Laos Travel Tips and Useful Info
Do I need a visa to visit Laos?
If you’re visiting Laos for tourism, you can get a 30-day tourist visa when you arrive at:
- the International Airport in Vientiane
- the International Airport in Luang Prabang
The visa cost is $35 USD.
To apply, you need:
- 2 blank pages in your passport
- 2 recent passport-size photos
Please note: visa information is subject to change. Please check http://immigration.gov.la/ for up to date information. Passengers who are not Australian citizens must check with the respective consulate or visa agency to determine what their visa requirements are and what personal identification is required.
Do I need any vaccinations before visiting Laos?
You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Laos and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Tetanus, Typhoid, Hep A, Diptheria and Polio are recommended.
Can I drink the tap water in Laos?
As drinking tap water isn’t safe in Laos, only drink bottled mineral water, which is readily available in hotels, shops and restaurants. You can help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Your tour guides and your hotels can tell you where to find filtered water at hotels. Remember to avoid drinks with ice and peel fruit before eating it.
What is currency in Laos?
The official Laos currency is known as the Lao Kip, although three currencies are used interchangeably for everyday transactions. These are Kip, Thai baht and US Dollars. All major currencies are exchangeable in the main towns but USD is the most useful currency (cash) to hold as it can be exchanged and used in most places. Dollar bills must be in good condition and not torn or ripped.
In smaller towns and villages, Kip is usually preferred. The rule of thumb is that for everyday small purchases, prices are quoted in Kip. ATMs are only available in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang and dispense a maximum of approx USD$70 (in Kip) at any one time – it isn’t advisable to rely upon them as they are commonly not working. Licensed money changers exist in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Their rates are similar to the banks and they stay open longer. We recommend you take a mixture of cash (preferably USD) and credit/ debit cards for ATMs.
What do foods and drinks cost in Laos?
Meals in proper restaurants can usually be for approximately USD $7-10. Bottled water will be around 70 cents for a 1.5 litre bottle and 640ml beer bottles come in at about USD $1.25. Street food will cost just a dollar or two (depending on whether you are in a touristy area or not).
What’s the food like in Laos?
Lao food, like its Thai neighbour, is simple, fresh and flavoursome. Sticky rice rather than steamed rice is the main staple. Almost all of Lao dishes are cooked with fresh ingredients whether they are vegetables, chicken, duck, pork, fish and beef. Som tum, a spicy green papaya salad is a signature dish as is Larb, made with diced chicken, pork, fish or vegetables tossed with lime juice, garlic, powdered rice, green onions, mint leaves and chillies.
With a French colonial influence, delightful French pastries and croissants can be found on most street corners in addition to local favourites of barbecued pork, beef jerky (Sinh Savan) and meatballs.
Is tipping customary in Laos?
Tipping isn’t mandatory or customary in Laos, but a tip of spare change or another small amount would be appreciated by restaurants, drivers and other service workers, especially if the service has been particularly good.
What’re the toilets like in Laos?
Although Western-style flushable toilets can be found in your hotels and tourist areas, squat toilets are most common in Laos. Please ensure that you carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, as they are usually not provided.
Is WiFi widely available in Laos?
Internet can be accessed at tourist areas and most hotels, but be aware, the speed may be slower than what you are used to.
Can I use my mobile phone while in Laos?
You’ll be able to use your mobile phone in most tourist areas of Laos, although rural and remote areas may not have network coverage. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier before you leave home if you wish to use your mobile while in Laos.
Is it not appropriate for me to wear shorts in Laos?
When entering temples in Laos it is important to remember to take your shoes off beforehand. Women wearing trousers or a short skirt will usually be required to put a long skirt on over the top. These are available to borrow at most temples.
What sort of sockets are used in Laos and what is the voltage?
The voltage in Laos is 220AC, 50HZ. Plugs are not standard as many electrical products are imported from China and Thailand. As such all sort of socket variations exist. The most common types found are: 2 flat prong (type A), the 2 round pin (type C) plugs. To cover all bases, it is best to pack an international travel adaptor!
Despite having two distinct weather seasons you can travel in Laos all-year-round and with no coastline to influence things, Laos’ weather system is relatively straight-forward compared with much of Asia; consisting of a dry season (October to late April) and a wet season (May to late September). Within each season there are variations in temperature, with the dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early wet season (May and June) typically being the hottest of the year.
Temperatures throughout the country are also greatly affected by altitude with much of the country at a level that reduces the country’s average temperatures by several °C. As a general rule north, central and eastern regions are at a higher altitude than those in the south, where at its lowest, in the Mekong River valley, humidity is higher and temperatures in excess of 35°C are not uncommon between March and April.
The early months of the wet season (May to July) remain very hot and rainfall is often short lived, whilst in the latter months (late July until September) the rains become more constant and can be heavy at times, especially in southern parts of the country.
Further north and in Luang Prabang, rainfall tends to be lighter and you can often expect rain during the night or mornings with some relatively clear afternoons. Across Laos, throughout much of the rainy season, daytime temperatures average around 29°C in the lowlands and 23°C in the mountain valleys.
Throughout the country in all but the hottest months of the year it is often advisable to have a jumper or fleece for the evenings, when there is a tendency for it to get quite cool.