Destination // Laos

Laos Insider Travel Guide

A journey into Laos is a journey into an Asia long lost. Laos presents visitors with a beautiful travel experience, rich in atmosphere, natural beauty and culture. The Mekong River is the main waterway in the country and is the source of much fishing and farming activity, and village life. Your travels in the country will take in some of the gorgeous river and mountain scenery in the country, as well as two of the most intriguing towns in all Asia – the sleepy waterside capital of Vientiane, and the monastery town of Luang Prabang. Laotian people are warm and welcoming to foreigners who are able to visit after several decades of relative isolation from much of the western world.

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Laos Visa

Getting your Laos visa is a simple and efficient process. It is a requirement that you hold a passport with a validity of more than six months at time of entry and you will also need a passport photo to accompany your visa application. Travellers can easily obtain tourist visas with 30 days validity on arrival at Vientiane, Luang Prabang or Pakse airport. The price of a Lao visa varies according to nationality and is 30 USD for Australian and New Zealand passport holders, 35 USD for USA and UK passport holders, and 42 USD for holders of Canadian passports. Visas cost an extra 1 USD on weekends and public holidays. Payment should be made in USD cash and a passport photo must be provided. It is your responsibility to ensure all visa and entry requirements are met prior to arrival in Laos.


Lao is the official language of Laos. Lao accent and written script are similar to Thai. English is spoken in most restaurants, shops and by taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. Lao can be difficult language to master however you may be able to pick up a few basic words while you are traveling like hello, goodbye and thank you.

  • Hello = Sabaidee
  • Thank you = Khop jai
  • Yes/No = Doi or Men/ Baw
  • Goodbye = La gon


The official unit of currency in Laos is the kip (LAK) and we advise you to use the local kip where possible. In Laos, US cash and Thai bath are accepted almost everywhere, though change may be given in kip. As you will accumulate kip as you go, we recommend you change only a small amount (e.g. 50 USD) upon your arrival in Laos.

ATMs for international cards dispense kip and can be found throughout Vientiane as well as a limited number in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng & Pakse. Most ATMs have a maximum allowance of 700,000 LAK (about 85 USD) and while you can make multiple withdrawals in the same day, this may incur fees from both the local and your home bank. Credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) can be used in only a limited number of shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. When traveling to more rural areas of Laos it is advisable you bring enough kip cash with you for the duration of your stay.

Health & Fitness

Please take necessary precautions as you would when travelling elsewhere in Asia. Medical facilities are limited, even in the capital of Vientiane. Medical care facilities are basic outside major cities. Some of the diseases known to exist in Laos include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, dengue, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up-to-date health advice at least one month prior to travel.

Travel Insurance

The costs of evacuation as well as international standard care are extremely high. In the most serious emergencies, travellers may not be positioned to authorise payment for an appropriate medical response that is urgently required. This may delay or prevent the provision of critical and possibly life-saving medical attention.

We recommend all travellers possess an adequate travel insurance coverage for the period of travel.  Insurance should cover personal accident and medical expenses, evacuation and repatriation, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of holiday. Note that travel insurance ‘attached’ to credit cards is often limited in scope (e.g. not covering serious medical, repatriation or evacuation expenses) and in any case is usually effective only if travel arrangements have been purchased with the card. Please note also that government regulations in Asia do not always require or enforce the possession of liability insurance by hotels, transport and other suppliers. Even when insurance is in place, it can be for very limited coverage only. Go Experience does its best to work with suppliers who possess liability insurance, however it is not always possible to find and contract with such suppliers.

Safety & Security

Laos is relatively safe by world standards. Usual common-sense precautions are advisable. Cities are small, and even at night you will feel quite safe walking outside. Most Laotians go to bed fairly early so streets will usually be very quiet after 9pm.

We advise you to always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers and leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible.

Please check the following websites to get the latest news and travel advice from the region:

Food & Water

Lao cuisine is closely related to Northern Thai cuisine and can be quite spicy. Sticky rice, rather than steamed rice, is eaten with most meals. Common ingredients include vegetables, freshwater fish, beef, duck, pork and chicken. Food is generally flavoured with fermented fish sauce, coconut milk, peanuts and chillies. Some specialities worth trying are som tum, a spicy green papaya salad, and larb, made with diced chicken, pork or fish cooked in an array of seasonings. Vegetarians are generally well catered for, with Vegetarian options often highlighted on a menu or in a separate section. Tap water should be avoided however bottled water is readily available and provided on a complimentary basis by most hotels.


Tuk-tuks are very common and inexpensive in Luang Prabang and Vientiane as well as taxies. There is no train network in Laos.

While on tour, our vehicles are air-conditioned, modern, spacious and comfortable. In cities, towns and villages expect to use a combination of tuk-tuks, boats, bicycles (optional) and your own two feet – taking advantage of the variety of transport methods when traveling in Laos is part of the experience.

With the Mekong River running along most of the length of Laos, boats are a great way to travel, providing an opportunity to view the Lao way of life. Toilets on the boats, are generally of the western style but very simple.


Voltage is mainly 220V – 50Hz. Many sockets will take both two-prong round pins and US-style flat pins however we advise you bring a universal adaptor. Electricity supply is generally reliable, even in more remote areas, though farm and hill tribe stays may rely on generator-run power and be less consistently available.


Broadband internet is available in major centres and is generally inexpensive. In Vientiane and Luang Prabang there are numerous internet cafes providing email services and internet phone call services. Using these internet phone services is the cheapest way of calling overseas (or locally).


If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides and drivers a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. You are free to tip as much or as little as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.

Should you have any questions about this Laos insider travel guide, please kindly contact us. Scroll down to explore further Laos cities and our collection of tours and local experiences.

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