Laos’ slogan, “Simply Beautiful,” comes across as much too humble. Still relatively untouched by mass tourism, Laos will give travelers the opportunity to enjoy its natural splendor as an explorer might. From the likes of the amazing Kuang Sy waterfalls to the sleepy ruins of Vat Phou, Laos not only shows off its natural beauty, but a deep and storied cultural history, as well. Night markets, a cave full of Buddha statues, and special dancing ceremonies will draw your travelers into the heart of this vibrant country.
Champassak is a small town situated in southern Laos, almost 40 km to the south of Pakse. Champasak was once, 1400 years ago, the centre of power in the lower Mekong basin, later a revered outpost of the Khmer Angkor empire and later still one of the three kingdoms to rule over the remains of Lane Xang.
Vat Phou, the ancient Khmer temple complex, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the main attraction in the area, but there is much more to be discovered. It is worth staying in the charming town of Champasak where you can discover French colonial buildings, Buddhist temples, or simply enjoy an evening in the Shadow Puppet Theatre.
Muang Ngoy is a small riverside village in Northern Laos where it remains a low-key destination in a stunning location. Hidden on a plain beside the river Nam Ou, which is one of the rivers which have the most fish, there are approximately 1000 inhabitants which make it one of the largest villages in the region. Accessible only by river, Muang Ngoi is very much appreciated by visitors looking for tranquility, serenity and peace.
Muang La is a small charming town in the heart of northern Laos in Oudomxay Province, With only around 1,000 inhabitants, the village has maintained its local character and culture, and there are also a number of different hill tribe villages dotted throughout the rolling green hills, a wonderful place to learn about Laos’ ethnic minorities, with Akha, Hmong and Ikhos tribe villages located in the surrounding mountains. This area is brimming with natural beauty and charm, ideal for a peaceful holiday.
150km up north Luang Prabang on the road # 13, the peaceful village of Nong Khiaw (also called Mouang Ngoi Khoua) has itself Pristine river beauty, dramatic landscape changes, unrivaled karst scenery. This village is about 4000 inhabitants, and developed around the bridge that straddles the Nam Ou River, one of the most historically pure rivers of Laos and home to fish and crayfish reputed in the region. The karst landscapes where the rocky peaks abound are beautiful. You will find a relatively unspoiled nature, waterfalls, and a river Nam Ou where fishing is obviously practiced, and a great place to experiment kayaking.
Luang Prabang is the ancient, capital city of the Lane Xang Kingdom. In recognition of the city’s vast array of Lao monuments, countless monasteries, and its historic and cultural significance, UNESCO declared all of Luang Prabang a World Heritage Site in 1995. The city itself is located at the meeting point of the Khan and Mekong Rivers and is surrounded by deep green hills and waterfalls. The view over dozens of temple rooftops from the hill in the center of town, at sunset, will undoubtedly be an unforgettable memory of Southeast Asia. Moreover, Luang Prabang provides many opportunities for unique cultural experiences, as well as adventure for all levels of explorers, all nestled in a picturesque landscape of mountains and lush forest.
My Dream Boutique
Gems of Laos
Located in the northern part of Laos, Luang Namtha shares borders with Myanmar and China. The province is mountainous and home to several ethnic minorities, giving travelers great trekking and cultural contact opportunities. The various ethnic groups – Khamu, Akha, Hmong, and Yao (Mien), Tai Lue, Thai Neua and Thai Dam – tend to live in villages just outside the protected areas and the historic town of Muang Sing. Luang Namtha also boasts picturesque and numerous ancient temples.
Part of the Khammounane province, located approximately 3 hours from the capital, the Hinboun Valley is renowned for its karstic mountain formations stretching as far as the eye can see, and boasts one of the most splendid natural landscapes in Laos. Divided by the River Hinboun, from which its name is derived, the region is, first and foremost, exalted for its impressive ‘Konglor Cave.’ With 8 kilometres of galleries, which can only be reached by boat, and some of which are 80 meters high in places, visiting Konglor feels, and indeed is, more like a genuine exploration of the unknown than a mere touristic “cave tour.”
Immersion in Laos
The former French administrative outpost of the Champasak province is located right at the meeting point of the Mekong and the Sedon Rivers. From Pakse, you can travel through the lush, fertile Boloven Plateau and discover the cultivation of rice, coffee, cardamom, and bananas, as well as several spectacular waterfalls, including the 120-meter-high Tat Phan cascade. Travel another 46 kilometers south of Pakse to visit Vat Phou, one of the most important sights in Laos. Literally meaning “Mountain Temple,” Vat Phou is a multi-level structure built along the slope of the adjacent mountain, dating back to the Angkor period from the 9th to 13th century CE. The upper platform of the temple affords a wonderful view of the Mekong plains – one that simply shouldn’t be missed.
Cycling trek in southern Laos
Gems of Laos
La Folie Lodge
Located in the northeastern region of the Champasak Province in southern Laos, the Bolaven Plateau has an impressive altitude ranging from 3380 and 4430 feet. Its name refers to the Lavaens ethnic group, who used to inhabit the region. Nowadays, the Plateau welcomes many ethnic communities, such the Alak and Tahoyor Suay. Enjoying a temperate climate and very fertile soil, the Plateau is renowned for its tea and coffee plantations; the latter produces coffee that’s considered one of the finest types worldwide.
Cycling trek in southern Laos
The capital city of Laos, with 750,000 inhabitants, Vientiane is located on the left bank of the Mekong River, which marks the border with Thailand. Often considered the ‘largest village in Asia,’ Vientiane is, in fact, not a major touristic site. Its attractions are mostly Buddhist monasteries and a few monuments from the French colonial era, such as the famous Patuxai, popularly called Vientiane’s “Arc de Triomphe”.
Gems of Laos
Peaceful Laos just for 2
Located in northern Laos, the province of Xieng Khouang is host to beautiful landscapes of lush, green mountains and karst limestone, but the main attraction in Xieng Khouang is doubtlessly the jaw-dropping Plain of Jars. Stone jars of various sizes, mysterious and apparently carved out of solid rocks, are scattered all over the plateau, with the biggest one reaching a staggering height of 3.25 meters. Researchers have long speculated as to the function of the stone jars, which are estimated to be 2,500 to 3,000 years old, but debate still rages to this day, making it all the more mystical to wander among the jars of giants.
Located at the country’s southernmost point, the Si Phan Done region – literally “the region of the four thousand islands” – is a series of islets on the Mekong River. The river indeed spreads over more than 14 kilometers in width at this point, forming a river archipelago and branches, before flowing into the Khon Phaphenga Falls at the Cambodian border. Two islands -Khong Island and Don Khon Island -enjoy greater notoriety, due to their size and the hotel offerings exclusively centered there. The entire region also offers magnificent landscapes to be discovered aboard a local wooden boat or on a trek over the Khong Island. This region is even home to freshwater dolphins, which will certainly add a touch of exoticism and whimsy to your trip.
Immersion in Laos
Serenity and wellness in Laos
Still almost entirely unknown to tourism 10 years ago, this small, traditional village, nestled on the left bank of the Mekong River, has become a wildly popular destination. Halfway between Huay Xai (located on the Northern border with Thailand) and Luang Prabang, Pakbeng offers travelers on river cruises the opportunity of spending a night on the banks of the mythical Mekong River. The town is currently being connected to Oudomxay by road, making it easier than ever to explore this extreme, northern region of Laos, where many ethnic communities live.
Le Grand Pak Beng
Capital city of the Khammouane province, Thakhek is located in south-central Laos, halfway between Vientiane and the Champasak provinces. Formerly an important administrative and trading platform under French occupation, Thakhek still boasts the remains of former colonial houses and wide avenues typical of this era, which make it a big draw for architecture and history lovers. In addition to this, its geographic location makes it a necessary stopover for travelers looking to discover the central-southern region of Laos by land.
Immersion in Laos
Located on Route 13, between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, and right on the banks of the River Nam Song, the Vang Vieng region and the karstic mountain ranges surrounding it offer splendid landscapes to admire. Enjoying a strong potential in terms of adventure tourism (kayaking, rock-climbing, trekking), Vang Vieng is a very popular destination with true ‘backpackers,’ and in the last few years, has become a party destination, renowned across Southeast Asia. The city itself is dotted with bars and other party venues, where alcohol abounds. Vang Vieng is therefore a destination reserved for travelers running between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and searching for wild and carefree adventure set among beautiful, exotic landscapes.
Neighbor: Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.
Area: 236 800 km²
Population: 7,014,451 (January, 2019)
Ethnic groups: 55% Lao, 11% Kamu, 8% Hmong, 26 % Others
Official Religion: Buddhism (67%)
Spoken Language: Lao or Laotian is a tonal language of the Tai–Kadai language family. It is the official language of Laos, and also spoken in the northeast of Thailand, where it is usually referred to as the Isan language.
Currency: Kip ($1 = 8,867.07 Laotian Kip – January 2020)
VISA & TRAVEL PERMISSIONS
Getting a Laos visa has just become even easier. As well as getting a visa for PDR of Laos through usual channels at embassies or consulates, travelers of most nations can obtain their Laos visa upon arrival at the international airports of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet, as well as at various border crossing points with neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China.
Travelers holding passports from the following countries are not eligible for a Laos visa on arrival: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bussau, Jordan, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Syria, Swaziland (Eswatini), Tonga, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Passport holders from these countries need to apply for a Laos visa at the embassies prior to their visit.
Passport holders from Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Luxembourg and Switzerland can enter Laos with a visa exemption.
There are 3 options to choose from to obtain a visa for Laos:
The processing time for the visa is 3 working days and it can be used to enter 5 international ports (https://laoevisa.gov.la/):
The Laos eVisa fee is non-refundable.
Time for delivery: between 10 and 40 minutes, depending on the number of people requesting it.
Please note that on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) and Laos’ public holidays, $1 is added to the fee.
TRAVELING WITHIN LAOS
International Airport-Laos has 4 international airports.
Domestic airport: there are some popular airports for domestic routes such as Houai Xay, Oudomxay, Luang Namtha, Xieng Khouang, Xayabury where regular flights from Vientiane Capital are operating.
There is no direct route from Europe to Laos.
Baggage allowance on domestic flights with Lao Airlines is limited to 20 kg. Each passenger can carry onboard a free baggage allowance (one piece for Economy class passengers). Each piece has a maximum weight of 7kg and the sum of three dimensions shall not exceed 115 cm (30 cm x 60 cm x 18 cm) or (12 x 24 x 7 inches). Airlines companies may refuse to carry unchecked baggage and may require the passenger to check their baggage if it exceeds the quantity, weight and dimensions as specified above.
The domestic airport tax and the international airport tax are included in the air ticket and don’t need to be paid at the airport when checking in.
TRANSPORT & TRANSFER IN LAOS
Because of its mountainous topography and the lack of development, the infrastructure in Laos is generally less developed than in neighboring countries but it has some reliable transportation routes which link Northern Laos with Central and Southern Laos.
The Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers are the popular natural channels suitable for large-draft boat transportation. Laotians in lowland villages located on the banks of smaller rivers have traditionally traveled in pirogues for fishing, trading, and visiting up and down the river.
As a result of ongoing improvements in the road system which started during the early 1990s, more and more roads are being constructed or renovated to reach the country’s development request and the need of local people.
Some local methods of transportation are the tuktuk, Songthew or Samlor (3 wheel motorbike) but there are also many places to rent a bicycle or motorbike. Taxi services are not popular and quite expensive in Laos.
Other modes of travel, such as minivan, bus, air and cruise trips, are available for long journeys.
Since Laos has been attracting more and more tourists in recent years, new and better transfer methods have increased significantly. Besides travelling by air, Easia Travel can arrange further kinds of transfers as detailed below:
A cruise trip on the Mekong River from Houai Xay to Luang Prabang via Pakbeng (02D/01N) (03D/02N upon request) is a popular route for travelers. There are different choices for your budget, from local cruise to luxury one.
Other short trips by local boat are: boat on Nam Ou river (from Muang Khua to Muang Ngoi or Nongkhiaw), boat on Nam Song river (in Vang Vieng), boat from Don Khong to Don Khone (in 4000 island area)… These are also very popular and highly appreciated.
There are 2 suppliers who provide overnight cruises on the Mekong River
You can contact your tour operator to get further information on departure times and tour details.
Tuktuk: TukTuk is one of the most popular means of transportation in Laos. This is also a tourist’s favorite way to discover the city or for a short transfer.
When visiting Laos, there are some customs and beliefs that travelers should be aware of before coming to the country in order to avoid offending any of the locals.
Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind while visiting:
Laos’ currency is called KIP, pronounced “kip”. Bills that represent Kip are broken down into 500; 1000; 2000; 5000; 10 000; 20 000; 50 000 and 100 000 KIP denominations. Please be aware that the KIP is a non-convertible currency and cannot officially be exchanged abroad. The official exchange rate in Laos is around 8,512.70 Laotian Kip for USD 1 (January 2019).
Foreign currencies such as US Dollars, Euros, Thai Baht, Australia Dollars are popularly accepted in Laos to be exchanged into KIP and tourists are entitled to exchange money easily at the current market rate at the banks, airport or at any licensed money changer. The presentation of your passport is sometimes requested. Please ask your tour guide for assistance in case you need.
It is advised to bring new and undamaged bills. Exchange places and banks recently started to charge 15-30% to deal with damaged/old/stamped bills. Also, exchange rates can vary depending on your denomination.
CREDIT CARDS AND ATMS
The network of ATM machines covers the most visited cities in Laos by tourists and business travelers. The maximum amount per withdrawal is 1,500,000/time and maximum 7,000,000/day. The ATMs can charge a fee of 25 000 KIP (subject to change) or equivalent for each transaction. Some visa cards are restricted by the issuing bank for overseas use and therefore, customers may require seeking the approval of the issuing bank in order to do so.
Credit cards are widely accepted by local suppliers in big cities (such as Luang Prabang and Vientiane), usually high-end hotels or shops, however, they usually entail a 2.5-3% surcharge. In others, the use of cash is more popular and recommended.
Traveler checks are rarely accepted by local suppliers so we do not recommend you to use it in Laos.
In Laos, you are expected to bargain. Do so freely but respectfully. Keep a smile on your face, be realistic about the expected discount and if the vendor does not reach your final price do not push him or her too hard.
Tipping was unknown in Laos until tourists started coming to the shores. These days, people such as boat men, drivers, and hotel-restaurant staff have grown accustomed to get a tip from tourists. The same goes for tour guides.
Sometimes, when visiting pagodas and monasteries, you might be asked to make a donation. It is up to you whether to do or not. The people of Laos are usually generous to the extent their finances allow. The amount depends on you but it might be around 10,000 – 20,000 KIP.
Here is a general rule of thumb for tipping:
Any time you bring in over 2,000 USD, you are required to declare the currency to Laos officials, however, many people do not. If you bring any expensive electronics or other equipment, it is best to declare these items when you enter the country just in case they are lost or stolen (very rare) during your trip. You may bring up to two bottles of liquor, a bottle of perfume, 2 cartons of cigarettes and 100 cigars. You must be at least 17 years of age to proceed through customs.
The export of playing cards or other gambling equipment, antiques, and anything to do with archaeology or pornography, is prohibited. Furthermore, Laos does not allow the export of any of its currency when leaving the country. You may enter and exit with as much foreign currency as you like, but you must declare it (if over 10,000 USD). Be sure to keep track of all your expenses with receipts wherever possible to avoid being accused of black market activities when you return home.
You are not allowed to export ANY of the following items: old coins, fossils, jewelry or precious stones (unless through a certified purchase), bronze or brass, antiques, wooden art over 24 inches tall or wide, frescoes or inscribed stones, any sort of national paraphernalia.
You are not allowed to export ANY of the following items: old coins, fossils, jewelry or precious stones (unless through a certified purchase), bronze or brass, antiques, wooden art over 24 inches tall or wide, frescoes or inscribed stones, any sort of national paraphernalia. It is also forbidden to purchase elephant and rhino ivory, tiger bones, bear paws, pangolin scales, and other souvenirs or products made from protected animal parts.
If you travel to Laos, make sure that all of your vaccinations are up to date and that you are vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria. Other vaccines recommended include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (if you are in-country for over 3 months), Typhus and Tuberculosis, vaccinations against rabies and Japanese encephalitis are also advised. Officially there are no vaccinations required to enter Laos.
Your home embassy may be able to assist with advice during emergencies or serious problems. You might want to register if possible before you arrive so that the embassy staff will know where to reach you in case of emergency at home. If calling a Lao emergency number you may have to ask the aid of a Laotian speaker because there might not be an English-speaking operator on the line:
Fire department: 191
Red Cross: (01) 392029 / 30
12 - 18 February
The Elephant Festival is a celebration of cultural and traditional ties between Lao communities and elephants, as well as a way to raise awareness of their endangered status. The Elephant Festival is a free, all-ages event with incredible activities like a majestic elephant procession, attended by up to 100 elephants, a traditional elephant Baci ceremony, vibrant fruit and flower offerings, monks’ blessings, mahout (guardian) and elephant shows, live performances from local Lao and foreign artists, a night market, and even an outdoor elephant museum.
06 - 08 February
Wat Phou Champasack is the most famous Hindu temple complex built in Laos under the Khmer Empire, which dominated much of Southeast Asia throughout the 10th-14th centuries. Five years ago, Wat Phou was certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In recent years, with the help of many international organizations and neighboring countries, the complex has enjoyed nearly constant renovation and preservation, aimed at keeping what is left of the existing structure from collapsing.
13 - 16 April
Pi Mai Lao, held during the Lao New Year, is one of the most important dates in the Lao calendar. As well as being a truly joyous time, Pimai Lao has become synonymous with the celebration of Lao identity, of family bonds, and an opportunity to reflect on the year ahead.
April 13th, the last day of the year, is a day of renewal, symbolized by water. Buddha images are washed, and both temples and homes are tidied. The young pour water on their elders’ hands, asking for blessings in the coming year.
Luang Prabang, Laos
In Luang Prabang, the Boun Suang Heua, “Boat Racing Festival,” is held in August on Khao Padapdin. In Vientiane, boats head out just after ‘Buddhist Lent’ ends. Traditional racing boats are carved from a single tree, can hold up to 50 rowers, and are only rowed annually for the race. Several days before the race, the boats are cleaned and presented with offerings, since the boats are considered sacred.
02 - 03 October
Luang Prabang, Laos
Lhai Heua Fai (“Festival of Light”) is celebrated at the end of Lent all over Laos, especially in riverside towns. Vientiane’s festival attracts many devotees and tourists alike, but the celebration in Luang Prabang is even more spectacular. Families fashion small, round, banana leaf containers on a section of banana trunk. In this container, they put incense sticks, betel nuts, and sometimes food or money. At the riverbank, with candles and prayers, they send off the light boat. The spectacle of thousands of twinkling candles on the Mekong River is truly moving.
29 - 31 October
The That Luang religious festival lasts three days, starting with the wax castle procession at Wat Si Meuang and ending with a procession around That Luang, “The Grand Stupa”, in Vientiane: sanctuary to the Lord Buddah’s hair and bosom bone. Thousands of monks and tens of thousands of pilgrims come from all over the country – and even from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – to attend the festival.
On the next day, a more elaborate procession brings more wax castles through the Eastern Gate of the That Luang cloister, carried three times around the Grand Stupa, and offered to the shrine.
Luang Prabang, Laos
As December comes to Laos, the former royal capital transforms into a theater. Screens are rigged on garden lawns, within the walls of five-star hotels, and at central markets. The whole town, now dotted with movie screens, then becomes the perfect setting for celebrating the art of cinema. LPFF believes in equal access to art, so all screenings are open to the public and completely free of charge. At the main outdoor venue, they set up 800 blue chairs, but regularly welcome eager audiences of over 1,000 people per screening.
Luang Prabang, Laos
The H’mong New Year celebration features incredible, vibrant displays of traditional costumes made from green, red, and white silk, adorned with ornate silver jewelry. Music from traditional H’mong instruments, such as the teun-flute, the H’mong style khene pipe, and even leaf blowing all lend a beautiful atmosphere to this feast for the senses. Other festivities include the Makkhon (cotton-ball) throwing ceremony, ox fighting, spinning-top races, and crossbow demonstrations.
My name is Matt. I am 27 years old and I am the Production Executive for Easia Travel in Laos.
I was born in England, but I moved to Southern Spain when I was 10 years old. I lived in the Alicante region for the next 12 years – it was here where I discovered my passion for extreme sports. I have always loved travelling and discovering new places, especially those where I can feel free and in touch with nature. I graduated from the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland before making the move to Asia shortly after and I have been here, in Laos, for the past three years.
In my free time I enjoy a variety of adventure sports – slack lining (it’s like tight-rope walking), rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, and mountain biking. Sky-diving is also something else that I enjoy, but I don’t get to do much of that at the moment! Playing the guitar (or at least trying to…) and trying new exotic foods (not too spicy please!) are also other things that I enjoy.
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