The country’s officially called the Lao People's Democratic Republic, bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Lao PDR is a landlocked country and covered by high mountainous ranges but crises-crossed by many rivers and stream. For centuries, it has been widely known by outsiders as the land of a million Elephants. The capital and largest city of Laos is Vientiane and other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse.
Official name: Lao People's Democratic Republic
Population: ~6.5 million people
Total Area: 236.800 square kilometers
Major religion: Buddhism
Monetary unit: Lao Kip
International dialing code: +856
Time Zone - Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +7 hours
The country is hot and humid most of the year. Lao PDR has two distinct seasons– the rainy and dry season. The rainy season runs from May to November and the dry season continues from December to April. In which the weather is often cooler and lesser humidity from end of October to February with average temperature might drop to 12OC or 14OC; while From March to June, the temperature could be up to 41OC. April is the hottest month.
The national language is Lao, which is closely related to Thai and is spoken in many different dialects. Lao,like Thai, is a tonal language. However only slightly more than half of the population can speak Lao, the remainder speaking various ethnic minority languages, particularly in rural areas. French is still spoken by many educated members of the older generation but Thai and English are popular with younger people.
Lao food differs from neighboring cuisines in multiple respects. One is that the Lao meal almost always includes a large quantity of fresh raw greens, vegetables and herbs served undressed on the side. Another is that savory dishes are never sweet. "Sweet and sour" is generally considered bizarre and foreign in Laos. Yet another is that some dishes are bitter. There is a saying in Lao cuisine that “sweet makes you dizzy; bitter makes you healthy."
The staple food of the Lao is steamed sticky rice, which is eaten by hand. In fact, the Lao eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world.The most famous Lao dish is Larb, a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw with a variable combination of herbs, greens, and spices. Another Lao dish is a spicy green Papaya salad dish known as tam mak hoong or more famously known to the West as som tam.
A French legacy is still evident in the capital city, Vientiane. Spicy meat salads, sticky rice, noodles, curries and fish tempt right alongside culinary remnants of French colonial occupation. Crunchy baguettes stuffed with pate and salads are standard market fare, while upper-end French restaurants offer delights at astounding prices. And of course, ice-cold Beerlao -- considered Asia's best by some -- is stocked right across the nation.
Lao currency is called kip (LAK). Lao Kip; US Dollars and Thai Baht are widely accepted in the main cities. The exchange rate is around 8,000 LAK to 1 USD , and around 10,900 LAK to 1 EUR. Kip is a non-convertible currency, meaning once you have left Laos, it's useful only as souvenir or wallpaper. Banks outside Laos will not accept nor exchange kip. International access ATMs dispensing US dollars can be found in most major tourist centres across the country.
Laos’ main holidays are based around the Buddhist calendar and will cause little disruption to travel plans. Lao New Year (Songkran) – Also known as Pii Mai, is one of the busiest festivals in Laos. On the last day of the year, people clean up their homes and prepare festival effects like water, perfume and flowers. On this day, young people respectfully bless their elders with water, and then sprinkle monks with water for lifelong blessings, and finally, douse each other with water in the tradition of Thailand’s more popular Songkran. Water is also used by the elderly to bathe the Buddhas and clean homes. As of late, Laotians have started using whipped cream (and even shaving cream) or anything perfumed to throw at each other during the Lao New Year. Some other festivals are Boat Racing, Laos National Day...During these days, you may see some restaurants and businesses close, but are colorful times to visitand experience Lao culture.
- Laos New Year : 14 - 16 April 2014
- Boat Racing : Mid August 2014 (To be advised)
- Laos National Day : 2 December, 2014
Foreign tourists can optain for 30 days visa at any Laotian Embassy or on arrival at most overland crossings between Thailand and Laos, including the Huay Xai, Vientiane, Savannakhet, Tha Khaek and Chong Mek entry points. It is also available at both Vientiane and Luang Prabang airports (US$ cash only and one passport photo). Passports must be valid for at least 6 months.
All tourist visas are single-entry only. The visa sticker for visas issued from an embassy are full page, so bear that in mind if you do not have many pages left in your passport.
If you get your visa beforehand from a Lao embassy, it should be valid for 30 days, but be wary of being stamped in for 15 days instead.
Extending a tourist visa is straightforward and can be arranged at the immigration office in Vientiane.
(VIP airport pick up service is available. Please contact us for requirement.)