Laos, an agricultural country specialised in rice farming, possesses a myriad of magnificent mountains, vast untouched forests, countless rice paddy fields and endlessly expanded river, which brings about infinite tourism potential for this land. Laotian culture is the combination of several other cultures including Thailand and China and also embraces the diversity of many different ethnic minority groups living in the country. Likewise, food is an important part that Laotians take great pride in sharing with foreign travellers, which should be more widely known to the world. The unique laidback local life said to be unchanged for years and decades creates a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else. Away from the bustling urban lifestyles, this is where your souls will be nurtured and rejuvenated.
Although as with other countries in the world, the seasons seem to be going a bit haywire, generally the dry season lasts from around February to June. Particularly around March to May it can get very, very hot and humid. At this time, farmers cut down forests in the mountains to make sticky rice fields, and the resulting smoky haze means that visibility is reduced. It starts to rain in about July, but is still quite hot. In December and January temperatures generally drop and can get quite chilly, particularly in the evening, although it never hits zero and doesn't come anywhere close to snowing. Northern towns are more mountainous and get colder still, although most foreigners from Canada or England don't find it cold at all.
Both Vientiane and Luang Prabang have international airports. Both have taxis (Vientiane) or tuk tuks (Luang Prabang) waiting to take passengers after each incoming flight. Prices are set, and placards advertise what they are. From the airport to the centre of Vientiane town costs $5 and this small car will hold a maximum four passengers or three if you have even a moderate amount of luggage. If you're really struggling for cash it is often possible to go out of the airport to the highway and flag down a passing share tuk tuk, which will cost around $2-3 per person, but the hassle, time and energy required make this an option only for those on the tightest of budgets. In Luang Prabang the only option is to take a tuk tuk to town at the set price of 50,000 kip ($5). These will take up to 5 passengers and the drivers will often do the work of finding other passengers if you are alone.
No. If an item has a price tag then you're not expected to bargain. You are not expected to bargain in a grocery store or restaurant either. The main venues for bargaining are the local markets, where the price will probably be a little flexible, although not as much as in neighbouring countries.
Yell, scream or behave like a rude foreign tourist, throw your money at the vendor, refuse to buy after the vendor has accepted your price or go red in the face arguing over 1,000 kip. And don't lose your sense of humour -- you are supposed to be having fun.
International access ATMs dispensing US dollars can be found in most major tourist centres across the country. In more rural areas of the country however work on the assumption there will be no ATMs and so arrive with enough cash.
In most places in Laos, tipping is not expected though as always it is appreciated. If you want to tip, 10% percent is pretty generous.
Generally speaking, yes. Using common sense means you'll probably get out in one piece. Violent crime against foreigners occasionally takes place, but overall it's safe and women in particular find they feel more secure than in the west. The biggest problems are petty theft, scams and traffic accidents.
Some sensible actions to take:
1) Wear helmets when riding motorcycles or bikes
2) Don't go wandering aimlessly through a town or city late at night
3) Don't get drunk and pick fights with bar staff
4) Don't travel on the roads during holiday periods
Laos generally uses 230V, 50Hz electricity. They use types A, B, C, E and F power sockets. It is recommended to bring a converter or to purchase one upon arrival. You will need a converter throughout Laos.
Most meals are included for travelers as well as your guide. You will need help translating the menus, and thus the guide will typically eat with you unless you specify a different arrangement. Occasionally meals will be up to you, particularly when you are in a larger city with many restaurant options that cater to tourists. This gives you freedom to eat what you want to try, and your tour guide can give you restaurant recommendations in these scenarios.
Laos is a relatively safe country both in the rural countryside as well as in larger cities. As always, travelers need to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense when venturing out at night. However, crime rates in general are very low, particularly against tourists. The most common issue reported are pickpockets when visiting crowded marketplaces or shopping areas. Be wise and keep your possessions hidden under your top layer of clothing to prevent anything from being stolen.
You can book your Laos tour at any time and generally the earlier you book, the better. Booking early (3 months or more recommended) is especially important for travelers visiting during the high season to ensure that first choice hotels are still available.
Further, we usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that we arrange your tour, the sooner that you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available. We are often able to accommodate last minute travelers as well (some even departing in less than one week!!), so give us a call and we will do our best! For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice hotel may not be available for your selected dates, but your trip planner can probably recommend some similar options that would be equally interesting!