Why Travel To Laos

Landlocked Laos has been kept in the shadows for too long. After decades of hiding in exotic obscurity, this country of around 7 million people has emerged as one of Asia’s most evocative destinations. Why? Well, let us give a sense for Laos travel and one of Asia’s best kept secrets…

Laos is a country that brims with authenticity. The seemingly endless tracts of gorgeous countryside are only occasionally interrupted by quaint villages. In the north, around Houayxay, you’ll come face to face with gibbons or you can delve into the intrigue of the Plain of Jars. The urban centres are also unique as Vientiane is often described as the quietest capital in the world and Luang Prabang may be the best preserved ancient city in the continent. Around Luang Prabang, an ancient city of glistening temples and grand colonial houses, you’ll discover fabulous rivers and waterfalls such as those at Khuang Si and Tad Sae. Away from the well-known cities you’ll find an untouched countryside around Pakse and Vang Vieng and some atmospheric ruins around Champasak.

It is a wonder that little-visited Laos doesn’t receive a greater number of tourists, but then that just adds to the charm of this country that few can place on a map.

Untouched wilderness

Untouched wilderness – nowhere else is this green.

Unique pace of life

A unique pace of life – the perfect place to sit back and relax. 

Sunsets over the Mekong

Sunsets over the Mekong are the most beautiful in Asia.

Inspiring Trip Ideas

Recommended Places & Senses

Map

Laos Travel Guide

AT A GLANCE
Capital: Vientiane
Population: 6.9 million
Languages: Lao
Currency: Kip (LAK)
Time zone: GMT +7
Electricity: 230V
Dialing Code: +856
A country by name, but a continent in scale, India in one word is diversity. Its north is banded by the peaks of the Himalayas. Moving south, you pass through Rajasthan, a microcosm of India with its forts, palaces and temples, and the Taj Mahal, but also its bustling markets and opportunities to spot tiger. In India’s northeast corner, Calcutta still exudes its colonial heritage in a landscape clothed with tea plantations.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
  • It's dry throughout the country in January and February, with comfortably warm temperatures, although it can get quite cold in the north of the country.
  • The dry season continues in March and April, with temperatures rising throughout the country to over 30°C in places; although cooler conditions can still be found in the highlands. River levels will be at an annual low, meaning river travel may be difficult in some parts of the country.
  • May and June: Rain will start to fall throughout most of the country; with the north seeing the least. The rain tends to be short-lived and plenty of sunshine can still be expected away from the south of the country. Temperatures hover around the low 30°Cs.
  • July – September: The wet season is now in full swing and temperatures continue to average around 30°C. It is not uncommon for temperatures to drop a little; with cooler temperatures found in the south (specifically theBolaven Plateau). Rainfall reaches its peak in August as showers become longer and more intense, and little of the country will remain dry. River levels begin to fill up in time for the dry season approaching, and Laos' beautiful landscapes return.
  • October to December: The drier weather returns, but some rain may still make an appearance. Temperatures will be comfortable at around the mid to high 20°Cs, and flora and fauna are in abundance.
PEOPLE, HISTORY AND CULTURE
Lao people are open and friendly, and they possess a strongly developed sense of courtesy and respect. The generally accepted form of greeting among Lao people is the Nop. It is performed by placing one’s palms together in a position of praying at chest level, but not touching the body. It is also used as an expression of thanks, regret or saying good-bye. But with western people it is acceptable to shake hands.
GEOGRAPHY
Laos is a landlocked Southeast Asian country surrounded by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and China. It has an area of about 91,400 square miles (236,800 square kilometer).
 A key physical feature is the Annamese Cordillera mountain range that runs from north to south, along the eastern border with Vietnam. There are other secondary ranges, and to the north of the capital, Vientiane, is the highest peak, Mount Bia.
Out of these ranges all the main rivers flow from east to west into the Mekong River. In the north, the Mekong forms a short border with Myanmar (Burma) and most of the border with Thailand. Along the rivers there are floodplains suitable for rice cultivation. There are no extensive lowland plains. Upland soils are much less fertile, but there are two plains areas: the Plain of Jars, and the Boloven Plateau in Champassak Province.
TRANSPORTATIONS
  1. Elephant riding. Being known as “The Land of a Million Elephants”, Laos has it own unique means of transportation – elephants. It can be fun to sit on an elephant’ back and explore the jungles and mountains.
  2. Tuk-tuk. The Tuk tuk is a popular means of transport in Laos especially Vientiane. Taking a tuk-tuk ride is a great way to get a local experience.
  3. Boats. There are many kinds of boats in Laos: slow boat, speed boat, long tail boat, traditional boat etc for tourists to take a cruise along the beautiful Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers.
  4. Buses. Buses are the main means of transportation in Laos. Most of buses in Laos are well equipped with air-conditioning and comfortable seats.
  5. Planes. There are two national airlines and one private airline company in Laos:  Lao Airlines, Lao Air and Lao Central Airline that offer many regional flights to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
ACCOMMODATIONS
  1. Mid-range Accommodation
Mid-range hotels have been opening up in medium-sized towns all across Laos over the last few years, greatly improving the accommodation situation. Most of these hotels are compact, of up to five storeys, and offer spacious rooms with tiled floors and en-suite bathrooms with Western-style toilets. The mattresses are usually hard, but at least the sheets and quilts are consistently clean.
  1. Upmarket Hotels
In the former French towns on the Mekong this level of expense translates into an atmospheric room in a restored colonial villa or accommodation in a recently built establishment where rooms boast some of the trappings of a high-end hotel, such as cable television, fridge, air conditioning and a hot-water shower. Colonial-era hotels often have a limited number of rooms, so book ahead if you want to take advantage of them , and well in advance if you plan to visit during the peak months (Dec and Jan).
EATING AND DRINKING
Cuisine in Laos
  1. Lao cuisine is very similar to the food eaten in the north-eastern Isaan region of Thailand: very spicy, more often bitter than sweet, and using lots of fresh herbs and vegetables served raw.
  2. Rice is the staple carbohydrate. The standard kind is sticky rice  (khao niaow), eaten by hand from small baskets called tip khao. Using your right hand, pinch off a bit, roll into a ball, dip and munch away.
  3. The national dish is laap, a “salad” of minced meat mixed with herbs, spices, lime juice and, more often than not, blistering amounts of chili. Unlike Thai larb, the Lao version can use raw meat (dip) instead of cooked meat (suk), and if prepared with seafood makes a tasty, if spicy carpaccio. Another Lao invention is tam maak hung , the spicy green papaya salad known as som tam in Thailand, but which the Lao like to dress with fermented crab  (pudem) and a chunky, intense fish sauce called pa daek , resulting in a stronger flavor than the milder, sweeter Thai style. Other popular dishes include ping kai, spicy grilled chicken, and mok pa, fish steamed in a banana leaf.
What to Drink in Laos
  1. The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18. However, there is no legal drinking age when off alcohol selling premises(restaurants, bars, etc.).
  2. The national drink of Laos is the ubiquitous and tasty Beer Lao, made with Laotian jasmine rice and one of the few Lao exports. It maintains an almost mythical status amongst travellers and world beer aficionados.
SENSES'S PICKED DESTINATION
  1. Incredibly romantic Luang Prabang should be considered a must see, with its glittering temples, saffron-robed monks and sleepy riverine lifestyle. The pace has moved up a notch since the tourists arrived, as slick cafes jostle for space with chic boutiques showcasing the best Laotian wares: intricate weavings, elaborate silver trinkets and speciality foods.
  2. The bustling capital Vientiane tempts many, as does the thriving tourist centre of Vang Vieng. We'd actually suggest you skip the latter, a heaving backpacker hub, but the limestone crags and riverside scenery remain gorgeous despite the mass of travellers.
  3. The far northern provinces of Phongsali, Luang Nam Tha and Udomxai offer exciting possibilities for independent trekking. The industry is fledgling and infrastructure is still developing, so trips tend to be challenging but infinitely rewarding. In the mysterious northeastern Plain of Jars and north to Hua Phan, you're in the midst of what was Pathet Lao heartland, an area that the United States tried to bomb back to the stone age and which, four decades later, is still trying to get back on its feet.
  4. The far south of Laos is also slowly emerging as a trekking centre, although many shoot straight down to 4,000 Islands, including Don Khong, Don Dhet and Don Khon for a taste of lazy island life and a spot of dolphin watching. There is a lot to see and experience in between for the more intrepid. Tha Khaek and Savannakhet offer nascent trekking and caving, while Attapeu, Pakse, Champasak and Salavan are all worthy spots to while away a few days exploring.
HEALTH and SAFETY
  1. Before You Go
Pack medications in their original, clearly labelled, containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea.If you happen to take any regular medication, bring double your needs in case of loss or theft.
  1. Safety
Over the last couple of decades Laos has earned a reputation among visitors as a remarkably safe place to travel, with little crime reported and few of the scams so often found in more touristed places such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. And while the vast majority of Laotians remain honest and welcoming, things aren't quite as idyllic as they once were. The main change has been in the rise of petty crimes, such as theft and low-level scams, which are more annoying than dangerous.
FESTIVAL CALENDAR
  • 1 Jan New Year's Day.
  • 6 Jan Pathet Lao Day.
  • 20 Jan Army Day.
  • 10 Feb Chinese New Year
  • 8 Mar International Women's Day
  • 22 Mar Day of the People's Party.
  • 13-15 Apr Lao New Year (Pi Mai)
  • 28 Apr Buddha Day (Vesak).
  • 1 May Labor Day.
  • 1 Jun Children's Day
  • 22 Jun Khao Pansa (Buddhist Fast begins).
  • 13 Aug Lao Issara (Day of the Free Laos)
  • 12 Oct Day of Liberation.
  • 19-20 Oct Bouk Ok Pansa (Buddhist Fast ends)
  • 2 Dec National Day.
* Dates are changeable every year as it follow the lunar calendar and Buddhist calendar
DOS & DON'TS
DOs
  1. Practice a formal greeting for Lao people such as the “Nop” and handshakes
  2. Dress and behave modestly, especially in religious shrines or temples
  3. Keep you head lower than Buddha and monks.
  4. Take your shoes off and leave them outside the house or on stairs when entering a Lao persons home
  5. Accept any water that Lao people serve you even if you don’t want to drink.
DON’Ts
  1. Touch Lao people’s heads
  2. Expose too much skin
  3. Wear shoes in temple Buildings
  4. Touch the Buddha
  5. Turn your back on the Buddha
  6. Raise your voice to Lao people, especially in public.
  7. Expose the feet when sitting down, rest the feet on tables or chairs and gesture with the feet.
  8. Step over someone and food
Laos Journey Planner

Honest and passionate, I am always up for new challenges. I joined SensAsia team 2 years ago and since then I’ve been enjoying planning trip for customers as well as looking after the realization of the perfect journey. My philosophy is as simple as this “I have to see things in order to advise to

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Laos Journey Planner

Smart, enthusiastic and hardworking, I’ve been in the industry for 7 years. My experience makes me always give the best advice for my clients: I can show you the best cycling routes throughout the country, I can escort you during a hard trek, I can teach you about Hmong culture and have a couple of

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Journey Planner

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – St. Augustine. People read the book in different ways, some only glance at the cover; some skim through the pages; and some read between the lines to find hidden meanings… My personal thought, “read the book” then use senses

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EXPERIENCE

Our Journey Planers and Local Specialist know the destination inside out, they’ve either lived in or regularly visited the places they sell. Our excellent local relationships, built over 20 years of experience, enable us to enrich your experiences and negotiate many extras for your holiday, from free night discounts to free upgrades.

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