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Der Nam Song River in Laos, Bild: David Ionut / shutterstock

Laos – A piece of original Southeast Asia

Laos – The narrow, elongated country is practically “wedged” between Thailand and Vietnam. Tourism here is not (yet) as pronounced as in most neighboring countries. One reason for this could be that Laos has no access to the sea and therefore a beach holiday is not feasible for many travellers. However, if you decide not to travel here because of this, you are missing out on a lot!

The originality of the country is what makes Laos what it is. A visit is therefore attractive, for example, for those who attach less importance to luxury hotels or other tourist amenities, but are looking for authentic Asian tranquility, courtesy and hospitality. Numerous (not overcrowded) sights and interesting regions are available and are just waiting to be explored.

Getting to Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Image: Tortoon / shutterstock

Laos can be easily reached by plane from several surrounding Asian countries. There are a total of four international airports in the larger cities. However, the most frequented is the airport of the capital Vientiane. Another option is to enter the country overland from one of the neighboring countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar or China in the far north. Entry from Thailand in the form of bus transfers is particularly easy and frequently used. These can be booked in advance at many travel desks, are cheap and usually work without any problems.

Landscape and climate of the Southeast Asian country

Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng, Image: Guitar photographer / shutterstock

The topography of Laos is easy to describe. From north to south, the country is almost continuously crisscrossed by sometimes higher, sometimes flatter mountain regions. Only on the southern and southwestern border with Thailand is there a flat or lowland, which also houses the capital Vientiane.

Anyone who has already traveled to surrounding countries such as Thailand or Vietnam is familiar with the Southeast Asian climate and will not experience any surprises. The climate in Laos does not differ from the rest of the region. The months from November to about the end of March are also the best time to travel here. During this period, the rainy season is over and the hot summer months have not yet been reached. So there is a relatively pleasant climate with little rain and not too warm temperatures between about 27 and 30 degrees Celsius. In the high mountain regions, it can sometimes be relatively cool, which should be taken into account when choosing clothing.

Laos’ culture – Buddhism and above all a lot of peace and serenity

Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang, Image: SmileKorn / shutterstock

Laos is shaped by Buddhism and monks in particular enjoy the highest recognition. Visitors can experience this, for example, at one of the daily alms ceremonies, where locals kneel on the side of the road and offer food and drinks to passing monks. Just like in neighboring countries, respectful treatment of people and nature is a top priority here. However, one thing always stands out during a stay in Laos: the peace and quiet. Stress simply does not seem to be present in the way of life of the locals.

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The main attractions

Patuxai, Vientiane
Patuxai, Vientiane Arc de Triomphe, Image: Mazur Travel / shutterstock

Laos offers a variety of sights in the different regions. You should take enough time to get from A to B, because the road network is sometimes poorly developed or in poor condition, which can lead to longer travel times.

A visit to Vientiane, the capital and largest city of the country, is a must, so to speak. With a population of about 350,000 and over 800,000 (in the metropolitan area), it is located directly on the border with Thailand. The historic city is the center of Laos both politically and culturally. Despite the big city, it is also very relaxed here. Scattered around the city are many buildings from the long-gone French colonial era. It is worth exploring the city by bike, stopping at the Pha Tha Luang Stupa (the country’s national symbol) or the Wat Si Saket temple, for example. The latter amazes with its large number of Buddha statues. Before heading to one of the markets or eating at a food stall in the evening, you should pay a visit to Patuxai Park and admire the Patuxai Victory Monument.

Kuang Si Waterfall
Kuang Si Waterfall, Image: Preto Perola / shutterstock

The city of Luang Prabang in the north is one of the most important hubs of the mountainous region. The city itself is very worth seeing. In particular, the old town, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. An unforgettable view can be obtained after climbing Mount Phou Si, which is located in the center of the city. From a height of 150 meters, there is a magnificent view over the city, which is especially ingenious during sunset. The area around Luang Prabang is known for its exceptionally beautiful nature. There are several waterfalls here, all of which can easily serve as a postcard motif. Among the most famous are the largest waterfall Kuang Si at 50 meters and the beautiful Tad Sae waterfall.

Wat Xieng Khuan Buddha Park
Wat Xieng Khuan Buddha Park, Image: Perfect Lazybones / shutterstock

In the far south, near the border with Cambodia, is Pakse, the third largest city in the country. Even though a visit to this city is worthwhile, the real highlight of this region is the Mekong with its islands. During a boat trip on the mighty river, you will not only discover thousands of small (partly inhabited) islands, but you can also enjoy unique nature and even see the UNESCO World Heritage Site Wat Phu (mountain temple). With a bit of luck, you can even see a few splashing dolphins here and there. Really in the very south, just before the border with Cambodia, are the two most famous and popular islands for travelers. On Don Det and Don Khon (which are connected by a bridge) you can fully enjoy the Laotian serenity paired with unique island charm, unwind and prepare for an onward journey to Cambodia, for example.

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Important information about Laos

Important telephone numbers

  • Police: 191
  • Fire brigade: 190
  • Ambulance service: 195
  • German Embassy in Vientiane: +856 21 312 110

German Doctors

  • Dr. Olivier Schwab: Alliance International Medical Centre, Vientiane, +856 21 513 095
  • Dr. Stefan Gössling: Vientiane International Clinic, Vientiane, +856 21 254 833

Important words with translation

  • Hello – ສະບາຍດີ (Sabaidee)
  • Thank you – ຂອບໃຈ (Khob chai)
  • Please – ກະລຸນາ (Kaluna)
  • Yes – ແມ່ນແລ້ວ (Muen laew)
  • No – ບໍ່ (Bo)
  • Sorry – ຂໍໂທດ (Khor thoad)
  • Where is…? – … ຢູ່ໃສ? (… Yuu Sai?)
  • How much does it cost…? – ລາຄາເທົ່າໃດ? (Lahka tao dai?)
  • Emergency – ສຸກເສີນ (Sukseun)
  • Doctor – ຫມໍ (Moh)
  • Hospital – ໂຮງຫມໍ (Hong moh)

Holidays

  • New Year’s Day: January 1
  • Lao New Year (Pi Mai): April 13 to 15
  • Labour Day: 1 May
  • Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival): variable (May)
  • Independence Day: December 2
  • Christmas: December 25

Opening hours

  • Shops: Usually daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Supermarkets: Usually daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Restaurants: Lunch from 11:00 to 14:00, dinner from 18:00 to 21:00.
  • Banks: Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Airport

  • Wattay International Airport (VTE): 3 km west of Vientiane

NUDISM

  • Not common: There are no official nudist beaches in Laos. Nudism is not practiced and could be considered offensive.

Post / Stamps

  • Post Offices: In all major cities. Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Stamps: Available at post offices and kiosks.
  • Costs for letters and postcards to Germany: Standard letter up to 20g: approx. 15,000 LAK; Postcard: approx. 12,000 LAK

Safety

  • Crime: Laos is considered relatively safe. Observe the usual precautions as in any city.
  • Emergency number: 191 (police), 190 (fire brigade), 195 (ambulance)

Current

  • Voltage: 230 volts
  • Sockets: Type A, B, C, E and F. Adapters for European plugs recommended.

Tip

  • Not common: Tipping is not expected in Laos, but can be given for good service.

Customs

  • Allowances: Personal belongings are duty-free.
  • Alcohol: Maximum 1 liter of spirits.
  • Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco.
  • Other items: Value up to $500 duty-free.

More impressions from Laos