Laos - Frequently Asked Questions
For all those things you haven't found out in our generic description and introduction to Laos (or in our different travel guide sections) and you might be confused on or simply wondering about; this list of most commonly asked questions on Qatar aims to answer every concern or query.
We aim for our Laos FAQs to be the most complete and useful but if you can't find the answer to your particular question here or our answer doesn't fully resolve your riddle, you're more than welcome to give us a call and we'll put your unsolved concerns at ease. Browse through the list of questions here first and see if we can immediately answer what you're most intrigued about.
Table of contents
- When is the best time to go?
- Do you need a visa?
- How can I get there?
- What is the local currency and what currency should I take?
- What is there to see and do?
- Is Laos safe?
- Can I talk and take selfies with Buddhist monks?
- What are some good souvenirs to buy?
When is the best time to go?
The best time to visit Laos is November to March, when the weather is at its best. During this period, the climate is pleasant without becoming too hot and, for the most part, dry. As a result, this is also the peak season to travel. You can visit outside of this window, though it's usually best to avoid the low season of April to June, when temperatures regularly hit 40 degrees C. September and October, which also make up part of the low season, are better if you'd like to avoid the peak period as, while seeing frequent rains, the heat is less intense.
Do you need a visa?
Visa requirements can change regularly, so it's best to check the Lao Embassy when making your travel plans. However, generally speaking it is possible to get a visa on arrival, which you will need one passport photo for. Alternatively, you can arrange a visa before you go by contacting the Lao Embassy in London. You will also need to ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after your arrival date, and be sure to get your passport stamped when you land.
How can I get there?
Currently, there aren't any direct flights to Laos from the UK. Most people choose to fly to Bangkok and from there continue on to either Vientiane (approximately one hour) or Luang Prabang (roughly two hours). However, it's also possible to fly from various other destinations in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Malaysia - something that means it's easy to get to and from Laos as part of a wider tour of the region. Because of the need to change at a minimum of one airport to reach Laos, journeys typically take at least 15 and a half hours from the UK.
What is the local currency and what currency should I take?
The local currency is the Lao kip (K); US$1 is roughly equivalent to 8,215 kip. This currency is used for most transactions, but you'll often see Thai baht and US dollars being used in Laos too - especially when it comes to quoting prices. As a general rule of thumb, even if prices are quoted in dollars or baht, payment in kip is expected for smaller purchases. For more expensive purchases, payment is often in dollars or baht.
What is there to see and do?
Ideal for visiting as part of a wider tour of the region, Laos is a wonderfully laid-back, scenic country that's, as yet, relatively untouched by the tourism industry. This is a place you can come to enjoy a real sense of adventure, meeting the friendly locals, exploring remote villages and trying all kinds of thrilling activities along the way. Among the highlights of a trip to Laos is a visit to Si Phan Don or the Four Thousand Islands. During the dry season, the Mekong River recedes to reveal thousands of tiny islands, forming a place where travellers can come to unwind, enjoy the scenery, and try a variety of sports, including kayaking, cycling and swimming. If you'd like to be a little more adventurous, take a trip to Vang Vieng, where it's possible to climb spectacular limestone karsts. In search of heritage? Pay a visit to Luang Prabang, where you can see monks in saffron-coloured robes going about their daily life, or Vientiane, where you can taste the historic influences of Fr
Is Laos safe?
Laos is largely a safe country for travellers to visit - aside from taking the usual precautions for tourists with regard to protecting your belongings and personal safety, you just need to be aware that some areas will be off-limits. It's crucial to respect these boundaries, as they protect you from potential unexploded devices leftover from warfare. Petty crime, such as theft and bag snatching, is also fairly common - tourists anywhere in the world are looked upon as easy targets, and it is no different in Laos. So, despite the laid-back atmosphere, it's important to take the usual precautions against pickpocketing and theft, such as carrying your passport, money and valuables concealed on your person, and not leaving any valuables lying around in your accommodation. It's also sensible to avoid placing bags in the basket of bicycles, where they can be easily snatched.
Can I talk and take selfies with Buddhist monks?
While you may want to capture the moment, avoid taking any photographs of monks; snapping pictures of holy figures is considered disrespectful to Lao culture. So, this means no selfies either. Similarly, when visiting monastery buildings, it is respectful not to strike up a conversation with a monk unless they begin interacting with you first.
What are some good souvenirs to buy?
Lao is an excellent place to pick up some souvenirs of your travels - this is a country where the markets are full of village-made, handcrafted goods. Among the best things to buy are baskets, which are an important part of Lao culture, being used in wide array of aspects of daily life, including serving food and storage. Woven grass or reed mats are another good option and one you can use during your trip, as they are great to sit on when travelling on passenger boats. Sarongs, shoulder bags and shawls woven locally and in traditional designs also make excellent souvenirs, as does silver jewellery. Look out for bracelets and anklets that have a lotus bud design on each end - these are in the traditional Lao style.
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Neil Murray, a writer from The Telegraph, has recently taken a tour with Voyages Jules Verne to Laos and Cambodia to explore the delights of south-east Asia. The tour stopped off at attractions in both countries, including the impressive Angkor Wat, waterfalls, a floating village, cruises on the Mekong River, night markets, and the Killing Fields under the guidance of professional tour experts.
Laos has recently reported a 10 per cent year-on-year growth in the number of international arrivals in 2014 with 4.16 million arrivals. In an effort to build on its current success, the Southeast Asian country recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China aimed at developing Laos' infrastructure and services.