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Laos

  • General Information



    Name: Laos People’s Democratic Republic 
    Population: 6.5 million
    Capital City: Vientiane, population 750,000
    People: Over 60 ethnic groups, the mains ones are Lao Lom (lowland: 50%), Lao Theungm Lao Sung and tribal Thais
    Language: Lao
    Currency: Kip (KN)
    Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
    International Dialing Code: +856

  • People & Language

    Lao people: Laos is a mountainous country and lowest populated in southeast asia with different ethnic groups live at different altitudes (heights) on the mountains.
    Lao Loum (lowland Lao) + Lao Thai: 68% - along the Mekong River
    Lao Theung (upland Lao): 22% - on slopes and hills up to an altitude of 900m
    Lao Soung (highland Lao) including the Hmong and the Mien or Yao: 9% - in the mountainous areas
    Ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese: 1% - cities
     
    In the lowlands, villages usually are located close to rivers and roads. The houses are built on stilts for protection against floodwaters and they have thatched roofs made from leaves of coconut trees. In the highlands, the houses are built on the ground.

    The official language is Lao. The Lao language is monosyllabic and tonal. The polysyllabic words are occasionally meets particularly in literary writing are of Sanskrit of Pali origins. English and French are widely spoken, but it is very helpful, it one develops some knowledge to the Lao language.
  • Land & History

    The land: Laos is small landlocked and sparsely populated country in the Indochinese peninsula. Laos covers 236.800 square kilometers. It shares borders with china, Vietnam , Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. It is 236,800 sq km in land area and 5 million in population. Comprising of 68 ethnic and classified into tree groups. Lao Theung (upland), Lao Soung (hill tribes) and Lao Lum (low land).
    The major part of the country being mountainous and forested.

    In History:
    Ancient Laos

    The earliest inhabitants of Laos were hunter-gatherers. Later they were farmers growing rice and pulses. The first farmers used stone tools but from about 2,000 BC bronze was used in Laos and from about 500 BC iron.

    However unlike Vietnam the people of Laos were influenced by Indian rather than Chinese culture. From the 1st century AD Indian merchants introduced Theravada Buddhism into Laos.

    From the 9th to the 13th century the Khmers from Cambodia ruled much of what is now Laos.

    However in the 14th century the ancestors of today's Laotians founded a kingdom called Lan Xang. The first king was the ambitious Chao Fa Ngum, who was succeeded by his son Phaya Samsenthai in 1373. He ruled until 1421 and under him Lan Xang became a prosperous kingdom. Unfortunately his successors were less skilful rulers.
    In the 16th century Lan Xang was threatened by Burma but it managed to retain its independence.

    In the 17th century greatness was restored to Lan Xang by Sourinyavongsa (1637-1694). His long reign is seen as a golden age. During it Lan Xang was powerful and prosperous. However when Sourinyavongsa died in 1694 he did not leave a heir.

    In the early 18th century Lan Xang split into 3 regions centred on Luang Prang in the north, Vientiane in the middle and Champasak in the south. When it was divided in that way Laos was weakened and fell prey to Siam (Thailand). In 1779 Siamese forces occupied Vientiane. Afterwards the three Laotian states were dominated by Siam (Thailand).
    In 1804 Anuvong became king of Vientiane. By 1825 Anuvong had become determined to overthrow Siamese domination and restore the kingdom of Lan Xang. In 1827 he advanced into Siam but was defeated and forced to retreat. Anuvong fled to Vietnam. Several months later he returned to Vientiane but was captured by the Siamese (Thais) ending all hope of a restored Lan Xang.

    The French in Laos
    In 1867-68 a Frenchman called Francis Garnier travelled through Laos. However the French left Laos alone for two decades. Then in the late 1880s and early 1890s French influence in the area grew. Finally in 1893 the Siamese formally surrendered all territory east of the River Mekong to the French.

    Laos became part of the French empire in Southeast Asia. However the French took little interest in Laos and few French people lived there.

    In 1941 the French fought a war with the Thais for Laotian territory. The Japanese forced an armistice and parts of Laos were given to Thailand. Then in April 1945 the Japanese forced the pro-French king Sisavang Vong to declare independence from France. Following the Japanese surrender in September 1945 prince Phesarath was prime minister of Laos. He headed a government called Lao Issara (free Lao).

    However Laotian independence did not last long. In March 1946 the French invaded Laos and by May 1946 they were in control of the country again.

    Then in 1950 the Pro-Communist Prince Souphanouvong formed an organisation that became known as Paphet Lao (Land of the Lao). At first it was a relatively small organisation backed by the Viet Minh.

    Meanwhile the French were losing control of Southeast Asia and in 1953 they withdrew from Laos, which became an independent, constitutional monarchy.

    However Laos in the 1950s was a divided country. Most was ruled by Royalist governments supported by the USA while parts were ruled by the Pro-Communist Paphet Lao assisted by their allies the Viet Minh.

    All attempts to find a political solution failed and in the 1960s Laos became drawn into the wider Asian War. From 1964 to 1973 the USA bombed Paphet Lao territory but failed to defeat them. Then in 1975 South Vietnam and Cambodia fell to the Communists. Seeing the way things were going Royalists fled from Laos allowing the Paphet Lao to take over. The Lao People's Democratic Republic was founded on 2 December 1975.
    Laos today

    A full Communist regime was introduced. However in 1988 the government of Laos introduced market reforms. As a result the economy of Laos began to grow rapidly. Today Laos is still a poor country but it is developing rapidly (from the late 1980s to 2010 the economy grew strongly). Laos also has great potential for tourism and there is every reason to be optimistic about its future.
  • Climate & Weather

    Laos has a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons: May – October: Rainy season / November – April: Dry season

    March – April: Hottest months - temperatures can reach as high as 38°C/100F

    December: Lowest temperatures around 15°C/59F

    The average temperature is between 25°C/77F and 30°C/84F
  • Currency

    The official currency is Lao Kip. Kip is non-convertible outside of Laos, so you will need to bring US Dollars to exchange. US dollars are also widely accepted in bigger cities, particularly in restaurants. Please note that torn and old US dollar notes are not generally accepted in Laos. In areas located near the Thai border, the Thai currency, Baht, is also accepted.

    Visa and MasterCard are becoming more accepted in many of the bigger hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities. ATM’s are available in cities; in Vientiane you’ll find several ATM machines which dispense Lao Kip only.

    Allow $5 to $15 per meal for additional lunches or dinners not included in the trip price. You may also want to have some money put aside to try some local foods at the markets.
  • Time

    Time zone: GMT/UTC + 7 (the same zone as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia)
    Business days: Monday through Friday.
    Business hour: 8h30 - 17h00.

    Public Holidays
    DateEnglish Name
    January 1stNew Year's Day
    January 6thPathet Lao Day
    January 20th
    Army's Day
    March 8thWomen's Day
    March 22 thPeople's Party Day
    April 13th
    Lao New Year (Boun Pimai Lao)
    May 1stLabor Day
    June 1stChildren's Day
    August 13thLao Isara Day
    August 23thLiberation Day
    October 12thFreedom from French Day
    December 2ndIndependence Day

  • Internet & Mobile phone

    Email & Internet in Laos: Internet facilities are widely available in most upscale hotels; mid-range guest houses as well as internet cafes. Siem Reap & Phnom Penh boast excellent internet cafes with fans & air-conditioning. Although rarely free, wifi is a standard feature in plush hotels, making surfing and emailing fairly easy.

    Mobile phone in Laos: While the internet is still lacking in Laos the mobile phone network is surprisingly good with mobile phone coverage in all provincial capitals, and often many district towns with mobile phone coverage. Depending on your provider it may be possible to using roaming on the Tigo or Laotel networks while in Laos. Otherwise pre paid SIM cards can be purchased for around 30,000 Kip (US$3) which includes 10,000 Kip credit. Local calls are very cheap at around 700 Kip per minute and international calls can be made at very reasonable rates of around 2,000 Kip per minute (using the company’s special best rate voip service). Sending SMS messages is very cheap and usually includes a certain amount of free international sms messages.
  • Arrival at Airport

    The Taxi rates from airport to city vary depend on the distance from airport to center of city. 
    City Airport to city (km) Taxi rate (US$) 
    Airport to Luang Prabang town47
    Airport to Wattay36
    Airport to Pakse36

    Airport tax and Customs Declaration
    Arrival: When you landing at the airport, you should head straight for the passport control desks inside the terminal building. If you need to apply for a visa-on-arrival head to the signed desk, submit your application form (which you can download prior to travel), your passport, two passport photos and US$20-45 depending on your nationality. US, UK and European nationals are charged US$35.00 while people from Canada are charged US$42.00. Swedes pay US$31.00 and Australians can purchase the visa for US$30.00. This must be paid in US dollars or Thai baht. The visa is good for 30 days. The application will only take a few minutes then you should go through passport control before claiming your baggage and heading out into the arrivals hall. Here you will find an ATM and a currency exchange booth which may or may not be open depending on the time of your arrival.

    Customs: The official declaration forms must be filled in and presented with your luggage to customs on arrival. According to the custom regulation, the travelers excluding a crew member or a traveler below the age of 16, shall be allowed to import free of import duties and taxes the following goods, in addition to necessary wearing apparel and personal effects including personal jewelry: 1 liter of sprits and 2 liters of wine, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, 1/4 liter of toilet water and 50 grams of perfume, one used camera or video camera with 10 rolls of film, one used cine-camera, one used audio-cassette recorder, one used radio receiver, used articles for sport and a camping tent with accessories, one used perambulator.  The commercial goods and items of high value being taken out of Laos require export permits from the customs service. The export of local currency is forbidden. The travellers can take with them unlimited amounts of souvenirs bought with receipts to show proof of purchase. The prohibited items are antiques, non-prescribed drugs, firearms, pornography.
  • Food & Drink

    The cuisine of Lao originates from the ethnic groups of Laos and Northeast Thailand. The local food is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. The staple food of the Lao is sticky rice. Galangal and fish sauce are important ingredients. The Lao national dish is laap (sometimes also spelled larb), a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of greens, herbs, and spices. Another characteristic dish is tam mak houng, green papaya salad. The cuisine of Laos has many regional variations, according in part to the fresh foods local to each region. In Laos, a French influence is also apparent in the capital city, Vientiane, such that baguettes are sold on the street, and French restaurants (often with a naturally Lao, Asian-fusion touch) are common and popular. Vietnamese cuisine is also popular in Laos. 
  • Hospital & Emergency Call

    Australian Clinic
    P.O. Box 292, Vientiane, Laos
    Tel:+ 856 21 413 603 
    Fax: + 856 21 414 700

    International Medical Clinic
    Mahosot, Fa Ngum Road, Vientiane, Laos
    Tel:+ 856 21 4018/4022/4025

    The Swedish Embassy Clinic
    Sok Paluang, Vientiane, Laos
    Tel:+ 856 31 5015

    Police:            191
    Fire / First-aid: 190


  • Embassies

    CountryLaos Embassy abroadForeign Embassy in Laos
    Australia1 Dalman Crescent, O'Malley, Canberra, ACTKM4, Thadeua Road, Watnak Village, Sisattanak District, Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.
    Phone: +856 21 353800
    Fax: +856 21 353801
    Embasy of Australia: http://www.laos.embassy.gov.au/
    Email to Embasy of Australia: austemb.laos@dfat.gov.au 
    Office Hours: The Embassy is open for general and consular enquiries from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday except for public holidays. The Visa office is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9.00am to 12.00 noon.
    Brunei No.30, Unit 12 - Ban Thongkang, Sisathanak District, Lanexang Avenue
    Vientiane, Laos, P.O.Box 7843
    Phone: 856 21 352294
    Fax: 856 20 352290
    Email to Embasy of Brunei: vientiane.laos@mfa.gov.bn
    Office Hours: 0800 - 1200 hrs 1330 - 1600 hrs Monday - Friday
    Cambodia15-17 Mao TseTung Blvd, PO Box 19, Phnom Penh, CambodiaThadeua Road, KM2Vientiane, B.P. 34, Lao P.D.R.
    Phone: (8562) 131 4950, 131 4952
    Fax: (8562) 131 4951
    Email to Embasy of Cambodia: camemb.lao@mfa.gov.kh
    Canada Laos People's Democratic Republic
    The Government of Canada has no resident representation in Laos.
    Services are offered through our Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.
    For consular services, please contact the Australian Embassy in Laos.
    ChinaSanlitum, Dongsie jie, Beijing 100600Wat Nak Road, Sisattanak, Vientiane, Laos
    Phone: +856-21-315100
    Fax: +856-21-315104
    Email to Embasy of China: embassyprc@laonet.net
    Cuba7 Are calle 36A, 505 Miramar, Havana, CubaEmbassy of Cuba in Vientiane, Laos
    Bourichanne Road, No.422 Naxay Village
    Saysetha District
    Vientiane
    Laos
    Phone: (856) 21453813
    Fax: (856) 21453814: 
    Embasy of Cuba http://www.cubadiplomatica.cu/laos
    Email to Embasy of Cuba: embajada@laotel.com
    Office Hours: Customer service (at the consulate): Monday-Friday 9:00 am-12:00 pm & 2.00 pm-4pm Closed on holidays in Cuba and holidays in Laos
    France74, Av. Raymond Poincare, 75011 ParisAvenue Sethathirat, Vientiane, BP 6
    Phone: 856 21 21 52 53
    Fax: 856 21 21 52 50
    Embasy of France: http://www.ambafrance-laos.org/
    Email to Embasy of France: consulat.vientiane-amba@diplomatie.gouv.fr
    GermanyAm Lessing 6, 53639 Koenigswinter 1, BonnRue Sokpalouang 26, Vientiane
    Phone: 856 21 31 21 10
    Fax: 856 21 31 43 22
    Email Embasy of Germany: info@vien.diplo.de
    IndiaE53 Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 17002, Ban Wat-Nak, Thadeua Road, KM 3
    Sisattanak District, Vientiane
    Phone: 00-856-21-352301-04
    Fax: 00-856-21-352300
    Email Embasy of India: indiaemb@laotel.com
    IndonesiaJalan Kintamani Raya, c15 No 33, Kuningan Timur, JakartaKaysone Phom Vihane Avenue,PO Box 277
    Phone: +856-21 413 909
    Fax: (856-21) 214-828
    Embasy of Indonesia: http://www.kemlu.go.id/vientiane/Pages/default.aspx?l=id
    Email to Embasy of Indonesia: kbrivte@laotel.com

     
    Japan3-3-22 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-Ku
    Tokyo
    Road Sisangvone, Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic
    Phone: + 856 21 41 4400-3
    Fax: + 856 21 414 406
    Embasy of Japan: http://www.la.emb-japan.go.jp/en/embassy/embassy.htm
    Office Hours: 08:30 - 12:00, 13:30 - 17:45
    Malaysia1 Loront Damai Tiga, Kuala Lumpur 5500023 Singha Road, Ban Phonxay, P.O Box 789
    Vientiane, Laos PDR
    Phone: 856-21-414205/06
    Fax: 856-21-414201
    Embasy of Malaysia: http://www.kln.gov.my/perwakilan/vientiane
    Email to Embasy of Malaysia: malvntian@kln.gov.my
    Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8.00 am - 4.30 pm Holiday : Saturday - Sunday
    MongoliaIkh Toiruu, PO Box 1030, Ulan Bator 
    MyanmarNa 1 Diplomatic, Quarters, France Road, YangonBan Thong Kang, P.O. Box No. 11, Sok Palaung, P.O. Box No. 11
    Phone: (856) (21) 314910, 314911
    Fax: (856) (21) 314913
    Email to Embasy of Myanmar: mev@loxinfo.co.th, mevlao@laotel.com
    Philippines34 Lapu-Lapu Street, Magallaness Village, ManilaBan Saphanthong Kang, Sisattanak District, Vientiane, LAO PDR
    P.O. Box 2415
    Phone: (85621) 452-490/ 491
    Fax: (85621) 452-493
    Email to Embasy of Philipines: pelaopdr@laotel.com
    PolandUL Rejtana 15/26, 02-516 Warsaw 
    Russian FederationMoscow 121069, UL, Katchalova 18Thaphalanxay quarter, km 4, Thadeua Str., 
    Vientiane, B.P. 490, Laos
    Phone: +856 21 312-219, 312-222
    Fax: +856 21 312-210
    Email to Embasy of Russia: rusemb@laotel.com
    Singapore179-B Goldhill Centre, Thomson Road, SingaporeThadeua Road, KM 3, Unit 4, Watnak Village, Sisattanak District, Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR 
    Phone: +856 21 353939
    Fax: +856 21 353938
    Embasy of Singapore: http://www.mfa.gov.sg/vientiane
    Email to Embasy of Singapore: singemb_vte@sgmfa.gov.sg
    Office Hours: Mon - Fri 8.30 am to 12.00 pm 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm Sat & Sun - Closed
    SwedenBadstrandvagen 11, 11265, StockholmSokpaluang Road, Quartier Wat Nak
    Vientiane, Laos/LAO PDR
    Phone: +856 (21) 315003
    Fax: +856 (21) 315001
    Email to Embasy of Sweden: ambassaden.vientiane@foreign.ministry.se
    Office Hours: Monday-Friday 9 to 11.30 a.m.
    Thailand520.502/1-3, Soiramkhamhaeng 39
    Bangkapi, Bangkok
    Avenue Kaysone Phomvihane, Saysettha District, Vientiane .P.O. Box 128
    Phone: (856-21) 214-581-2
    Fax: (856-21) 214-580
    Embasy of Thailand: http://www.thaiembassy.org/vientiane/
    Email to Embasy of Thailand: thaivte@mfa.go.th
    USA* 2222 S Street NW, Washington DC, * 317 East 51 Street, New York19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam Road, Vientiane
    Phone: (856-21) 267000
    Fax: (856-21) 267190
    Embasy of USA: http://usembassy.state.gov
    VietnamEmbassy of Lao PDR
    22 Rue Tran Binh Trong, Hanoi, Vietnam
    No 85 23 Singha Road, Ban Phonxay,
    Saysettha District, Laos
    Phone: (856-21) 413400
    Fax: (856-21) 416720
    Embasy of Vietnam: http://www.mofa.gov.vn/vnemb.la?set_language=en
    Email Embasy of Vietnam: dsqvn@laotel.com
     
  • Pakbeng

    This small village lies half-way between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang, perched high on the banks of the Mekong river. You will likely be in Pakbeng because the two-day boat between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang has to stop for the night, and a number of guesthouses have been set up to cater for the passing tourists. It’s also the eastern end of Road 2, originating in Udom Xai. To call Pakbeng sleepy is an understatement. It's quiet to the point of being dead. Still there are sufficient restaurants for one pleasant night.
  • Salavan

    The province of Salavan spans from Laos' eastern border with Thailand to its western border with Vietnam. Though it is home to spectacular mountain scenery, waterfalls and very diverse ethnic groups, much of it is currently inaccessible, save to the most intrepid and resourceful of travellers. Salavan holds the brightest prospects for tourists looking to explore the natural beauty of Southeast Asia. It's a beautiful, tranquil little spot along a series of three waterfalls that attracts a steady trickle of backpackers as well as Laotians on vacation.
  • Muang La

    Mostly hugging the main road in a longish stretch between Udomxai and Phongsali, Muang La is a very picturesque town. The lush green vegetation and houses made of wood and bamboo are met by two rushing rivers: the Nam Phak and the smaller Nam La. Aside of its general beauty, and attractive, ancient wat, the main reason for travellers to visit this town is the hot springs.
  • Vang Vieng

    Vang Vieng is a tourism-oriented town in Laos, located in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the Nam Song river. The most notable feature of the area is the karst hill landscape surrounding the town. 
  • Houeixai

    Popularly spelt as Huay Xai (or Ban Houei Xai), it is a border town on the Thai-Lao border opposite which is Chiang Khong, its Thai counterpart.
    Houei Xai is a commercial center at the crossroads of China, Thailand and Laos. It is just a short and easy river crossing between the two last countries. The boat fare is 20 Baht; but a planned bridge would soon put the boats out of business. Its market is usually busy with hill tribes from the surrounding villages. Among them, one of the most interesting is Ban Nam Sang, populated by a group of the rare Lao Huay ethnicity. Located in the center of Houei Xai is Wat Chomkao Manilat temple. The view from the the temple hill over Houei Xai town, the Mekong River and surrounding mountains is a definite reward for making it up the many steps.
  • Luang Prabang

    Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang (literally: "Royal Buddha Image (in the Dispelling Fear mudra)") is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 425 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the major landmarks in the city is a large steep hill on which sits Wat Chom Si.
  • Vientiane

    Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, situated in the Mekong river. Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion. During French rule, Vientiane was the administrative capital and due to economic growth in recent times, it has become the economic centre of Laos.
  • Pakse

    Pakse is the heart and most populous city in the southern province of Champasak, situated at the confluence of the Xe Don and Mekong Rivers. It also served as the capital of the Kingdom of Champasak until it was unified with the rest of Laos in 1946.
  • Xieng Khouang

    The province of Xieng Khouang is located 435 kilometers northeast of the Vientiane capital. Most of its landscape consist of mountains and hills. Xieng Khouang Province offers the awesome beauty of high green mountains and rugged karst formations. The main attraction in Xieng Khouang is the Plain of Jars. According to local legend, in the 6th century King Khun Chuang had the jars constructed in order to stone wine for the celebration of his conquest of Xieng Khouang.