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Laos

Laos
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Laos or officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a state in Southeast Asia situated in the very heart of the Indochinese peninsula. Laos shares its borders with Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China. The capital city is Vientiane.

The climate in the country is monsoon sub-equatorial. For the lovers of ecological tourism, we recommend visiting Laos from November to July. 

The majority of the population are the Buddhists and the followers of the local cults. The Lao language is the official language. 

If you love ecological tourism, you can visit the oldest ecosystems of the region isolated from the influence of the modern civilization. From December to May, in the Mekong Delta on the Don Khon island, one can watch unique fresh-water dolphins.

In the Luang Namtha Province, which is protected by the state, the tourists can see spotted leopards and gibbons. A popular route offered for the tourists is a boat trip along the Mekong River to Luang Prabang. 

If you like country holidays, visit the waterfalls in the Oudomxay Province. The Vientiane Province is well-known for the biological diversity in the Nam Ngum. Nam Ngum lake appeared here in the result of hydroelectric dam building. 

In Laos, there are many places for rafting, for example, a route across the Mekong, along the Vientiane river, Nam Fa and Nam Ha. An interesting entertainment for the tourists is tubing, it’s a ride on top of an inner tube on the water. During such a ride in the city of Vang Vieng, the tourists can see the solutional caves.  

Get in

By Plane

There are no direct flights between Russia and Laos.

Still the flight is the most convenient way to get to Laos. Lao Airlines offer flights to Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Thailand. The airlines of Southeast Asia offer flights to Vientiane. Air Asia has every day flights between Vientiane and Kuala Lumpur. 

The best route is to fly through Bangkok with the European and CIS airlines as well as with Thai Airways, Etihad, and Emirates. Then the tourists can take a flight to Laos offered by Lao Airlines and Thai Airways.

By Land

The tourists can take an international bus running from the capitals of all neighboring countries. There is a regular train from Bangkok to Vientiane. 

Visa

The tourists from Russia and EU countries will need a visa to travel to Laos  only if they stay in the country will exceed 15 days. In other cases, the travelers need only a valid international passport.

The citizens of other CIS countries must obtain a visa to get to Laos. They can do it at the Embassy of Laos or in a travel agency. The time for processing the documents for a visa is 3 working days.

In Laos, the tourists can apply to extend the permit to stay in the country in the Immigration Service of Vientiane.   

Customs

The Customs legislation of Laos does not restrict import and export of foreign currency. The sum exceeding 2.000 US dollars in cash or in traveler’s checks must be declared. It is prohibited to import and export the national currency.

The travelers can bring in Laos the following goods duty-free:

  • maximum 500 grams of jewels;
  • tobacco and alcohol;
  • up to 50 ml of perfume;
  • maximum 200 grams of medications;
  • one camera per person;
  • personal belongings. 

It is not allowed to export:

  • antiquities and art objects;
  • items acknowledged as national values;
  • Buddha portraits except souvenirs. 

Cuisine

The staple food in traditional Laos cuisine is rice, nuts, vegetables and fish. The locals also like to add a lot of spices and herbs. The tourists can try game, beef, poultry and eggs. You will never mix up Laos cuisine with any other cuisine due to a specific taste of the Laos dishes created by the combination of lemongrass, mint and, lime juice.

The tourists will be offered the meat of the water buffalo, beef, pork duck and poultry. We recommend trying Som Moo (fermented pork), fish or meat Laa Aph and Hiring Nuang (fritters with greens and meat).

If you crave for something more exotic, try the meat of the squirrels, deer, snakes, and lizards.

Do not leave Laos without trying Sushi Dads (fish in coconut milk), Pa Ling Sushi (savory fried catfish), Susi Pa Magnons (small fish balls) and a shrimp salad Pla Gung.

There are many vegetable dishes such as Laap (hot fish salad), Tham Som (paw paw and crab salad) and Laos rice salad with the sauce Kao Pits.

Rice holds a special place in the diet of the people in Laos. The travelers can treat themselves to such specialties as Thao Yao (sweet rice balls), Ajo Yao (fried rice with spices) and Khao Yao (white rice with coconut milk). Rice is usually served with Tofu, greens, salads, fish and meat stuffings.  

The most popular desserts are Chiaia Namuan (bananas stewed with coconut milk), rice with sugar and coconut cream, rice cookies and colorful coconut jelly. You will discover a new taste trying fried water chestnuts and sweet rice with mango.

Do not miss a chance to try Mak Mai Ban (fruit juices with condensed milk), coconut water and sugar cane juice. About 20.000 tons of coffee are produced in Laos every year and this drink is extremely popular among the locals.

As for strong alcoholic drinks, try Lao-Lao (rice vodka), Lao Hai (white rice wine) and Bya Lao (rice beer).

Money

The national currency of the Republic is Lao Kip (LAK). The bank notes from 100 to 5.000 LAK are in circulation.

Although kip is the only legal currency in Laos, US dollar and Thai baht are also willingly accepted. We recommend paying with kips in transport and with US dollars for expensive goods.

Any foreign currency can be exchanged at banks. The best rate is in exchange offices in the markets.

The tourists can pay with international credit cards in the stores, hotels, restaurants in the capital city and large banks. In the province, credit cards are not accepted.

You can cash traveler’s checks only in the offices of international banks. It is better to have checks in the Thai bahts and US dollars.

Be aware that kip is non-convertible currency. 

Details of interest

Sightseeing in Laos

There are two UNESCO sites on the territory of Laos and the tourists can visit them.

  • In Luang Prabang Province, the capital city has the same name. And there are 32 monasteries. 
  • In the Champasak Province, the travelers will get acquainted with the history of the Khmers. 6 km away from the Mekong river at the foot of the Phu Kao mount, the tourists will find the ruins of the ancient Khmer Temple Complex Vat Phou.

Two more places in Laos are UNESCO candidate sites.

  • Take a trip to Xiangkhouang Province and you will see a unique Plain of Jars. This is the archaeological and historical monument. Giant stone jars of an unknown origin are scattered all over the territory. 
  • In the province Vientiane, the travelers can see the major symbol of the nation’s unity and this is the Pha That Luang, a large Buddhist stupa.

In Laos, there are many other places of great tourist interest.

  • The Khone Phapheng Falls, the widest in the world. Its width including the islands is 10.8 km. 
  • Khong island in the province Champasak is covered with amazing tropical forests. The width of the island is 8 km and its length is 18 km. People live in two villages Muang Khong (the eastern coast) and Muang Saen (the western coast). 
  • In Vientiane, the tourists can take a walk to the most respected monastery in the city Wat Si Muang. People offer worship to Buddha and the Holy Spirits of the city. The temple Wat Si Saket gained popularity because of the thousands of silver and ceramic figurines. In the center of the city, one can see a wonderful triumphal arc Patuxai.
  • Go to the Buddha park for city entertainments.
  • In the city of  Savannakhet and in the province of the same name, the tourists can take an excursion to the  Savannakhet Dinosaur Museum and Savannakhet Provincial Museum.

Souvenirs in Laos

  • Buddha figurines (only souvenirs).
  • Bags, bedcovers, embroidered handmade shawls.
  • Wooden and leather souvenirs, jewelry boxes and vases.
  • Coffee.
  • Alcoholic beverages with mice, scorpions, and snakes.