Laos must be the most relaxed country in South East Asia. Everything is fresh and unhurried here; the food, the people and the country itself. Famed for its lush, green scenery and the friendliness of its people, spend some time experiencing the fascinating and proud cultural heritage of Laos. Sail down the mighty Mekong River, visit the beautiful Buddhist temples and see the traces of the country’s French colonial past. Combined with neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia, it is a fascinating tour of contrasts and similarities.
IMPORTANT – Our Laos tour also travels into Vietnam and Cambodia. Please ensure you also check the requirements for entry to these countries, as they differ to those for Laos.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months from date of arrival in Laos. You will also require 1 blank page for entry stamps, though a number of airlines will not let you board if you do not have 2 blank pages in your passport, therefore it is advisable to have 2 pages clear. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
Citizens of the majority of worldwide countries require a visa in order to visit Laos. A standard visa allows entry for up 30 days for tourist purposes from the date of arrival into Laos. Visas for Laos can be obtained by a number of methods. In advance of travel, you can apply at your relevant Laotian embassy or consulate. However, for the majority of countries, online e-visa application prior to travel is an easier way to apply or alternatively, you can apply for a visa arrival in Laos. All nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure.
• Visa-on-arrival at your designated point of entry into Laos
If wishing to get your visa on arrival at the airport, you will require the following:
- Valid passport, with a minimum of six months validity at the date of entry, and containing at least 1 blank page
- Completed application form, obtainable in the airport at the ‘Visa-on-Arrival Desk
- Two passport photographs, taken not more than one year ago
- Visa fee – varies between USD 30-45 per person, depending on country of origin. To be paid in cash in dollars.
• Apply online for an e-Visa – N.B. only available for those arriving into Wattay International Airport (Vientiane), Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport, Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I (Vientiane Capital) or Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge II (Savanakhet Province)
- Visit the website and follow the application process described. The service currently costs USD 45 for Australia/New Zealand Citizens, USD 50 for UK and US citizens and USD 57 for those from Canada. It enables you to pass more quickly through the immigration process as queues are often lengthy.
- Remember to bring one printed copies of the visa certificate with you for entry into Laos.
- E-visas are valid for 60 months from date of issue, but only allow entry to Laos for 30 days upon arrival. Entry must be within the validity of the issuing dates, so please do not apply too far in advance.
- Please note, processing of the e-visa usually takes 3 working days but can take longer.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Vientiane, including those for the US, Canada, Australia and UK. However, embassies for other countries, including New Zealand are located in other Southeast Asian cities, offering coverage to Laos. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour. Please come prepared with your insect repellent spray/plug-in just in case.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints, but please note, whilst in rural areas, doctors and medical supplies are few and far between. If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Laos Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
There are currently no specific certificate requirements under International Health Regulations however please take note of the malaria information below:
Yellow Fever Certificate. Depending on the area you are visiting, or areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Malaria may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/countries
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and shoes for this tour. Easy-care. light summer clothing is best and bring enough underwear and socks so that frequent laundry is not necessary. Feel free to include a few smart-casual outfits and a pair of dressier shoes for dinner if you wish, however there is no pressure to follow a dress code. The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and the fact that it may be cooler in the evening. Dress should be modest with upper arms and legs covered, especially if entering religious premises such as temples and pagodas.
A good day bag should be big enough to hold your valuables, camera, and the things you need while you are out and about. Insect repellent and sun cream are also essential items and it is a good idea to include a travel umbrella, tissues and antibacterial wipes. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Highlights of Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia Tour – This tour includes a number of internal and flights in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. You are permitted one piece of hold luggage per person, at a maximum weight of 20kg (44lb) per piece. You are also permitted to carry one piece of hand luggage per person that it fits under the seat in front of you or in the overhead lockers. These luggage restrictions apply equally for the internal and regional flights within the three countries.
Luggage handling is not included in our Laos tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services may be available in some hotels on the tour.
The main and official language of Laos is Lao, though only around half the population speak it as their main language. Many speak regional and local languages in their own areas. French is still widely spoken, and English is spoken across the country in the hospitality sector.
The time zone in Laos is GMT+7, 7 hours ahead of London GMT.
As with its neighbours, Laos is warm to hot all year round. The climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle, with alternating wet and dry seasons. However, being mountainous and with no coast, the weather can be different of that of its neighbours.
In Laos, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. They use a number of types of plugs in Laos – Type A (US/North America style), Type B (US with a grounding pin), Type C (European style) and Type E (European style with an extra pinhole). You will need a multi-plug adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Laos has a good communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate and be patchy. It may be better to purchase a local SIM card; your guide can help with this. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for Laos with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive. Please note, there will be no internet access on boats nor at remote homestay locations.
The currency of Laos is the Lao Kip (LAK) and it remains a predominantly cash society. However, whilst small and everyday transactions are generally done in Kip, US Dollars and Thai Baht are as commonly used as the Kip. If the price for an item is equivalent to $100 USD, then the price will be displayed in USD rather than Kips.
Therefore, keeping a good supply of small denomination USD is recommended. Please note that worn or ripped USD notes will not be accepted, so please ensure you bring clean, unmarked bills only. With USD so readily accepted there is generally no need to actively exchange your money into Kips – change for small transactions paid in USD is often given in Kips, so you will accumulate small notes as you go.
ATMs are widely available in cities but not so in smaller villages. Withdrawal charges may be high! If visiting more remote areas of the country, please ensure you have sufficient cash with you to cover necessary expenses.
Credit cards are becoming more accepted at mid-high range establishments in Vientiane and Luang Prabang but are virtually unusable throughout the rest of the country. Therefore, it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at large banks in the major centres, but generally not in hotels. The process may be time-consuming and incur higher charges than exchanging cash. Any Traveller’s cheques should be USD denominated to ensure the best chance of acceptance, but we would generally not recommend them.
Laos is still generally relatively inexpensive for western travellers and you can pick up some good bargains along the way.
• Bank Opening
Banks in Laos are usually open 8.30am – 3pm Monday to Friday.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
You will find many similarities between Laos’ food and that of its neighbours – Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and China. However, the Laotian cuisine has influenced its neighbours, and has some distinct tastes and flavours too. Noodles and sticky rice for a large basis of the diet, but you will also find a number of dishes with a heavy French influence, including baguettes for breakfast, from the country’s time as a French colony.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in Laos is generally not safe to drink. Drink only bottled water and use bottled water to clean your teeth. Refuse ice if you do not know whether it has been made from bottled water. Bottled water and mineral water are widely available and can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Laos offers lots for visitors to buy. You will find a host of quality handmade crafts on offer. The country is famous for its clothing, as well as wood carvings and jewellery. In smaller towns you will find more traditional handicrafts, made by locals.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 8am – 5pm Monday–Saturday, though large malls and street vendors can stay open for many hours more.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in Laos offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Crime levels in Laos are generally low. However, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards, especially in the bigger cities where pickpocketing and bag/camera snatching is not uncommon. Snatch thieves are known to use motorbikes to grab valuables and make a quick getaway, so make sure you keep a tight hold of your personal belongings. Keep large amounts of money out of sight and consider using a money belt; in your hotel room keep your valuables locked in the room safe and when out and about keep an eye on your bag and other personal effects. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities. Take extra care at night and in isolated areas. Please ensure you carry photographic ID with you at all times and present it if requested by the police or other official authorities.
Please be aware that landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) were a significant problem for many years following the many wars and conflicts in the area. Much of the countryside, and especially tourist areas, have now been cleared of landmines with a comparatively small portion remaining in more remote areas. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend sticking to well-marked paths.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, and restricted in some outdoor public spaces, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke.
Laos is mostly Buddhist, with over 65% of the population belonging to the religion.
Laos offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!
ARRIVAL IN LAOS
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in neighbouring Cambodia or Vietnam, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019