Laos Tour: Why Laos Tour is a Trip of Lifetime

One of the top new destinations in Asia to visit for a vacation, Laos is a land that is filled with saffron-robed monks, verdant rice fields, glittering gilded temples, and some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. For many people, visiting Laos is normally done as part of an organized Indochina tour, often incorporating Vietnam and Cambodia as well. However, Laos is a place that deserves more than to just be part of a larger tour.

Laos is a land that takes everything in its own pace, and you will find that, once you get here, you will slow down to their pace as well, matching the peaceful and tranquil tone of the country. An intoxicating country to visit, the unique history, culture, landscapes, and people will leave you begging for more, and yearning to come back again.

Laos Attractions

Laos is a country that is filled with ancient temples, Royal Palaces, and some of the most amazing countryside in Asia. One of the main attractions of Laos is the huge number of things to do and see while touring the country. Two of the most popular places are Luang Prabang, the number one place to visit since the whole town is rated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Vientiane, the nation’s stunning capital.

In Vientiane, one of the most amazing places to visit is the That Luang Stupa, or the Great Sacred Stupa, which is the most sacred of all Laotian monuments, and is the national symbol of the country. Totaling 147.6 feet in height, this splendid three-level stupa is surrounded by over 30 smaller stupas, all of which are cove red in gold leaf. The original temple is said to have been constructed in the 3rd century to hold bones from the original Buddha, but was rebuilt in the 13th century after extensive damages, and again in 1930 after the Siamese invasion.

That Luang Stupa
That Luang Stupa

The ancient town of Luang Prabang is located in the north of Laos, and is considered by many to be the real heart of Laotian culture and Buddhism. Ringed with high mountains, the town lies around 700 meters above sea level, and sits at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Undoubtedly, the premier tourist attraction in Laos, it is worth coming to the country just to visit this one town. However, with it being so popular, the economy has been inflated in the town, and prices are much higher than anywhere else in Laos. Once the ancient capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom of Laos until around 1545, when the capital moved to Vientiane, it has retained that royal feeling and atmosphere, and the small town houses around 33 ancient wats or temples, as well as the old royal palaces.

Outside these two places, there are other amazing sights, such as Si Phan Don, where pure and tranquil simplicity is the order of the day on this spectacular island, or the famous Vieng Vang, where exciting adventures roll seamlessly into the stunning nightlife, with its ubiquitous music and the famed Beer Lao. With so many other places to visit as well, it is clear that one trip to Laos will never be enough to truly experience and understand the people, culture, and country that makes up Laos. Truly, the journey of a lifetime, once Laos gets her unique hooks into you, you will never want to go anywhere else, and will keep coming back for more, year after year.

Food and Drinks

The cuisine in Laos is unlike that of its nearby neighbors, and is thought to have originated somewhere in northern China. Laotian people are believed to have migrated south from the northern regions of China to the Indochinese Peninsula thousands of years ago, settling in the area between Thailand and Vietnam.

Laos food
Laos food

Cuisine in Laos consists mainly of sticky rice, which is consumed with every meal, while fresh herbs and vegetables often top the main dishes. Freshwater fish is a popular dish in Laos, since the country is completely landlocked, and the source is mainly from the Mekong River. While it may not be to everyone’s tastes, this spicy, salty, and sour cuisine is delightfully delicious, and will leave you with a new view of Asian cuisine.

Climate

Laos has two simple seasons, dry and wet, and it is the altitude of the main parts of the country that affects the weather the most. Although Laos is in the tropical monsoon region of Asia, the higher elevations of the country tend to make it a little colder than most sub-tropical Asian countries, giving it a much cooler and milder feel.

The dry season in Laos runs from November to April, and is the most popular time of year for tourism, as the monsoon rains are gone and the temperature is not too hot. Temperatures average between 17 and 29 degrees in the dry season, with highs of around 32 degrees from February to April. The rainy season runs from May to October, , and average temperatures tend to be hotter, around 23-30 degrees. The climate is hot and humid in the rainy season, with downpours occurring daily throughout most of the monsoon season, although rain is normally limited to afternoons and early evenings.

Weather-wise, the best time to visit Laos is during the dry season from November to April, as there is little rainfall, the skies are extremely clear, and the climate is cooler with little humidity to make it sticky and hot. It is also the time of many of the festivals of the year, and the cooler weather makes the energetic and colorful festivals more enticing and enjoyable.

Getting In and Around

Getting to Laos is not as hard as some people may think. And traveling around the country can be done better in the dry season than in the wet. There are several airlines that handle flights to Laos from the United States and Europe, although direct flights are not always available from many places, including the United States. From Europe, there are also no direct flights, but it is easy to get a flight to Thailand and connect from there.

Visas are simple and straightforward, and can be obtained on arrival at the airports and border crossings, while some Asian countries can visit visa free. The 30-day visa for Laos costs between thirty and forty-two US dollars, depending on your home country and entry location, and can be paid for in US dollars or Thai Baht, since getting local currency outside the country is almost impossible. Applications simply require your passport with a blank visa page, the application form and fee, and two passport-sized photos, as well as the name of a hotel or guest house where you will be staying.

Laos tourist visa
Laos tourist visa

Travel around the country is best done on the extensive road network that now exists here. Highways in Laos have greatly improved in recent years due to the influx of tourism bringing in more money for the government. Buses and local trucks are the most popular means of transport in the country, since there is very little in the way of railways in Laos. Flights are also popular with tourists, and Lao Airlines offers the only domestic flights in the country, with numerous scheduled flights between all of the major cities for an affordable cost.

Motorbikes and tuk-tuks are the simplest means of transport in Laos, and can be found just about everywhere. Motorbikes can be hired all over Laos, although it is advisable to use the helmet provided and carry your license, as the police have a zero-tolerance policy on helmet use. Tuk-tuks are another local Asian form of transport in Indochina, and are motorbike-based tricycles that can carry up to six passengers. Fares are based on each individual destination, and you can haggle for the price before leaving to get the best deal.

Practical Information

Laos is still classed as a third-world country, so you should not expect the facilities to be as updated as in first world countries. However, that does not mean the country is backwards. Mobile phones are a big thing throughout Asia, and are cheap and easy to get hold of. International calls are available from Laos Telecom offices, from your mobile phones, and there are innumerable internet cafes where you can make VOIP calls to friends and family back home. You can also find free Wi-Fi in most hotels and guesthouses.

The power supply is based on 220V, although supply can sometimes be erratic, especially in the remote areas. Sockets require twin-round pin plugs, so be prepared to use adapters. IF you are trav eling from a country with 110V power supply, then you will need to bring a transformer to drop the voltage to the required level for your equipment.

Currency in Laos is known as the Kip, and notes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 20000, and more recently, the 50000 kip banknote. US dollars and Thai Baht can also be used at most major businesses and hotels in the major towns and cities. However, dirty and damaged notes are not accepted anywhere, and even banks will decline to change them. Credit cards are still rare in Laos, though most major hotels and restaurants will accept them, especially VISA and Mastercard. AMEX is lesser known, and few places accept it. ATMs are available only in the major cities, so it is always best to carry cash.

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