Laos has a tremendous range of attractions to offer visitors without the tourist crowding that’s common in other Southeast Asian nations. We’ve collected some of the most important tips for traveling to Laos from our community.
Exploring Laos can involve visiting many distinctive destinations: the mysterious Plain of Jars, the historical Luang Prabang, the relaxed capital of Vientiane, the backpacking mecca of Vang Vieng, and more. Here are some key points to understand before arriving in Laos:
1) Stick To The Beaten Track
While Laos has significant landmine issues, these are minimized if you stick to the more heavily-trafficked tourist areas. Exercise greater caution if you venture away from busier, more popular areas. Laos feels remote while you are on the ground, but you should take heart in the fact that the entire country is (via air travel) extremely close to world-class medical assistance in Bangkok. It’s also advised travelers do not to bring along their most valuable items (e.g. pricey jewelry) when coming to Laos.
2) Always Boil The Water
The World Travel Guide is quite explicit about the safety of water when you’re traveling in Laos: Always suspect it. Take care to ensure that the water you use for all internal consumption – not just drinking water but also water for brushing your teeth and making ice cubes – is boiled or otherwise sterilized. Laotian dairies typically do not pasteurize their milk, so this should also be boiled. For most visitors, canned or powdered milk represents a simpler and more convenient alternative; it’s sold in most local markets.
Evaluate all foods carefully for suspect ingredients like unboiled milk. Try to stick to meat and fish dishes where you are sure the protein has been thoroughly cooked. Avoid raw vegetables and peel all fruit.
3) Vaccinate Thoroughly
Laos hosts a number of very dangerous but also very preventable diseases, including Hepatitis B & E, tuberculosis, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis. Visit your doctor and make sure you are comprehensively vaccinated before visiting Laos – or any other Asian destination.
Dengue fever is the most common and dangerous mosquito-borne disease in the region. Learn more about avoiding infection and recognizing its symptoms here.
4) Prepare To Pay In Cash
Lao kip is the local currency of Laos. While ATMs are common in certain sections of the country, other regions are practically devoid of them. These include Huay Xai, Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Luang Prabang. Keith Hajovsky notes that while credit cards are accepted in the pricier tourist destinations (like restaurants, hotels, and shops), you should carry a healthy stock of cash to ensure your liquidity.
The exchange rate between kip and western currencies tends to look extremely favorable. Don’t let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security by all the extra zeroes. Double-check all of your currency exchange transactions carefully to confirm you’re getting the agreed-upon rate.
5) Know Your Road Responsibilities
A motorcycle is a terrific tool for traveling around Laos. Be aware that it’s illegal to ride a bike without a license. Do not rely solely on a rental shop to fill you in properly on the local laws. Laotian police are becoming much more stringent about enforcing traffic laws, particularly the requirement for motorcycle licenses. Expect to face a punishing fine if they stop you and you can’t produce one.
Motorcycle rentals are currently going through a popularity boom in Laos. While rental shops used to be confined strictly to Vientiane, now they’re easy to find in Pakse, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and other smaller communities.
Different rental shops will offer vastly different levels of vehicle quality. Make a thorough study of a vendor’s stock before making any commitments. The most common rental bikes you’ll find in Laos are the Honda Baja and the XR 250.
Not all of Laos’s key roads are paved, but it’s generally easy to get anywhere you want to go. One particularly popular route for tourist biking is the Tha Khaek Loop. This circuit will generally take five days to cover.
Helmets are both required by law and a smart safety choice on Laos’s chaotic roads.
6 Get a Visa
If you are from outside of the asia, then it’s likely you will need a visa to visit Laos. You can do so by contacting the nations embassy in your nation, if it has one or alternatively via a passport agency who provides visas for the nation. A visa will allow you 30 days entry and you will need 6 months left on your passport beyond your intended stay.