The only entry point for arrival by air is Wattay International Airport in Vientiane. As there are no intercontinental flights, you will need to use a regional carrier such as Thai Airways International, Vietnam Airline, The Southern China Airline, Silk Air (Singapore), and Malaysian Airline. Regular flights are available from Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Kunming, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It is a good idea to check with the airlines listed above as some service routes may be interrupted or temporarily discontinued. Road access is possible from neighbouring countries. Between Thailand and Laos, the border can be crossed at Houeixay in Bokeo province, at Mittaphab Friendship Bridge near Vientiane and at Dan Savannakhet Province. China can be reached by road at Boten in Luang Namtha Province. Border crossings between Laos and Vietnam have been set up at Laksao on the road No.8. Borikhamsay Province and at Dan Savannakhet Province on the road No.9. All visitors enteringLaos must posses valid passports. Visitors traveling to Laos for the purpose of tourism require a visa. Contact your nearest Lao consulate or embassy to make a visa inquiry. An easy way to obtain a tourist visa is to book a tour to Laos with an authorized travel agency abroad who has a formal contact with one of local tour operators. This agency will provide you with the necessary forms, enabling you to apply for the visa at your nearest Lao embassy or consulate. Visa on arrival is possible only at Wattay Airport and Mittaphab Bridge, which are the border checkpoints into Vientiane. To do so you will need to meet at least some of the following conditions:
No vaccinations are mandatory to enter the country, however, if travelling to remote or border areas, vaccination against typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis is desirable.
As a tropical country, Cambodia is hot and steamy. There are two distinct seasons, the dry and the wet. The wet season monsoon lasts from May to October with southwesterly winds ushering in clouds that deliver 70 - 80% of the annual rainfall, often in spectacular downpours that last for an hour at a time. The dry season runs from November to April with an average temperature range of 27 to 40 degrees Celsius. The coolest and most comfortable travel period for those from cooler climates is from October to January.
The kip is the official currency of Laos. The bank note available in denominations of 100, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 kip.
All major currencies such as the US Dollar, Euro, Yen, and Thai Bath among others can be exchanged at banks that are located in all major towns. In Luang Prabang and Vientiane, competitive rates are offered at numerous authorized private exchange bureaus. One exchange facility is available at Wattay airport in Vientiane. Exchange bureaus and banks will cash traveler cheques in major currencies. Furthermore, most domestic and foreign banks in Vientiane allow cash withdrawals on visa credit cards, which can also be used in many restaurants and hotels. In the event of a journey to remote areas, it is advisable to take a good supply of kip with you. Cash, US dollars and Thai baht are universally accepted. Small denominations are very useful.
UTC / GMT (+7 hours) Noon in London is 7pm in Laos.
In general, office hours are from 0800-1200 and 1300-1600, Monday to Friday. Shops are open early and have varying closing hours.
The General Post Office (GPO) is beside the morning market in Vientiane. Normal mail service is inexpensive and generally reliable, however for urgent or valuable mail (either to or from Laos) EMS or courier service is recommended. The GPO offers public telephones for local, national and international calls. Phone cards (available at appointed shops) can be purchased for use in booths available for domestic and overseas calls. Most large hotels have IDD lines, but calls are expensive. Country code: 856. Outgoing international code: 00. Local newspapers include the English-language "Vientiane Times" and French-language "Le Renovateur". The internet can be accessed through PlaNet, which has cyber cafA~(c)s in both Vientiane (Setthathirat Road) and Luang Prabang (near the museum).
220 volt AC (50 Hz)
Lao is the official language with many people also able to speak some French, English or Thai.
Cover your skin when not on the beach and be aware that officials expect to be accorded a certain respect. Be polite in your manner and dress and you will encounter less grievance. Places of worship are especially sensitive to skimpy or revealing clothing such as tank tops and short shorts.
Sightseeing by bus in Laos
Taking a bus in Laos is an experience not to be missed. Expect to share this form of public transport with not only Laotians, but also with what ever they happen to be carrying-all kinds of vegetable produce and / or live animals. Buses travel between all major towns and cities. Their form may vary between converted pickup trucks, flat bed trucks with benches or a more modern traditional bus. Fares are always reasonable but times of departure and travelling times will vary considerably. Be patient, and allow plenty of time when travelling by bus.
Ferryboats run from Vientiane to and from Luang Prabang as well as from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai. Journeys can take several days, depending on the time of year and whether travelling up or down river. This kind of travel is for the intrepid adventure travellers only! Though cramped, hot and lengthy it is one of the most interesting ways of experiencing the Lao lifestyle. Ferries usually depart early in the morning. Times, prices and just about everything else will change according to season. On tributaries of the Mekong, ferries may run daily, or only when there are enough people to warrant the trip. Speedboats run between Vientiane to Luang Prabang and Luang Prabang to Huay Xai and the journey takes about eight hours per leg. The cost is considerably more than the ferry however. Speedboats can accommodate up to six people.
Vientiane has a number of rather old taxis. They can be found at Wattay Airport, the Friendship Bridge and at the Morning Market. Taxi drivers will be quite happy to let you charter their cars for the day. Fares will vary, but the cost from the Friendship Bridge to Vientiane and from the city centre to Wattay Airport is standard. Your hotel can arrange a taxi for you but this will usually be more expensive than hiring one yourself. There are also a few metered cabs in Vientiane; they are not particularly cheap, but at least the fare is regulated.
Laos has no established car rental business as found in most tourist destinations. Cars or more specifically, quality 4x4s can be rented, usually with a driver, from a few companies in Vientiane.
Throughout Laos you will find modified motorcycles that ply the streets looking for fares, or waiting at bus stations, border crossings and markets. These motorcycles have three wheels, a roof and a couple of benches in the back. There vary in size. Some can only carry four passengers, some up to a dozen if you include those who stand and hang on at the back. Known as 'tuk - tuks' or 'jumbos', these taxis are fine for shorter journeys. You can take one of these taxis for a journey, or charter one by the hour, or even by the day. Expect to bargain with your driver for an agreed fare.
In Vientiane and Luang Prabang, regular motorbikes are available for hire. Many hotels can arrange this for you and some shops and restaurants will hang a sign outside advertising motorcycles for rent. Insurance is almost always third party only. Remember to drive on the right in Laos. Road safety awareness is nothing like the west, and only a few years ago, there were hardly any motorised vehicles in the country compared to the numbers that you will see today. By all means rent a motorbike, but drive slowly, and with the utmost care.
All visitors to Laos should have up to date inoculations as recommended by their doctors. Visitors should take preventive measures against mosquitoes as in any tropical country, especially at dusk. Health insurance, especially medical evacuation coverage is recommended, as international standard healthcare is minimal in Laos, especially in rural areas. Although Laos is not a malaria risk-free country, your health will not be at risk if proper precautions are undertaken. Consult your doctor or the World Health Organization for updates and health advisories.