General information
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 +7)

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 some French.

Money matter
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. Thai Baht cash money is accepted in border towns, and in Vientiane, Luang Prabang.

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 : 41.

Entry and exist points
  1. Vientiane's Wattay international airport
  2. Luang Prabang airport
  3. Friendship bridge: Vientiane-Nong Khai in Thailand
  4. Huayxai-Chiang 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
  11. Pakse airport
The visa on arrival is issued at number 1,2, 3, 4, 11 entry points. Travelers need valid passport, a photo and a fee of US$ 30.

For more and up to date information please look at Lao ministry of foreign affairs website and

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. 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 offices.

Getting around
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 time.

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 food
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.

Useful links

Lao National Tourism Administration
Tourism Marketing and Promotion Department
P.O.Box: 3556 Lane Xang Avenue
Hatsady Village, Chanthabouly District
Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR
Tel: +856-21 212248, 212251
Fax: +856-21 212769, 217910

Lao Airlines

Ecotourism Laos

Bank of the Lao PDR

Salawin river, Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand
Hike & Hilltribe village homestay to Salawin river, Mae Hong Son

Physics & Math Tutoring, Education, Rural development