The key attraction of Laos is its undoubted status as the least Westernised, the most relaxed and thereby the most authentic of all Indochinese nations. How much longer this will last is open to much speculation, but while it does this is a truly special and unique country to visit. Trekking in mountainous Northern Laos is popular, and this often includes homestays in minority tribe villages. The main hub for this is Luang Namtha where the two day Ban Nalan Trail is especially notable. The trek route goes through the Nam Ha National Protected Area, and involves staying in Khmu villages. Other trekking hubs include Oudomxay, south of Luang Namtha, and Pakse in southern Laos.
AIR: There are four international airports in Laos, where you can get visa on arrival : Wattay International Airport in Vientiane Capital, Pakse International Airport in Champasack Province, Luang Prabang International Airport and Savannakhet.
Wattay in Vientiane has regular service from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kunming, Guang Zhou, Singapore, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur.
Direct flights are available to Luang Prabang from Bangkok, Hanoi and Chiang Mai. Lao Airlines has regular service to all domestic destinations and a number of regional capitals. Major international carriers with flights to Laos are Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways International, Vietnam Airlines , China Southern Airlines and Air Asia.
BOAT: If you enter Laos from Thailand at Houai Xay (Bokeo), it is necessary to take a short ferry ride across the Mekong River. After crossing from Chiang Khong in northern Thailand to Houai Xay, many people proceed directly to Luang Prabang via the Mekong.
If you are heading north to Luang Namtha, a two-day journey on the Namtha River is a memorable adventure. The boat takes you through beautiful forest. You need an overnight stay in boatman’s home. There is also a regular boat service on the Mekong from Pakse to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Wat Phou, and through the Four Thousand Islands in the far south.
LAND: You can access Laos by road from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Yunnan Province in China. There are presently 24 international border crossings where 15-day visa on arrival can be obtained. The most popular entry point is Vientiane’s Friendship Bridge that crosses the Mekong and connects Laos to Thailand.
TRAIN: A train operates daily between the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (Vientiane Capital) and Nong Khai (Thailand) connecting Laos to Thailand.
Laos has only basic healthcare. Precautionary measures like eating onely well cooked food, drinking bottled water, staying hydrated, avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes and wearing protective clothing will help prevent most common ailments.
Tourist Police: 192
Business Hours: Government offices are open from 08:30am-12:00pm, 01:00pm-04:00pm on Monday through Friday. Banks open from 08:30am-03:30pm on Monday-Friday, shops around 09:00am-06:00pm (holiday depends on each shop).
Electricity: 24 hour electricity is available in all major population centers and many district capitals.
Internet: Internet access is available in many hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants in big cities. Although internet cafes are often available in provincial capitals, it is difficult to connect to the internet in rural areas.
Phone: International direct dial is widely available. You can also purchase a local pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone.
Weather: Laos generally enjoys a mild tropical climate, but it can get quite chilly in the cool season. Temperatures range from 10-40 degrees celsius in the Mekong Valley.
Currency: The Kip is the official currency of the Lao PDR and the following bank notes are currently in circulation: 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 Kip… The best currencies to use when exchanging money are: US Dollars, Euros and Thai Baht. You can exchange your currency at the bank, airport, or at a foreign currency exchange office.
Credit Cards: Visa is the most commonly accepted. Master Card and American Express are accepted in the big hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops in the large cities (such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Champasack).
Language: The national language is Lao, but English is commonly used in major tourist centers. Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai are widely understood. French, German, Russian and a number of other European languages are also spoken by many educated Lao as many students received higher education in Europe during 1970’s-1990’s.
Post and Parcels: There are post offices in all provincial capitals where you can send letters and parcels to your home country. Both DHL and FedEx have offices in Vientiane Capital.
Travel with Children: Laos is a safe, quiet country with a lot to explore for both adults and children. Lao people love kids. If you bring children, you will have good opportunities communicating with Lao people.
Source: Tourism Marketing Department, Lao PDR