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Laos Travel Tips and Advice 2023/2024

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Laos is always overlooked when compared with its neighbors. It is a fascinating and diverse land to travel to. These Laos travel tips will help you make the most of your trip.  

A landlocked country sandwiched by Thailand and Vietnam, Laos is a fascinating and mystical country that is not so well known to most tourists compared with neighboring Thailand, Vietnam, and China. It is home to 49 ethnic groups with colorful and well-preserved customs and ancient ceremonies, it is a beautiful country never with a shortage of stunning natural beauties, it is a Buddhist country featuring distinctive architecture and culture, it is a country rich in UNESCO-listed sites, it is a land definitely well worth a multi-day trip to explore.  

To help you make the most of your Laos trip and prepared well, we thus collected the following clever Laos travel tips and important information that you need to take note of before you step into the land.

Laos alms-giving ceremony
Laos alms-giving ceremony

Laos Visa and Entry Requirements

Laos is fully reopened to international tourists since May 9, 2022, no quarantine is required. Fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to take a COVID-19 test to travel to Laos (just a vaccination certificate is ok). For those unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers (over 12 years old), a PCR test within 48 hours are required before travel.

How to apply for a visa to Laos?

Most international tourists (except pass holders of Japan and ASEAN countries) need a visa to enter Laos. To apply for a visa, you need a valid passport (expires in at least 6 months) with two blank pages for a visa stamp. 

Apply for a Laos visa on arrival: passport holders from British, Australia, Canadian, New Zealand, South African USA, etc. now can apply for a 30-day Laos visa on arrival at international airports and most land borders, like Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Luang Prabang International Airport and at the Friendship Bridge.

Apply for a Laos eVisa through the website of the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Apply for a Laos Visa from Lao embassies and consulates abroad: for pass holders who can’t apply for a Laos visa on arrival or online.

The Currency in Laos; Carry Some Cash Especially When You Visit Remote Areas

Laos Kip is the official currency in Laos, but, in fact, besides Laos Kip, US dollars, and Thai Baht are also accepted in Laos. For foreign tourists, it’s more recommended to carry USD as it is more widely accepted in most places of the country.

Carry some cash when visiting remote areas in Laos: ATMs can only be found in some big cities like Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang (with a maximum quota of around USD$70), and it is not uncommon to see the ATMs not work. And besides ATMs, Visa and Master Card can only be used in high-end hotels, boutiques, and restaurants. So carrying some cash is more recommended, especially when you visit some rural and remote areas in Laos.

Places for money change in Laos: in big cities like Vientiane or Luang Prabang, tourists can easily find a bank or licensed money changers to exchange money. The money changers usually offer similar rates to the banks and longer opening hours.

Laos Banknotes
Laos Banknotes

How much does it cost to travel to Laos?

Based on the average cost of former tourists, the expense per day is around ₭252,193 ($19) for one person to stay comfortable in Laos. Averagely, the daily expenditure on meals is approximately ₭96,690 ($7.28), and ₭34,348 ($2.59) on daily transportation. In Laos, the average cost of a hotel double room is around ₭198,124 ($15), it is also possible to pay no more than $10 to stay in a small guesthouse with air-conditioning and basic facilities. The cost for a week-long trip in Laos is around ₭3,530,701 ($266).

Please keep in mind that this is just the average cost for your reference to plan your travel budget in Laos, your actually spend will be subject to your actual activities and your travel style.

Get up early to explore the essences of Luang Prabang in Laos

When traveling in Luang Prabang, it’s highly recommended to get up early to catch some of the country’s best rituals and activities.

Each morning, around 5 am, orange-robed monks will carry their alms bowls and walk on the street to start their daily ritual – collecting food donations. Laos is the only Buddhist nation that still preserves this ritual, rarely can you witness this in other countries.

The early morning also offers a great chance to stroll around the local market when it is at its busiest time of the day and find many local breakfast options.

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Follow local culture and etiquettes, especially when you visit temples

Laos is a culture rich country with over 49 ethnic groups and most of its people believe in Buddhism. Monks and nuns in the country are highly respected. Here are a few of their etiquettes and tips for you to know and follow when traveling to Laos:

  • Dress modestly, especially when you visit some temples and Buddhist shrines.
  • Leave your shoes outside when you are invited to enter a local’s house.
  • When visiting temples, follow the local’s behavior or your guide’s advice.
  • For Laotians, it is offensive to point things with your foot.
  • Follow your guide and listen carefully to his instructions when you join the morning almsgiving.

What’s the best time to visit Laos?

Laos is good to be visited all year round thanks to its many year-round attractions. Usually, November to March is the most popular time to travel weather-wise in Laos when it is the dry season and with a comfortable temperature.

Traveling to Laos during the wet season (May to October) usually won’t cause any problems either, remember to prepare a raincoat.

For more detailed information about Laos weather, seasons, and festivals, please get to our Best Time to Visit Laos page.

What’s the food like in Laos, and how to eat safe when traveling in Laos?

Laotian food is simple and flavorsome, similar to the flavor of Thailand and Vietnam food. Fresh herbs, vegetables, spices, noodles, rice, chicken, duck, pork, fish, and beef are the frequently used ingredients. Sticky rice is their staple.

French colonial has also greatly influenced local cuisine. Tourists can not only expect local popular food like barbecued pork, beef jerky (Sinh Savan), and meatballs, but also easily find French pastries and croissants, and many more international cuisines in Laos.

When coming to drinks, Beer Laos is popular among locals, international tourists can also order whiskeys, vodkas, and wines in most restaurants and hotels. Black coffee is often served with condensed milk, a cup of warm water, or light tea. Both freshly pulped juice and soft drinks imported from other countries can be easily got.

To eat safely when traveling to Laos: Please don’t expect the food hygiene standards in Laos are as high as in developed countries. To eat safely, we recommend you try food that is served piping hot, especially when you eat meat food or fish. Tap water in Laos is also not safe to drink directly, unpasteurised dairy products are also what we recommended to avoid in Laos.

Do you need to tip in Laos?

It is not a must to tip anywhere in Laos, but to leave a little spare change after a meal or taxi journey is still highly appreciated. The suggested tipping amount is around 10% of the bill, depending on how you satisfied with their service.

What to Pack for Traveling Laos?

Bring light comfortable clothes for the humid and hot weather. But make sure your clothes are conservative, covering shoulders and knees since Laos is a relatively conservative country. Sweatshirts, light jackets, and raincoats (if visiting Laos in the wet season) should be good choices. The following packing list for traveling to Laos may help you better prepared before you go:

Clothes:

  • Light and comfortable clothing
  • Comfortable walking sandals or shoes
  • Hat
  • A portable raincoat if traveling in the wet season

Other essential items:

  • Passport with at least 6 months validity
  • Travel insurance covering Laos
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Global power adaptor
  • Earplugs for sleeping during a noisy driving route
  • Mosquito spray and sunscreen
  • USB drive to store your documents and pictures

What kind of plugs are used in Laos, and what is the voltage?

Voltage in Laos: 220 V / 50 Hz

Common used plugs in Laos: Type A (2 flat prongs) and Type C (2 round pins)

It’s recommended to prepare a global adapter in case.

Is it safe to travel to Laos? Especially for single female travelers.

Laos is a very safe country to visit, even single wonmen won’t stuck in any tourbles. Most people in Laos are Buddhist, they are kind and friendly, and warmly welcome international tourists.

But as no country is 100% safe, when in Laos, we still recommend our tourists to keep smart, don’t carry too much cash and valuables with them to avoid theft. Avoid wearing revealing clothes since most Laotians are conservative.

Some places in Laos still have unexploded ordnance left by Indochina War, for example, the areas around the Plain of Jars, make sure to follow the indicator signs when traveling these areas.

Is WiFi widely available in Laos?

In big tourist cities like Luang Prabang, and Vientiane, WIFI is widely available. You can have a connection in most restaurants, hotels, and malls.

What souvenirs are the recommended to shop in Laos? How to bargain in Laos?

Locally hand-made handicrafts and textiles are the most popular souvenirs in Laos. Tourists can easily find them in some large markets, hill tribes, or rural villages. Laotians are also excellent at making gold and silver jewelry, like chunky bangles, pendants, belts, and earrings. Visitors can buy some of the jewelry while visiting some hill tribes.

How to bargain in Laos: Generally, the goods with a price tag means that is not negotiable. Negotiation is also not accepted at restaurants, hotels, and malls.

Don’t try to bargain if you are not intending to buy an item. It is poor form if you finally decide not to buy an item after haggling and persuading the seller to accept your price.

Bargains at the street vendors and markets are completely ok, just make sure to keep polite.

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