Travel tips for Laos
You can make an international calls at Laos Telecom offices in most provincial capitals or post offices. Calls to most countries usually cost between 0.75USD and 1.80USD per minutes. Still, cyber cafes are a cheaper way to go. If you want to use your mobile phone in Laos, the simplest and cheapest way is to buy a prepaid phone card from most mini-marts or phone shops for around US$10. The major phone providers are Tango and Laotel. Or check if your phone company has international roaming coverage in Laos.
You will find plenty of internet cafes in larger towns and cities, and in many guesthouse and hotels as well. Wi-fi is available in some upscale hotel.
The usual voltage is 220V. Power supplies can be erratic, so be prepared to be flexible. Plugs with two round pins are more popular than the three-pin. If you have any devices needing a special outlet, please bring its adapter kit. The best investment is the universal AC adapter, which will enable you to plug it in anywhere.
The official national currency in Laos is the Lao kip (LAK). Kip notes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10, 000, 20, 000 and the recently printed 50, 000 kip.Three currencies are used in Laos: Lao kips, US dollars and Thai baht, the latter two are readily acceptable in large cities and towns at most business.
- Please note that only new crisp notes are accepted in Laos. US$100 notes receiving a better exchange rate; US$ notes of the series number before 1996 as well as US$100 notes with the series number CB, dirty and/or damaged notes, or notes with any writing on it are not accepted in Laos. Please bring some small changes with you for your convenience.
5. Credit card
A growing number of hotels, up market restaurants and gift shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang accept Visa and Master Card, and to a much lesser extent Amex and JCB. Outside of these three towns, credit cards are virtually useless and kip is more preferred. Major banks in Laos like Banque pour le Commerce Extérieur du Lao (BCEL) has branches in Vientiane, Luang Prabang,Vang Vieng; Savannakhet and Pakse offer cash advances/withdrawals on Visa credit/debit cards at a 3% transaction fee, other banks may have slightly different charges. Advances/withdrawals can be made in Lao kip only when it's not possible to withdraw US dollars or Thai baht.
Travelers may get cheered to know that ATMs have made a tentative landing in Laos. But before you get overexcited, the ATMs are only available in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and there is a maximum of 700,000 kip (about US$70) a time, with each withdrawal incurring a US$2 fee from BCEL. Taking your plastic into the bank itself might be cheaper If you have to pay relatively high charges to your home bank on each overseas withdrawal. Please note that ATMs dispense cash in Lao kip to Visa and Master Card accounts only.
7. Travelers Cheques
Travelers Cheques can be cashed at most banks in Laos, but normally only in exchange for kip. Cheques in US dollars are the most readily acceptable, and in fact outside Vientiane the only cheques accepted. Very few merchants accept travelers cheques.
8. Clothing & Shoes
In Laos, remember to take off shoes before enter private houses and religious sites. No sleeveless top and short pants are allowed in religious sites. Men should wear tops and women should avoid skimpy tops and tight shorts. In addition, you will gain more respect if you are well turned out and modest in your dress. Check out the Laos weather to prepare fitting clothes.
9. Drinking Water & Food
Drink only purified bottled water. Many hotels provide complimentary bottled water in rooms, and if not, it is very convenient to buy in local store; only eat well-done meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Receipt of purchase and an export permit voucher for locally bought goods such as gems and jewelry may be required upon departure.
Laos is 7 hours ahead Greenwich time (as Vietnam).
Generally the Lao do not have any objections against being photographed. However, being politely to obtain his/her approval. It is not a problem any more to bring along video cameras. Many pagodas charge a minimal fee for cameras; video cameras might be a little expensive. Some museums restrict photography. Read the rules at the tourist attractions before you get in.
While tipping has now become an accepted practice in Asian countries, it should always be considered a gesture of appreciation for good service and not an obligation. It is an incentive to guides to maintain a high level service, helpfulness and friendliness and we strongly insist to allow our clients a choice in this matter. Therefore our tour price doesn't include a fixed amount to cover all potential gratuities.
1) If you are traveling in a small group between 2 and 5 members, We suggest approximately US $10 to US $15 /per guest per day as tips for tour guide and driver and about US $3 to US$ 2 for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service.
2) If you are coming in a group like 6 to 9 members, We suggest US $8 to US $10 /per guest per day as tips for the guide and driver and about US $2 to US $3 for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service.
3) If you are traveling in a group with more than 10 people, We suggest US $5 to US $7 /per guest per day as tips for the tour guide and driver and about US $3 to US $5 for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service. Above is for your reference only, again tipping is a personal matter, and you can always adjust the amount based on your satisfaction with the service you get from your tour guides, drivers, bellboys and so on.
14. Suggested Things to Bring
- Sun hat, sun glasses, sun lotion;
- Prescription medicines, antibiotic cream for minor cuts and scratches;
- Insect repellent; toothbrush, toothpaste or other toiletries;
- Umbrella, a small flashlight, sandals, international adaptor;
- Extra passport photos;
- Decaffeinated coffee (if you require).
15. Monks & Nuns
Respect: please show respect in certain manners to the monks and nuns; argument and criticism on their religions are taken insulting. Please ask for permits before photo shooting. Moreover, women are not allowed to touch monks, also women should put the object within the monk's reach while passing stuff.
Most Lao food is fairly similar to the food of the countries surrounding it, especially northeast Thailand. Spicy vegetable soups and stews, herbal teas, and raw veggies are common; laap, a chopped meat and herb salad with copious amounts of chili and lime juice, is considered the national dish, and sticky rice served with mango is a popular dessert. You shouldn’t drink the tap water, but kaafee thung coffee, local rice-made Beer Lao, and lao-lao rice liquor are all praised by visitors.
While its small size might suggest otherwise, Laos is actually incredibly culturally diverse, hosting over 49 different tribes and ethnic groups. The country is mostly Buddhist, and the monks are highly regarded—make sure you treat any you encounter respectfully, and do not touch them. Laotians live at a slow, relaxed speed—part of the reason Laos is becoming more of a tourist destination—but it’s important to keep a cool head if things aren’t going fast enough for you. Yelling will not only get you laughed at, but you’ll lose considerable face as well.
When in Laos, it is important to always carry your passport, as officials may stop you and fine you heavily if you do not have one.
17. Emergency Numbers