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Practical information about Laos

Practical information about Laos

Practical information about Laos

1. The climate in Laos

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.

2. Form of travel

Excursions and transfers are conducted in small, international groups led by English-speaking guides.

3. When is it best to travel to Laos?

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.

4. Terms & Conditions

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

5. Travel insurance

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.

6. Language

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:

Hello: Sabaidee
Thank you: Khob Jai
Thank you very much: Khob Jai lai Lai
Yes: Chao
No: Bor
Not strong/hot: BorPhet
Excuse me: Khorthod
Goodbye: La gone

7. Vaccinations

We always advise that you contact a specialist, your GP or an authorized vaccination clinic. You can also read more about the rules for travel & vaccinations at the central NHS Fit for Travel website: here

Please be aware of the rules about yellow fever – especially if you are entering via another country where yellow fever is present.

Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry. So be sure to bring your vaccination certificate with you in these cases.

8. Visa

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.

To obtain your tourist visa, you should bring your passport, one passport photo and 35 USD in cash.

The rules on visas can be checked on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

9. Currency

The unit of currency in Laos is the kip (LAK). 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.

10. Price level

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
  • Drinks:
    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
11. Tipping

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.

Our tipping guideline is in USD, but tips should be calculated in the local currency at the destination.

12. Time difference

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.

13. Electricity

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.

14. Telephone and Internet

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.

15. Safety

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.

16. Food and drink

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.

17. Public holidays

It is always special to experience the traditions and celebrations of other countries. Below is a list of public holidays, important festivals and other special occasions.

Please note that some museums and attractions may be closed on these days.

18. Flight reservations and airline tickets

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 find any 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.

19. Service letter

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.

20. Seat reservation, upgrades and extra legroom

The airline will assign you a seat on board the aircraft upon check-in. If you have specific wishes, you can make a seat reservation via the airline’s website. Most airlines have an area on their website named “manage my booking” or similar. Please note that most airlines require payment for a seat reservation, so it’s a good idea to have your payment card ready when starting a seat reservation. Airline seat reservations vary from company to company, but as a general rule, you can book seats from around 48 hours before departure.

Many airlines also offer upgrades with extra legroom or comfort seating, such as Economy Comfort with KLM and Premium Voyageur with Air France. You can check these details through the airline’s own website, along with payment information.

Please kindly note that airlines have full access to all seats on the aircraft and therefore always reserve the right to alter a reservation.

If you do not make a seat reservation before departure, the airline will issues your seating upon check-in at the airport.

21. Your luggage

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 should also make sure you carry all your important and indispensable things in your hand luggage. This applies to items such as passports, visas, airline tickets, insurance documents, credit cards, money and cameras, as well as information about your health and vital medicines.

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.

22. Transfers to and from airports

On arrival at the different airports in Laos, you will be met by our local representative who will be waiting for you in the arrival hall with a sign bearing your name. You will naturally also be driven to the airport on departure. You will be informed of your pick-up time when you arrive in Laos.

23. Etiquette and cultural differences

Experiencing differences in culture and etiquette is one of the joys of travelling and it is important to respect these differences. We have the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so we’d like to provide you with some tips and advice that will help make your experience of Laos even better.

  • Avoid showing anger. Venting your frustration or anger by shouting or being ill-mannered is extremely rude and condescending and will not lead to anything good. Being shouted at is the same as losing face, and the Laotians don’t like it.
  • Don’t point; use your hand if necessary. It is considered rude to point.
  • Don’t show affection in public, such as holding each other or kissing as it is considered offensive. It is extremely rare to see couples walking hand in hand. Conversely, it’s quite common for friends or girlfriends to hold hands.
  • Avoid nude bathing and nude sunbathing completely. It is considered completely obscene – even in a closed hotel area.
  • Take off your shoes before entering a (private) house and especially in temples.
  • The Laotians greet each other with a slight bow and with their hands pressed together as if in prayer (without entwining fingers). It is most polite for young people to initiate greetings. For foreigners and in business contexts, a (European) handshake is generally accepted.
  • Do not touch other people on the head. The head is considered to be a sacred part of the body and touching the head with the hand is considered to bring bad luck.
  • Always use both hands or your right hand when handing something to others or receiving something from others. Never use only the left hand.
  • Avoid short shorts, miniskirts and strappy tops, especially at temples and in places off the beaten tourist path. Your legs should, as a minimum, be covered to below the knee and your shoulders should covered when visiting a temple.
  • Take off your shoes and hat before entering a temple.
  • If you sit in front of a “dai” (Buddha altar), you should sit with your feet to the side, facing away from the Buddha.
  • A woman may receive something from or give something to a monk, but she should never touch him.
  • Show respect when visiting temples and turn off your mobile phone, take off headphones, lower your voice and avoid impolite and loud conversation.
24. Local transport

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.

25. Donations and gifts

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.
26. Travellers with reduced mobillity

Please note, our tours are generally not suitable for persons with reduced mobility. Please contact us for information about the possibilities according any specific needs.

Contact travel consultant Neil Smith

Write to:
info@asiatours.co.uk

Call:
01279 704 137

Hours of opening:
Mon, Wed & Fri: 8 - 16
Tue & Thu: 8-21
Sat: 9-17

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