ORLA Tours experts tell you their tips for your next trip to Laos. You are planning to go to Laos for your next trip? It's an excellent project! This country still very authentic, is quite unknown by tourists. It offers a variety of sublime landscapes with wild nature, unforgettable encounters with ethnic groups living out of time, immersion in Buddhist culture... The change of sceneries is guaranteed !
However, it can be a little complicated to find reliable recent information to properly organize your stay. How to make tourist visas? What are the compulsory vaccines? etc ... Well, going to Laos is not that complicated. The experts of Off Road Laos Adventures give you all the crucial info so that you can calmly prepare your next vacation in Laos.
Do I have to organize my holidays in Laos with a travel agency ?
It is not mandatory to be accompanied by a travel agency while you travel to Laos as long as you stay in the "tourist" areas such as cities and main roads. If you want to visit the country more deeply, to sleep within a village or to go hiking, it is mandatory to be accompanied by a professional Laotian guide. And they all work necessarily with a local travel agency. Outside of the main roads, there is no more indication or sign so you have to know the place to be avoid getting lost. In addition to that, only few Laotians speak English, so this is where the guide plays his role of interpreter and allows you to really exchange with the local population.
To go on a trek, it is possible to find small agencies in LuangPrabang, Nongkhiaw, Phongsaly, LuangNamtha, ... they offer tours from 1 to 4 days walking. If you want to go for an authentic trek or discovery off the beaten track, you must organize it in advance with an agency.
What shall I do to get a tourist visa ?
The first thing to do, and prettyearly, is to check the expiry date of your passport. It must still be valid at least 6 months after the end of your stay in Asia.
The tourist visa is valid for 30 days. It is very easy to do it directly on arrival at the airport. You will have to fill out a form specifying the details of your identity, the hotel for your first night... Then, you will have to provide 2 identity pictures as well as 35-40dollars (sometimes extra charges according to the hour, the day of the week ...). It will last from 20 to 30 minutes depending of the number of people waiting. You can pay in euros or US dollars, knowing that the dollar is more advantageous. Get some change with you in advance as there is not necessarily an ATM in the airport. This information is valid for 2018-2019.
What are the compulsory vaccines? Is malaria treatment essential ?
No vaccine is mandatory, but make sure to have your “standard”vaccines up to date. If you go to rural areas for a long time, some vaccines are advised (rabies, hepatitis A and B, typhoid).
The best protection against malaria and all other diseases transmitted by the mosquito, is above all to avoid being stung. For this, use a good repellent such as the brand “5/5” for example. You will find it in a pharmacy. If you go on a hike, it is also very effective against leeches (spray some on your socks, your shoes and the bottom of your pants). In the dry season, from October to April, mosquitoes are few, so the risks are very low. FYI, some anti-malaria treatments can have quite troublesome side effects (stomach and headaches, discomfort,…).
In all cases, consult your doctor or make an appointment at a traveler's vaccination center before leaving. They will be the best to advise you (if you are up to date with your vaccines, if you need an anti-malaria treatment, etc ...). They will also be able to give you a prescription to make a small pharmacy kit. Because, we must admit it, jet lag, climate and diet modifications, can be the cause of gastric disorders. Some drugs will be welcome to avoid being bothered.
What flights to take to Laos ?
There are 3 international airports in Laos: Vientiane and LuangPrabang in the north, Pakse in the south.
The skyscanner.net & optionway.com websites are very effective to find cheap flights. It generally proposes very attractive fares with correct flight times. It also makes it possible to visualize flight prices over several weeks thanks to inquiries made by other users.
It is also possible to take flights to Thailand, then cross the border Thailand / Laos by bus to the city of Houaysay. You can embark on a 2-day cruise on the Mekong River to LuangPrabang.
What is the local currency ? How to change or withdraw money ?
The local currency is the KIP. 1 € = 10 000 kips, 1 USD = 8000 kips, so in Laos you are a billionaire just by withdrawing 100€ !
In Laos, all payments are made in cash, except in some hotels and restaurants very famous or high-class that accept payments by credit card. In the cities, you will find many ATM and change offices so it will be easy to withdraw money or change your euros or US dollars. On the other hand, if you go off the beaten track and in the villages, remember to take cash with you.
Before going to Laos, we advise you to inform your bank. Indeed, as it is anunknown destination, you could see your withdrawals refused. Better give a call or send an e-mail to your banker before departure.
When is the best time to travel to Laos ?
Contrary to what all tour guides say, you can come to Laos all year round. The rainy season, from June to early October, is even our favorite time period! Yes, it's raining more than the rest of the year but it's not nearly as bad as that. The rains are dot the day but occur mainly at night. As soon as the sun comes back, all the water disappears in a wink. The major disadvantage of the wet season is that some remote parts of Laos become inaccessible because the tracks are too muddy. On the other hand, the vegetation is lush and the rice fields are bright green, and you are almost the only ones to enjoy this as there are only few tourists during this period.
In the dry season, from October to March, the rains are rarer, the weather is mostly sunny and the temperatures are very pleasant. From mid-December to mid-February, it can even be cold, especially if you go hiking in the northern mountains in high altitude. At night, temperatures can go down to 5-8 Celsiusdegrees. During the day, it rises quickly around 20-25 if sun comes up. In March, it starts to get very hot with peaks up to 35-38 degrees, so you have to like the heat! And this trend is accentuated in April and May, which are the hottest months of the year.
You are now ready to calmly prepare your trip to Laos. It is an extremely welcoming and safe country, offering extraordinary human experiences and adventures. Also please note that it is a developing country, so you will not find European comfort (except in luxury hotels and restaurants). Our agency organizes tailor-made trips, so do not hesitate to call us for your next vacation! We will be able to create a trip that fits you perfectly.
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