Laos Useful Facts
Flights and Transfers
It takes approximately 14.5 hours to get an indirect flight from London to Vientiane, and 16.5 hours to fly to Luang Prabang. Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Korean Air all provide international flights to Laos, usually with one stopover.
When you reach Laos borders you will need to obtain a 30-day tourist visa, which are available at all international airports and cost between US$30 and US$42. You will need this money in cash, as well as a passport size photo and the details of a hotel or guesthouse you will be staying in. Overstaying your visa will cost US$10 for every day overstayed, or you can extend your visa for 90 days at US$2 per day, though only in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Make sure to get a stamp in your passport, otherwise this could lead to a large fine or even arrest.
The official language used in Laos is Lao. Workers in tourist areas will generally know some basic English, as well as many young Lao people, who commonly learn English as a second language at school.
Transportation around Laos is fairly easy, especially compared to Vietnam or Thailand. Most of the roads are unpaved, so can be uncomfortable and hard to drive through, but all major routes have good road surfaces and there is plenty of local transport you can use. They drive on the right, but watch out for some driving the wrong way before quickly crossing into the right lane.
Car: You’ll need an international driving licence to drive independently; however renting a car with a driver can be much more convenient, though it is quite expensive at US$95 a day. Rented cars are usually new and therefore very reliable, and it’s easy to rent at tour agencies, hotels and car rental companies.
Motorcycle: A very easy way to get around Laos, though some roads can be tricky so be careful. There are plenty of rental shops and you don’t need a licence to ride one. Do check if your scooter has poor balance, as this might make the rockier roads more difficult.
Tuk-tuks: Small, three-wheeled vehicles that hold four people and is powered with motorbike components such as the steering and engine. A tuk-tuk organisation controls the prices, though these are easily negotiable.
Skylabs: A different style of tuk-tuk, a bit larger and able to hold eight people or more.
Jumbo: A very popular choice of transport, much like a Skylab but smaller and with a less powerful engine. They are very cheap though, at only $US2.50 for a short journey.
Songthaew: Laos’ version of a minibus. Deriving from the Thai phrase for ‘two rows’, this is a small truck-like vehicle with two park benches in the back for passengers to sit on. They are used as either local buses or taxis.
Bicycle: An easy way to get around Laos’ quieter roads, tourist cities such as Luang Prabang and Vientiane has a wide range of bike shops renting bicycles.
VIP Bus: A great way to travel through long journeys, due to the amount of leg room given. These are old vehicles so can break down frequently, however you are given water and snacks during your journey.
Boat: A good way to miss out on the roads is by taking a boat along the Mekong, which can run all year
Officially, the national currency in Laos is the Lao kip (K). You can also use Thai baht and US dollars for commerce; however Lao kip is the only currency that is legally negotiable. You’ll need to take Lao kip with you as the majority of transactions will only use this currency, unless it is an expensive service or item, in which transactions will mostly be made is US dollars.
Vaccination and Health
As health requirements change, you will need to see your GP at least 4 to 6 weeks before travelling to Laos to check if any vaccinations are needed. Make sure you have adequate medical insurance, as medical care is very basic, and it is difficult to get help for emergencies or medical evacuation.
Visit the official site for Laos Tourism for further information