What to do in Laos | Book local and direct!
Discover Laos, Rediscover Yourself
Discover Laos, Rediscover Yourself
Discover Laos, Rediscover Yourself
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Laos first integrated travel portal, connecting Laos with the rest of the world. DiscoverLaos.Today is aimed at inspiring travel, accelerating the growth of tourism, allowing the world to access over 500 travel packages through digitization, interactive content and multimedia.

 

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A Brief History of Laos

Origin of Laotian 

Lao people originated from Yunnan, Southern China, as a tribe that was displaced south during the 13th century. During the era, the first Lao King kingdom was founded by Fa Ngum in 1353 as The Lang Xang Kingdom or "Land of a million elephants". 

The Lao Kingdom

King Fa Ngum's significant accomplishment was uniting the diverse ethnics groups in Laos through Theravada Buddhism and making Luang Prabang the religious and cultural centre of the kingdom for the next 200 years. Buddhist scholars and scriptures can be found all over in Laos today as well as ancient relics of his past glory. 

FRENCH COLONIZATION

After centuries of internal conflict and war with neighbouring countries. French Protectorate of Laos was founded from 1893 to 1946 after the French re-established and propped up the monarchy, making Luang Prabang the royal capital of Laos and Vientiane the administrative centre of the colony.

The French gave Laos its name and its present borders. They helped unify the Lao provinces on the east side of the Mekong River while their treaties with the Siamese gave the Thais control over Lao regions on the west side of the Mekong River, a move that significantly weakened Laos.

Current Day Laos PDR (People's Democratic Republic)

Modern Laos was founded by Prince Souphanouvong who led the resistance of Phathet Laos "Laos Homeland" against the US. Following the end of the Vietnam war, Laos adopted communism as the de facto political ideology due to its relationship with Vietnam. The two countries worked hand in hand to counter the US forces and shared a common fate. Current day, Laos retains the traditional communist one-party rule, while allowing capitalist free market principles to run the economy. 

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Population and Ethnicity

Laos is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with a population of only 6 million. Of these, it composes of 49 ethnic groups. 

The whole Lao people can be categorized into three visible groups.

  1. First, the lowland Lao, those live on low plains, comprise of up to 68%, which is most of the whole population.
  2. Second, the upland Lao (Lao Thoeng) are those who live on plateaus up in the mountainous areas in the north and the south; the majority numbers of this group are Khmu.
  3. Third, those living high up on the mountains (Lao Soong); they are mostly the Hmong or Maew.

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Monetary System in Laos

The national currency is kip (LAK).

Coins are not used in this country

The suggestion goes: "When in Laos, use its kip currency" because it is the best way to save money. Baht (THB) and Dollars (USD) are welcome in all shops, however some shops prefer THB transactions only, for either receiving or to give back change. The rate of exchange in the market for goods and services is usually fixed at 1 baht being equal to 250 Kip and 1 USD being equal to 8,000 kip or at market rates depending on which one benefits the seller the most. Therefore, you are advised to compare the exchange rates of kip, baht and dollars in order to not be exploited.

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Dos and Don'ts in Laos

  1. In greeting, the Laotians say "Sabai dee" and simultaneously greet with a wai (two hands pressed together, closely coordinated above your chest) to elders who would respond in kind. Also, people of the same sex can shake their hands. 
  2. You must dress appropriately when entering religious sites; men should wear trousers and light-coloured shirts and women should wear sarongs. Women can find sarongs to rent in religious places opened for tourists. 
  3. Lovers should not display affection, such as kissing and hugging in places of worship. 
  4. Do not use your foot and toe to point at things; they should remain down low and should not go up unnecessarily. when entering someone's house, a temple or sacred space, you must take your shoes off. Passing by people who stay below you, you should bend your back a little; as if performing a tiny bow; it is akin to paying some respect or saying "I am sorry".
  5. Giving sweets to children, despite your good intentions, can be seen as supporting begging and akin to harming the children's well-being unknowingly. If you want to help children, ask for relevant organisations or those who supervise help for children in the area. 
  6. Buying and selling drugs and having sex with the underage are considered an ugly crime which will lead to severe punishment. 
  7. If you desire to take a photograph of people or ritual performances, ask for their permissions first. Do not activate camera flash while taking a photograph of monks receiving food, whom people are giving alms to. Do not take a photograph of children too close and without their guardian's permission. Never take a photograph of the government offices, especially barracks or garrisons and security-related agencies. Otherwise, this can bring about complicated and serious charges of illegal actions. 
  8. It is a good idea to buy things from the villagers in order to help them economically but you should not buy ancient artifacts and antiques or wild animals and their related products, which can be construed as giving support to the activity in contravention of the law. 
  9. Keep public places clean and put rubbish away in order to be a good example for other visitors and the Laotian youth. 

 

                                                                             

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Getting to Laos

Applying for Tourist Visa to Laos

ASEAN member countries and a few other countries (namely Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Luxembourg and Switzerland) that have entered into mutual agreements with Laos are exempted from visa application. All other nationalities are required to apply for a tourist visa through means below:

  1. Visa-on-arrival (Between 30-42 USD depending on your nationality) 
  2. Apply for E-Visa through https://www.visalaos.com/ (Starting from 50 USD)
  3. Apply for a Laos visa at an embassy or consulate.

By Air

There are three international Airports, namely Luang Prabang Airport, Pakse International Airport and Wattay Airport in Vientiane; these airports represent the main gateways to Laos. At present, Laos has direct air connections to regional countries (Such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Singapore, Korea). New route from Fukuoka, Japan will begin by end of 2019. 

Border Check Points by Land and River

LAOS-CHINA
• Phongsaly Province (Lan Tuy, Yod Ou) - China (Meuang Kham).
• Luang Namtha Province (Boten) - China (Mohan)
• Xiangkok riverport on Mekong River in Luang Namtha Province

LAOS-MYANMAR
• Bokeo Province (Ban Meuang Mom) - Myanmar (Vang Pong)

LAOS-THAILAND
• Bokeo Province (Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge IV) - Thaniland (Chiang Khong)
• Bokeo Province (Golden Triangles) - Thailand (Golden Triangles)
• Sayabouly Province (Kaenthao) - Thailand (Nakaxeng - Loei)
• Sayabouly Province (Phakeo) - Thailand (Phoudou)
• Sayabouly Province (Nam Ngeun) - Thailand (Houay Konl, Nan)
• Vientiane Capital (Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I ) - Thailand (Nong Khai)
• Vientiane Capital (Thanaleng, Hadxayfong ) - Thailand (Nong Khai)
• Bolikhomxay Province (Paksan) - Thailand (Beungkarn)
• Khammouane Province (Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge III) - Thailand (Nakhon Phanom)
• Savannakhet Province (Lao-Thai Friendship bridge II) - Thailand (Mukdahan
• Champasak Province (Vang Tao) - Thailand (Songmek)

LAOS-VIETNAM
• Phongsaly Province (Pang Hok) - Vietnam (Taichang Laichau)
• Houaphanh Province (Nam Souy) - Vietnam (Nameo)
• Xeng Khouang (Nonghaet) - Vietnam (Namkanh)
• Bolikhomxay Province (Nam Phao) - Vietnam (Cau Treo)
• Khammouane Province (Na Phao) - Vietnam (Cha Lo)
• Savannakhet Province (Daene Savanh) - Vietnam (Lao Bao)
• Salavan Province (Lalai) - Vietnam (Lalai)
• Attapeu Province (Phou Keua) - Vietnam (Kontoum)

LAOS-CAMBODIA
• Champasak Province (Veunkham) - Cambodia (Dong kralor/Nong Nok Khian)

By Rail (One Belt One Road Initiative)

Currently, there is only one railway line that runs two daily shuttle services across the Mekong River, linking Thanaleng station in Vientiane to Nong Khai station in Thailand and finally ending in Bangkok. 

The completion of the Lao-China High Speed rail is on schedule to complete by end of 2021 and the journey from Mohan, Yunnan province to Vientiane will take only three hours by train instead of 16 hours by car. Laos is expected to benefit tremendously as the land link of Thailand and China. A boost in tourism is expected with the improved accessibility to Laos, coupled with a more affordable mode of travel and reduced travelling time. The railway will have stations in key cities such as Udomxai, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. 

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Useful Information

Emergency hotlines in Laos:
Ambulance: 1195
Police: 1191
Fire department: 1190
International SOS: +66 2 205 7866 (Bangkok, Thailand)

Hospitals

For anything major, there are hospitals located in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and other provinces in Laos. However, the standard of care and medical services may be limited and will differ from standards in your home country. While hospitals in Vientiane may have the basic medical facilities, standards may dip in hospitals outside the capital city. For serious medical issues, it is advisable to seek treatment in Thailand instead! Nong Khai, Thailand, is the nearest province in Thailand from Laos via the Friendship bridge, while Udon Thani is approximately 60km from the border. Ambulances from Wattana Hospital Group and Aek Udon International Hospital can enter Laos for emergency evacuation.

Mahosot Hospital (Vientiane)
Quai Fa Ngum, Ban KaoNyot, Sisattanak District
+856 (0)21214018/ +856 (0)21214022

Wattana Hospital Group (Nong Khai, Thailand)
1159/4 Prajak Rd, Muang District, Nong Khai, 43000
+66 (0)42465201
www.wattanahospital.net

Aek Udon International Hospital (Udon Thani, Thailand)
555/5 Phosri Rd, Muang, Udon Thani, 41000 Thailand
+66 (0)42342555/ +856 (0)19540954
http://aekudon.com

In the event of emergency, contact your insurance provider immediately. Hospitals may typically request for payment, regardless of your travel insurance policy; unless your insurance provider can provide a letter of guarantee. You should ensure you have enough funds or an international credit card to cover any upfront fees for treatment abroad and repatriations. Before your trip, check with your insurer for your coverage.