Laos – Travel guide at Wikivoyage

March 30, 2021 - Reading time: 33 minutes

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China is building a new road to Thailand.Enter and pay first.The use of ATMs and credit cards in banks is subject to computer operation, staff computer skills, power cuts, telephone network breakdowns, holidays, etc.Unlike in Thailand, access to temples in Luang Prabang is not free, but typically costs 10, 000 kip.The officials may or may not try to overcharge you for the visa on arrival.You then have to drive for 6 km over the mountains to get to the Lao checkpoint.

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But the website of Tourism Laos provides more useful information on this topic.Laos is officially Buddhist, and the national symbol, the gilded stupa of Pha That Luang, has replaced the hammer and sickle even on the state seal.Myanmar in the middle and the Lao checkpoint at Xieng Kok does not issue visas on arrival.Some of the raw vegetables can be used to cool your mouth when the chilis are overwhelming.The kingdom began as a Khmer vassal state.Unlike most countries an Asia, the country has not undergone a major industrialisation and modernisation period; as result, lifestyle remains mostly rural and there are no large cities.

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Monks are also not allowed to eat solid foods after noon, and will stop alms gathering before then.Book your transport with any operator to the border only, ideally from Stung Treng with a departure in the morning to have time on your side.Sticky rice with mango or durian is also a popular snack.They fill out the form themselves.Floating down the river on a large inflatable tube is one of the attractions of the SE Asia backpacker circuit.Songthaews are operated extensively as local buses, and generally are the most economical way to travel shorter distances.The mighty Mekong river and its tributaries together create perhaps the single most important geographic feature of the country.

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If you travel on your own, there are very few proper bike shops outside of Vientiane.Whatever your nationality, do make sure you know what visa price applies to your passport before you hop on the bus to this border.They may, after a conversation, ask you to sign a form or pose for a photo with you as proof that this conversation took place.Europe by all sides during World War II.Many banks, travel agents and guest houses will allow you to take out cash from a credit card as a cash advance.Borikham and Tha Thom.

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Visa on arrival is available when crossing the border by train.Good maps are available about the roads in Laos and all major routes are with good roads.Luang Prabang and Vientiane, but in smaller towns homosexuality remains taboo, especially among the Hmong people.The limestone karst formations in Northern Laos are ideal for rock climbing.Expect to be crammed into a modified canoe made for 4, with 10 other people, along with all the luggage somehow packed in.

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During nine years of almost constant American bombing, the Pathet Lao sheltered in these caves, and lived in a largely subterranean environment.Sang kaya mayru is a pumpkin filled with a sweet custard and then steamed.Landmines or unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War maims or kills hundreds of people every year as Laos is the most bombed country in history.If you do this in the late morning or later in the day, your passport will be ready the following day.When that process is complete it is very likely this will be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Other hiking hubs include Oudomxay, south of Luang Namtha, and Pakse in southern Laos.You arrive after going over some hills at the Vietnamese border where very friendly guys handle your case easily and with no hassle.How much longer this will last is open to much speculation, but meanwhile, it makes it a truly special and unique country to visit.After numerous tourist deaths, crackdowns on Vang Vieng tubing were announced in Aug 2012.Southeast Asia and Central America.

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These are probably the cheapest condoms in the world, and their quality seems reasonable.Vientiane or Luang Prabang.They have the bonus of your being able to stop the car at any time for photos, nosing around a village or just stretching your legs.Schools, hospitals and markets as well as government ministries, a radio station, a theatre and military barracks were all hidden in the caves.Fake products are very common.Cycling is a great option with quiet roads.Expect an incredibly loud engine inches behind your head.

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Fatalities resulting from capsize due to incautious maneuvering, or hitting floating logs or hidden rocks, have been reported but some claim and are exaggerated by competing slow boat owners.Since then, tourism in Laos has been rising every year.If you are unsure of which areas are safe, ask the locals.Little public information exists for the Lao side.Bolaven Plateau in the south; the best brand is Lao Mountain Coffee.In remote places, only kip is accepted and no ATMs will be available, so plan ahead.

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Laos offers wonderful remote areas to discover, little traveled roads, friendly people and even some companies providing cycling tours with the help of professional guides all over the country.Chinese language represented by 7 tribes.The main routes connecting Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet are sealed, and the transport options on these roads include bus, minibus, and converted truck.Motorbike travel in Laos is not without risks but the rewards of truly independent travel are great.One of the most interesting ways to get to know a country, and which has become increasingly popular, is to volunteer.That being said, when this ride finally ends, if you make it with no trouble, you will never be happier to get to Luang Prabang.

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Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Savannakhet.Should you wish to donate, you should only offer food to the monk.Lao food is very similar to that eaten in the northeastern Isaan region of Thailand: very spicy, more often bitter than sweet, and using lots of fresh herbs and vegetables served raw.The town of Vieng Xai provides a striking insight in the recent history of not only Laos, but the whole of Indochina.The more time people seem to spend in Laos the more they seem to like the quiet travel mood and the opportunity to actually be in contact with the people along the way.However, Internet security is not guaranteed and computer viruses are abundant.

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Unlike other Indochinese countries such as Thailand or Vietnam, Laos never underwent a massive economic development, neither during colonisation nor even after the liberalisation of the Communist economy.Banks give good rates, and private exchange booths are common in the major tourist areas.Since then, many river bars have been closed down along with their flying foxes and rope swings.Vang Vieng is a commonly used base for exploring the karsts.As in neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion in Laos, meaning that respect for monks is part of Lao life and that monks take their duties seriously.Bueng Kan: No visa on arrival.

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Bring your equipment with you and make sure you get contact details from a supplier, perhaps in Thailand.After a succession dispute, the kingdom split in three in 1694, and was eventually devoured piece by piece by the Siamese, the last fragments agreeing to Siamese protection in 1885.Police have been cracking down on people who do not have a motorcycle licence, so expect to pay a fine if caught without one.Laos will become a forgotten memory itself.The boats have considerably improved.

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Monks are also forbidden from accepting or touching money, and offering money to a monk is considered to be disrespectful in the local culture.These conversations can be a great time to gain some local ideas for your next sightseeing trip.Lao friendship bridge connects Shan State in Myanmar with Luang Namtha Province in Laos.Expatriates in Laos probably have the best information; the more upscale hotels can be good resources, as well.Postal service in Laos is slow, but generally reliable.Under much bombardment, the Pathet Lao moved east to Vieng Xai and established their headquarters in the limestone karst cave networks around the town.Mandarin and Vietnamese also have some presence.

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In this most Buddhist of nations, it is no surprise that temples are a key attraction.Buses from Mengla to Luang Namtha leave from the North bus station.Chong Mek: On the route from Pakse to Ubon Ratchathani.Lao consulate in Kunming.Internet cafés can be found in larger towns, however access speeds are usually painfully slow and cafe staffs have less knowledge.Thousands of stone jars are scattered over a large area of the low foothills near Phonsavan.

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Lao hotels are not permitted to allow a foreigner and Lao national in the same hotel room together.In this case, check the price before embarking.The road from Luang Namtha to Huay Xai is part of this road and it is a very good road.VIP, minibus or car?However, if you have a Thai SIM which has International Roaming activated, it will connect to a Lao network when the Thai network is not available, and the roaming charges will be significantly higher.

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No visa on arrival.Its meandering path in the North has created some of the most stunning limestone karsts anywhere on earth.Southeast Asia, known for its mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements, and Buddhist monasteries.This could be cheaper than changing your euros into baht or US dollars and then into kip.It dates from the 12th century and visitors who have been to Angkor Wat will notice the similarities.

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Chiang Khong: Using the fourth Friendship Bridge is the usual overland route to Luang Prabang, easy bus connections to Chiang Rai and points beyond on the Thai side.Criticism of the Lao government or the Communist Party in any way, shape or form is unwise; you never know who might be listening.Keep in mind that oftentimes Lao police dress as civilians.The usual precautions regarding food and water are needed.There are eight border crossings open to all between Thailand and Laos.

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See also: Indochina WarsLaos is squeezed between vastly larger neighbours.Almost all of these occur in the eastern and northern parts of the country, especially near the border with Vietnam.Calling people on the same network is always cheaper than calling another network, but there is no clear market leader.The official name, however, is Lao PDR and, should you have any incoming mail, using it will increase the odds of it passing the censors.Some boat packages will include accommodation, although this is usually at an inflated rate.The cars can be arranged at tour agencies, tourist hotels and car rental companies.

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They will remain calm, and venting your anger will make everybody involved lose face and is certainly not going to expedite things, particularly if dealing with government bureaucracy.In markets, always bargain: it is expected, but keep smiling.GPRS via mobile phone is also an option, especially if you have a local or Thai SIM, for those who intend to stay longer term and require mobile Internet.China are both ubiquitous snacks particularly popular at breakfast.Tubing can also be found in other locations around Laos including Si Phan Don, Nong Khiaw and Mung Ngoi.

When complete, the rail connection is expected to have a dramatical impact on the country; Kunming itself has a population 8 times bigger than Vientiane, and in fact, comparable to the entire population of Laos, while only the province of Yunnan has a population about 7 times bigger than the population of Laos.Nong Khiaw and Mung Ngoi.Medical travel insurance is strongly recommended.Kip is convertible at banks in neighboring countries.Lao women who are visiting.

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Philippines, which has a population 15 times bigger than that of Laos.Prices tend to be lower in Laos than in neighboring countries, though standards might be lower as well.In addition to purely Lao food, culinary imports from other countries are common.According to local newspapers, Laos government is eager to launch improvement plans of water and foods quality.The main archaeological theory is that the jars formed part of Iron Age burial rituals in the area, but this is by no means proven, and a great deal of mystery remains.As a result, youth will generally know some basic English, though proficiency is generally poor.AirAsia flies to Vientiane from Kuala Lumpur three times a week, and offers daily flights from Bangkok to Luang Prabang.

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Nescafé instead, be sure to ask for kaafeh thung.There are a variety of bikes available in Laos, depending on which town and rental shop you go to.The border crossing on a Vietnamese motorbike at Tay Trang is very easy and straightforward.While Lao kip are usually not accepted for the visa fee, border staff does make exceptions sometimes, however at a bad rate.Identification When traveling in Laos, it is important to travel with a copy of your passport at all times.Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

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Therefore, women should place any offerings on a piece of cloth on the ground in front of a monk so he can pick it up.Mobile phone usage in Laos has mushroomed, with four competing GSM operators.Nong Khai: The first Friendship Bridge and the busiest of crossing of them all.The national drink of Laos is the ubiquitous and tasty Beerlao, made with Laotian jasmine rice and one of the few Lao exports.Plans are underway to extend the line further into Laos, making it useful for domestic traffic, too.However, euros get pretty bad rates compared to US dollars when exchanged in Laos.

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Expect to sit on the floor of the canoe, as there are no seats, with your knees against your chin for the full 6 hours.Pha That Luang is the national symbol and most important religious monument in the country, dating from the 16th century.Tourist areas will sometimes have school children who will practice their English with you as part of their curricular requirements.In normal distances you find simple guest houses and in all major towns better choices and restaurant.The ride takes two days and is very scenic.

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As with other Buddhist countries, showing the soles of your feet is very poor manners.However, the vast majority of speedboat users have no serious problems.There is a bridge across the Mekong from the Thai town of Nong Khai to Tha Naleng near Vientiane.To have a beer in some places, simply visit a restaurant.Kanom kok is a small, spherical pudding made from coconut milk, tapioca and ground rice.Huay Xai on the border with Thailand to Luang Prabang and travel south of Pakse are the main routes still in use.Further north, the terrain becomes more hilly, and the jungle less explored.

There are formal daily tours of the caves, as well as other evidence of that era in the town.Handmade Lao silk is one of the most attractive things to buy.The ambitious traveller could kayak the Mekong between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.In Vientiane only the more famous temples charge an entry fee.Either way, the scenery along the way is gorgeous and unexploited, and Luang Prabang is an incredible city, worth a thousand of these journeys.Then you proceed to the police, show the papers to them and get the exit stamp.

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There are many ATMs in Vientiane, and they have also appeared in other major cities including Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Savannakhet, Tha Khaek, Pakse and Luang Namtha.Enquire with travel agencies or online to book your separate onward transport from the border going North, and make sure it only leaves two to three hours after your arrival at the border.You can pay by cash or use a credit card to pay through the app.Lao custom dictates that women must wear the distinctive phaa sin, a long sarong available in many regional patterns; however, many ethnic minorities have their own clothing styles.Laos also boasts a range of local desserts.There are several rental shops in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Tha Khaek, but bike rentals in other parts of the country may be scarce.The quality of machines varies from shop to shop so you need to fully inspect it before you head out on the road.

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The hugely popular stretch of the Nam Song at Vang Vieng is lined with bars that lure you and your tube in with ziplines, water slides, loud music, buckets of terrible local whiskey, and unlimited Beerlao.Daily bus service operates from Mengla to Luang Namtha and Udomxai.After the 1973 ceasefire, Vieng Xai briefly became the capital of Laos, before that function was moved to Vientiane in 1975.Despite being just one hour by air from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, life in Laos has continued in much the same way it has for hundreds of years, although things are now slowly beginning to change.Several planes a day.

The area suffered tragic damage from American bombing during the Secret War of the 1960s, and much UXO remains uncleared.Beerlao is 10, 000 kip.It also causes considerable noise pollution, scaring wildlife and spoiling the peaceful river life.Befitting that status, it is a unique city.However, the presence of French has diminished in favor of English, with many younger people learning it.Keep your cool, as the natives will find humour in any tourist showing anger.Never touch any person on the head.

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Food is not a problem as long as you remember to carry some stuff with you.There are numerous other beautiful temples which on their own make a stay in the capital city vital for any visitor to Laos.This is also a good place to stock up on supplies.Though these services are much more expensive, they are more reliable.Laos has three distinct seasons.Unitel is also available.

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So, as you see, choosing between the slow boat and the speedboat is a hard call, based mostly upon your comfort level; would you prefer a slow unpleasant trip, or a much faster, but more dangerous unpleasant trip.Southeasia Asia, and the most sparsely populated.Most tribes are small, with some having just a few hundred members.Most border crossings open for foreigners, with an indication where visas on arrival can be issued, are listed on the web site of the National Tourism Administration.See also: Lao phrasebookThe official language of Laos is Lao, a tonal language closely related to Thai.Otherwise, you probably have to go to Thailand for better treatment of serious injuries and illnesses.It is best not to compel them to stand next to you for a photograph, or try to start a conversation if they seem reluctant.

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The pumpkin itself is also sweet, and the resulting mixture can be quite delicious.Even more expensive, but certainly the most convenient, is a rented car with driver.Can be arranged in a wide number of locations.By arranging a hotel in the town, it is easy to get a lower price.While government documents seem to prefer the French style, the English spellings are becoming more common.Since most of the forest in Laos has gone this is one of the last roads surrounded by primary forest.

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Rice is the staple carbohydrate.Lao houses and grand properties from the French colonial era.Lao work permits are difficult to obtain, unless you can secure employment with one of the numerous NGOs.Thus, these transactions are much more expensive than the typical charge for withdrawing cash from ATMs in other countries.Monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by women.

Anyone arriving in Laos with a visa will be required to quarantine at a government facility for 14 days at their own expense.Tha Li: Easily reached via Loei on the Thai side, but 378 km of dirt road away from Luang Prabang.Fi is the best option.The whole of the ancient capital of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Thai baht may be accepted in many areas near the border, notably Vientiane.Unlike Thai coffees, Lao coffee is not flavoured with ground tamarind seed.

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Many people go from Chiang Khong in Thailand via the border town of Houai Xai down the Mekong to the marvelous city of Luang Prabang.Wat Phu is a ruined Hindu Khmer temple complex in Champasak province.Expect the engine to break a few times, and stops for delays to fix it.Lao Telecom has agreements with some 30 international networks.Fresh coconut juice is delicious, and soymilk at convenience stores is surprisingly tasty, nutritious, and inexpensive.Closer tie to Vietnam and socialization were replaced with a gradual return to private enterprise, an easing of foreign investment laws and admission into ASEAN in 1997.Other popular dishes include ping kai, spicy grilled chicken, and mok pa, fish steamed in a banana leaf.

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Women should be aware that often during lengthy bus or minibus trips there is no opportunity to go to the toilet during breaks, so it may be advisable to wear a wide skirt.Notes in common circulation are 500, 1, 000, 2, 000, 5, 000, 10, 000, 20, 000 and 50, 000 kip.Wikivoyage articles will use kip to denote the currency.Do not touch any loose metal items and be particularly careful in areas that were controlled by North Vietnam during the war.Though helpful in saving time, speedboats are not without danger: built to carry 8 passengers, they are often overloaded; the engine noise is well above a healthy level, which could be a serious hazard to your ears, especially if you are on the boat for a long time.Experiencing local village life, taking it all in and doing absolutely nothing should be the aim here.The area east of the Mekong, however, was soon wrenched back from Siam by the French, who wanted a buffer state to protect Vietnam, and set up Laos as a unified territory in 1907.

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Sexual relations between a Lao national and a foreigner are illegal unless they are married, and marriage requires special permits.The train is not a very attractive option because the railway station is in the middle of nowhere, however, there are shuttle buses to take you the rest of the way.In direct contrast to Northern Laos, the Mekong delta lowlands in the South are perfectly flat.Slow boats generally stop in the village of Pakbeng for the night.Lao wilderness, and directly experience the lifestyles of the various hill tribes in this region.The latter is used on Wikivoyage.

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By the second day, the novelty has worn off.Changing money can be next to impossible outside major towns.Hiking in mountainous Northern Laos is popular, and this often includes homestays in minority tribe villages.Always bring some cash.There also as taxis; sometimes the same vehicle will be used for both.See roaming with Lao Telecom.Laos; in addition, DeeDial International Call Cards are available.

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Tropical fruits and noodle soup are the standards.Despite prevalent cheap alcohol, being drunk is considered disrespectful and a loss of face.There is not much nightlife outside of Vientiane and Vang Vieng.Prices are lower in smaller towns and villages than in tourist centers like Luang Prabang and Vientiane.France wanted to retake its colony.Getting a cash advance in US dollars and changing it to kip might save money compared to bringing euros with you to Laos.Some undertake a vow of silence, and will not answer you even if they can understand and speak English.

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Helmets are not only mandatory in the country but a valuable item in a place where traffic rules are made up by the minute.It maintains an almost mythical status among travellers and beer aficionados.Pakse has the Champasak Palace.There are many good roads and many paved ones and touring Laos is done easily.Bus is 8 hours.Two of these offer roaming services.These airfields are all rudimentary and flights are cancelled at the drop of a hat if weather is less than perfect.

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In Tha Thom there is a guesthouse with 8 rooms.There are two shuttle services per direction per day, with one timed to connect to the night trains from Bangkok.Beware cheap synthetic fabrics sold as silk imported from China and Vietnam.Vientiane controls the prices that tourists are expected to pay for point to point destinations.Direct trains from Bangkok now available.

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Some can even drive over the border to Thailand, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam.More touristy places and banks also accept the euro.Stories of small, overloaded speedboats sinking or hitting driftwood are common, but if you are a good swimmer, take comfort in the fact that you can see both shores throughout the entire trip.See further below for more information.Things in Laos happen slowly and rarely as scheduled.Nearly everything is closed on Sundays, except restaurants and many shops.

WARNING: There are 78 million unexploded bombs and grenades in Laos as a result of bombing by the USA during the Laotian Civil War and Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s.Driving siderightedit on WikidataLao or Laos?Boats along the Mekong and its tributaries are useful shortcuts for the horrible roads, although as the road network improves river services are slowly drying up, and many of the remaining services only run in the wet season, when the Mekong floods and becomes more navigable.Similar to Myanmar, there are few if any laws preventing such trade.Numbers starting with 20 are mobile numbers, while all others are landlines.There are at least six border crossings that can be used by foreigners.Spotlessly clean streets with a thriving café culture on the banks of the Mekong and the Nam Khan, complete the picture of a city which is almost too pleasant to be true.

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Using your right hand, never your left, pinch off a bit, roll into a ball, dip and munch away.Be careful if asking a songthaew to take you to someplace if there is nobody in the back, the driver might charge you the taxi price.Huay Kon: Visa on arrival.Immigration Department in Vientiane, Luang Prabang or Tha Khaek, the Police Station in Pakse, and possibly other cities.The main hub for this is Luang Namtha where the two day Ban Nalan Trail is especially notable.The mountains of Oudomxay Province in Northern LaosThe term wilderness is much misused, but it can truly be applied to much of Laos.

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Vientiane has several medical clinics are associated with European embassies.There are a number of local operators running a wide selection of guided mountain biking tours through Laos.The fairly comprehensive network is by far the fastest and, relatively speaking, the safest way of reaching many parts of the country.Lao law makes little distinction between personal use and trafficking and any conviction will result in heavy fines and expulsion at best and imprisonment or even execution at worst.This makes carrying large quantities of kip quite inconvenient.

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Drugs are a large problem in Laos and should be avoided at all costs.DEET insect repellents are almost impossible to find in Laos, so be sure to bring some from your country.The border is lightly used, with almost no onward public transport available once you passed through immigration, therefore it may be wise to book transport all the way to Ban Nakasang or Pakse depending on your destination.Getting held up by not paying will likely see your bus leave without you.The route goes through the Nam Ha National Protected Area, and involves staying in Khmu villages.Beware, as quality and distilling standards vary wildly.

One Laotian experience definitely worth trying is the herbal sauna.This list is unfortunately incomplete.See roaming with Tigo.The rates negotiable, and well you should clearly bargain rates prior to getting on the tuk tuk.Other paid options such as FedEx, DHL, and EMS exist in various locations.This is the only guided hop on hop off bus in Southeast Asia.

There are substantial road works being undertaken by the Vietnamese between Paksan and Phonsavan and there can be some fairly long delays along the way.ETL Mobile is known to have better coverage in rural and remote parts of Laos.As result, one key attraction of Laos is that most of the country, including the capital Vientiane, retains a relaxed, laid back feel with minimal presence of modern architecture or international brands and food chains.The mosquitoes that are active during the day carry dengue and those that are active in the evening carry malaria.The Lao people obviously appreciate that you make an effort even if it is quite limited.The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape dating from the Iron Age.

Beerlao while watching the sunsets on the Mekong.DEET insect repellent and ensure that you sleep with mosquito protection like nets or at least a fan.Reports of robbery at gunpoint surface in the big cities.

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