The Lao People’s Democratic Republic – probably one of the least known countries in the world let alone in Southeast Asia! And yet it’s one of the most idyllic destinations possessing, what is undoubtedly, some of the region’s most spectacular scenery.
Almost entirely mountainous and still covered with large tracts of tropical jungle, Lao is separated from Vietnam to the east by the, up until recently, almost impenetrable Annamite Mountains, and from Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) in the west by the mighty Mekong River. China’s remote Yunnan Province lies just to the north and the swathes of Northern Cambodia’s forests stretch away to the south.
With myriad hill-tribe peoples still leading largely traditional lifestyles in the mountains, the mysterious and remote Plain of Jars, the spectacular Khmer ruined temple of Wat Phu in the South, the sublime 4,000 Islands of the Cambodian border region and the beautifully preserved temples and French colonial architecture of former royal capital and now UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang, there’s stunning scenery and much, much more to be seen.
An unusual and fascinating country to visit!
Just a few of our favourite things to see, do and experience in Laos...
The ancient capital - now UNESCO site. Its riverside cafes, ancient temples, French architecture and lively markets make this remote but delightful town a firm favourite
Khone Phapheng Falls - one of the world's largest waterfalls plus the picturesque Mekong archipelago form perhaps the country's most beautiful landscapes
Scenery - Laos's spectacular limestone, karst, mountains provide some of Southeast Asia's most dramatic and iconic views
Hin Boun - discover the Lord of the Rings scenery of limestone cliffs, pillars and pinacles and travel by boat up an underground river
The Plain of Jars - remote & mysterious, explore this unique and highly unsual megalithic site
Culture and Customs
Knowing what to expect from local culture and customs will help you get more out of your Laos tour
The landlocked country is bordered by China's Yunnan Province to the north, Vietnam to the east, Burma & Thailand west & Cambodia in the south
Aside a narrow strip along the Mekong Valley some 90% of the country is mountainous. Much of this is comprised of the iconic karst scenery & caves, waterfalls & dramatic rock formations abound
Climatic patterns are similar to those of neighbouring Thailand; March - May dry/hot, June - Sept. warm/wet, Oct - Feb dry/cool(er) though the mountainous terrain help keeps temperatures down
The population is split between lowland Lao, (related to Thais), Lao Theung, (midland) plus a host of minority, upland groups known as Lao Soung comprising around 30% of the total
Theravada Buddhism predominates in Laos though some minority, hill-tribe groups still retain animist beliefs or have converted to Christianity
Though with clear Thai, Vietnamese & Chinese influences Lao cuisine has a distinctive & unique style. Sticky rice is ubiquitous & generally eaten with grilled meat, spicy dips & equally fiery salads
Genuine local knowledge is what turns a good travel experience into an unfforgettable one. Here's our shout-out to the locals that help maket that happen.'
One of our Lao stars, Sone, hailing originally from the old Mekong port of Thakaek, manages to combine loads of fun and general wackiness with spot on meticulous organization! How she does it we don’t know but never a dull moment with Sone on one of our southern Laos and northern Cambodia tours.
Born in Luang Prabang but now residing in Luang Nam Tha district Pong leads our North Lao tours with distinction. An easy going nature, excellent command of English and an eye for improvisation help to explain Pong's consistently top rate feedback!
Things To Know
Useful information and practical tips you should know before you travel to Laos
Helpful Country Info
Lao People's Democratic Republic
c 7 million
Lao Kip (Thai baht and $US often accepted)
ATMs readily available
230V; sockets generally 2 pin, round or flat
WiFi available in all hotels
3G SIM cards available
Lao (close to Thai) plus various minority languages
Thervada Buddhist with animist and Christian minorities
Frequently Asked Questions
When’s the best time to go to Laos?
The cooler drier period (by Southeast Asian standard) is usually end October to March but there are many advantages to visiting throughout the year.
Why should I visit Laos between April and September?
Laos experiences a rainy season from around early May through to late September. During this period, the tourist traffic is down to a trickle. Often there are discounts to be had fro airlines and tour operators, including All Points East! The image of all day every day rain is completely false; typically tropical rain falls in short sharp bursts so often humidity will build up during the day resulting in an afternoon or evening downpour. Some of these tropical storms can be spectacular but rarely long and often only mean sheltering in the nearest cafe for an hour or so until the rain stops. Landscapes will be lush and green, rivers and waterfalls at their most spectacular and the fauna too is more active and plentiful; nature comes alive so to speak!
What innoculations do I need?
For most of Southeast Asia, there are no compulsory inoculations – however, Hep A , Polio, Typhoid and Tetanus are recommended. If you are considering anti-malarials we recommend you consult a health professional, but whatever you do or don’t do about anti-malarials, we recommend a 50% DEET based insect repellent. A useful resource for information on travel health is http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/
Do you recommend your tours for people travelling on their own?
Our small group tours make ideal holidays for solo travellers. Small fully escorted groups, eating together family style, no compulsory single supplements all go towards making you feel like you are travelling with a group of friends. If you don’t want to share then ask about single room supplements.
If we book flights through you, which airlines do you use?
We are happy to book your flights from the UK to Laos. There are no direct flights but we can offer a wide range of options, from regional airports as well as London using most major airlines – most often Thai, Emirates and Qatar. Prices on the website are a guideline and we find the best prices and routes for you. Upgrades to Premium Economy or Business class are available.
What’s your policy for tipping?
Tipping is discretionary. People always appreciate a gesture for their hard work and dedication but staff are paid and don’t rely on tips. Its hard to give a guideline before a tour as it does depend on the group size. The tour leaders don’t collect money for tips but are happy to advise. What often works well is if the group appoint someone to collect and distribute tips on behalf of the whole group.
How do I pay for the holiday, and is there a surcharge for credit cards?
We ask you to pay a 10% deposit upon booking your holiday with the balance being due 60 days prior to departure. There is no surcharge for paying by credit card. There is no charge for debit cards. We accept most major credit cards including American Express.
Packing light is a virtue, it'll make getting around easier and gives you room for souvenirs and the special things you find along the way. Packing "as little as possible" doesn't mean you have to forego comfort and any items you may forget are usually available locally for a fraction of the price.