Info about Laos
The ancient kingdom of the Million Elephants, which become the Lao People Democratic republic in 1975, is open to tourism. Every year some 1.000.000 travellers cross its borders, which still cannot compare with the huge number of tourist spreading throughout neighbouring Thailand. Let's discover together the differences and originality which make up the chame of Laos.
Lao People's Democratic Republic
236,800 square kilometers
Approximately 6.2 million.
The population consists of 49 ethnic groups, in 4 main linguistic.
1. The Lao-Tai Family includes 08 ethnic groups: Lao, Phouthai, Tai, Lue, Gnouane, Young, Saek and Thai Neua.
2. The Mon-Khmer Family includes 32 ethnic groups: Khmu, Pray, Singmou, Khom, Thene, Idou, Bid, Lamed, Samtao, Katang, Makong, Try, Trieng, Ta-oi, Yeh, Brao, Harak, Katou, Oi, Krieng, Yrou, Souai, Gnaheune, Lavy, Kabkae, Khmer, Toum, Ngouane, Meuang and Kri.
3. The Tibeto-Burmese Family includes 07 ethnic groups: Akha, Singsali, Lahou, Sila, Hayi, Lolo and Hor.
4. The Hmong-Loumien category has 02 main tribes: Hmong and Loumien (Yao).These multi-ethnic people are scattered across the country each with their own unique traditions, culture and language.
The official language is Lao. Other languages used are French, English. Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese.
Today, Theravada Buddhism is the professed religion of about 90% of Lao people. Buddhism is an inherent feature of daily life and casts a strong influence on Lao society. Lao woman can be seen each morning giving alms to monks, earning merit to lessen the number of their rebirths. It is expected that every Lao man will become a monk for at least a short time in his life.
Traditionally, men spent three months during the rainy season in a Wat (Buddhist temple). Today, however; most men curtail their stay to one or two weeks.
Laos generally enjoys a mild tropical climate, but it can get quite chilly in the cool season. Temperatures range from 10 - 40 degrees Celsius in the Mekong Valley , and may dip below zero in the mountains and on the Xieng Khouang and Bolaven Plateaus. There are three distinct seasons: cool from November-February; hot from March-May and rainy from June -October. Most people visit from October to February, however the rainy season offers lush green landscapes, and is crowned by the colorful Lao New Year's festival in April.
The Kip is the official currency of the Lao PDR and the following bank
notes are currently in circulation: 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000 and 50,000 Kip.
The best currencies to use when exchanging money are: US Dollars, Euros and Thai Baht. You can exchange your currency at the bank, airport, or at a foreign currency exchange office.
Tip isn't mandatory, however it is widely practiced and always appreciates for all of the generous.
Foods & Beverages
It may surprise some, but Lao dishes are, typically, not too spicy for the western palate (as can sometimes be the case in Southeast Asia). In Lao the basic meal is almost always built around rice and usually includes fish, chicken, pork, beef and vegetables. Freshwater fish is frequently served due to the country's abundant supply of this natural resource.
While selecting from menus, we suggest you do order some fish for your meals, especially the popular Lap, traditional Lao salade. Chinese, European, Thai and Vietnamese foods are also available in numerous restaurants in Lao's major cities.
Many of the same beverages which are generally offered in the outside world are readily available including the usual suspects: canned soft-drinks, beer, and wine (local and imported).
Business Hours (local time is GMT plus 7hours)
The time in Laos is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +7).
Government offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30-12:00 and from 1pm to about 4:30. Private businesses are generally open later, especially restaurants and entertainment venues. Except for restaurants, most businesses are closed on Sunday.
Electric current: 220 volts.
Laos has only basic health care and visitors should check with their physicians regarding which vaccinations and health precautions to take before coming. The World Health Organization recommends the following vaccinations for Southeast Asia: diphtheria and tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella, polio and typhoid.
For those taking special medications, be sure to bring along an adequate supply to last the length of your trip. Precautionary measures like eating only well-cooked food, drinking bottled water, staying hydrated, avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes and wearing protective clothing will help prevent most common ailments.
There are several gateways for international telephone access from Laos by dialing 133 or 188 or 00 followed by the country code and the phone number. There are also many cellular/mobile phone service providers offering convenient communication via the GSM and Pre-paid system, therefore many citizens now carry mobile phones. Most hotels in main cities have IDD called lines.
Post and Internet Access
There are post offices in all provincial capitals, from which to send letters and parcels to your home country. Vientiane 's main post office offers a post restante service, and both DHL and FedEx have offices in the capital. Internet access is widely available in all major tourism centers, and all but the most remote population centers.
How to get to Laos
Laos can be reached by land, air and river from neighboring Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China. There is regular air service to Laos on Thai International, Viet Nam Airlines, Lao Airlines, China Southern and Bangkok Airways. The busiest entry-exit point is the Friendship Bridge that connects Vientiane to Nong Khai, Thailand. Another popular overland border crossing is Houeixai that links northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province to northwestern Laos at the center of the infamous Golden Triangle.
There are four international airports in Laos: Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Pakse Airport in Champassak , Luang Prabang International Airport and Savannakhet. Wattay in Vientiane has regular service from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kunming, and Kula Lumpur. Direct flights are available to Luang Prabang from Bangkok, Hanoi and Chiang Mai. Lao Airlines has regular service to all domestic destinations and a number of regional capitals. Major international carriers with flights to Laos are Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways International, Vietnam Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Air Asia.
Visa is the most common. Master Card and American Express are accepted at most banks in the larger towns (such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang), and in the big hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Films can be found in shops in the larger towns, also if you need a digital download service for your digital camera it is also available.