In all of Laos there is a fusion of contrasting culture. Enjoy a baguette and egg for breakfast and then have Laap Chicken for lunch. We enjoyed the blend of French Culture with Asian tradition.
The French used to rule that land and their presence is evident everywhere. To walk into a temple filled with Golden Buddhas one minute and then to be out in the sunshine riding a bicycle on a busy street heading towards a replica (with Buddhist elements) of the Arc du Triomphe is very cool indeed.
This Laos travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.
- Laotian power voltage is 220 V 50 Hz; Power sockets A, B & C.
- Laotian currency is the Laotian Kip (LAK) and is around 8,000 LAK for 1 USD.
- Visas upon arrival are for 30 days for most nationalities and they can be extended a max of two times for up to 30 days each time.
- Bargaining is very much a part of life in Laos, and an art form, requiring a balance of humour, patience and tact.
- Tap water in Laos is not considered safe to drink. It’s recommended to only drink bottled water, readily available in hotels, shops and restaurants.
- Try to bring sufficient amounts and appropriate forms of cash with you upon entry. Laos now has ATM machines, but they are only sparsely located in Huay Xai, Luang Prabang, Vientianne and Vang Vieng
- Be polite. Ask to take people’s pictures (especially a monk), take your shoes off at the door, keep your feet off the furniture, don’t point etc. A little kindness goes a long way!
Budget – Budget hotels and guest houses in Laos are very affordable. On average, they cost about 10 USD per night. Rooms on the lower end of this are usually equipped with fans, while those on the higher end may have air conditioning, water heating, and TV sets.
Mid Range – In Laos, a mid-range hotel will cost between 15 – 25 USD a night. For this, you’ll get spacious rooms, private bathrooms, clean sheets and fittings, and outdoor swimming pools.
High End – Pricing for high-end hotels in Laos starts around 100 USD per night. You will get accommodation in colonial accommodation or a recently built place with rooms that have satellite TV, air-conditioning, fridges, and water heating.
- Sticky Rice (Khao Niao) – Sticky Rice is a chewy and delicious staple food that is typically served in a small bamboo basket and eaten with special sauces.
- Laap (Lahb, Larp, or Larb) – Laap is a protein-dense delicacy that is prepared with a combination of chopped fish, pork, chicken, beef, and duck.
- Green Papaya Salad – This is prepared using strips of unripe papaya, which are pounded together with palm sugar, tomatoes, garlic, dried shrimp, raw eggplant, and more.
- Mok Pa – This dish is made of steamed fish prepared with green onions, fish sauce, lemongrass, and green chili, and then wrapped in banana leaves.
- Khao Piak Sen – This is a noodle soup made with pork or chicken, and that is considered to be comfort food in Laos.
Flights: At the moment, you cannot fly directly to Laos unless you are within Asia. Once within the continent, you can get direct flights to the Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airports.
You can check for the best flights to Laos on Skyscanner.
Buses: Jumbos are pick-up trucks that have been transformed for use as public buses. They have set routes and typically cost 1.25 – 2.5 USD.
Taxis/Uber: Taxis are available but are relatively expensive. Distances and costs vary but expect to spend about 7 USD per trip. Uber is not available in Laos but LOCA, a local ride-sharing company, operates and offers private transportation.
Car Rental: You can rent a private car and a driver from your guesthouse or from a tourism company.
You can also compare prices here.
Places to Stay
- Settha Palace Hotel – Located in Vientiane, this colonial-era hotel has rooms that are stocked with essential amenities. It has a large garden and an outdoor pool.
- Luang Say Residence – This Luang Prabang hotel offers breakfast for residents, and there is free wifi in the rooms.
- Muang La Resort – Muang La Resort is set in tropical gardens by a river in Muang La. It has large living spaces, private hot tubs, and offers experiential stays.
Laos has a tropical monsoon climate with a cool dry season from November to February, a hot dry season from March to April and a rainy season from May through October.
The wettest months are from June to September; the rain is not constant – afternoon or evening downpours are common. At this time some roads in the countryside may be impassable as they can get flooded or washed out.
During the cool season, temperatures in the north, especially in Phonsavan, can get down to freezing. The Bolaven area can get pretty chilly as well.
- The protection basics – Travellers should stock up on the essentials: sun block, mosquito/insect repellant containing DEET or a pyrethroid insecticide, sunglasses and a hat.
- Personal safety products – Before leaving for your trip, make sure to pack some personal safety products, like money belts and locks, so that you can keep your valuables safe on your trip.
- Head Lamp / Torch – Many smaller towns, including several provincial capitals, have power for only a few hours in the evening or none at all, so it’s worth bringing a torch.
- A tropical wardrobe. This should include—for both men and women—shorts, T-shirts, breathable rain gear, a warm jacket or fleece, sturdy footwear, and a wrap. Casual clothes with natural fibers – linen, silk, cotton – work well in the heat and humidity.
See our packing tips: packing tips
When to Go
The best time for you to visit Laos is between October to April. The weather is mild and dry. However, if you want to travel via river, it’s best to go between November and January.
Things to Do
- Cycle through the Countryside – explore another side of Vang Vieng
- Go on a Motorcycle Adventure – The Loop is a three-day motorbike adventure through central Laos which starts and finishes in Ta Khek. The whole thing revolves around a particular guest house, the Ta Khek Travellers Lodge
- Explore the Sacred Caves of Laos – The Pac Ou Caves are a sacred site located on the Mekong River. It is loaded with thousands of Buddha statues and is still used as a place of worship.
- Patuxai – Built between 1957 and 1968, Patuxai is a war monument built in honor of citizens of Lao who fought for its independence from France.
- Visit Wat Sisaket – The temple of Wat Si Saket is the only Laos temple that was undamaged during the occupation by the Siamese. Within it are more than 10,000 Buddha sculptures of different shapes and sizes.
- Explore That Luang – Also known as “the Great Stupa,” That Luang is a national symbol in Laos. It is considered to be Laos’ most sacred monument and is regularly visited by tourists and pilgrims alike.
- Slow Boat to Thailand from Laos – Taking the slow boat from Luang Prabang Laos to Chaing Kong Thailand is the perfect way to experience the Mekong river, to see the villagers that live along the river and to view the rolling landscape of Laos.
- Visit Vientiane – Laos’s national capital, Vientiane, should not be missed. Guesthouses and shops rent bicycles for a dollar a day and it is a great way to see the Pagodas and Wats.
Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies.
We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.
We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.
Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It is usually the has the cheapest prices, not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation.
Air BnB: Airbnb is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs. I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
World Nomads Insurance: When traveling you should always have travel insurance. We do.