. However, if you feel that
they have been particularly helpful and informative any tip you may wish to give
is at your discretion and will be in addition to the tips paid to them on your
Depending on the road conditions of each province, visitors are provided with
bus, minibus or car, most of the time with air-conditioning, for the excursions.
In the remote areas as well as in the Northern part of Laos where the road
condition is still poor, the transportation will be either by pick-up or
4x4 wheel drive and mostly non-air conditioned vehicles.
Yellow fever: Not obligatory if the travelers come from Europe
Japanese encephalitis: For long trips in rural area only
Hepatitis A: Vaccination is recommended
Hepatitis B: Vaccination is recommended
Rabies: Advisable if on a long or adventures trip
Tenatus – Poliomylitis: Check if your vaccination is
Typhoid: Vaccination is recommended
Malaria: The country is classified as a zone 3 countries:
Consult your doctor before your departure.