Laos Travel Guide
- Everything you need to know for your trip to Laos-
Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is the only landlocked country in South East Asia. Any traveler can enjoy this country. From beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, mouthwatering foods, and exceptionally friendly people, everyone can enjoy visiting this eye-catching country. Anyone in the world should put the country on his/her bucket list!
Why Visiting Laos?
There are many elements in traveling to Laos, making you avoid traveling to this beautiful country, such as the higher cost than other Indochina countries and slow development. However, there are many convincing reasons for visiting this fantastic country.
The first important attraction of Laos is its amazing Buddhist temples. Former Royal Temple and Luang Prabang Temples are among the highlights. The important point about Laos’s temples is that the country offers various types of temples, and visitors with different preferences can choose whatever they want to visit.
Lao people are amicable and helpful. Interestingly, the most ethnically diverse region in Southeast Asia is located in Laos, called Luang Namtha Province, hosting over 20 minority groups living in the mountains. Each group has its own culture, beliefs, textiles, architecture, music, etc.
When it comes to nature, Laos’s waterfalls are perfect, and travelers can enjoy a delightful time in these areas. Multi-tiered Kuang Si falls in Luang Prabang, and the raging Khone Phapheng Falls near 4000 Islands are among the highlights of waterfalls in Laos. Swimming in these waterfalls is a popular activity among travelers and locals alike.
If you want to experience fantastic cuisine, make sure to have a trip to Laos. No matter how your taste is, you can always find mouth-watering food in this Asian country. Fer and Kopiak, Laap, Grilled River Fish, Spicy Dipping Sauce, etc., are among the highlights in Lao Cuisine.
Laos Top Destinations
Best Time to Visit Laos
Wet season (May to late September)
Temperature: 5°C – 25°C (40°F – 77°F)
In the early months of the wet season, May to July, the weather remains very hot and the rainfall is short. However, between July to September, the rainfalls are more constant and heavy.
Dry Season (October to late April)
Temperature: 18°C – 38°C (64°F – 100°F)
The dry season is not completely dry, and you may see some rainfalls. However, the amount of precipitation is much less than the wet season.
Things to Do in Laos
Laos is a very beautiful country between Thailand and Vietnam, with numerous similarities in history and culture. Although one may think that going to this country might not be very educational or fun, it is full of things to discover. While discovering the cultural differences, and historical events of Laos, you will find various fun activities. These activities are mostly outdoors and will keep you entertained as you travel.
Seek Peace and Buddhism in the Luang Prabang Temples
The number one place to visit in Laos is Luang Prabang and its numerous Temples. Anyone who has been to Luang Prabang will recommend this town as a great place to be. As soon as you get to Luang Prabang, you can feel even the spiritual sensation of the town. The best of the experience is when you go exploring the Luang Prabang Temples. There are about 33 Luang Prabang Temples, but no matter how well you plan for these visits, the places seem to keep you in town.
Visiting the Luang Prabang Temples and its town is something everyone must do in Laos, as all of the areas around the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See all the Temples and explore the streets, where you will enjoy the French colonial architecture of Luang Prabang as well as the Buddhist Temples.
Spend Time at 4000 Islands and Mekong
The 4000 Islands area of Laos is a place where you can do two types of activities that are rather opposites of each other. One of these “opposite things to do” is getting a hammock and finding a spot to relax. It is one of the most peaceful places in the country, occasionally even referred to as hippie heaven. The other “opposite thing” you can do in 4000 Islands is having an adventure by kayaking, swimming or cycling. Whatever you do in the 4000 Islands and near the Mekong, be sure to fit this place in your traveling plans.
Hit the Jungles Near Vang Vieng Town
Vang Vieng used to be a party town with a relatively bad reputation, but nowadays, it is a calm and peaceful place for backpackers and adventurers. Two of the water activities that are very popular in Vang Vieng are whitewater rafting and kayaking at the different sections of the river. If having fun or relaxing on the river does not sound appealing, go exploring the caves or the beautiful and green jungle.
Vang Vieng is a place to plan for outdoor activities where there is no signal or wifi, just nature and all the time you have in the world. The same plan of chilling and relaxing can happen here in Vang Vieng as well as the 4000 Islands, with different scenery.
Go on a Vientiane City Tour
This item on the list is very simple as it only involves exploring the beautiful city of Vientiane. Vientiane is the capital of Laos, and it used to be a French colonial part of the country. You can still see the traces of colonial architecture as you walk in the streets. This colonial architecture makes you feel like you are visiting France. You can easily spend a full month in Vientiane, discover its history and culture of Laos, and get to know its people.
Vientiane is full of beautiful things to discover, and it is a rather calm and peaceful city even though it is the capital of Laos. One of the most memorable experiences of the city is visiting its markets. Visit the most important monuments, highlights and go for some shipping in one of the most beautiful capital cities in East-Asia.
Walk in the Buddha Park and See the Religious Statues (Xieng Khuan)
When in Vientiane, you have to make sure to visit Buddha Park or the Xieng Khuan. All the exploring and the visit to this park are two different activities, which deserve almost the same amount of attention. The importance of the Buddha Park and its popularity is behind the numerous religious statues. Therefore, it is one of the top things to do in Laos. The Buddha Park was built in the mid-19th century and then filled with Buddhist and Hindu statues. The capital is an important city to see, and Buddha Park is an important site to visit. The religious importance and the spiritual sensation of the park are enough to attract travelers to this part of Laos, which is very much worth visiting.
Explore the Bolaven Plateau with Your Friends
Anyone visiting Laos must spend some time in the Bolaven Plateau to explore its nature and its beautiful villages. One of the most popular things to do in the Bolaven Plateau is finding its marvelous waterfalls, but just about every traveler can enjoy outdoor activities in this part of the country. If outdoor activities in Bolaven Plateau sound fun, biking and trekking can be some ideas for having fun. What has made Bolaven Plateau a famous attraction in Laos was its beauty, which will be pleasant even if one does not want to go on an adventure. For the seekers of peace and beauty, going to coffee plantations in Bolaven Plateau is another recommendable activity.
Hike in the Jungles of Bokeo
Bokeo is a place to the north-west of Laos where you can enjoy the beauty of Mekong and visit the ethnic groups of the country. Meeting the ethnic groups in rural areas of Laos is mostly famous for being in the lush green woods of the country with some magnificent trails. When your journey in Bokeo begins, you will cross the natural landscape, as well as several temples that the locals still use. All of the Bokeo is worth discovering, but it is better to begin in the capital of the province called Huay Xai for the first trip.
Travel in Time at The Plain of Jars
The Plain of Jars is a mysterious archeological site in Laos that is a great place to visit. Plain of Jars is a popular attraction for being ancient and unknown, filled with jars that belong to prehistoric eras. These jars that are thousands of years old have been made out of sandstone and granite. As for who made them and why, no one knows, but still, they are an important part of the country’s prehistoric times.
Visit the Temple Ruins in Vat Phou/Wat Phou
Vat Phou means Mountain Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site of Laos at the foot of the Phou Kao mountain. Vat Phou temple is said to be a Buddhist temple that is built near a mountain that was considered sacred for the people. Besides the history lesson at this place, many travelers come seeking more of the beauties of Laos natural environment. Several holy items of the Buddhist temple along with some Hindu artifacts, are in the Vat Phou like a visit to the museum. There is also a nearby natural spring, which is also considered a sacred site near Vat Phou. It is a peaceful visit that can also be seen as a really thrilling hiking experience in a marvelous place near the Mekong River. When making this visit, wear appropriate shoes, so if you decide to visit the land as well as the Vat Phou, you will not have any problems.
Pack Your Camera for a Trip to Kuang Si Waterfalls and Caves
Kuang Si Waterfalls and Caves can be a quick visit with its ideal scenery for taking pictures. It is another of the fascinating natural elements of Laos that must be visited, but this time the beauties are so rare and unmatched. Going to the Kuang Si Waterfalls and Caves is one of the best things to do in Laos but make sure to do it early in the morning. The place is quite famous and popular among locals and tourists so it can get really crowded. You can benefit from having a guide for the Kuang Si Waterfalls and Caves, but it is also enjoyable if you go alone.
Local Transportation in Laos
The only urban bus network is operating in Vientiane. The tickets are exceptionally cheap, but you need to make sure that the bus you are getting in is the right one.
In some cities such as Luang Prabang, Vientiane, or Pakse, biking is so popular among locals. You can rent bicycles at 10,000 to 50,000 kip ($1.25-$6.25 USD) for 24 hours.
Tuk Tuk is almost all Asian countries, including Laos. This means of transportation is perfect for groups, especially if you want to pay less money for transportation and have a new experience.
Taxis in Laos have a meter, and you need to make sure that the taxi has it before getting in.
Motorbike is one of the most popular and, at the same time, very dangerous means of transportation in Laos. You can rent motorbikes from guesthouses and tourism companies in the major cities.
Songthaew can be found in all Southeast Asian countries. They are a kind of pick-up truck converted into extra-large tuk-tuk-esque public buses. They are usually crowded and sometimes annoying.
Intercity Transportation in Laos
Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Pakse offer international flights. However, you can also enjoy domestic flights with the airlines in Vietnam, such as Lao Airlines. You need to search flights on their websites.
If you want to experience train traveling, Laos is not a good choice for you! There is just an overnight train, departing at 8pm and arrivals at Laos’s frontier the next morning.
If you want to get around Laos with more comfortable means of transportation, make sure to take VIP night buses. It will be more expensive than regular buses, but it definitely worth it.
If you want to go from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, Thakhek to Savannakhet, etc., minivans are comfortable and fast, helping you to have a better journey.
If you want to have a trip with the types of buses in which there are regular stops for cigarettes, and the travelers need to pee in the bush, local buses are the best choices for you!
If you want to experience train traveling, Laos is not a good choice for you! There is just an overnight train, departing at 8pm from Thailand and arrivals at Laos’s frontier the next morning.
Flight Deals to Laos
Laos Travel Costs
|Budget||$4.21 – $8.41|
|Mid-Range||$11 – $21|
|High-End||$27 – $53|
|Average Daily Costs|
Best Hotels in Laos
Find the best hotels in Laps using our best price search engine, or go with one of our All-inclusive tours with 4 Star hotels included. You can book our guaranteed hotels for your extra accommodation; before or after your tour days.
Laos Travel Tips
Lao is spoken as the official language of Laos, which is also named Laotian. Laos is a multilingual nation where 86 languages are spoken. Minority languages like English and French are also used in Laos.
Laos is a safe destination compared to many other countries in the west. Be cautious of your belongings for petty theft and occasional bag snatching in crowded areas.
The Kip is the national currency in Laos. US Dollars are also widely accepted in Laos, so tourists are recommended to take some. Exchange houses are also available.
Lao follows conservative dressing. If you don’t want to seem weird, keep dress neatly and moderately. Revealing clothing showing too much body is avoided. Smart clothing is most common in high-class neighborhoods.
You’ll find free public Wi-Fi in most hotels, cafes, airports, and museums in major cities. However, Laos suffers from poor cyberspace infrastructures.
It’s generally unsafe to drink tap water in Laos. Tap water is polluted and lacks sanitation infrastructure. Bottled water is highly recommended. Boiled water may also help when you’re in need.
Tipping is uncommon in Laos. Today, it’s expected in tourist-welcomed restaurants to tip10% of your total bill only if the service charge isn’t included.
Laos operates on 230V. Tourists must use Type F plug adapter in Laos. The power plugs and sockets used in Laos are type A, B, C, E, and F.
|International Access Code||856|
Currency & Money Tips
The official currency in Laos is Lao kip (K), with denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 kip. Interestingly, there are no kip coins in Laos. Although the kip is the official currency in Laos, Thai baht (B) and US dollars (US$) are also commonly accepted.
You can find ATMs all over Laos, but the transaction maximum is low. ATMs only dispense 700,000K to 2,000,000K (about US$85 to US$250) per transaction. Also, you need to consider variable withdrawal fees as well, depending on your bank.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in a large number of hotels, luxury restaurants, and gift shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. However, Amex and JCB are also accepted to a much less extent. Some places out transaction fee for the customers, usually around 3%.
Banks in Vientiane and Luang Prabang help you exchange Pounds, euros, as well as Canadian, US, and Australian dollars, Thai baht, and Japanese yen. In most provincial banks in other cities, you can only change USD. Also, there are licensed money exchangers, especially in Vientiane. The rates are similar to the banks
Food & Drink (Lao Food)
Most of what you should eat in Laos includes rice and dishes, mostly like soups and stews. What you see in the food of the people on this side of Asia is a rich combination of various types of meat and vegetables. These rich and tasty dishes that mostly include soups and stews come in different forms and amazing tastes. Try to eat like a local while in Laos and sample every aspect of their cuisine. Their food is very healthy and rather suitable for all tastes. If you have questions about where to start, these are some of the 10 things you should try in this country.
Khao Piak Sen (Noodle Soup)
Khao Piak Sen is a popular food in Laso that is found everywhere, even in street stalls. You could say that Khao Piak Sen is a staple part of cuisine in Laos, which is primarily a bowl of rice noodles. This dish is also seen in Vietnam as food that everyone loves, with thick and handmade noodles, fresh herbs, vegetables, beef or chicken, and possibly even an egg. There are, of course, numerous other versions and modifications with spices and chili or extra pieces of meat. Khao Piak Sen is a very safe option as you are traveling and exploring, and if you liked it, it is easy to find all over Laos.
Khao Niaw (Sticky Rice)
Khao Niaw is something that people eat almost all the time and with all different types of foods. It is so popular in this part of Asia that it can be considered a staple part of the cuisine in several places. Khao Niaw is simply just sticky rice that is served in bamboo baskets and as a side dish. Making the Khao Niaw is not difficult, and it can be served with almost anything you want to eat. Another thing about Khao Niaw is that it can be served at any time of the day. Therefore, there is no wrong time for having some Khao Niaw sticky rice.
Or Lam (Buffalo Stew)
An odd yet delicious royal stew in Laos that you must try is called “Or Lam” or Buffalo Stew. This dish was originally prepared with deer meat, but the recipe was changed into using buffalo instead. Other than buffalo meat in Or Lam, there is pork fat, eggplants, wood ear mushrooms, and beans. More vegetables can be added to the mix of Or Lam, giving it an even richer flavor. There is always a particular ingredient as well, which can only be found in Laos. This special ingredient is a spicy piece of wood called Mai Sakaan.
Do not miss the Or Lam, and when you give it a try, do not swallow the Mai Sakaan. This special addition to the recipe is only used to release a special flavor. You can chew the Mai Sakaan in Or Lam, but spit it out after tasting its spicy flavor.
Khao Soi is a dish that originally comes from Thailand but has a Laos version. The Khao Soi in this country is less creamy and has a clearer taste with the other ingredients. And unlike the one in Thailand, Khao Soi here mostly has the flavors of spice, tomato, and pork. Khao Soi ingredients include rice noodles, pork, fermented soybeans, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and lots of spice. Making this dish can take some time as it is cooked over a hot charcoal fire. The best of this food is the one that is prepared with traditional methods, allowing the ingredients to release their flavors to the fullest.
Khao Soi is suitable for any time of the day, but it tastes especially good early in the morning.
Sai Oua (Lao Sausage)
Sai Oua is only one of the types of sausages that are eaten in Laos. They are so good sometimes that they can even compete with the German sausages, and they are all worth a try. The Sai Oua is the one you should absolutely eat before leaving the country. Sai Oua is pork that is seasoned and then smoked or dried in the sun. When they are ready, they will be served with a special local sauce and sometimes with some sticky rice. There is also a buffalo version of Sai Oua that is also very flavorful, just like the pork version.
The side dish of the Sai Oua is not that much important, but if you decide to make it at home, be sure to use a few drops of lemon. Other than that, any other sauce would sound good with Sai Oua.
Tam Mak Hoong (Papaya Salad)
Tam Mak Hoong, or papaya salad of Laos, is another dish that is taken from Thailand. Just like the one in the neighboring country, the Tam Mak Hoong is made with shredded garlic, chili, tomato, papaya, and a bit of lime juice. What makes Tam Mak Hoong different is that extra touch of fish sauce and shrimp paste added to the Salad. If you cannot tolerate spicy food, be sure to ask the chef for a milder version as Tam Mak Hoong is very hot. This Papaya Salad is not hard to find, but if you have difficulty finding it and decided to make one yourself, use green and unripe ingredients to make the traditional version of this Salad.
Mok Pa (Fish in Banana Leaves)
Mok Pa is like the Cambodian Fish Amok dish that is wrapped in banana leaves. To make the Mok Pa there are only a few kinds of herbs and vegetables along with as much chili as you can tolerate. Lemongrass, kaffir leaves, green onions, dill, and some shrimp paste are all in the same wrapping with the fish for the process of cooking. When the Mok Pa is ready, it is served while still in the banana leaves with some sticky rice as a side dish. Mok Pa also has a creamy texture that comes from coconut milk. Soft and tasty, and as hot as you like, Mok Pa is a dish that must be eaten when in Laos.
Khao Poon (Noodle Soup)
Khao Poon is a kind of soup with various ways of making in Laos and gets its name from the Khao Poon Noodles. The main ingredient is the rice vermicelli noodles that can be turned into a sour soup with some pork, fish sauce, garlic, shallots, chilies, lime leaves, galangal, and perilla leaves. There are other combinations of ingredients to use in the Khao Poon, all of which are fragrant and healthy. If you keep an eye out, you might even see the dried version sold in bags. Make your Khao Poon spicy and eat while still hot to fall in love with the flavors.
Larb (Minced Meat Salad)
Larb, Laap, or Laab is the name of a kind of meat salad in Laos. This delightful food is also considered a national dish of the country. Just like most of their cuisine, it is served with sticky rice, and it is as staple as a food can get. Larb can be made with any type of meat you want, with fresh herbs, lime juice, fish sauce, fresh chilies, coriander, and sometimes mint leaves. Larb can get really spicy as the locals like it hot, but there are always mild versions everywhere. The locals love the meat in Larb to be raw when it is served, but to be safe, try the cooked version.
Naem Khao (Crispy Rice Salad)
Naem Khao or Naem Khao Tod is a fried and crispy rice ball filled with chunks of sour pork sausage and other things. Herbs are always a part of this food in Laos, along with grated coconut, onions, coriander, lime juice, and fish sauce. To make the Naem Khao taste and look better, it is topped with mint leaves and peanuts. This dish is called a salad, but it is heavy and can keep you full for most of the day. Locals mostly eat Naem Khao as lunch since it is rather rich and heavy, but it can also be a suitable dinner.
Mobile & Internet
Buying a SIM card in Laos has a very easy process. However, the speed and the reliability is not as good as you expect. The difference between SIM card providers is not the price, and it relies on the fact that each service provider covers a specific part of the country. As for prices, the costs for SIM cards in Laos are very low. Regarding the coverage, you need to check the providers’ coverage maps to select the best one.
Where to buy it?
The best places for buying SIM cards for tourists are the booths in international and major airports like Luang Prabang and Wattay. However, if you are a budget traveler, buying a SIM card from street vendors will be more efficient.
The Best Companies
The best companies providing SIM cards in Laos are Unitel, TPlus (Formerly Beeline), and Laotel. As mentioned, make sure to check their coverage map on their official websites to avoid any trouble during your trip.
Holidays & Festivals
|Name||Date 2021||Date 2022|
|New Year’s Day||1-Jan||1-Jan|
|Labor Day / May Day||1-May||1-May|
|Assumption of Mary||15-Aug||15-Aug|
|All Saints’ Day||1-Nov||1-Nov|
|Feast of the Immaculate Conception||8-Dec||8-Dec|
|St. Stephen’s Day||26-Dec||26-Dec|
Shopping in Laos
Like many East Asian countries, Laos has the perfect silk industry. The traditional Lao dress and many other items such as table runner, bedspread, and scarf in Laos are made by silk at the best quality.
Hill-tribe people living in Laos create fantastic handicrafts. Textiles, baskets, handmade incense, wood and stone sculptures, natural papers, etc., are among the highlights of hill-tribe people’s handicrafts in Laos.
Silver accessories are very popular in Laos, and you will notice them when traveling to this Asian country. Accessories such as silver belts, silver earrings, bracelets are usually worn by Lao women. Besides, silver bowls can be found around the country with animal and figure images hammered on.
Paintings of locals in Laos are perfect souvenirs for your loved ones. You can find them in different qualities and designs. If you want to buy something exquisite, find local galleries where well-known painters put their work on display.
Laos offers the best coffee in Southeast Asia, with the best quality ever! You can find it anywhere around the country. So why not bring some back home? Make sure to do it!