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Laos Tourism

Continent: Asia

Ideal Duration: 5 - 7 days

Best Time: November Ð February Read More

Currency: Lao Kip (LAK)

Budget: Cheap

"The Land of Serenity and Bountiful Nature "

Laos Tourism

Sitting cosily in Southeast Asia, the Republic of Laos is a landlocked country with sparse population. Known for its spectacular landscape, the country comprises of lofty mountains, lush jungles, glistening rice fields and tea leaves covering the mountain surface. The remote tribal villages, ancient Buddhist caves, rich cultural heritage, cafe culture in cosmopolitans, elegant colonial architecture and peaceful stupas adds to the charm of this land of lotus-eaters.

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Regions in Laos

Laos is a landlocked country sharing its border with several South-east Asian nations including China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. This Asia's smallest country is mainly prevailed by mountains, rivers, and thus giving rise to a variety of flora and fauna. The country is divided into mainly three regions: Northern Laos, Central Laos, and Southern Laos. Where the northern part is all about hill tribe villages and mountains, the central region houses the sleepiest capital city of Southeast Asia, and southern region is known for its Mekong flatlands, more mountains and the most untouched area by tourists.

Best time to visit Laos

November Ð February is the best time to visit Laos

The best time to visit Laos is between November and February. The weather during this time is pleasant, cool and driest along with some of the most colourful festivals to cherish in the country. However, for some reason tourism is at its peak during the month of August.

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Holidify's Opinion

What's Great?

Rich culture and heritage. A bounty of natural beauty. Diverse landscape. Great handicrafts. Ancient and French structures.

What's Not So Great?

Short-lived nightlife. Contaminated water. Negligible traffic rules. Prevalent diseases. Inflated price for tourists.

For Whom?

Nature lovers. People who cherish laidback environ. Heritage and history enthusiasts. Those looking for spirituality.

Stay options in Laos

Laos offers a variety of accommodation options with luxurious hotels and resorts limited to cities like Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. These places often provide many facilities including world-class cuisine, rejuvenating spa therapies and cultural programmes, etc. However, accommodations outside these cities offer the bare basic amenities. Guesthouse is another main option frequented by tourists in the country. There are several such budget and mid-budget places and are budding all across the nation now. Camping in the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area also attracts tourists. Other possibilities of camping area are bamboo forest camps and the Nam Ha Forest Camp in Luang Namtha's Nam Ha National Protected Area. Another favoured accommodation option is of eco-lodges available all across the country. Laopako on the Nam Ngum River, the Boat Landing Guest House in Luang Namtha province and Kamu Lodge a tented lodge upstream from Luang Prabang.

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Currency of Laos

Lao Kip is the official currency of Laos. However, USD and Thai Baht are also used for transactions. Almost all hotels, shops and restaurants accept these currencies in most of the larger towns and cities but one is required to use Lao Kip in smaller places. The Kip notes are available in the denomination of 1, 5, 10, 50, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000. Only high-end hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards in cities Vientiane and Luang Prabang. However, make sure to carry cash, as it is mainly a cash based economy.

Exchanging Money in Laos

As per the international standards, Lao Kip is not a stable currency. It cannot be converted to any other foreign currency outside Laos. Visitors can get their currency exchanged at banks in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. One can get US dollars, Canadian dollars, and Australian Dollar, Thai Baht, Japanese Yen, Euros and UK Pounds in these banks. ATMs are present in big numbers in Vientiane only, especially around Th Setthathriat. Many major hotels might have on-site ATM too.Currently, the withdrawal limit is around LAK 1,000,000 i.e. approximately GBP 65, but one has to pay very high charges. Traveller's cheques are also accepted in exchange for Kip in most of the banks in Lao.

Nightlife in Laos

Nightlife in Laos is usually not that active and quite laidback. Nightclubs and bar are closed maximum by 11:30 pm as per legal rules. Vientiane is not at par with any of its other Asian capital city with Beer Lao and a bewitching sunset firefly display as its only options for early nighters. Future Nightclub and Highwayman are two major nightclubs in the city, both situated close to the airport and frequently open much late than allowed. Another option is the French Cultural Centre on Th Lan Xang where movies are shown, and music performances are held. Most bars are nestled along the river stay open until 11:00 pm offeringa plethora of classic rock, cocktails and cheap beer. The scene is similar in all the cities including Luang Prabang where one will find first openly gay bar. Streets clear out early in Laos with guesthouse bolted doors accordingly.

Shopping in Laos

Laos is known for its exquisite handicrafts produced locally in the country. The markets of Vientiane and Luang Prabang are worth visiting for their exclusive products such as silk, cotton fabrics, hill tribe embroideries, woodcarvings, garments, bags, wall hangings pottery and silver jewellery. Also, look out for local art, antiques and paper products in the markets. As souvenirs, one can buy Lao sarongs hill tribe bags. While in Vientiane, try out morning market, a popular place frequented by tourists along with weaving district of Ban Nong Bouathong.

Festivals of Laos

Laos is a country with rich culture and great respect for their religion. Thus, their main festivals revolve around them. Lao people end to celebrate Buddhist festivals throughout the year witha great fervour usually marked by fireworks, floral offerings and processions of monks. The month of FebruaryÊwitness Magha Puja, Tet and the Chinese New Year, in April and May there are Pi Ma, the Lunar New Year and Visakha Bu- Saa festivals whereas the most vibrant and scenic festival of Laos is held in December, That LuangÊFestival .In this festival, monks come together to receive offerings of alms and flowers. The festivals and celebration are a perfect to get a glimpse of local Lao culture.

History of Laos

The areas currently known, as Laos was first occupied by the hill tribes Hmong and Mien along with migrating Thais. The first ever Lao princedom was formed during the 13th century, some of which about a century later was combined to form the Kingdom of Lan Xang by a warlord named Fa Ngu. After a small period of prosperity and peace, the kingdom was split into three martial kingdoms by the 1600s. With a careful eye from Vietnam on the territory, the control of Laos was taken over by Thailand (then Siam) about a century later in the 1700s. The final result of the fight between Laotians and Siamese was that ultimately both Laos and Vietnam came under Siamese rule. The French took control of the country with their arrival by the end of 19th century and occupied it, which lasted in 1953. However, even after independence, Laos witnessed tensions between royalist, communist and neutral forces and thus keeping the nation in a state of constant turmoil. Eventually, in 1975, communists were able to pull off a victory and take control. It began as a hard leftist stance but soon softened over the years to witness a distinct relaxation of the rules.

Hygiene in Laos

Laos needs a huge adjustment owing to its different atmosphere, food and climate. It is advised to avoid buying medicine from pharmacies, as there are many phony and counterfeit drugs in the market and better carry a first aid kit. Tap water is not safe for drinking or brushing teeth therefore, buy packaged water for such uses. It is recommended to get vaccination for Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and B, Malaria, Typhoid and sometimes Rabies as well. Also, avoid swimming in fresh water.

Customs of Laos

Citizens of Laos are mostly friendly and welcoming people but with some unspoken rules that one needs to take care. ÊAvoid wearing too much-exposing clothes in public and avoid a public display of affection. ÊShouting in public is considered rude and thus keep your volume down and avoid violence. ÊIn Laotian culture, the head is considered very private thus avoid touching it and never point your feet towards anyone or raise them beyond ground level as they are considered as low.'Never disrespect anyone, particularly elders, and show respect to religious shrines, and Buddhists scripture and idols. ÊMake sure to remove shoes before entering the place of worship and to wear covered clothes (avoid shorts or tank tops). ÊNever, turn your back to the idol of Buddha irrespective of its size. ÊLastly, women are not allowed to touch monks, and it considered very disrespectful. Tipping is not expected in most places in Laos but always appreciated, especially by tourists. 10% tip is considered quite generous.

Tips for visiting Laos

Remove shoes before entering any religious place. Take care of your belongings as street crimes and bag snatching is prevalent in cities and town. Be careful while walking on roadsides as some roads are in poor condition and traffic rules are not very well implemented. It is a legal compulsion for tourists to carry an ID proof or passport, in the absence of which heavy fine is levied. Some roadside food saying happy pizzas or special shakes might contain an unknown substance or opium especially in major tourist places, so avoid it. Make sure to hone up your bargaining skills are it will be useful almost everywhere.

Culture of Laos

Laos has a very rich culture and highly influenced by spirituality. More than half of the population in the country are ethnic Lao and are seen extending their culture to their art and architecture. Lao culture is also heavily influenced by the culture of its neighbouring countries taking its main essence from Buddhism and Hinduism.

Buddhism is the major religion in Laos. Other than that Hinayana(Theravada) form of Buddhism is followed by the inhabitants of the Laos-Lum (Valley Laos). There is also a minority of Laos-Theung, animism and Christianity.

The official language of the country is Lao but many tribal languages are also prevalent. French, Vietnamese and little English is also spoken. Some of the useful Lao phrases are:
Hello: Sabaai-dii
How are you?: Sabaai-dii baw:
Welcome: Nyin dee
Good morning: Sabaai-dii ton sao
Good-bye: s™hk dii der
Please: Kaluna
Thank you: Khawp jai
Sorry: Khaw thoht

Food of Laos

In Laos, the staple ingredients of their food is boiled or steamed sticky rice, which is eaten witha variety of vegetables, meats, fish, poultry with a range of spices and flavours. One can also see the influence of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cooking on Lao food through wideÊuse of chilli, fish sauce, soy and Asian herbs like lemongrass, ginger, galangal and Asian basil. Other ingredients used for flavouring include garlic, tamarind, sugar and lime juice. Native sausages, noodles and fresh salad are other main staple in Laoss food. Accompanying food is often beer, water or fruit juice. Green tea is usually served free in most restaurants while Beer Lao is favourite among local. A strong French influence is also visible in larger towns with baguette sandwiches, pates, coffee and salads.

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