Language: Laotian (Official), French
Five Quick Facts About Travelling In Laos
- Visa are required for citizens of most countries however nationals of many countries can obtain a visa on arrival or an e-visa – SEE VISA TAB
- Avoid mosquito bites. Dengue and malaria are both prevalent in Laos so use a repellent with deet in it and cover up in light coloured clothing. Malaria is a risk in all of Laos with the highest risk area in the south.
- Laos full name is Laos Peoples Democratic Republic (PDR) many people joke the PDR actually stands for Please Don’t Rush – which is true…nothing happens quickly in PDR. Everything goes a bit slower so be prepared to wait…for pretty much everything.
- The transport system is good with buses or mini vans running to most parts of the country. On the busy ‘tourist’ routes there are VIP tourist buses which are modern and clean and move along relatively quickly. On roads less travelled the buses are old and slow, the roads in poor condition BUT the locals are marvellous and will share food and laughs with you.
- Do not go off the beaten track! The American campaign against Laos in the 1960’s and 70’s has left thousands of un-exploded, un-mapped landmines across Laos. Stick to well mapped and travelled paths to avoid the mines. Laos has the dubious record of being the most bombed country in the world per capita when the US waged a secret war against them.
Laos has a hot tropical monsoonal climate and can basically be broken into 2 distinct seasons, the wet season and the dry season.
The dry season runs from October until the end of April. During this period it is dry and hot. Slow boat travel can be hampered as the river level drops toward the end of the dry season.In the mountains the slash and burn farming methods still used can mean it is quite smoky in late March and into April. This is also the busiest time of the year to travel.
The wet season runs from May to September, during this time it is humid with heavy short downpours usually late in the day.
Temperatures in the mountains can vary greatly to that of the lowlands with mountain temperatures being milder.
Laos currency is called the KIP.
ATM’s are available in large towns (and I’ve even seen a solar powered one in a smaller village)
If venturing off the beaten track it is advisable to carry some cash.
All nationalities must have a visa to enter Laos unless they are from a visa free country. Many countries now can obtain a visa on arrival or e-visa. A full six months must be valid on your passport.
Visa Policy of Laos
Most of Laos is is either hot and wet or hotter and dry. If travelling to the mountains it may be a good idea to pack a lightweight fleece or similar as evenings can be chilly.
1 pair lightweight long pants.
2 x pair of shorts
2 x singlets – good for layering and sleeping in
4 x short sleeve cotton shirts, lightweight and breathable
1 x long sleeve sloppy joe.
1 x lightweight raincoat – packable version that packs down into a small bag.
5 x socks
5 x underpants
2 x bras
1 x pair walking or hiking shoes.
1 x sandals
1 x pair flip flops (great for hostel showers)
Shampoo & Conditioner
Bar of Soap
Brush / Comb
Insect Repellent with Deet
1 x Earbud headphones.Light and small,
1 x IPad
1 x 6S iPhone
Charging leads for above
2 x USB
1 x power bank
1 x Cable organiser which keeps everything tidy
1 x 14” laptop – we run a business so this is essential for us.
1 x GoPro Hero 5
2 x Spare GoPro Batteries
1 x Canon DSLR + lenses
Spare micro SD Cards
1 x padlock
1 x headlight or torch
1 x Swiss knife
1 x medical kit
Umbrella (although are as cheap as chips to buy in country)
Like all of S-E Asia Laos is easy to get around and where a few dollars goes along way.
Buses or mini vans travel to most of the country and usually depart form the local bus station or market. You may also find yourself in a a songthaew, a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side or even the back of a ute.
Tuk tuks are popular in towns.
Always negotiate your fare before you get in the vehicle
Laos Border Crossings
Visas are available for applicable countries on the Laos side unless otherwise noted below.
If entering into Vietnam from Laos you will need to have a Vietnam vise before you get to the border.
If entering into China from Laos you will need to have a Vietnam vise before you get to the border.
Laos – Thailand
Vangtao – Chong Mek (Champasak Prov. Laos – Ubon Rathchathani Prov. Thailand)
Lao – Thai Friendship Bridge #1 (Vientiane Laos – Nong Khai Prov Thailand)
Lao – Thai Friendship Bridge #2 (Savannakhet Laos – Mukdahan Prov. Thailand)
Lao – Thai Friendship Bridge #3 (Thakhek – Khammouane Prov. Laos – Nakhon Panom Prov. Thailand )
Pakxan – Bungkan NO visa on arrival for Laos
Lao – Thai Friendship Bridge #4 (HouayXay – Bokeo Prov. Laos – Chiang Rai Prov. Thailand)
Kaenthao – Nakaxeng (Sayabouly Prov. Laos – Loei Prov. Thailand
Laos – Cambodia
Veun Kham – Dong Kralor
Veun Kham – Stung Treng (river border). This checkpoint has been closed, foreigners can no longer the border here.
Visa available of arrival if applicable.
Laos – Vietnam
You will need to have your visa for Vietnam before you get to the border as Vietnam does not issue visa on arrival at land crossings.
Phukeua – Bo Y
Napao – Chalo There is NO visa on arrival for Laos at this crossing
Nam Phao – Keoneua
NamCan – Namkan
Sobboun – Tay Trang
Visa note: It is recommended you have your Chinses visa before crossing at land borders
Boten – Mohan (Luang Namtha Prov. Laos – Yunnan Prov. China)
Sobboun (Phongsaly Prov. Laos – Yunnan Prov. China). NO visa on arrival for Laos. If you do not have Lao visa exemption and wish to cross this border you need to secure your Laos visa prior to arriving.