Welcome to APTLD83: Lao PDR, February 2023



Useful Tips

Airport

Vientiane International Airport is located 3 kilometers from the center of Vientiane. Several international and domestic airlines operate scheduled flights from Vientiane airport: China Eastern.

irlines, China Southern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Thai Smile Air, Jeju Air, Air Busan.

Vientiane airport terminal provides various services, shopping, restaurants, information, currency exchange, ATMs and transportation options.

The airport terminal is a modern building, upgraded in the recent years to provide a comfortable travel experience.

Climate

Laos has a tropical climate, with a pronounced rainy season from May through October, a cool dry season from November through February, and a hot dry season in March and April. Generally, monsoons occur at the same time across the country, although that time may vary significantly from one year to the next.

Currency and Banking

The official currency in Laos is the Lao Kip, although United States Dollars and Thai Baht are widely accepted. The Kip (Lao: ເງີນກີບລາວ, "currency Lao kip") is the currency of Laos since 1955. Historically, one kip was divided into 100 att (ອັດ).

Currency exchange is only permitted at official bank outlets. Exchanging foreign currency at unofficial shopfronts is illegal and may lead to detention or imprisonment.

There are a few ATM facilities in Laos that accept international credit cards, including the capital Vientiane. Banks offering these services include the BCEL, JDB and Lao-Viet Banks. Several banks offer over-the-counter credit card cash advance services during bank opening hours. Travellers should note that there are no ATM facilities that accept international debit cards in Laos. Those facilities are widely available in Thailand.

Credit cards are not readily acceptable outside of major tourist hotels and restaurants.

Money transfers are available through a number of banks.

Customs Duty and Duty Free (also see Quarantine)


Car Rentals

On average a rental car in Vientiane costs $46.

Search on Google returns EZ Lao Car Rental· +856 20 91 333 367; AVIS BUDGET Rent A Car by Asia Vehicle Rental· +856 21 223 867 Sixt Rent a Car in Wattay Airport• +856 21 513 228 as the top car rental vendors; however, Vientiane’s huge plus is the city can be explored by feet, while local tuk-tuks are the best transportation option.

Drones

Based on our research and interpretation of the laws, here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in Laos.

Electricity

The local electric current is 230 volts AC 50Hz.
Notably, for Laos there are five associated plug types, A, B, C, E and F

Health

The standards for patient care and medical services in Laos may differ from your home country. Laos has both public and private health sectors but medical facilities are limited. Basic medical care is available in Vientiane but healthcare services are not well-equipped outside of the capital. Professional treatment and medication for a mental health emergency can be difficult to access.

In the event of a medical emergency, contact your travel health insurance company immediately. Hospitals typically require upfront payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance in place. Due to limited healthcare services, medical evacuation by road or air to Thailand is common for both physical and mental health emergencies. You should ensure you have accessible funds to cover upfront fees and adequate travel health insurance, including evacuation. Before you depart, check with your insurer about the extent of their coverage in Laos.

Larger cities generally have well-stocked pharmacies, but staff dispensing medication may be untrained. Avoid purchasing medication from markets and unlicensed pharmacies, as fake medication is a common problem.

If you are travelling with medication, check with the Lao embassy, consulate, or Ministry of Health for details on medication allowances and restrictions. If your medication is a narcotic or psychotropic, you can review the country's regulations on the International Narcotics Control Board. Note that these sources may provide incomplete or out-of-date information.

Road safety

Laos has a moderately high traffic-related mortality rate. Traffic tends to be chaotic and public transport can be unreliable and unsafe, as vehicles are not maintained to safety standards. Road conditions are poor and many vehicles do not have lights. Although the national seat belt law only applies to drivers, all passengers of a vehicle should wear their seat belt at all times.

Immigration and visas

Visitors to Laos must obtain a visa from one of the Laotian diplomatic missions or online unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries or qualify for visa on arrival. All visitors must hold a passport valid for 6 months.

Citizens of the following 15 countries can visit Laos without a visa (allowed length of stay in days is shown in parentheses)
30 days: Cambodia, Indonesia Malaysia Mongolia Philippines Russia Singapore South Korea Thailand Vietnam
15 days: Japan
14 days: Brunei,  Myanmar
Visitors of other nationalities may obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days for a fee at most of the 27 ports of entry to the country, except:

Residents of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan and Tonga can only obtain a visa on arrival if they are traveling on an official visit and are holding an official letter of guarantee issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos

E-visa: Laos launched an eVisa service in July 2019.eVisa for Laos is available to citizens of all countries except countries whose citizens are ineligible for visa on arrival. eVisa is valid for 60 days from the date of issuance and its holders may stay for up to 30 days in Laos. eVisa costs varies depending on the country and can be issued within 3 business days.

eVisa may be used to enter Laos through the following entry points:

Local Customs & Etiquette

As in many Asian cultures, the head is considered the most sacred point of the body; the bottom of the feet are the least scared. One should not touch a person's head nor should one point his or her foot at a person or a scared object., put their feet on tables or chairs and touch anyone with their feet. If you accidently touch someone with your foot or touch their head, apologize profusely.

When giving an object to someone you should use two hands or the right hand. Never use the left hand (associated with toilet duties). This is especially true when an younger person give something to an older person. Books are written material are treated with great reverence and should never be placed on the floor or slide across a table.

 In Laos your head is "high", your feet "low". Using your feet for anything other than walking or playing sport is generally considered rude. The feet form the inferior part of the body (as much spiritually as physically). You must never indicate or touch another person or object with your foot.

  1.  A formal greeting for most Lao people is the “Nop” (joining one’s hands together in a praying gesture at chin level). Handshakes are also commonly used among male friends and with foreign visitors.
  2. The Lao word for “hello” is “sabai dee”, say it with smile and you’ll be well received.
  3. Feet are low. Placing them on furniture or pointing at things or people with your feet is not acceptable.
  4. Personal cleanliness is valued highly in Laos.
  5. Lao people usually serve water to guests arriving at their home, it is polite to accept it even if you don’t want to drink (you don’t have to drink it).
  6. In offices, never place your feet on a desk while sitting on a chair, that’s very impolite.
  7. In most settings, an arm’s length of personal space is the norm. Touching during conversations is limited to non-existent. This is especially the case with members of the opposite gender. Avoid touching anybody’s head as it is considered very disrespectful. Note that it is usually acceptable for adults to touch children’s heads. Public displays of affection are usually culturally inappropriate and offensive. Handholding may be the exception in certain areas.
  8. Direct eye contact tends to be the norm in most situations. When interacting with older or socially superior people, it’s best to follow their lead. For example, many people would not make direct eye contact with a boss or official unless they first established that contact. When a man speaks to a woman, especially a younger woman, she may avoid making direct eye contact and keep her eyes focused on the ground.
  9. It is rude to point directly at a person, to touch somebody (other than a small child) on the head or hair, to point the soles of your feet at someone (especially a monk or a representation of the Buddha), to throw things, and in general to behave overtly aggressively or violently. When entering a temple, men should where long pants and a shirt. Women should avoid shirts, miniskirts, halter-tops, and strapless tops (anything exposing their shoulders). Showing the soles of your bare feet is considered a rude gesture and most Laotians sit in a way that hides the feet from view



People & Language

In fact, there are many Lao languages spoken by different ethnic groups. So far, more than 80 languages have been recorded in Laos and all are dialects. However, Lao or Laotian, one of the Tai languages of South East Asia, is the official as well as the dominant language in Laos.

Besides the official national language, foreign languages are also in their very important roles in Laos, especially in development of tourism. There are immigration languages spoken in Laos, such as Khmer Chinese who are refugees from Cambodia who fled the war-ravaged country and mostly live in the southwestern region of Laos near the border of Cambodia and Thailand. The others are Lao of Chinese descent, who migrated to Laos from some provinces of China including Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Guangdong. Most of them speak Cantonese and Teochew and a few speak Southwestern Mandarin.

In addition, Vietnamese and Thai are also widely understood, especially near the country’s borders. Among of all foreign languages spoken in Laos now, French and English are the most commonly used, especially in the major tourist centers of Laos.

Quarantine

Due to COVID-19 Laos has been closed for visitors for now and updates are available at a number of sources.

Religion

Around 67 percent of the country’s population are Buddhist, other religions including animism accounted for about 30.9 percent,1.5 percent are Christians and less than 1 percent are Muslims and Bahai. Catholics make up 0.6 percent of the population.

Every town and village has a Buddhist temple (wat or vat) and saffron- robed monks everywhere. The majority of Laotian also believes in spirits. Most Buddhists are lowland Lao and some tribal groups. The hill tribes (15 percent) mostly practice animism mixed with ancestor worship. A small number have converted to Christianity. Some of the remaining members of the French- educated elite are also Christians. There are a few Muslims. They are mostly of Arab, South Asian and Cham descent.

Most lowland Lao and some midland groups practice Theravada Buddhism, but also believe in spirits of places or of deceased persons. Upland and most midland ethnic groups are animist, with religious practices oriented toward protective or guardian spirits commonly associated with places or with a family or clan. Shamans or other spirit practitioners are recognized and respected for their divinatory and healing powers among most ethnic groups, whether Buddhist or not.

The various religious communities generally coexist amicably. Society places importance on harmonious relations, and the dominant Buddhist faith generally is tolerant of other religious practices.

Local cultural mores generally instilled respect for longstanding, well- known differences in belief.

Taxes

Generally, taxes in Laos are among the lowest in the region: a low corporate income tax, a low progressive income tax and a low VAT (5%) make the country attractive for business. The Lao taxation system is quite simple and straightforward to encourage investment in the country and help develop its burgeoning economy.

Local transportation

Laos offers you multiple options in choosing which means of transportation, of which the most popular and cheapest one is Tuk-Tuk.

As you might know, Tuk Tuk is extremely popular in Thailand, and in fact, the same thing also happens in Laos because of its reasonable price and convenience. It makes it easier for you to discover around the city, just use them when you are tired of walking or when you want to watch the local life. If you start a Vientiane city tour or take a short tour in Luang Prabang ancient town, Tuk Tuk is the best option for you to take in a lot of the local sights.

Bus is the main transportation in Laos and is very useful when you are traveling from its neighbors such as Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia. It is cost-saving compared to other transportation. But along with saving cost, it also takes a long hour to arrive in Laos. There are 3 bus stations in Vientiane: Central Bus Terminal, Northern Bus Terminal, and Southern Bus Terminal. The route is quite easy for you to travel to other places in Laos.

Vientiane with 3 big bus stations receiving buses from Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Thailand or Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Xiengkhuang, and other provinces in Laos.
The Mekong River flows from north to south of Laos has given it a chance to develop waterway transportation such as a boat. A cruise on the boat from Vientiane to Paske or from Paske to Si Phan Don will give you an opportunity to view Laos in a different way and feel Laos’ natural sense. There are several stops during the trip to take a picture or visit ethnic groups in Laos. When traveling to Laos by boat, you have a chance to immerse yourself in the natural scenery under the green high mountains, the peace of the local life, or enjoy the fresh air with a little breeze, all of the things to make your wonderful trip in Laos.

A word of caveat: there are many boat services that you can choose from a slow boat, speed boat, long-tail boat, traditional boat, etc. Each of them offers different services and prices. And it might be unsuitable for who is carsick because the cruise often takes morning and afternoon in order to reach the final destination.

There are three main international airports in Laos which are most convenient for tourists to get Visa on Arrival: Luang Prabang International Airport, Pakse International Airport, Wattay Airport (Vientiane). You can easily get a Visa on Arrival at these airports by paying a fee and doing necessary customs. Not only offering a flight from other countries to Laos, but they also offer flights within Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Paske. The airplane is considered as the most comfortable means of transportation, but the cost is higher compared to other kinds of transportation.

Shopping

One of the pleasures of shopping in a non-industrial country like Laos is the availability of hand-crafted goods. Because items made by hand can only be produced in limited quantities, they are usually sold or bartered in the village in which they were made, and seldom get very far afield. Handmade baskets, bolts of cloth and household utensils are best acquired at village level, as everything is cheaper at the source, though it’s not all that easy for non-Lao-speaking visitors to turn up and make known what they’re after. Provincial markets are the obvious alternative; prices here are usually just a bit more than what you would pay were you to buy directly from village artisans. Of course, if village-made objects make it all the way to the boutiques of Vientiane, their “value” will have multiplied many times over.

As with the rest of Southeast Asia, merchandise often has no price tag and the buyer is expected to make a spirited attempt at haggling the quoted price down. Even if an item is sporting a price tag, it’s still perfectly acceptable to ask for a discount. Bargaining takes patience and tact, and knowing what an item is really worth is half the battle. The first price quoted will usually be inflated. If you feel the price is way out of line, it is better to just smile and walk away than to squawk in disbelief and argue that the price is unfair – no matter how loud or valid your protestations, nobody will believe that you cannot afford to buy.

On the whole, Luang Prabang is better for shopping than Vientiane, as much of what is for sale in Luang Prabang is produced locally, meaning you get a better selection of goods and at better prices.
Local staples include textiles, silver, antiques, royalist regalia, woodcarving, rattan, wicker and bamboo.

Things to do

Laos offers a lot to do and see, and there are numerous sources to examine to design an itinerary of your dream – see for instance to make your visit to Laos a memorable one.

Time Zone

Laos observes Indochina Time (UTC+7) all year. There are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Tipping

Tipping is not part of the culture in Laos, and you are not required or expected to tip anywhere. If you tried to give more money than the set price after you would just confuse the local.

Transfers

You can always get a car driven by a competent and responsible chauffer – check out for options.

Wifi & Connectivity

Thanks to our generous host LANIC Laos is making every effort to catch up with the rest of ASEAN in terms of accessibility and affordability of the Internet services.

Still, while access to mobile broadband is increasing, but rural and more remote communities are still underserved.

Fixed broadband, which is required for high-capacity data transmission, is particularly limited.

Prices for internet are comparatively high. High capacity fixed broadband services are very limited and extremely expensive.

The relatively high cost is slowing access, with mobile subscription and broadband internet subscription rates lower than in neighboring countries.

Quality of service and affordability of internet are continuing concerns that are slowing the introduction and use of digital services and applications.

The average 2G/3G connection is on the low side for speed, and while the 4G connection speed falls within regional averages, Lao PDR is the only country in the region with only one operator offering 4G.



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