Laos is a land locked country surrounded by China in the north,
Vietnam in the north and east, Myanmar in the west, Thailand
in the south and west, and Cambodia in the south. Laos has total
land area of about 70,000 square kilometers most of which are
hilly. The eastern part is a mountain range from north through
the south forming watersheds for the rivers which flow into
the flat terrain in the west and finally into the Mekong river.
Mekong river serves as Laos border with Myanmar and Thailand
for the most part, and is an important transport route in the
region. The country is divided into 16 provinces and a municipality.
Time in Laos is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT
Climate is similar to those of Myanmar and Thailand. Rainy
season from early June till early November, Cool season from
November to February, and hot period from February to June.
In Vientiane province ( and Vientiane municipality ) the highest
and lowest temperatures are 38ºC (April mid-day) and 18ºC
(January morning) respectively.
Official language is Laos which is very similar to local Thai
used in the north-eastern Thailand ( called Easern ). English
is fairly understood in the cities. Older people could speak
Laos money is Kip. US$, Thai Baht and other major currency
could be changed into Kip in most cities. Credit cards are
accepted in major hotels.
1998 estimate is 5 millions of which more than 65% are Buddhists.
Electricity and telecommunications
Laos uses 220 Volt, 50 Cycles electricity. International phone
and fax calls can be made at hotels, resorts and telecommunication
offices. There are internet outlets in Vientiane, Luang Prabang
and a few other cities.
Country code : 856
Area codes are Vientiane : 21, Luang Prabang : 71, Pakse :
31, Xieng Khouang : 61, Khammouane : 51, Oudomsay : 81, Savannakhet
Entry and exist points
1. Vientiane's Wattay international airport
2. Luang Prabang airport
3. Friendship bridge: Vientiane-Nong Khai in Thailand
4. Huayxai-Xieng Khone in Thailand
5. Thakek-Nakorn Phanom in Thailand
6. Savannakhet-Mukdaharn in Thailand
7. Vangtau-Chong Mek in Thailand
8. Ban Savan-Lao Bao in Vietnam
9. Ban Thao or Keo Nua-Kao Theo in Vietnam
10. Boten-Bohan in China
The visa on arrival is issued at only number 1,2 and 3 entry
points. Travelers need valid passport, a photo and a fee of
Passport and visa
All visitors need a valid passport and visa to enter Laos.
Thais, Vietnamese and Chinese can enter to the provinces with
which they have border check points without passport and visa
for a day. Thirty days tourist visas can be obtained at Laos
embassy or consulate located in the countries such as Australia,
France, Russia, Sweden, USA, Poland, Germany, Cuba, Japan,
Singapore, Mongolia, Brunei, Philippines, China, India, Malaysia,
Thailand and Vietnam. Tourist visa can be extended at immigration
Highway network is still not yet properly developed in Laos,
but it has been improved. Most cities are linked by car roads,
and there are river transport available throughout the country
though they are not a very convenient way and are dependent
on seasons. Laos aviation serves several cities in Laos.
When to visit
The best time to visit Laos is in the cool season, between
November and February. The rain is usually over, all rivers
are navigable, and roads are good for driving during this
The hot season , from March to May is usually dry. However
during the Laos new year festival time, around April 13 to
16, it may be hard to find good accommodation. During the
hot season some rivers are hard to navigate and boating to
remote places may not be possible.
The rainy season, from June to October, is wet and the country
side is very beautiful with lush green forest. It could be
difficult to go by roads to the remote places. Rivers are
always accessible this time.
Lao foods are traditionally eaten together with sticky rice.
Normally Laos food is dry, spicy and delicious. Foods here
are influenced by its neighbors and colonial French flavor.
Some favorite foods are :
Tam Mak Houng - is a salad made from sliced raw papaya, garlic,
chilly, peanut, sugar, fermented fish sauce and lime juice.
It could be extremely spicy.
Som Moo - is fermented pork sausage found in many forms.
It is eaten raw or cooked.
Barbequed Moob - is Vietnamese style. Known also as Naem
Nuang. It is served with transparent rice paper, thin noodles,
and lots of herbs, vegetables, lettuce and a sauce. Take all
the ingredients and build your own spring roll.
Foe - is the name for a noodle soup which can be found everywhere
and is similar to Chinese noodle soup all over Asia.
French Baguettes - are found in larger towns and are served
for breakfast. They are filled as a sandwich with pate, moo
yor ( a prok lunchmeat ), vegetables and chilly sauce.
Things to buy
Fabrics - Laos is famous for its woven silk and cotton which
are found in varying designs throughout the country. Each
area has its own specific design and color pattern. Most products
come to Vientiane and can be found in the Morning Market popular
for such handicrafts.
Gold and Silver - The Morning Market in Vientiane houses
gold, silver and antique shops on its second floor. Gold here
is usually cheaper than in Thailand and most of them are 99.99%
pure and sold at a set price per gram. Silver is also popular
here and many people like to purchase. There are many types
and designs of jewelry in the market. The most interesting
ones may be those made by hill tribe people.
Antique - Items ranging from old opium pipes to ancient coins
can be found in the antique shops especially in the Morning
Market in Vientiane.
Popular festivals ( Months and Dates can be changed )
Wat Phu festival in Champasak province ( 20 February in 2000
This festival is held during the full moon of the lunar calendar
on the ground of the enchanting pre-Ankorian Wat Phu ruins
in Champasak. Includes elephant races, buffalo fights, cock
fighting and performances of traditional music and dance.
There is a trade fair displaying products of southern Laos,
Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
That Sikhotabong festival in Kammouane province ( 15-20 February
in 2000 )
This traditional religious festival is held in That Sikhotabong
stupa located about 8 km south of Thakhek. Built during 9th
and 10th centuries, the stupa was restored in 1950s.
Laos new year festival in many places especially in Vientiane
and Luang Prabang provinces ( 13-16 April in 2000 )
"Pi Mai" or lunar new year is the time when the
entire country ( it also is celebrated in Thailand and Myanmar
at the same times ) take part in this water cleansing event
to mark the entering into new year. People dose each other
with water, clean their households and temple places, and
many performances and shows are also held during this period.
Boat racing festival in Luang Prabang ( 29 August in 2000
There are boat racing on Khane river, and trade shows in the
Luang prabang city.
Boat racing festival in Kammouane province ( 13 September
in 2000 )
There are boat racing on Sebangfai river, trade fair showing
agricultural products and local handicrafts, traditional music
and dance, etc.
Boat racing in Vientiane, Champasak and Savannakhet provinces
( 13-14 October in 2000 )
They are held in association with Ok Pansa which marks the
end of the monks' three months fast and retreat during the
rainy season. Long boat racing are held in order to worship
the river spirits. In Vientiane there are also candle light
processions around the temples in the evening of Ok Pansa
followed by the exciting boat race in Mekong river next day.
That Luang festival in Vientiane ( 9-11 November in 2000 )
This religious festival is held in and around That Luang stupa
the national symbol of Laos. It includes giving alms to the
monks, trade fairs and fireworks at night.
Hmong new year in Oudomxay, Xieng Khouang and Luang Prabang
provinces ( 9-10 December in 2000 )
These include colorful display of traditional costumes made
from green, red and white silk and silver jewelry, musical
instruments, and festivities including ox fighting, spinning
top race, cross-bow demonstrations.