- The best time of the year for a trip to Laos is from November to March when it is relatively cool. Do take something warm to wear for the evenings: it is a country surrounded by mountains and it gets quite chilly very soon after the sunset. The hottest time of the year is April and the monsoon season lasts from June to October.
- The Laos entry visa can be obtained at the border on your arrival; it is valid for 30 days and costs USD 30, just bring a passport-size photograph. The visa can be extended (for USD 2 a day) but it can only be done in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The tourist tax to be paid on departure is USD 10.
- Although by and large the roads have improved in recent years (at least a significant part of the 14 000 kilometres), a mere 20 % of them are paved; if you really want to travel the country by car, a 4X4 is your best option.
- Although the staff at most shops, restaurants and hotels do speak English, in most cases it can by no means be called fluent. Do arm yourselves with lots of patience. The good news is - everything is always done with a smile and a genuine wish to help in this country.
- The national currency of Laos is kip (LAK) but you won't have any problems paying in US dollars or euros. Don't forget that you won't be able to exchange your kips for other currencies outside Laos (not even in Thailand or Cambodia); if you find some in your pocket later, it's either a sign you are going back soon - or a souvenir.
- Ready money (preferably in small notes) is a must: only a few of the restaurants accept credit cards and you will be surcharged a commission of 3 % in shops.
- It is customary to leave your shoes outside when entering Lao temples, homes and even some shops. This is a tradition to be respected.
- A couple of words you might find useful:
Sabaidi - Hello!
Koptiaye - Thank you!
„Hello" is always said with a smile in Laos.
- The critical comments by many travel guides on Lao Airlines regarding the service and safety issues notwithstanding, a lot has changed in recent years; today it is a fairly reliable way of getting from place to place. Do keep in mind, however (and the same goes for travelling with Bangkok Airways from, say, Luang Prabang to Siem Reap in Cambodia): do check in advance if the flights are not cancelled or rescheduled and do arrive at the airport at least an hour before the flight: the planes have been known to depart as early as a half an hour before the scheduled time if technically ready to leave.
- Luang Prabang is small enough to get around on foot; to visit some of the more distant temples, tuk-tuk is the best means of transportation. A tuk-tuk ride will cost you USD 1 or 2 on average, depending of the distance. Bicycles are available for rent (USD 1 or LAK 10 000 a day) but make sure you check the technical condition and brakes. For safety reasons and due to the growing number of road accidents among foreign visitors, tourists are not allowed to rent motorbikes anymore.
- If you can spare the time, do visit the capital of Laos Vientiane. A bus or car trip on a beautiful mountain road will take 6-8 hours. The same journey can be made going by boat on the Mekong River; it will take 2-3 days.
- You would be well advised to bring a medicine kit for emergencies; the level of health service is still perilously low in the country and, in case of a serious illness or injury, you may have to travel to Bangkok. On the other hand, Luang Prabang is a very clean city. Providing you take the elementary precautions, no problems should arise.
- Lao silk is one of the finest in the world, and the craft of silk weaving used to be protected by the royal family. One of the most famous silk masters in Laos is Nith Somsanith, an offspring of the royal dynasty who has spent most of his life in France and in his virtuoso skills is often compared to the legendary Parisian silk embroidery master Lesage. Weaving is part of Lao culture, practically synonymous with it. Girls learn to weave very young, at the age of 8, and the skills are handed down from generation to generation. A dowry of a bride always includes textiles she has woven herself. The most important thing is the motif; as often as not, it is a story in itself. Women weave all their dreams and hopes into the fabric. The complexity of the pattern depends on the number of colours used in weaving; some are very rare and only a few families know the secret of their making. A crab is the symbol of a rich harvest. A butterfly denotes temporality and therefore is a taboo in weddings. A snake is associated with fertility and all things water. Elephants have played an important role in wars fought by Laotians; these animals are also credited with an ability to summon rain. The most popular of all symbols is naga, a mythic water snake which can assume the image of either a human or an animal. Naga protects from illnesses and misfortune but it also can bring forth floods, storms and other natural calamities when really angry. The symbol of naga is often used in Laotian temple decorations.
- Means of payment in Laos is both dollars and Laotian kips. Exchange rates may differ - somewhere being more favorable to pay in dollars (e.g. for lodgings), while somewhere else (e.g. for eco-tourism activities at tourism agencies) in kips. Kips are available at the main street cash points (Sisavangvong rd.), although you can withdraw only 70.000 kips at a time. This operation can be repeated, yet it is not free of charge, of course. To get dollars, you have to go to BCEL bank, located slightly outside the touristic city centre in the direction of Phou Vao rd, next to Phosy Market, the chief food market of the city.
- Another good information source about Laos, aside from tourist guide books, is Colin Cotterill's novels, giving a better understanding of the country and its people. The Coroner's Lunch is the most popular among works of the London-born author, currently residing in Thailand, who has 20 years experience of living and working in Asia.Share it:
Keywords: Luang Prabang