Laos

Vivid nature, voluptuous landscapes and a vibrant culture collide with a painful past and optimistic future to make Laos an enigmatic experience for the adventurous.

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Overview

Laos is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the region, reflecting its geographic location as a crossroads of Asia. The hardy Hmong people live off the land in the remote mountains of the north, the Kahu and Alak elders in the south still have traditional facial tattoos, and the villagers of Katang in central Laos sleep with the spirits of the forest. Whether lowland cities or highland towns, Laos offers wonderful opportunities for local interaction. However, a change is coming as a new high-speed rail will cross the country, traversing some of these isolated communities.

Laos has a tropical monsoon climate, in which three seasons can be distinguished: a rainy season (between May and October), a cool and dry season (between November and February), and a hot and dry season (between March and April ). Regularly mountainous areas, especially in the north, can become very cold during the northern hemisphere winter, when the wind blows from north China.

What you should know

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Summary

Area : 236 800 km²
Population : (2023 est.) 7,557,000
Capital : Vientiane

Travelers rave about Laos for a reason. Adventure seekers can get lost in underground river caves, on zip lines in the jungle, or while climbing karsts. Nature enthusiasts can take a walk on the wild side and spot exotic animals like gibbons or elephants. Culture lovers can explore ancient temples and immerse themselves in the spiritual life of Laos. Foodies can spice up their lives with a Laotian cooking class or go gourmet in French-accented cities. And if all this seems a bit exhausting, then relax with a spa session or a yoga class. Laos has something for everyone.

Visa

https://www.laoevisa.gov.la/

All visitors require a visa to enter Laos. Tourist visa permitting a stay of 30 days can be obtained in advance at Lao Embassies and Consulates. Visa fee varies depending on nationality.

Visa-on-arrival is available at most border checkpoints if you are staying for 30 days or less. It is very easy and hassle-free. Two passport-size photos (4 x 6 cm) are required and the fee is US$35 (for most countries) + US$1added as an administration fee. They usually give you change in USD unless otherwise specified.

Language

Laotian is the official language of the country. Learning a few words can be helpful in big cities but once in the countryside it won’t go very far because half of the population of Laos does not speak Laotian as their first language or at home. Although Russian and French are spoken by older people, most of the younger people learn English as the common international language. Laotian is a non-tonal language with an alphabet based on the Thai one.

Money

The kip has been the currency of Laos since 1952. Frequently used banknotes are in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 kip. Less frequently you may find banknotes with the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 or 50,000 kip. There are also 10, 20 and 50 att coins, but these are rarely used.

ATMs are becoming increasingly common in the larger cities in Laos, including Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Viang Vieng and Luang Namtha.

Useful info

Laos, like the rest of the countries of Southeast Asia, share the same system of plugs and electricity as in Europe, therefore power adapters are not necessary. Internet Most provincial capitals have Internet access, particularly those that are more popular with tourists. Most hotels and hostels have free Wi-Fi in tourist places. Telephone The country code for Laos is 856. To dial outside the country, the international access code is 00. Required Vaccines for Laos No vaccinations are necessary to travel to Laos, however it is advisable to have been vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and typhoid fever (not to be confused with typhus). Time difference in Laos Laos is in the GMT+7 time zone, which means 5 or 6 hours more with respect to Spain (depending on winter or summer time).

Laos, a landlocked country on the northeast mainland of Southeast Asia. It consists of an irregularly rounded portion in the north that tapers into a peninsula-like region that extends to the southeast.

TOP SPOTS

Vientiane

The capital of Laos is called “city of sandalwood or the moon,” a name due to the crescent moon formation created the Mekong. It mixes plantations in the center and in the lower part, old colonial villas on the model of those in the South of France, with red roof tiles and exterior wooden friezes. To see: the temples, the market Khua Din, black stupa, triumphal arch Patuxai …

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a horizontal city, named in honor of the late Grand Golden Buddha, housed at the former Royal Palace. It was the capital of the kingdom until 1563 and at the end of the seventeenth century. It is steeped in history. Rich in religious monuments, Luang Prabang is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Siphandone

Located in the extreme south of Laos, just before the Cambodian border, the region of Siphandone means “four thousand islands”. These are scattered over the arms of the Mekong which the islands Khon and Det, remains of a railway line. The waterfalls shows, freshwater dolphins, and a few walks in the dugout seduce you.

The Khong Island

Crossing the Mekong, stop at Don Khon, one of two southern islands known for its culture Don Det coconut and bamboo, to which it is connected by a bridge topped with an old railway built by the French in the nineteenth century.The remains of an old steam railcar there. Visit the main town Ban Khon, old French colonial villas and small harbor.

Don Khon

Crossing the Mekong, stop at Don Khon, one of two southern islands known for its culture Don Det coconut and bamboo, to which it is connected by a bridge topped by an old railway built by the French in the nineteenth century. The remains of an old steam railcar there. Visit the main town Ban Khon, old French colonial villas and small harbor.

Li Phi Falls

Falls Li Phi or Samphamit, which means “abyss of ghost” in Lao, are due to a cul-de-training bag. Without current, they retain wrecks and make navigation and river trade possible.

Xieng Khouang

Xieng Khouang is a mountainous region. The old capital of Muang Khoune this historical remains – the current capital is Phonsavan.  The Plain of Jars is its main attraction. See also: If the cave Muang, Buddhist temples and natural spa Ban Noi and Ban Yai.

Phonsavan

Phonsavan is a new and modern city, which was built after the 1968-1975 conflict. It replaced the old capital of Xieng Khouang destroyed by American bombing. Step to visit the jars, the plain is 1200 m above sea level and has a hundred huge ancient stone vessels of about 3 m and 3 tons.

Vang Vieng

Nicknamed “Halong bay Laos”, that very beautiful site is located 160 km north of Vientiane, on the road to Luang Prabang.  Near the Nam Song River, in an area populated by Hmong and Yao, its sacred caves contain Buddha statues (Tham Chang Tham Lusy, Tham Phapouak).  Waterfalls, cliffs and limestone sugar loaves are known.

Phongsaly

Phongsaly Province is the most northern Laos, including the city of the same name is located at 1400 m above sea level. It is bordered by China and Vietnam. The small port of Muang Khoua is the front door. The old fort Boun Tai is a must Reserve Nam Lan. At Mount Phou Pha, go to phounoy villages of Tibeto-Burman ethnic origin.

Huang Xai

Xai Huang is a village on the border between Thailand and Laos. Reserve Bokeo offers a trek along the river Nam Nga. Its forest extends over 123,000 hectares and is home to significant biodiversity: birds, insects, tiger, buffalo, elephants, bears and … black gibbons.

Champassak

Champassak The king called his old city its name.  About 35 km south of Pakse, the city stretches along the right bank of the Mekong, and leads to the famous temple of Wat Phou classified Unesco.  Among the few royal villas, both reflect the French colonial era, others are more traditional and Laotian style.

Pakse

Pakse is a busy commercial town founded by the French, at the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedon river. It is the capital of Champasak and the starting point of the visit of Wat Phou or Bolaven plateau. Since the Wat Luang, you will see the monks cross the bridge. Architecture of a style other than Lao: Chinese temple.

Bolaven Plateau

The Bolaven Plateau is a major agricultural regions of Laos.  On the road, rubber plantations, teak trees, tea, coffee, bananas, lychees … elephants grazing.  Tad Fan is one of the highest waterfalls gushing from a gorge 200 meters deep in the jungle of Dong Hua Sao.  The nature reserve is conducive to trek.

Savannakhet

Savannakhet means “city of paradise”.  Located along the Mekong River about 500 km from Vientiane, it is the capital of the most populous province of Laos.  The traces of French colonization (architecture, Catholic churches …), Buddhist sites and Khmer ruins to explore.

Wat Phou

This archaeological site of Wat Phou largest Lao-listed World Heritage by UNESCO, is located 8 km from Champassak.  The old stones of the “Mountain Temple” are pre-Angkorian ruins dating from the ninth to the twelfth century a Hindu temple.  It was the cradle of the Khmer civilization.

Vieng Pukha

Vieng Pukha is a peaceful town of Luang Nam Tha.  Nepali women wash their clothes in the river while children bathe.  Most visitors go to enjoy the trek amidst a deforested area and rice fields.

Huai Xay

Old Kingdom of the “million elephants”, renamed “Land of the Lotus Eaters,” Huai Xai is the capital of the province of Bokeo, the smaller is the least populated. Before visiting the villages, meet the chefs. Admire the views from Jom Khao Manilat, a Chinese temple vibrant colors built in 1880 in the Shan style, and the French built Fort Carnot.

Luang Namtha

Luang Nam Tha is both capital and province. Make trips of a few days to visit its nature reserve on foot, by canoe, raft or canoe. Take a tuk-tuk to the village of Had Yao populated by Hmong. Ban Nam Dee Falls is 500 meters from the village of Lao Hui Lanten.

Muang Ngoi

Muang Ngoi is located at the confluence of the Nam Ou and a small river in the east. Walk through the valley, you will reach the caves where sheltered Laos during the American bombing by performing the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which descends to the east to Vietnam. You will climb up scree Bannaka, village inhabited by Khmu and Lao.

Muang Sing

Muang Sing is only 2 hours drive from Luang Nam Tha. This village is isolated on a plain surrounded by mountains. Located 8 km from China, the Chinese Kuomintang army occupied it in 1946, preceded by the British in 1895. It lends itself to hiking in the rice fields or villages inhabited by a dozen ethnic groups. Its market is popular.

Nong Khiaw

Located northeast of Laos, 26 km east of Pakmong, the center Ban Nong Khiaw to wooden houses overlooking both banks of the Nam Ou surrounded by green mountains. The waterfall is located 7 km east of the village. The bridge can reach the right bank, lined with bungalows, which connects Ban Sop Houne. Visit the caves of Tok Pha.

Oudomxay

Populated twenty ethnic Hmong, Akha and Khmu, Oudom Xai city is surrounded by green hills; the Phu That gives a view of the pool and mountains. The old city is a neighborhood of low houses to Mount That. See: waterfalls, natural thermal baths, temples …

Pakbeng

Pakbeng The Hmong village is situated on a mountainside between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. Its port activity is flourishing. In the morning a colorful market offers dried buffalo skins, skewers frogs.

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