Practical information about Laos
- Local airport fees
- Meals except those specifically mentioned
- Cancellation and travel insurance
Laos has a tropical monsoon climate that does not fluctuate greatly during the year. There are two seasons: the dry season, which runs from November to April, and the rainy season from May to October. The average temperature is between 25 and 30 °C all year round. It is hottest in May, when the temperature in the middle of the day can reach 40 °C, and coldest in December, when the temperature can drop as low as 15°C at night.
Excursions and transfers are conducted in small, international groups led by English-speaking guides.
You can travel to Laos all year round. During the European winter it is the dry season in Laos, when the temperatures are extremely pleasant. In our summer months, the temperatures in Laos are higher. It is also at this time of the year that most of the rain falls there – which means that dust is not a problem. In the summer months, you should be prepared for journeys by road to last a little longer on account of sudden, heavy downpours.
Please read our booking terms and conditions carefully. These terms and conditions constitute the basis of your package purchased from Asiatours.co.uk. Click here to read our terms and conditions of travel.
All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
We are an ATOL protected agency giving you complete peace of mind. It is a condition of booking that the sole responsibility lies with the guest to ensure that they carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover themselves, as well as any dependants/traveling companions for the duration of their tour.
In cooperation with our partner we can offer advantageous travel insurances. Learn more here.
The official language of Laos is Laotian (or Lao), but as a tourist you can certainly make yourself understood in English. The Lao people also have their own script, which most Westerners find impossible to read. Here are some helpful words and phrases:
Thank you: Khob Jai
Thank you very much: Khob Jai lai Lai
Not strong/hot: BorPhet
Excuse me: Khorthod
Goodbye: La gone
We recommend that you contact a medical specialist, your GP or an authorised vaccination clinic.
Visit nhs.co.uk for more information about vaccinations and Laos.
As a UK citizen, you will need a visa to visit Laos. In the same way as for other international travel, you must also be in possession of a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after departure from Laos.
As a UK citizen, you will be issued with your visa on arrival in Laos. You will need to bring your passport, a passport photograph and USD 42 in cash.
Visit also gov.uk and study the visa information presented there.
The unit of currency in Laos is the kip (LAK). 1 kip is divided into 100 att. It is a protected currency, which means you cannot buy it in advance and will have to exchange currency in Laos.
Visit www.xe.com/currencyconverter to see the current exchange rate in both US dollars and euros. We recommend that you bring some US dollars with you in cash (ideally large denomination notes – USD 20, 50 or 100 USD), and exchange them at an official bureau de change on arrival in the country. You should not expect to be able to exchange a large denomination American note for smaller denomination notes. We therefore recommend that you bring some American dollars in small denomination notes (USD 1, 5 and 10) as well.
Many places actually prefer payment in US dollars (or in Thai ‘baht’ close to the border with Thailand). You can use standard credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane, where you will also find cash machines (ATMs). Outside these cities, ATMs are not common and you should not count on being able to pay with your credit card in very many places.
Generally speaking, Laos is one of the cheapest countries in the Far East, especially for local products. This does not apply to imported products, however, which are usually more expensive than in neighbouring countries. The guide below applies to the cities. Prices are typically lower in rural areas, where the range of options also tends to be more limited.
- Food from street kitchens:
Noodle soup: LAK 15,000
Noodles with pork or chicken and vegetables: LAK 15,000
Baguette: LAK 15,000
- Meals in restaurants:
Restaurants serving western cuisine: from LAK 45,000
Restaurants serving a fixed Lao menu: from LAK 60,000
Soft drinks: LAK 7,000
Beer (Lao bottled): LAK 12,000
- Other goods:
T-shirt/bag: between LAK 30,000 and LAK 150,000
Telephone: between LAK 200,000 and LAK 250,000
SIM card: between LAK 10,000 and LAK 30,000
Cycle hire: from LAK 20,000
You are welcome to give gratuities, but it is up to you whether or not to do so and you may tip as much or as little as you like. The following suggestions are indicative only:
- Bellboy: USD 1
- Maid: USD 1 per day
- Guides: USD 5–10 per person, per day; depending on the service supplied
- Drivers: USD 3–5 per person, per day; depending on the service supplied
- Restaurants: In modern restaurants, a service charge is sometimes included in the price so there is no need to leave an extra tip. Gratuities are seldom expected in local restaurants, but there is nothing to stop you putting some coins on the table when you leave.
The difference between Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the time in Laos varies, depending on UK summer and winter time.
Summer time: +4 hours. This means that when it is noon GMT, it is 16.00 in Laos.
Winter time: +5 hours. This means that when it is noon GMT, it is 17.00 in Laos.
Mains electricity in Laos is typically 230 V. Plugs with two round pins are used in most places. However, other types of plugs may be used, so you should bring a multi-adapter with you.
The international dialling code for Laos is +856. It can be expensive to place calls to – or receive them from – Europe while you are in Laos. Ask your own mobile service provider about coverage and call charges. If you need to make lots of calls or to send a lot of text messages, it may be a good idea to buy a local SIM card. There are internet cafés in the big cities, and Wi-Fi connections in most hotels.
Laos is generally a very safe country to travel in. There is little crime – particularly crime against tourists – and risky situations can be avoided through general common sense. Try not to display expensive jewellery and large sums of cash.
Laos was one of the most heavily bombed countries during the Vietnam War, and large numbers of mines were laid. Particularly in the eastern part of the country – i.e. away from the usual tourist areas – there is still a fair amount of UXO (unexploded ordinance), as well as a number of areas that have not been swept for land mines. However, these areas are far away from the places our tours visit – and generally outside the typical tourist areas. On the Plain of Jars, we ONLY visit areas that have been cleared of bombs and land mines. Always follow the advice and information provided by the guides and you can be sure of staying out of danger.
Traditional Lao cuisine uses a lot of game, wild boar and freshwater fish. The freshness of the ingredients is extremely important, and the Lao people prefer to prepare meals from scratch. Herbs and spices such as galangal and lemon grass are used in almost everything, while ‘padaek’ (Lao fish sauce) is a staple feature of all meals. Here are some useful terms with regard to food:
- Lap: a traditional dish; it is a hot, spicy mix of marinated meat and/or fish, sometimes served raw.
- Khao Nie: sticky rice (In the same way as in neighbouring countries, rice is a staple food. The Lao people generally prefer sticky rice, which they break up and mash into small balls with their fingers. The rice balls are then dipped in sauce).
- Tamarkhong: papaya salad
- Markphet: chilli
Only ever drink water from bottles. Bottled water is cheap and readily available everywhere. DO NOT drink water from the taps. Always ask to make sure that ice cubes have been made from bottled water.
There are not many national public holidays in Laos. However, there are numerous local holy days and festivals that are celebrated in specific regions. The most important national holidays are:
- Pee Mai Lao (Lao New Year), which is celebrated from 14 through 16 April every year.
- Liberation Day at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is commemorated on 12 October every year.
- Boun Khao Phansa marks the start of the Buddhist period of fasting, which is an extremely important period for the Lao people, who are generally very religious. The fast begins on 22 July.
- Boun Hor Khao Padubdin is a part of the Buddhist fasting period and falls on 4 September.
- Boun Hor Khao Salak is another important day in the Buddhist fasting period and falls on 19 September.
- Boun Awk Pansa falls on 19 October, marking the end of both the Buddhist fasting period and the rainy season.
- Constitution Day is celebrated on 2 December.
- The Gregorian New Year is celebrated on 1 January.
We will send you your flight reservation as soon as you book your trip. You can see times and routes on the itinerary. It is important to check your name for spelling mistakes. The name on the reservation must be exactly as in your passport. If you have any comments on the itinerary or find mistakes in the names, please contact us immediately.
Today, there are only electronic airline tickets (e-tickets), so you do not receive a physical ticket for use at the airport check-in. When you check in at the airport, you use your passport and a booking reference. The booking reference is on your itinerary.
Once you have purchased a tour through us, you will receive our service letter before your departure. The service letter contains important information about online check-in, what to do in the event of a delay, our agreed guidelines for tips, etc. In addition, you will find important telephone numbers for our local agents as well as our emergency telephone number.
So it is important that you print out the service letter and bring it with you.
We recommend that you make a seat reservation on the plane. Many airlines also offer to upgrade reserved tickets for seats with extra space and comfort, e.g. Economy Comfort at KLM and Premium Voyageur at Air France. You can do this through the airline’s website. Most airlines have a point in the menu called “manage my booking”. Please note that many airlines require payment for seat reservation, so you should have your credit/debit card to hand when you get started.
Unfortunately, rules differ as to when seat reservation is opened. We recommend that you try to make a seat reservation as early as possible and you will then know when you can make a seat reservation if it cannot be done right away. It is very common for seat reservation to be opened between 72 and 24 hours before departure.
We use many different airlines for our flights to Laos, so there may be variations in the amount of luggage you are allowed to bring with you as both checked luggage and hand luggage. Check the information about this on your airline ticket, and contact us if you have any questions. If your tour involves a domestic flight in Laos, you cannot bring more than 20 kg of luggage with you.
You and your travel companion should pack your luggage so that you can both make do with one item of luggage if the other is lost or delayed. While it is unlikely to happen, the problem may arise. If it does, it may take a few days before your luggage is delivered to the hotel where you are staying.
So make sure to carry all your important, indispensable items in your hand luggage: passport, visa, plane tickets, insurance papers, credit card(s), cash, prescriptions and essential medicines. You should also carry items such as your camera, binoculars, computer, chargers and adapters with you.
You may find yourself sitting in a draught from the air conditioning in the plane, so make sure to pack a warm jumper or jacket in your hand luggage.
Experiencing differences in culture and etiquette is one of the delights of travelling, and it is essential to respect these differences. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ is good advice, and the section below contains a number of useful hints and tips intended to help you make the very most of your visit to Laos:
- Try not to show anger. Displaying frustration or anger by shouting or acting rudely is considered extremely impolite and disrespectful – and nothing good will come of it. Being shouted at is the same as losing face, which is something the Lao people do not like.
- Do not use your fingers to point. If you have to point, use your whole hand. It is considered offensive to point with your fingers.
- Try to avoid public displays of affection – kissing or cuddling, for example – as this is considered offensive. It is extremely rare to see couples walking hand in hand. On the other hand, it is completely usual for male or female friends to hold hands.
- Do not, under any circumstances, go skinny-dipping or nude sunbathing, as this is considered obscene – even in a screened hotel area.
- Take your shoes off before entering a (private) house, and especially when entering temples.
- The Lao people greet one another by bowing slightly with their hands pressed together as if in prayer (without intertwining their fingers). It is more polite for the younger person to initiate the greeting. For foreigners and in business situations, a (European) handshake is commonly accepted.
- Avoid touching other people’s heads. The head is considered to be a holy part of the body, and touching someone else’s head with your hand is believed to bring bad luck.
- Always use your right hand or both hands when passing something to – or receiving something from – other people. Never use your left hand alone.
- Do not wear shorts, short skirts or tank tops, especially close to temples and out in the country where few tourists travel. As a minimum, you must make sure to cover your legs down to below your knees and to cover up your shoulders when visiting temples.
- If you visit a temple, take your hat and shoes off before you go inside.
- If you sit down in front of a ‘dai’ (a Buddhist altar), make sure to sit with your feet to the side, so that they face away from Buddha.
- Women are allowed to exchange items with a monk, but must never touch him.
- Show respect when visiting temples: switch off your mobile phone, remove headphones, lower your voice and make sure not to talk loudly or impolitely.
The infrastructure in Laos is excellent, but it does take some time to travel around. It is common to use taxis and tuk-tuks in Laos, and you are expected to negotiate the price. Motorcycle taxis are also available in Laos. We recommend that you avoid these, however, as they are often involved in traffic accidents. Moreover, several travel insurance companies refuse to cover expenses arising from accidents involving motorcycle taxis.
Some parts of Laos are (extremely) poor, and our local partner has given us the following guidelines regarding donations and gifts.
- NEVER give money to beggars – children in particular. Giving money to beggars reinforces the impression that begging is an acceptable way of life. If children earn money from begging, their parents will be tempted to send them out onto the streets to beg rather than to school.
- The only exception to this rule relates to handicapped people and the elderly; it is OK to give them a few coins.
- NEVER give sweets to children in the villages you visit during your tour.
- Try to get out of the habit of giving material things. It is often better to share your time, give a smile and offer friendship.