Almost disregarded by travelers for its more popular neighboring nation Thailand, the landlocked country of Laos is actually one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. Caught amidst the Indochina battles and rather cut-off from the world, Laos is a nation that now epitomizes serenity, peace and an air of tranquil congeniality. The country stretches from mountains clad with forests and foliage in the north to picturesque islands in the south, dotted with valleys, coasts, monasteries and more.
LAOS TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
The Elephant Conservation Center of Laos
The Elephant Conservation Center of Laos was set up to protect the Asian elephants inside the Lao PDR and gives travelers to Laos an opportunity to experience these great creatures while contributing to the safeguarding of these endangered animals.
Kuang Si Waterfalls
One of the most breathtakingly gorgeous waterfalls in Laos. Kuang Si waterfall cascades down 50 meters into calm and cool deep pools that are perfect for snorkeling and swimming in. The pools have wooden shacks so you can change clothes in privacy. The famous butterfly park of Laos is also located close to the entrance of this wonderful waterfall.
Vientiane City Tour
A tour through Vientiane, the capital city of Laos is a great way to understand the rich culture and history of Laos in just one day. Sightseeing through the city will get you to the Patuxai Monument, Wat Si Saket, Buddha Park and other key Vientiane attractions. Don’t forget to indulge in some tasty French cuisine and pastries while here too!
Explore Luang Prabang
Listed among the heritage sites of UNESCO, Luang Prabang in north Laos is home to several significant Buddhist temples. For those of you who have about a week or longer to spend in this beautiful town why not climb Mount Phousi, make an offering at Tak Bat, shop the night markets or get merry at Utopia Bar.
Chill In Vang Vieng
Spend a few days in backpacker town Vang Vieng. Not such a party destination anymore but you can easily enjoy a few lazy days here. Float down the river on a tube or zip line over the jungle canopies and climb the limestone mountains that surround the town. Here’s the 15 top things to do in Vang Vieng.
Read more: Top 10 Fun Things To Do In Laos
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LAOS TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Referred to as the New Year’s celebration of Laos, Pi Mai is observed and celebrated in the month of April . The three day festival involves everyone getting drenched with flour and water in the middle of the street by complete strangers. Then the grand parade involves masked Laos citizens parading through the streets narrating and singing the stories of Buddhism and Laos folk tales. Beauty pageants, music and dance, temple hopping and ceremonies become the order of the day during this celebration along with delicious exotic Laos food.
Wat Phou Festival
Wat Phou is one of the Lao’s most sacred sites and monks travel from all over Laos and Thailand and Cambodia to attend the festival. Wat Phou temple plays host to this annual festival in February and thousands of people climb the steps to the temple top to leave flowers and incense. The celebrations go on for several days and tourists get to see traditional dance performances and Laos sporting competitions. There’s a large market too, selling local delicacies and handicrafts.
Boun That Luang
That Luang, also know as the festival of the grand stupa, is the national symbol and most important religious monument of Laos. Vientiane’s most important Theravada Buddhist festival, “Boun That Luang”, is held here for three days during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month in November.
Language: The official language of Laos is Lao or Laotian which is very similar to Thai, so similar that if you speak Thai you’ll understand Laotian. Languages that are recognized and generally spoken include French and Lao, Hmong and Khmu respectively. You’ll also find basic English spoken in the main tourist areas.
Visa: The Lao government issues 30-day tourist visas on arrival at all international airports and most international border crossings. You need about US$40 in cash, one passport-sized photo and the name of your hotel or guesthouse. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa is required (which depends on the country you’re from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa.
Electricity: The standard electricity voltage in Laos is 230 volts AC. The power sockets available in Laos are types A, B, C, E and F. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Lonely Planet Laos: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN LAOS
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Laos are listed below. Don’t drool!
Laab or salad of minced meat: This Thai dish originated in Laos. The dish consists of minced meat that is stir fried and tossed in with shallots, chili peppers, sauce, lime juice and boiled ground rice. Seasoned with a variety of spices like coriander, mint and several other herbs, Laab is delicious and spicy. When served with sticky rice and prepared with minced meat of either chicken, duck, beef, pork or fish, a spoon of laab with sticky rice makes for a mouthful of heaven.
Khao Niaw or sticky rice: Rice is the staple food in Asian countries, and Laos is no exception to this. Sticky rice is a traditional dish and is served with almost anything from vegetables to meat. The dish is uniquely served in a cone shaped basket in combination with jeow which is basically a mixture of chili peppers, tomatoes, peanuts and egg plants.
Mok Pa or steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves: This fish delicacy is prepared with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and sauce tossed in with herbs, spices, chili peppers and steamed fish which has a soft and buttery texture and gets served with banana rice.
Khao Piak Sen or soupy noodles: This is a dish to be served piping hot and perfect for winter evenings. It consists of rice chow mein prepared into a soup with meat of pork, chicken or beef and a generous dose of veggies.
Sai Oua: Prepared from minced pork and generously tempered with ginger, sauce, lime, lemongrass and garlic, Sai Oua is a rich meaty delicacy and well worth a try when in Laos.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAOS
Laos is a very affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Laos is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Laos affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Laos will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Laos can cost less than $20 dollars. If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Luang Prabang. If you’re traveling to Laos during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Laos is a very popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Laos. However, if you are backpacking in Laos or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
You can enjoy a visit to Laos any time of the year however the cool season between October and February would be an ideal time to go. I also recommend avoiding March and April simply because this is the time the hot season becomes a little too intolerable due to the humidity. May to June is when Laos has it’s rainy season and you should expect a few afternoon showers if visiting Laos between May and September.
LAOS TRAVEL BUDGET
Laos is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Laos really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $45 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $45 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Luang Prabang then budget about $100 to $350 plus a day.
IS LAOS SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Laos is quite safe for tourists although some areas are marked as hazardous due to the presence of dormant warfare materials and ammunition. If you are staying in low budget accommodation then make sure that your valuables are safely locked away. Carry your passport and documents on you wherever you go and keep your money concealed. Female travelers to Laos should be mindful to dress appropriately and be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Based on my own travel experiences in Laos I would never leave home without insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip.
LAOS VISA CHECKER
LAOS FLIGHT DEALS
LAOS TOURS & ACTIVITIES
LAOS PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Laos, like most other places in Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Laos and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you forget to pack something you can use this as an excuse to go shopping in Luang Prabang’s night markets (as if you need an excuse).
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Laos include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.