Reasons to Visit
The Baci ceremony in Laos is an important blessing in Buddhist culture and is used to celebrate any landmark event. A traditional ceremony hosted by a Lao monk will make your trip even more memorable.
From tasting Laos`s national fiery dish of laap to tasting a fine Lao coffee on the Bolaven`s Plateau or even accepting an invite to drink the potent Lao Lao, a strange rice wine blend that will knock your socks off!
Test your bartering skills at Luang Prabang's daily market, a fantastic place to pick up some great authentic Asian souvenirs.
There are few things in Southeast Asia that can beat a beer Lao as the sunsets over the Mekong - from the riverbanks in Luang Prabang to the 4000 islands, watching the world go by at sunset is a must.
The northern part of Laos is a remote region that sees few tourists. Heading north from the Thai border towards China, the town of Luang Nam Tha is the gateway to the Nam Ha National Park, with countless opportunities to explore on foot, by kayak and on mountain bikes. A little further south you will stumble upon the picturesque area of Muang La and the dramatic valley of Nong Khiaw before arriving by road or boat at the cultural centre of Luang Prabang.
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Our Laos specialists are experienced and passionate about the country - between them they have spent many weeks a year researching new experiences and ensuring everything is of the highest standard. They know Laos inside out.
WilliamLaos Specialist01993 838 139
VictoriaLaos Specialist01993 838 137
Hannah GLaos Specialist01993 838 134
JacquelineLaos Specialist01993 838 123
LauraLaos Specialist01993 838 102
Mark HothamLaos Specialist01993 838 112
CraigLaos Specialist01993 838 132
HollyLaos Specialist01993 838 132
Hannah JLaos Specialist01993 838 133
Mark RLaos Specialist01993 838 107
Our unrivalled knowledge of Laos comes from many years of organising tailor-made and group travel to the country, as well as our own extensive personal travels in one of our favourite Southeast Asian countries.
The guides we use are individually chosen, some being former monks and many of whom are now our close friends. In order to truly experience this peaceful nation, it is important to build in enough time to explore at a leisurely pace, wandering through the backstreets of serene Luang Prabang or taking time to relax by one of the picturesque waterfalls of the rural south. River travel fits naturally into the calm pace of life and we always try to incorporate a sedate boat journey into our Laos itineraries.
For a country still emerging as a tourism destination, there are a surprising range of accommodation options in Laos, much of it family-run and full of character. In Luang Prabang and Vientiane, French colonial villas have now been converted into small, stylish guesthouses with all the required comforts and a warm welcome, with a few grander options also offering swimming pools and even spas. In the mountains of the north, eco-lodges have opened for those who wish to stay in remote locations to explore the surrounding hill tribe villages. In the south, however, the accommodation is much more basic with only simple guesthouses available.
The Lao people speak a tonal dialect which is very similar to that in Northern Thailand. French is still recognised as the official second language of the government but English is now spoken more widely throughout the country, especially by the younger generation. You will often be greeted by shouts of "Sabaidee" which means hello. Laotians often greet each other by pressing together their palms, an action known as 'nop', although it is considered acceptable for men to shake hands.
Rice, especially sticky rice, is the staple food and dishes will be Indo-Chinese in flavour and presentation. Lao food can be found on the stalls in the markets and in the many local restaurants. The food in Luang Prabang is similar to that in Northern Thailand. There are several fairly good restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, catering mainly for tourists and the diplomatic community. Baguettes and croissants are normally eaten for breakfast. Drink: Rice whisky or lao lao is popular and there are two brands available. The local beer (Beer Lao) is also good. Try eating delicious Lao food whenever you can, it helps local businesses and Lao farmers.
Tipping is now coomonplace in Laos especially in the service industry and you should be prepared to tip guides, drivers and porters who assist you during your stay. As a guideline if you are travelling alone we would recommend that you tip your guide between $7-8 per day, if travelling in a couple then allow $8-10 per couple per day.
When travelling in a group of 3-4 then tipping in the region of $10-15 per group per day is appropriate, when travelling in groups larger than four then allow an increase roughly equating to 10% more for each additional person in the group. For your driver please tip around half of the total tip given to your guide. If your itinerary is more intensive and incorporates more specialised elements such as trekking or overland journeys then increase these guidelines by 20% or more depending on your satisfaction level. For porters a tip of $1 per person per bag is appropriate and it is useful to have several dollar bill notes to hand for your convenience, alternatively an equivalent amount in local currency will suffice.
We use the best guides and drivers available in Laos but if for any reason you are not satisfied with the service you receive then please speak to our agents who will be able to provide a different guide or driver to accompany you.
The Laos currency is the Laotian New Kip One Kip (Kp) is equal to 100 cents. Thai and US currency is widely accepted in shops, markets and hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. There are no restrictions on the import or export of foreign currency, although banks will only accept Thai Bahts, GB Sterling or US Dollars.
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. There is a money exchange facility at the airport, and several licensed bureaux in major towns. A few businesses and restaurants will accept travellers' cheques. Major banks in town will also cash travellers' cheques. It is best to always use cash - that way you also get the best bargains!
Credit cards, are accepted in most hotels, gift shops and more up market restaurants, and can be used in major banks for a cash advance. There is an ATM at the BECL bank in Vientiane. The withdrawal will be in local currency.
The majority of Laotians are Buddhists and it is particularly advisable to dress modestly in Luang Prabang, one of Southeast Asia's most spiritual destinations. If entering a temple, you will be expected to leave your shoes outside and have shoulders and knees covered. It is also forbidden to point your feet towards a Buddha image and women cannot touch a monk. There are many sacred sites and artefacts throughout Laos, please do not enter or touch these without permission. In Laos your head is consider 'high' and your feet 'low', it is generally considered rude to use your feet for anything other than walking and sport. Please respect Lao culture by removing footwear before entering a private home and avoid touching a person's head as this is extremely impolite.
Please take the normal environmentally friendly steps you should take anywhere in the world, but especially in the third world - use water and electricity supplies carefully, re-use towels in hotels, try to use recyclable goods such as water carriers rather than plastic bottles, protect Laos' wildlife by refusing to buy wildlife products, etc. Try to set an example to Laos' impressionable youth by taking litter away for disposal and not dropping it in the street. Laos loses a little bit of its heritage every time an antique is taken out of the country, avoid buying antique Buddha images and other sacred items, instead try to support local craftsmen by purchasing new, quality handicrafts. Please try not to distribute gifts to children as it encourages begging, instead try to give to an established organisation, or village elders.
Our country specialists can advise on any safety concerns you may have. For current information, please refer to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.
Outhine Buonyavang is one of the country's foremost contemporary authors and his work is now available in English. His 1999 collection of short stories 'Mother's Beloved: Stories from Laos' gives a wonderful insight into everyday life in the country.
Traditional Lao music has been in decline for many years but if you are keen to experience classical music why not head for a performance of Pha Lak Pha Lam, a music and dance performance based on the Hindu epic 'The Ramayana'. Regular cultural performances take place in the Royal Palace Theatre in Luang Prabang.
Years of Communist rule have not encouraged a burgeoning film industry in Laos, but one film which stands out is 'Bua Deng' or 'Red Lotus'. This essentially tells of a love story set against the backdrop of the turbulent events leading to the Pathet Lao liberation of the country in the 1970s.
Arguably the most popular dish in Laos is Laap, a type of salad consisting of minced fish or meat, garlic, chillis, sticky rice and fish sauce. If you are feeling adventurous why not try khai phun, a seasoned river moss most popular in Luang Prabang.
The Lao Brewery Company is responsible for producing one of the region's finest beers in the form of Beerlao. If you fancy something stronger, lao-lao or rice whisky is a popular local tipple normally drunk neat!
If you are looking to make friends in Laos, learning a few simple phrases can work well in your favour. 'Kop Chai Lai Lai' (Thank you very much) sounds wonderfully poetic. Try saying it!
Relaxing, laid-back, uncomplicated, friendly, spiritual and welcoming.
If you are looking for gifts either for yourself or for others, Luang Prabang is the perfect place. A wonderful array of locally produced textiles, jewellery and furnishings are available at very reasonable prices. Try the nightly market in Luang Prabang for all manner of handicrafts.
Start planning your tailor-made holiday to Laos by contacting one of our specialists...
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Further reading:Tours in LaosWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationCountry Guides
Other countries in Southeast Asia:BorneoBurmaCambodiaIndonesiaMalaysiaPapua New GuineaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
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