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You are at » Travel Tips
TRAVEL TIPS
Airlines/ Airport Tax/ Visa/ How to get to Laos/ Customs & formalities/ Currency & Exchange/ Climate/ Clothing/ Language/ Religion/ Safety/ Insurance/Electricity/ Entertainment/ Public Holidays/ Business Hours/ Internet/Telephone/Local Time/Post Mail/ Food/Shopping/ Tipping/ Water/Transport/ Health requirement/
 
Airlines

International: The national carrier Lao Airlines, as well as Thai Airways, Siem Reap Airways, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines serves the international airports at Vientiane, Pakse, Savannakhet, and Luang Prabang. Low-cost carrier Air Asia has begun routes from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to Vientiane and China Southern flies to the capital from Kunming.
 
Domestic: Lao Airlines serves the domestic routes and connects the capital city Vientiane to major destinations in the country.
 
 Airport Tax
All international and domestic airport taxes are included in the price of the tickets.
 
Visa
Approval is no longer required for visas to Laos. Foreign tourists are generally admitted into Laos for 30 days with a visa on arrival (obtained at most border check points) without prior authorization or for 30 days with a visa issued at a Laotian embassy. This costs 30-42 USD (depending on nationality) and requires the filling in of an application form and two passport photos. An additional 1 USD/person can be charged if you arrive on a weekend or public holiday. Two passport-size photos are required and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected departure date. Please contact your local Lao embassy for the most accurate information. 
 
How to get to Laos
By air: Presently, Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Savannakhet are the four international airports.
 
Overland: The country can be entered or exited overland at the following immigration checkpoints, which are open daily from 08.30 AM to 05.00 PM:
 
Laos – China
• Boten, Luang Namtha province, from / to Bohan and Mengla (Yunnan, China)
Laos– Thailand
• Friendship Bridge from / to Nong Khai (Thailand) crossing the Mekong River by shuttle bus (from 06.00 AM to 10.00 PM)
• Houei Xay by crossing the Mekong River by ferry from / to Chiang Khong (Thailand) (from 08.00 AM to 06.00 PM)
• Bolikhamxay from / to Bungkan District, Nong Khai province (Thailand) crossing the Mekong River
• Thakek from / to Nakhon Phanom (Thailand) by ferry crossing the Mekong River.
• Savannakhet from / to Mukdahan (Thailand), actually by second Friendship bridge, spanning the Mekong River
• Vang Tao from / to Chongmek, Ubon Ratchatani (Thailand)
Laos – Vietnam
• Muang Mai ( Sop Hun ), Phongsaly province from / to Tay Trang, Dien Bien Phu ( Vietnam )
• Sam Neua ( Na Meo ) from / to Pa Hang on route N0 6 to Vietnam
• Nonghet, Xieng Khouang province, from / to Nam Can (Vietnam)
• Namphao, Borikhamxay province, from / to Cau Treo (Vietnam)
• Naphao / Chalo, route N0 12, which links Thakek to Ving or Dong Hoi (Vietnam)
• Denesavanh from / to Lao Bao (Vietnam)
• Bo Keua, Attopeu province from / to Bo –Y, Kuntum province, High land (Vietnam)
Laos – Cambodia
• Dong Kalor from / to Strung Treng (Cambodia)
 
Note: visa on arrival at Houexay and at the Friendship bridge is possible. For most other border crossings the Lao Visa must be obtained prior to travel. For updated information please contact us.
 
Customs & formalities 
Arrivals at Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse International airport are generally rather casual events. Carry-on bags are usually not inspected if that is all you have brought. For checked-in baggage, when claimed at counter, passengers are sometimes required to declare if they have brought antiques and silver items with them. Simple formalities should be observed also when entering the country overland.
Passengers have to complete immigration and customs declaration forms during the arrival flight or upon arrival and must submit these documents on arrival.  AsiaTravel Needs representative or a guide will meet travelers at the exit point in the arrival hall after immigration and customs clearance.
 
Currency & Exchange
The local currency is the KIP. Notes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10.000, 20.000 50,000 Kips. The rate of exchange as per the time of printing is approximately 8000 Kip to one US Dollar and 12000 Kip to one Euro (as at September 2010). In Vientiane, notes of most international currencies can be exchanged either at banks or at licensed moneychangers.  Outside Vientiane, most provincial banks and licensed moneychangers accept only US Dollars, Thai Baht and sometimes Euros. Only major banks accept traveler’s cheques. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels and up-market shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
ATMs are available in Vientiane and Luang Prabang and can dispense a maximum amount of 700,000 Kip (US Dollar 70) a time to most card accounts with a withdrawal fee of approx. US Dollar 2.
 
Climate
Laos can be visited throughout the year. However, those planning to travel extensively by road in the Northern part of the country and/or in the south of the Boloven Plateau should avoid the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable.
Laos enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons. The dry or cool season begins end of October and lasts until end of February (average 20-25° C). Take along a pullover or jacket during the cool season, as nights can be cold, especially in the mountainous areas such as Luang Prabang, the Plain of Jars, Saravane and Houeixai (0-5° C). The hot season lasts from March to June, light cotton clothes and hats are recommended (average 35° C). From June to early October is the rainy season (average 25-30° C). Most precipitations come in the afternoon and in the evening. Rainfall varies considerably from area to area with the highlands in the Phou Louang range along Lao / Vietnam border receiving the more precipitation (300+ mms per year). Vientiane average 150/200 mms per year and Luang Prabang 100/150 mms per year. 
 
Clothing
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Laos. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. Warm clothing is needed for visiting the northern Laos during the winter months from November to February. Visitors to Laos should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
 
Language
The official language of Lao PDR is Lao. It is spoken throughout the country as well as the Vientiane’s dialect. In spite of the colonial past, French remains the second language and English is in common use among business sectors and young generations, even though they are not widely spoken except in the capital and in major tourist sites such as Luang Prabang.
 
Religion
 As in the neighboring countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion and saffron-robed monks are a common sight in Laos. There are also a small number of Catholics and Protestants.
 
Safety
Laos is generally a safe country. Nevertheless and as a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In some tourist sites you may encounter some insistent souvenir sellers. A polite but firm “No, thank you” usually will suffice.
 
Insurance
We highly recommend that all travelers to Southeast Asia purchase Travel Insurance which covers medical evacuation by air. In case of an emergency, be sure to collect all receipts and invoices, as well as a copy of the medical report, for your insurance company.
 
 Electricity
Lao uses 220V. Power outlets usually feature two-prong round or flat sockets however, there is no set standard. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.
 
Entertainment
 There is not much in the way of western style entertainment in Laos but Vientiane and Luang Prabang have good restaurants and quite a few bars and nightclubs. In the rest of the country, entertainment is mainly confined to the hotels and mainly tourist-orientated restaurants.
 
Public Holidays
02 DEC      Lao National Day
01 JAN       International New year
08 MAR      International Women Day
13 APR       Lao New Year*
14 APR       Lao New Year*
15 APR       Lao New Year*
01 MAY       Labor Day
AUGUST      Boat Racing Festival in Luang Prabang
OCTOBER    Boat Racing Festival in Vientiane and Pakse
NOVEMBER  That Luang Festival in Vientiane
 
Business Hours
 Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 16:00 and often close for lunch between 12:00 and 14:00. Shops open from Monday to Saturday between 09:00 and 17:00 and some also open on Sunday.
 
Internet
Major hotels throughout Laos have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet and some have wireless broadband access. Check with reception for fares and facilities.  Cyber cafes are easily found in major towns and cities and prices are reasonable- around 1USD per hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to landlines or mobile phones worldwide. Most Internet cafes are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.
 
 Telephone
Most hotels have IDD phones and fax machines, however these services are expensive in Laos. Internet cafes offer cheaper dialing rates although the quality is not always great and away from the major cities it may not always be possible to make international calls. If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls which again can be expensive. The Lao mobile network is cheap and affordable. Local SIM cards can easily be purchased in the main cities and international rates are around 2000 kip per minute.
 
Local Time
Laos runs at GMT + 7 hours, it lies in the same time zone as its neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Working hours:  Government offices are generally open Monday to Friday from 08.00 AM – 12.00 PM, and from 01.00 – 04.00 PM. Shop and private business offices open and close a bit later and usually stay open during lunchtime.

Postal Mail
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to North America costs about 9,500 kips and takes 10 days to two weeks to reach its destination.
 
Food
Lao cuisine has many similarities to Thai with lots of aromatic herbs and spices such as lemon grass, chilies, ginger and tamarind used to flavor dishes. Sticky rice, or kao niao, is the main ingredient in Lao cuisine, usually served with fermented fish and a fish sauce similar to that used in Vietnamese cuisine called nam pa. Chicken and pork dishes are also popular but beef is expensive in comparison. Soups served with noodles, bamboo shoots and fresh vegetables can be found everywhere.
 
Water
 Keep in mind to always clean your fruits and vegetable with purified water or to peel them. Bottled water is safe for Westerner and easy to find in most of places. Wash your hand before eating.
 
Shopping
The best buys in Laos are ethnic minority handicrafts and textiles. The Lao sarong or pha sin made from silk or cotton is popular souvenir. Other souvenirs to look out for include silverware, in particular from Luang Prabang, and wood carvings.
 
Tipping
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Laos. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.
 
 Transportation
Depending on the road conditions of each province, visitors are provided with bus, minibus or car, most of the time with air-conditioning, for the excursions.
 
Health requirement 
 Yellow fever: Not obligatory if the travelers come from Europe
Japanese encephalitis: Please consult your doctor before your  departure for advice
Hepatitis  A: Vaccination is recommended
Hepatitis  B:  Vaccination is recommended
Rabies: Advisable
Tenatus – Poliomylitis: Check if  your vaccination is up-to-date
Typhoid: Please consult your doctor before your  departure for advice
Malaria: the country is classified as a zone 3 countries: Please consult your doctor before your  departure for advice