General Information

Located at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is a land-locked country which shares its border with Myanmar and China to its northwest, Cambodia to its southwest, Vietnam to its east, and Thailand to its west. At present, despite a limited infrastructure, Laos is a wonderful country to visit. On a tour to Laos, travelers will surely enjoy the country’s rich culture and history, natural beauty, Buddhist customs, and the gentle and friendly Lao people.

Laos’ history can be traced back to the 14th century with the foundation of the kingdom of Lan Xang (Million Elephants), which was established by a Lao prince Fa Ngum. For more than three centuries, Lan Xang prospered into one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Under the kingdom, Laos was an important overland trade center and Vientiane became a main commercial hub. Theravada Buddhism became the main religion of the country. Lan Xang existed from 1354 to 1707, and then the country underwent an internal conflict. In 1893, it was colonized by the French and not until 1953 did Laos declare its independence. Shortly after the independence, a civil war took place and Lao People’s Revolutionary Party governed the country since 1975.

Best Time to Travel to Laos

Kuang Si Waterfalls - Laos Travel Guide
Kuang Si Waterfalls

This country is a great destination to travel any time all year-round since the country has no coastline that influences the weather. Laos weather is a tropical climate with two seasons which are dry (May – September) and wet season (October – April).

The best time to travel to Laos is from October to February, which is the cool dry season. During this time, the average temperature is 21-24 degree Celsius (68-76 degree F) while the humidity is not high and the night remains cool. Another great thing is that during this time frame, the rivers are high enough to make river travel easy and flexible. However, this is the most popular time for travelers to visit the country, so do expect to see more people than other time of the year. During this time in the far south, winter is even warmer and someday could get hot, while the weather gets colder when moving north to the higher altitude.

Passport & Visa to Laos

To enter this country, a passport valid for at least 6 months is required and you should have at least one blank visa page.

Laos visa exemption: Passport holders from Southeast Asia are eligible for 2-week to 30-day visa-free entry to this country.

  • Brunei and Myanmar: 14 days
  • Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore: 30 days
  • Japan, South Korea, Russia, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland): 15 days

Most nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival when visiting Laos, including EU citizens, Australians, and North Americans. Travelers from Africa and the Middle East must apply for visa in advance.

A 30-day visa on arrival is available at all ports of entry in this country, including international airports to major cities and border checkpoints (Thailand – Laos, Cambodia – Laos, Vietnam – Laos, and China – Laos border). Bring two passport-size photos. Fees for Laos visa on arrival are as follow:

  • China: US $20
  • Canada: US $42
  • USA and UK: US $35
  • India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka: US $40
  • Australia and other countries: US $30

Note: On weekends or Laos public holidays as well as before 8 am and after 4 pm weekdays, additional US $1 is charged from overtime fee.

Travelers can extend their visa up to an additional 60 days for about US $1 for each day through the Department of Immigration in Vientiane. However, if you extend after the visa expiry date, you will be fined US $10 for the days you overstayed.

Laos Currency

Laos Currency - Laos Travel Guide
Laos Currency

The official national currency in Laos is the Kip (K) which comes in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 denominations. No note is used in Laos.

US Dollars in smaller denominations can be used for transactions in this country, so prepare enough US dollar notes for your visa on arrival. Thai Baht is widely accepted in this country.

It is hard to purchase Lao Kip overseas, so you can exchange local currency when entering major airports and international border crossing points in this country.  In Vientiane, you can rely on some banks such as Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) and Banque Franco-Lao (BFL).

Transportation in Laos

Nong Khiaw - Laos Travel Guide
Nong Khiaw

Transportation in Laos consists of two main vehicles, which are Tuk-tuk (three-wheeled car) and taxi. Since there are fewer vehicles outside of the large centers, travelers could book a rental car with driver in Laos provided and operated by local tour operators.

Railroad in Laos is not a popular option because many routes are still under construction. Domestic flights to smaller airports in the country frequently get canceled due to fog, so it would be wise for travelers to confirm the flights one or two day before departure.

Religion in Laos

Theravada Buddhism is the main religion in Laos which accounts for 64.7% of the population. Buddhism is associated with several cultural events and customs in this country. You are all welcome to Buddhist temples here, but there are some rules you have to follow:

  • Dress conservatively; cover up your shoulders, elbows, and legs. Don’t wear any revealing clothes.
  • Remove your hats and shoes before entering any pagoda.
  • Keep your distance when you talk to the monks.
  • Do not make noise and avoid any inappropriate conversation or controversial topic.

Public Holidays in Laos

Pi Mai in Laos - Laos Travel Guide
Pi Mai in Laos

Lao New Year or Pi Mai is the biggest public holiday in this country. It is often celebrated for 3 days in April and the celebration even last for a week in some town such as Luang Prabang. The first day is the last day of the previous year when houses are cleaned and the foods are prepared. The second day is the “day of no year”; a day belongs to neither the new year nor the old year. The third day is the start of a new year. Some interesting traditional customs you can see on this occasion are Buddha Stupa cleansing procession, Miss Pi Mai Lao pageant (Miss Lao New Year), and water throwing at every street corner.

Top events in Laos:

  • January 1: International New Year
  • January 20: Armed Forces Day
  • March 8: International Women’s Day
  • April 14-16: Lao New Year
  • May 1: Labor Day
  • December 2: Lao National Day

Top Destinations in Laos

Here are some popular destinations in this country for your trip to Indochina:

1. Vientiane

Vientiane's Buddha Park - Laos Travel Guide
Vientiane’s Buddha Park

Although Vientiane is the capital and the largest city of Laos, it gives visitors an impression of calmness and tranquility. The city has many significant Buddhism icons of Laos such as That Luang monument, Haw Phra Kaew temple, Wat Sisaket temple, Wat Simuang monastery, etc. Beyond the temples, there are many other attractions such as Victory Gate Patuxai, Buddha Park, Lao Revolutionary Museum, etc.

2. Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang - Laos Travel Guide
Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is the former capital of the country from the 14th to 16th century and again in the 19th century. Visiting Luang Prabang, tourists will have the opportunity to explore the monasteries, monuments, traditional costumes, collections of old French house since the colonial era, and beautiful scenery. Luang Prabang is also where many traditional Lao wooden-structured houses remain. In 1996, Luang Prabang was voted as the World Heritage site.

3. Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng - Laos Travel Guide
Vang Vieng

Known as a combination of natural wonder, backpacker area and party central, Vang Vieng always stun visitors with unprecedented experiences and breathtaking natural landscapes. Despite the reputation this town gained over the years as a non-stop party area, the town has been calmer in the past several years due to government’s restriction of illegal drugs and alcohol beverage consumption. Nowadays, visitors travel here, besides immersing in the beautiful unspoiled nature, has many other activity options such as river tubing, kayaking, mountain climbing, cave exploring, etc.

4. Wat Phou

Wat Phou - Laos Travel Guide
Wat Phou

Located in Pakse, Wat Phou is the oldest temple in the country. It was the center of Hindu until the 13th century when Buddhism became the national religion of Laos. At that time, Wat Phou was reconstructed and transformed to be a Buddhist temple. If visitors come here on the full moon of the third lunar month, they will get to participate in the temple’s biggest annual festival including monk-blessing ceremonies, elephant racing, buffalo, cockfighting, and trade fair.