Why You Should Travel To Laos?
Like many of its Southeast Asian counterparts, this country has so many wonderful things to offer its visitors. Laos is traversed by the Mekong River and a bigger-than-life mountainous terrain, boats gorgeous age-old French colonial architecture, and is chalk-full of hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. But the greatest things about this country (which we are sure any backpacker who has been here before will agree with) is the people. Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia but has a more laid back, beach town, “we will get things done when we feel like it”, time is irrelevant, kind of vibe/country. Whatever and wherever you want to go in this country, there will surely be someone to help you do just that - as long as you are not in a rush. And whatever part of this lush, green, slow-going, welcoming country you decide to visit, you are sure to have a great time.
This comprehensive country guide has everything you need to help you plan your adventure to this gorgeous Southeast Asian country: A brief history of the country, a quick breakdown of the politics and local laws, how to get there, the most popular destinations, fun things to do while you're there, helpful hints and travel tips, hostel reccommendations and a budget breakdown.
Most Popular Destinations In Laos
The four thousand islands and its most famous island, Don Det, have become a hotspot for backpackers. One the backpacker route through northern Thailand, this stuck in time island is the epidemy of relaxing.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Luang Prabang is famous for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. The gorgeous city center is full of French architecture and surrounded by amazing restaurants, colorful shops, adventure tour guides, temples, and picturesque moments.
The party town! Seriously. Famous for being the spot on Laos where you can float the river, drink till you drop for under $10, and cure your hangover in one of the many lagoons and caves.
The old capital city and largest city in Laos. Vientiane is probably your starting or ending point if you’re flying into the country. Though there isn't too much to see, this city is a blast to explore.
Pakse & The Bolaven Plateau
An often looked over part of Laos, this is the starting point for an awesome 1-5 day motorbike adventure through the mountains while seeking out a dozen magnificent waterfalls.
Getting To Laos
Traveling to Laos is very easy and accessible from pother Southeast Asian countries. If you are coming from Bangkok or Hanoi, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, you you can find a short and cheap flight to Vientiane or Luang Prabang.
Thailand: It is possible to take an overnight bus from Chang Mai, Chang Rai, Udon Thani, or Udon Ratchathani.
Cambodia: It is also possible to travel into Laos from Phnom Penh.
Vietnam: You can also take a grueling 23 hour bus ride from Hanoi into Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
Thailand: It's easy to travel from Bangkok to Vientiane (or vice versa) by train, using the daily overnight sleeper train direct from Bangkok to Nong Khai, 13km outside Vientiane.
Getting Around In Laos
Plane: This is the fastest option for traveling long distances in Laos. However, flying can be hassle and will certainly cost much more. Your best bet is to take a bus.
Bus: Traveling by bus in Laos is a popular and cheap option. There are dozens of companies offering similar routes for similar prices. However, in Laos it is worth it to pay a little more. We recommend VIP - King of Bus. Instead of a seat you had an actual bed. The beds were similar do a POD style bed in a hostel. Super cool way to travel. However, its worth noting, the beds are for 2 people. So if you are traveling by yourself and don’t want to share a bed, you have to buy two tickets.
8 Most Popular Things To Do In Laos
Helpful Hints & Travel Tips
Do I need a visa? Most everyone needs a visa for Laos. Luckily more than likely you are coming from a country that is eligible for a visa on arrival. All you need is $30 US dollars and you are good to go.
What is the power voltage? Laos uses all-purpose outlets, meaning almost any plug will fit into the outlets. Laos uses 230V.
What about smoking weed or drinking in the streets? Weed is illegal but places like Vang Vieng are full of it, as well as mushrooms. Do it if you want, but be aware a lot of these people work with the police. They will bust you, bribe you, and kick you out. As far as drinking in public goes, yes it is permissible but don't don't become too overly intoxicated in public.
Money: Laos is still predominantly a cash economy. Though there are more ATM's being installed every week, cash is king in this country.
Potable Water: Tap water in Laos is not safe to drink. Most restaurants, with the possible exception of roadside stalls, now use packaged ice made from bottled water, so ice should be safe.
Safety: Laos is a safe country with very little crime reported in the tourist hot spots. Of course, watch you back, don’t be stupid, and follow the laws.
Five rules for coming in contact with a monk:
1) Giving money to a monk is considered a sign of disrespect; those that ask for and accept money are almost always fakes.
2) Ladies, it is NEVER permissible for you to touch a monk.
3) Gentlemen, you may shake the hands of monks if they greet you.
4) Never, ever touch the robe of a monk, regardless of gender.
5) You will see monks walking around the streets in the morning, chanting, with bowls in hand. They are asking for donations of food.
How Expensive Is Laos?
The official currency in Laos is the Kit
$1 USD = Kit 8,511 (November 2018)
Food: Average cost, per person/per day: $8
Food in Laos is super cheap. Whether you are eating from street carts, or seeking out the fancier options, it will be hard to spend over $15/day.
Accommodation: Average cost per night: $6-30
There are plenty of options is Laos. We stayed at fancier 3 star hotels for $30/night. However there are also awesome looking hostels that you can find for as little as $6/night.
There are a plethora of buses and bus companies that will take you anywhere you want to go. We say a good average is $20. Ticket prices will vary depending on bus company and distance.
Activities/Spending Money: Average cost, per person/per day:: $10
We like to give ourselves a little bit of extra spending money every day. Maybe we want to treat ourselves to a nice dinner, buy a cool souvenir, or go on an unexpected day trip. We rented cool off roading vehicles in Vang Vieng, went to a waterfall in Luang Prabang, and explored the cool monuments and buildings in Vientiane. All in all, the cost of doing cool things like this is relatively cheap.
Beer: Average cost, per person/per day: $6