Travel to Laos

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Laos

Laos is authentic, in the friendliness of the people, the flavors of the food and the antiquities.  The adventuresome can explore river caves and ride rapids. Natural history lovers can trek through pristine forests still home to rare species. Foodies can practice clean eating to their hearts – and stomachs – content, and lovers of Gallic cuisine will be delighted to find some of France’s accomplished chefs live and work here.  Bakeries are… magnifique.
 
Vientiane – is the capital of Laos, but feels a bit sleepy, without the hustle bustle of other Asian capitals. The word languid comes to mind when describing Vientiane. Thanks to the French influence, the city boasts wide, tree lined boulevards, colonial French architecture, and is decidedly a café society. Tuk-tuks are the local form of transportation, but the city is eminently walkable, particularly the historic Old Quarter.

Luang Prabang – In 1995 the entire town of Luang Prabang was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enchantingly situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is filled with colonial architecture and historic temples – 33 gilded wats in all. If that weren’t enough to beckon travellers from all over the world, nearby waterfalls, verdant mountains, hiking and biking trails, kayaking expeditions and river cruises amid amazing natural beauty surely are.

Pakse – located in the very south of Laos, Pakse sits where the Xe Don and Mekong Rivers converge.  As there is a bridge across the Mekong River to Thailand, charming Pakse is often considered a transportation hub, but it is also a UNESCO world heritage site for its ancient temple ruins, and for natural history lovers,  rare and endangered freshwater dolphins can be seen by boat.

 

 

Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is the only land locked country in SE Asia.  Mostly mountainous, Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, by Vietnam to the east, by Cambodia to the south, and by Thailand to the west.

People

The population of Laos is over 7 million, 98% of which are Buddhist. Laos is one of the world’s few remaining communist states.

Language

The official language of Laos is Lao.

History

Early Laotians were hunter-gatherers who later became stone tool using farmers. From about 2,000BC bronze was used, followed by iron in 500BC. Indian culture was the primary influence; in the 1st century AD, Indian traders introduced Buddhism.

From the 9th to the 13th century Cambodia ruled Laos, but in the 14th century Laotians founded an independent kingdom which lasted - with ebbs and flows in prosperity - until the early 18th century when the kingdom split into 3 regions: Luang Prang in the north, Vientiane in the middle and Champasak in the south. Weakened, Laos fell to Thailand.

In the late 1880s French influence in the area took hold and in 1893 Thailand formally surrendered all land east of the River Mekong to the French. Like Vietnam,Laos was part of France’s Asian Empire, however Laos was mostly overlooked.

In 1941 the French and Thais fought for Laotian territory. The Japanese intervened, an armistice ensued, and Japan gave Laos to Thailand. In 1945, the Japanese forced the pro-French king, Sisavang Vong, to declare independence from France. Following the Japanese surrender in September 1945, Prince Phesarath became prime minister of Laos, his government was known as Free Lao.
Laotian independence only lasted until the French invaded and took control once again in 1946.

In 1950 a pro-communist prince founded an organisation that became known as Land of the Lao. Simultaneously, the French were losing control of Southeast Asia and in 1953 they withdrew from Laos, which soon divided – parts were ruled by independent, constitutional monarchy supported by the USA, and parts were communist.

In the 1960s, Laos was drawn into the wider Asian War. From 1964 to 1973 the USA bombed Paphet Lao territory to no avail. In 1975, South Vietnam and Cambodia fell to the Communists. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Royalists left, allowing the communists to take over. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was founded on 2 December 1975 and the economy languished under communism.  Fortunately, the government introduced market reforms in 1988 and the economy of began to grow rapidly.

Currency

The official currency of Laos is the Lao or Laotian Kip. The currency code for Kips is LAK, and the currency symbol is ₭.

Best Time to Travel

The best months to visit Laos are October through April, while conditions are warm and dry.  Mekong River travel is at its peak between November and January, when water levels are high.  The ‘green’ season is from late May to October, but rain is neither heavy nor continuous.  The added bonus for traveling in green season is that this is when the country comes alive; waterfalls begin to flow, and lush greenery attracts bird and wildlife.

Health Requirements

There are no require shots or medications for travelers arriving from the US into Laos, however malaria is present in Laos and visitors may want to take preventative medications.  Please check with your travel clinic for their recommendation based on your personal health history.

Visa Requirements

US citizens are eligible for a 30 day visa on arrival. You will be required to have a passport valid for at least 6 months from date of return and at least 1 blank visa page.  An onward air ticket is also required.  Currently the cost for the Laotian visa is 35usd cash. A passport photo may also be required, please have one available.  This information is subject to change without notice.

Tipping & Porterage

Tipping is appreciated.  Tipping guidelines will be included in your final trip packet.

Credit Cards

Laos is largely a cash economy. USD is accepted but Kip is preferred.  Visa and Mastercard are accepted at major hotels, American Express less so.  ATMs are available. Cash is needed for shopping at street markets and restaurants.

Electrical Appliances

Laos operates on 230 volts, 50 hertz and requires plug type A, B, C, E or F.
For information on plugs and voltage, please visit http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/    Adaptors are easily and cheaply purchased locally.

Water

Bottled water is recommended and is inexpensive and widely available. Tap water is not potable.


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Laos

Related Destinations

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Japan
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Malaysia
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