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Laos Travel Tips


Visa

Except citizens from 15 eligible visa exempt countries, including Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia, etc., all visitors to Laos must hold a valid passport and visa.

Other tourists may obtain a visa on arrival at most of ports of entry.

Tourism visa is usually valid for 30 days and can be extended once for another 15 days.


Spending

Consumption level in Laos is not high. An ordinary meal costs about 10,000 Kip. An ordinary double room is about 100,000 Kip, and a better one costs $20-50.


Currency

The official currency in Laos is Kip.

As there are many digits on the banknote and the graphic pattern are exactly the same, travelers should be very careful when using it. One important Laos travel tips is that banknotes with different face value should be put in different envelopes.

In tourism cities such as Luang Prabang and Vientiane, buildings marked Exchange or $ provide currency exchange service. Private currency exchange service is also available at some ports of entry.


Credit Card

Credit cards are rarely used in Laos. Most restaurants, handicraft stores and family hostels do not accept credit card payment. Only upscale restaurants and hotels which mainly serve travelers accept it.


Tips

Tipping is not popular in Laos. Travelers can give a tip to waiters of about 10-15% of the total expense.


Hot Hotels

Xaysomboun Boutique Hotel & Spa, Vientiane  
Niny Backpackers, Vientiane  
Phoom Chai Guesthouse, Vang Vieng  
Lotus Villa Hotel, Luang Prabang   
Champasak Grand Hotel, Pakse   


Foods

Lao people like eating glutinous rice. Lao dishes are characterized by sour and spicy taste. Vegetable is often eaten raw.

Knife, fork and chopsticks are rarely used, because they used to eat with hands.

Many authentic and romantic French restaurants can be found in the country, and French stick loaf is one of the locals' favorite foods.


Drinking Water

Tap water in the country cannot be drunk directly; travelers had better buy bottled drinking water. A small bottle of water costs 2,000 Kip and a large bottle of 1,500ml costs 4,000-5,000 Kip.


Shopping

Morning Market, Vientiane
It is divided into old market and new market. The new market is a shopping center of three floors, providing comfortable shopping environment. The old market is a traditional market of two floors. The first floor sells various things, from handmade souvenirs to daily supplies of local people; the second floor’s main business is gold and jewelry.

Phousi Market
It is the largest fresh market in Luang Prabang, selling fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, daily necessities and clothing. It is a good idea to come here to experience local customs. Travelers can buy a variety of fresh tropical fruit here. It is a real treat.

Luang Prabang Night Market
A variety of handicrafts like scarves, wood carvings, etc. are sold here. The market is very quiet, travelers can slowly wander on the street, immersing in the local life style and culture.


Festivals

Water Festival - around October 27th
The Water Festival symbolizes the end of rain season and that the Mekong River begins to ebb. On this day people celebrate by floating lanterns on river. On the next day the Dragon Boat Festival will be held and there will be dragon boat race.

Pha That Luang Day - around Nov. 15th
It lasts about half a month. During the period, monks and Buddhist followers across the country flock to the Pha That Luang. The national dignitaries shall hold swearing ceremonies in front of the Buddha. The festival culminates at the ceremony of parade holding candle in hands walking around the tower. The band leads the parading procession, followed by monks and Buddhists. After three circles of parade, they kneel down and prostrate themselves in worship.

Wat Phu Day - around Jan.20th
During the festival, Buddhism rituals as well as folk recreational activities are held. Bands play classical and modern music; people of all ages and both sexes dance together; Muay Thai, comedy performances, cockfighting and other entertainment projects are played to amuse people.


Do's and Don'ts

1. There are not many public toilets in Laos, and few in rural area, which charge about 2,000 Kip for use.
2. The right hand is usually used to eat, pick up things and shake hands with others, because the Lao people feel the left hand is dirty.
3. Take some anti-carsick drug, considering the poor road condition.
4. Don't touch the Buddha.
5. Don't touch the head of other people.


Phone Card

ETL, Unitel, Beeline and M-Phone are major telecommunication operators in the country. SIM card and prepaid card can be purchased at shops with the operators' logo. The price is about 15,000 Kip. Domestic call charge is about 800 Kip per minute.

Unitel provides daily, weekly and monthly 3G data traffic package.


Network Service

Foany hotels and cafes provide free Wifi service. Surfing internet via phone is also very convenient.


Power Outlets

Power Outlets: Type C 

Voltage: 230V
Power Frequency: 50HZ


Useful Telephone Numbers

Calling Code: +856
Fire: 190
Police: 191
Tourist Police: 192
Vientiane Tourist Police: +856-2125-1128
Information Consultation: 168


Further Reading: 
Things to Do in Laos   Laos Transportation