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Welcome to Laos ! Officially known as the Lao PDR (People’s Democratic Republic), Laos is in Indochina, comfortably nestled between China to the north, Myanmar to the north-west, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south and Vietnam to the east. The mighty Mekong River enters Laos from China, meandering nearly 5,000kms through six countries (including 1,865kms through Laos), to exit through Vietnam. Laos is laid-back and exotic and the people are renowned for their welcoming hospitality and friendliness so you will feel ‘at home’. The rich variety of architecture is unique and the scenery is stunning. This relaxed, peaceful Buddhist country has a rich heritage, with forty-seven distinct local tribes.
Laos has a tropical climate with three phases:
March to May – HOT
We recommend light clothing and wear a hat.
June to October – RAINY
Although it does not usually rain continuously – suitable attire is required.
November to February - COOL
A jacket is usually only required in the evenings and nights, particularly in the north.
The local currency is Kip and there are approximately 9,500 kip to US$1 (2007). US dollars are accepted widely (have a supply of small denomination notes), as are Thai Baht. Travelers’ cheques may not be accepted everywhere. There are ATM facilities available in Vientiane. Credit cards are usually only accepted at major hotels and some up-market shops, but they may pass on the commission fee.
The current is 220 volts / 50 cycles - the power outlets are two flat parallel sockets
Laos is seven hours ahead of GMT and in the same time zone as Vietnam and Thailand.
PASSPORT – VISA
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after date of arrival in Laos. All nationalities (except some ASEAN countries) require a valid visa. If applying for a visa on arrival you will need two passport photographs. On request, we will be pleased to have your visa processed.
Border checkpoints are located at:
International airports at Wattay Airport, Vientiane, plus: Luangprabang and Pakse.
Vientiane via Mittaphab (Friendship) Bridge from Nongkai;
Houixay, Bokeo Province, from Chiang Khong;
Mouang Ngeun , Sayabouli Province (regional border only);
Namheuang, Sayabouli Province from Loei Province ;
Thakhek, Khammouane Province from Nakhon Phanom;
Vang Tao, Champassak Province from Ubolrajathani;
Savannakhet ,via second Lao Thai Friendship Bridge from Mukdahan
Boten, Luang Namtha Province.
Dene Savanh, Savannakhet Province;
Nam Phao, Borikhamsay Province(Laksao);
NamSoy Nameo, Huaphanh Province;
Namkan , Xiengkhouang Province;
Muangmai, Phongsali Province from Dienbien Phou
There is a departure tax of US$10 on international flights leaving Laos.
Remember that you will need to present your passport when you fly domestic routes.
Currently no vaccinations are required unless coming from a contaminated area. The usual immunizations for traveling in tropical areas are recommended, such as: typhoid, tetanus, polio, plus hepatitis A and B. Naturally you are recommended to carry an adequate supply of any regular medication you take. Don’t be tempted to deal with illicit drugs as there are severe penalties. Similarly, ‘liaisons’ between foreign males and local girls are against the law.
Apart from weather considerations, guests to our country are requested to dress in keeping with the situation: for instance, modestly when entering a religious place. Footwear should be removed when entering a temple (Wat) or private home. If sitting: refrain from pointing your feet forward, fold your legs with feet pointing toward your back.
January 1 – International New Year
March 8 – International Women's' Day
April 14 to 16 – Lao New Year
May 1– Labor Day
December 2 – Lao National Day
Celebrating Lao New Year can be exciting or annoying – depending on how you view being doused with water as you walk along some streets – at least the weather is warm!
February – Vietnamese Tet and Chinese New Year
Full moon in May – Rocket Festival (Bun Bang Fai) calling for rain
September- Boat races in river town in Luangprabang
October - Water Festival – boat races in river towns
November full moon – Bun Pha That Luang, week-long celebrations
A significant and integral part of Lao culture is the Baci Ceremony (also called Sookuan). This gentle ceremony is based on the belief that humans possess 32 “souls” which ensure each individual’s health and prosperity. In time, bad health or misfortune may interrupt the souls and the Baci Ceremony realigns them to the correct place in your body. The participants tie cotton bands around each other’s wrists, accompanied by wishes for good health and prosperity. Often accompanied by traditional music and dance, the Baci Ceremony is an important act in conveying hospitality and friendship between family and friends.
The variety of wildlife varies from wild elephants in the south at Champassak and in the north at Sayabouri to amazing white fresh-water dolphins in the south at Me Khong Island, the giant cat fish in the north and in the very remote areas there are still leopards and black bears, even tigers.
Our small, land-locked country is just 236,800 square kilometers with a population of 5.6 million people that includes 47 distinct ethnic groups, each with their own unique culture and style of clothing. Most provinces have their own traditionally cultural identity.
Local food is available wherever you go in Laos, alternatively (particular in the main towns) you can choose from a wide range, including: Italian, French, Chinese, Indian, etc. If you don’t like too much ‘heat’ or spice in your food, just ask for ‘mild’ – no problem. You can try tamahung (papaya salad), fue (noodle soup with meat and vegetables), keng (meat or fish soup) usually heated at your table, or laap (Lao salad with minced meat or fish). There are plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. If you are feeling really adventurous you could try ant’s eggs, or grilled grasshoppers – but it’s not compulsory! It is recommended that visitors do not drink the local tap water, stick to bottled water which is available everywhere for a few kip.
These include: carvings, silk, cotton, gold, silver, pottery, traditional musical instruments, jewelry, wicker ware and lots more. Look out for the inexpensive treasures lurking in the various shops packed with unique ideas for gifts or souvenirs to remember your visit to our small but diverse country.
The postal service is reliable but not renowned for its speed. The telephone network is of a high standard for local and international calls. There are many internet shops which offer their services at very low rates. Local newspapers are produced in Lao and English (week days) and French (weekly). Most hotels (not all guest houses) have television in their rooms, usually including reception from CNN and the BBC if you need to keep abreast of what’s happening in the rest of the world.
LAO Peoples Democratic Republic
The Republic Democratic Popular Party came to power in 1975. Executive power is held by the President who is elected for 5 years, he is assisted by the Prime Minister. Legislative power is guaranteed by the Constitution which is overseen by the National Assembly of 85 Representatives elected by the people.
The Lao language is somewhat fluid, some words that Lao would use between each other, we would not necessarily use when speaking to a falang (foreigner).
There are five basic dialects within Laos – which can be further divided into various dialects - but the most common is as it is spoken and written in Vientiane. All dialects are akin to language spoken in Thailand, northern Myanmar and parts of China.