Friday, August 19, 2022

How To Travel To Laos

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By plane

Lao Airlines, Lao Central Airlines, and a few others, notably Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways (Luang Prabang only), and Vietnam Airlines, service the international airports at Vientiane (VTE) and Luang Prabang (LPQ). Lao Airlines has booked certain seats on Vietnam Airlines flights (codesharing / better pricing). Pakse is the country’s third international airport, with flights to and from Siem Reap (Lao Airlines’ Vientiane – Pakse – Siem Reap) and Ho Chi Minh City.

Low-cost airlines used to avoid Laos, but AirAsia now flies three times a week from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane. Another inexpensive alternative for traveling to Vientiane is to fly to Udon Thani, Thailand, using budget airlines Nok Air or Air Asia, and then take a shuttle service straight from the airport to Nong Khai and the Friendship Bridge (40 minutes); Vientiane is just 17 kilometers away.

By train

In 2009, the long-awaited first connection over the Mekong from Nong Khai, Thailand, to Tha Naleng, Laos, finally opened. There are two shuttle trips each day in each direction, one of which is scheduled to connect to Bangkok’s night trains. When crossing the border by rail, you may get a visa on arrival. Because the railway station is in the middle of nowhere, using the train is not a particularly appealing choice.

By land

The National Tourism Administration’s website lists the majority of open border crossings for foreigners, along with information on where visas on arrival may be obtained. Unfortunately, this list isn’t comprehensive.

Cambodia

When entering Laos overland from Cambodia, visas on arrival are now available (as of February 2010), with an official “Visa on Arrival” office integrated within the checkpoint. Stung Treng is the closest Cambodian town, and the border is a 90-minute speedboat or bus trip away. Note that the border is rarely used, with almost no onward public transportation available (book through Stung Treng to Ban Nakasang for Si Phan Don/Don Det), and both customs officers and transport providers have a reputation for overcharging foreigners, though this appears to have improved recently (currently both Cambodian and Laos border officials request USD1 stamp fee per country). When crossing the border in October 2010, Cambodian police will demand $1 for an exit stamp. Even if you tell them you don’t have any, they will stamp it. They will want USD2 for an entrance stamp, and if you refuse, they will not stamp it (you will need the stamp to exit), so you will have no option but to pay the bribe. If you cross the border by boat, you must return by road to the border post to have your entry in Laos officially recognized (i.e., get your passport stamped).

At the Lao-Cambodian border, there are two pitfalls: four changes of bus (some of them tiny minibuses where passengers must sit on each other’s laps) and hours spent driving to remote guesthouses to pick up backpackers; if your luggage is sent on a bus you are not on (due to “lack of space”), it may disappear. This is something that the “King of Bus Company” is renowned for.

China

Foreigners may travel between Mengla (Yunnan) and Boten (Laos) via land, and visas can be obtained on arrival (USD37 for UK residents) or in advance at the Lao embassy in Kunming. Mengla has daily bus service to Luang Namtha and Udomxai. The North bus station is where buses from Mengla to Luang Namtha depart. The first bus departs at 8:00 a.m. and costs about $40.

In general, independent travelers cannot cross the Mekong River from China to Laos, not least because there is a piece of Myanmar in the middle and the Lao checkpoint at Xieng Kok does not grant visas on arrival. Travel agencies in China, such as Panda Travel, provide sporadic cruises from Jinghong (China) to Huay Xai (Laos), although timetables are unpredictable and costs are high.

Myanmar

Myanmar’s Shan State and Laos’ Luang Namtha Province are linked by the Myanmar-Lao friendship bridge.

Thailand

Between Thailand and Laos, there are eight open border crossings. In order from north to south:

  • Donsavanh – Lao Bao – to/from Savannakhet
  • Keo Nua Pass
  • Lak Sao – to/from Khammouan Province
  • Nam Can – to/from Plain of Jars
  • Na Meo – to/from Sam Neua
  • Tay Trang – to/from Muang Khua and Nong Khiaw
  • Bo Y (nearest town on Vietnamese side being Ngoc Hoi and on Lao side Attapeu)

How To Travel Around Laos

Traveling across Laos via plane, road, or river may be just as enjoyable as the destination itself, but leave plenty of room in your itinerary for the near-inevitable delays, cancellations, and breakdowns. By plane Lao Airlines, the national airline, maintains a near-monopoly on internal flights. Their safety record was poor before...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Laos

Citizens of Brunei and Myanmar (14 days), Japan, Luxembourg, Russia, South Korea, and Switzerland (15 days), Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are exempt from visa requirements. (30-day period) Most (but not all) countries may get a visa on arrival at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse airports,...

Destinations in Laos

Regions in Laos Northern Laos (Ban Nalan Trail, Bokeo Nature Reserve, Houay Xai, Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Muang Ngoi Neua, Muang Long, Muang Ngeun, Muang Xay, Nong Khiaw, Pakbeng, Vieng Phoukha)Villages of hilltribes, mountains, and the enchanting old capital. Central Laos (Plain of Jars, Paksan, Phonsavan, Tha Khaek, Vang Vieng, Vieng Xai, Vientiane)The...

Things To See in Laos

Laos' main draw is its undisputed reputation as the least westernised, most laidback, and therefore most genuine of all the Indochinese countries. It's unclear how much longer this will continue, but while it does, this is a really rare and unusual nation to visit. Natural attractions The word "wilderness" is sometimes...

Things To Do in Laos

Sauna with herbs. The herbal sauna is a Laotian experience that should not be missed. These are simple-looking things, typically simply a decrepit bamboo hut with a stove and a water pipe on one side, usually open only in the nights and frequently operated by temples (but not always)....

Food & Drinks in Laos

Food in Laos Lao cuisine is quite similar to that of Thailand's northeastern Isaan region: spicy, bitter rather than sweet, with abundant fresh herbs and vegetables served raw. When the chilis become too much for your tongue, some of the raw veggies may be added to calm it down. Rice is...

Money & Shopping in Laos

The kip is the Lao currency, which has recently been convertible at banks in neighboring countries after the creation of the Lao stock market in 2011. There is a Lao bank that exchanges kip at the Nong Khai-Vientiane land border (opens at 09:00) and there is a Vientiane airport...

Language & Phrasebook in Laos

Lao is Laos' national language, a tonal language closely linked to Thai. Most Lao understand Thai thanks to the omnipresent Thai broadcast media, and some have borrowed some Thai terms for tourist usage, such as farang ("Westerner"). This does not apply to Asians from other countries). However, knowing a few...

Traditions & Customs in Laos

When visiting temples, dress appropriately (long pants, sleeved shirts) and remove your shoes before entering temple structures and private residences. It is considered impolite to expose the soles of your feet in Thailand, as it is in other Buddhist nations. Never put your hand on someone's head. Despite the widespread...

Internet & Communications in Laos

The country code for Laos is +856 20 654 321, and the format for phone numbers in Laos is +856 20 654 321. All numbers beginning with 20 are mobile, while the rest are landlines. Laos Country Code is "+856".International Call Prefix is "00".Laos Call Prefix is "0". Internet cafés may...

Culture Of Laos

Theravada Lao culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. It may be found everywhere in the nation, from the language to the temple, as well as in art, literature, and the performing arts. However, many aspects of Lao culture precede Buddhism. For example, the khaen, a kind of bamboo pipe...

History Of Laos

Early history The Tam Pa Ling Cave in the Annamite Mountains of northern Laos has yielded an ancient human cranium that is at least 46,000 years old, making it Southeast Asia's earliest modern human fossil. Stone artefacts, particularly Hoabinhian kinds, have been discovered in northern Laos at Late Pleistocene sites....

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