Laos Travel Guide
Atualizado: 1 de jul. de 2018
Laos is a Southeast Asian country, bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Vientiane is its capital city. Laos has a population of about 7 million. Lao is the official language and the Kip (LAK) is the country currency (1€ = 9.832,59 LAK as of June 6th 2018).
A visa is required to enter in Laos for the majority of foreigner countries. It is possible to apply for a visa on arrival valid for 30 days. When you arrive at the airport, you just need to fill in the official forms and provide it to the official officers, along with your passport, a passport photo and 35 USD in cash (the amount may differ according to the country, but for Portugal this was the amount charged, plus 1 USD for the service charge). After that, you just need to wait a bit to have your passport back with a stamp that covers a whole page and then proceed to the Police.
Regarding weather conditions, Laos has two distinct seasons: dry (from October to April, with very hot and dry weather); rainy (from May to September, with warm and rainy conditions). The heaviest rain is normally in July and August and the hottest temperatures occur typically between March and June.
A SIM card may be easily obtained on arrival in Laos. In our case, as we arrived late at night, we could not obtain it at the airport. On the following day we found a currency exchange stall selling Unitel SIM cards. We bought a SIM card valid for 1 month with 5 Gb for 100.000 LAK/10,17€.
In what concerns transportation in Laos, we only experienced a mini bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and vice versa. The roads were not the best, very curvy and sometimes bumpy, but the mini bus was comfortable.
Our stay in Laos was short and limited to the most touristic places of the country. For that reason, we could not experience the country and its people as much as we wished. Still, from our experience, people were nice and it seemed to be a safe country. In the most famous towns, such as Luang Prabang, we felt surrounded by tourists and travellers and the food&beverage alternatives were very international and modernised, especially when compared to the level of development in Laos, which increased the expenses on this category.
We spent 11 days in Laos. During our short stay we only visited two places in the north part of the country:
(A) Luang Prabang
(B) Vang Vieng
Detail city by city
Luang Prabang (7 days)
Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley. It was the royal capital of the country until 1975. Known for many Buddhist temples and close to the famous waterfalls of Laos.
Arriving time: we arrived in Laos in Luang Prabang International Airport after taking a quick Air Asia flight from Hanoi, Vietnam.
Sleeping time: our stay in Luang Prabang was divided in two times. First time we stayed in Rattana Guesthouse and the second time we chose Villa Rattanakon. Both are very calm hotels, but we found a better deal in Villa Rattanakon in person, with a better room and breakfast included. The breakfast was very good and for 15€ a day we stayed in an awesome room.
Eating time: for international food alternatives we recommend Indigo Cafe. For local food and for the perfect chilling, you should not miss Utopia Bar. The view is amazing and the customers can lay down on the pillows. It is full of travellers and during the sunset time there are music and some serious parties. Make sure to check it.
Visiting time: the beautiful Kuang Si Falls are the main attraction in Luang Prabang. They are located 20 Km far from the city center. To go there you can hire a tuk tuk driver. In some hotels/tour offices, it is possible to go on a shared van and the driver allows you to visit the waterfalls for about two to three hours. In our case, we preferred to rent a motorbike for the day for 120.000 LAK/12,20€. The entrance fee is 20.000 LAK/2,03€ per person and the parking fee for the bike is 2.000 LAK/0,20€. We prefered this soution and we wanted to stay longer in the water falls. In city center, Mount Pho Si is another attraction of Luang Prabang, which is preferable to visit during sunset time. There is a nice view at the top and there are nice temples on the way to the top. The entrance fee is 20.000 LAK/2,03€ per person. Alms Giving Ceremony is something you should not miss. Every day at sunrise, Buddhist monks walk on the main streets of Luang Prabang to collect the daily food from locals. There a lot of nice spas in the city. Try the foot massage at L'Hibiscus Spa & Massage. We tried and we loved it! The place is nothing special, but the ladies are really good with their hands! Additionally, we recommend a visit to the night market. We went there many nights during our stay! Finally, if you still have time, the Royal Palace is another place you might visit. The entrance fee is 30.000 LAK/3,05€ each ticket. Please make sure you have your legs and shoulders covered, otherwise you will have to rent a sarong.
Vang Vieng (4 days)
Vang Vieng is a small town located in the north of Vientiane, on the Nam Song River. The place is surrounded by caves and limestone mountains.
Arriving time: to go from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng there are two cheap options: bus or shared mini bus. The prices are quite similar, but the bus takes more time. We ended up going on a shared mini bus with 10 more people. We booked the tickets in our hotel and we paid 110.000 LAK/11,19€ per person.
Sleeping time: we chose Nana Backpackers Hostel for our stay in Vang Vieng. Since the main purpose of our visit was the tubing, we opted for a party hostel to meet more people and chill.
Eating time: we had most of our meals in our hostel. However, we also had a nice experience in an Italian restaurant called “Il Tavolo”. The pizzas are delicious here as it is owned by a real Italian cooker.
Visiting time: the tubing is the main tourist attraction of Vang Vieng. The tubing consists in "rafting" in a round float along the Nam Xong River river, with bar stops along the way to have one (ore more) drinks. To be honest, it is more a pub crawl than anything else. We booked it in our hostel for 65.000 LAK/6,61€, with the tube and the transportation to the river included. Apart from the tubing, there are also a lot of lagoons around the area of Vang Vieng. The most famous one is Blue Lagoon 1, located 5 Km from the city center. The entrance fee is 10.000 LAK/1,01€. Next to the lagoon there is also a Cave, Tham Phu Kham Cave, that you can explore for free once inside the Lagoon area.
Best of Laos
In case we had to choose our top 3 in Laos, according to our experience in this country, we would vote for:
Kuang Si Falls - one of the most beautiful waterfalls we have seen in our lives. Make sure you spend enough time enjoying this incredible place.
Foot massage in Luang Prabang - the best massage we had during our long trip across Asia. We recommend a place called “L'Hibiscus Spa & Massage”.
Tubing in Vang Vieng - it was a different and funny experience and an opportunity to meet new people!
What we will not miss next time
Laos has some much to explore and we know that we only experienced a small part of the country and the most touristic one. Next time we visit Laos, we will certainly not miss:
Four Thousand Islands - a little gem located next to Cambodia border, consisting of lots of tiny islands in the Mekong Delta, much less touristic than the north of Laos;
Thakhek Motorbike Loop - a 450km motorcycle ride into the mountains and farmlands between Vientiane and Pakse;
Vientiane - the capital and largest city of Laos.
Hope you enjoy this guide we created based on our experience in Laos. In case you have any questions, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).