Frequently asked questions about Laos

  1. Are there opportunities to swim?
  2. Are there guidelines for interactions with tribes?
  3. Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?
  4. Do I need a visa?
  5. Do I need to take a mosquito net?
  6. Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?
  7. Do they cater for vegetarians in Laos?
  8. How are communications in Laos?
  9. How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?
  10. In what kind of accommodation do we sleep?
  11. Is Laos dangerous?
  12. What about my passport?
  13. What are other activities and sports I could do?
  14. What are the best festivals and when do they take place?
  15. What can I expect for camping facilities?
  16. What is the best time to travel?
  17. What is the recommended currency for Laos?
  18. What is the situation with electricity in Laos?
  19. What is the time difference?
  20. What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?
  21. What kind of luggage should I take?
  22. What kind of transportation is used?
  23. What local customs do I need to keep in mind?
  24. Which travel guides and maps?

1. Are there opportunities to swim?

Yes, you can find waterfalls in which you can swim.

2. Are there guidelines for interactions with tribes?
Many tribes live in remote areas and have little contact with Western travellers. If you are going to visit such an "exotic" region, prepare yourself well. This will be beneficial both for yourself and for the people you will meet. Here are some do's & don'ts that you can use as a guideline.

• Read up beforehand about the traditions and customs of the tribe(s) you will visit. Then you know what to expect when you are there. Your tour leader can often provide you with information as well.
• First make contact with the chief of the tribe and do not instantly begin photographing. You are dealing with people, not with objects.
• Always ask permission first if you want to take a picture of someone. Put yourself in the position of the person you want to photograph. How would you feel if a person unknown to you suddenly started taking photos of you? In some cases, the tour leader or local guide will ask for permission for you.
• Involve the local people in what you are doing. Make time for a conversation (with hands and feet) and show the photo that you have taken. You may like to bring a few photos from home, and then you can show how things are where you come from.
• Do not hand out things like candy (there are often few/no accessible dentists), balloons (plastic contaminates the area), money or Western trinkets. These types of donations can lead to disagreement, jealousy or quarrels between the various tribes-people.
• Do not purchase authentic, irreplaceable items (and do not accept them when given as a gift). Some examples include jewellery that belonged to ancestors, tools for work such as a sickle or hammer or weapons like a bow and arrow. The tribesmen often only realise afterwards, once the tourists are gone, that they have lost their irreplaceable object(s).
3. Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes, you can pre-book transfers (arrival only) and extra nights. Please add these to the booking form when making your trip reservation.

4. Do I need a visa?

UK/EU citizens need a visa for Laos, but these things can change. So please click here and check out the current situation. You can also check on that website if a visa is required for any other nationalities. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure so you do not run out of time.
If you need a visa, please contact your nearest embassy unless you choose to use a visa service. Shoestring does not organize your visa. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. You can also obtain the visa through a specialized visa agency like www.travcour.com.

5. Do I need to take a mosquito net?
Yes, it is advisable to prevent being stung from the mosquitoes.
6. Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?
Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations or malaria tablets for this country and contact after your local practitioner or a specialized health centre and make an appointment to get your shots and pills. Please make sure that you allow at least six weeks for a full program. People who already have had a few shots might do with two weeks. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.
7. Do they cater for vegetarians in Laos?
Vegetables and fish are eaten more regularly than pork, beef or chicken. What makes Lao cuisine special is the combination of herbs. These include coriander, lemon grass, fresh basil, lemon, garlic, Laos root, shrimp paste, chilli peppers and coconut milk. Fruit is available everywhere, depending on whether or not the particular fruit you seek is in season. There is a large selection, including banana, papaya, pineapple, apricot, apple, lychees, custard apple and coconut to name but a few.
8. How are communications in Laos?

Mobile phones will only work in the major cities; it is advisable to check the coverage with your service provider before leaving as the local mobile phone companies have few active roaming agreements with other network operators. Internet cafes are widely available in tourist areas.

9. How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveler (same sex when possible) unless you have booked a single room.

10. In what kind of accommodation do we sleep?
Accommodation is provided in medium class hotels in double rooms with private facilities including breakfast.
11. Is Laos dangerous?
Theft occurs in these countries as in any country. Pay good attention to valuables. Money and important documents are best not stored in handbags or wallets, but worn on the body in a money belt or bag attached to the inside of your clothes. You will find that you are received in a very friendly and hospitable manner. Laos is certainly not a country in which you should feel unsafe.
If you are interested what the Foreign Office has to say, please click here.
12. What about my passport?
You need a passport that is valid at least 6 months at the date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.
13. What are other activities and sports I could do?
There are plenty of oppurtunities to go trekking and on bicycle tours.
14. What are the best festivals and when do they take place?
There are a huge number of annual festivals in Laos, especially in the period from November to February. Many festivals are linked to Buddhist and follow the lunar calendar, meaning that the dates of the festivals are different each year.
February: Boun Pha Wet is celebrated, which marks the reincarnation of Buddha as Prince Vessentara.
April: Songkran (the New Year) is celebrated in mid-April. Buddha’s are washed with perfumed water, monks are honoured by the sprinkling of water over their hands and houses are thoroughly cleaned.
May: The Visakha Busa is celebrated. This occasion is held in honour of the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
August/September: Hor Khao Padap Din is celebrated and is a show of respect for the dead. At the same time in Luang Prabang, Boun Suang Heua is celebrated, and boat races are held.
October/November: In the capital Vientiane, the That Luang festival is held at the
15. What can I expect for camping facilities?
Keep in mind you are going through developing countries, with a much lower standard of living than you are used to.
16. What is the best time to travel?
Laos has a tropical climate which can be divided into three distinct seasons. Between March and May it is very hot, followed by the monsoon season between May and September. The months between November and March can be very cold.
The best time to visit Laos is between the end of October and March, as these months see the least rainfall and the temperature is less stifling, although Laos can sometimes be quite cold at this time of year.
17. What is the recommended currency for Laos?
The Lao Kip (LAK) is the legal currency, divided into 100 cents. There are no international ATM facilities in Laos. Major credit cards are accepted at some international hotels and tourist orientated establishments. Travellers cheques can be cashed at most banks in Vientiane and major towns, though have limited acceptance. Most transactions are conducted in cash: American Dollars, Thai Baht or Lao Kip.
18. What is the situation with electricity in Laos?

What voltage and plugs are in use in Laos? Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are in use in this country. You could consider taking a universal electric plug.

19. What is the time difference?

Please check the World Clock in order to find out the exact time difference with the UK.
Please mind that the time can change depending if the UK is on day light saving time or not.

20. What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?
Laos is a tropical country, so thin cotton clothes are recommended. . For the evenings, high collared and long sleeves T-shirts or thin cotton turtle necks are the order of the day, to provide protection from mosquitoes. An umbrella is useful. A woolly jumper is necessary during the winter or in the mountainous regions. Rainwear is a must during monsoon season, and a pair of good, worn-in hiking boots and a pair of sandals or flip-flops is all the footwear you need. Other important items are sunglasses, a bag for bedding, a hand towel, sun creams, toiletries, a first-aid kit, a headscarf, a (video) camera with sufficient film, spare batteries, a torch, a pen-knife, a lighter, a small supply of snacks, an alarm clock, writing equipment, books, a diary with important addresses and contact numbers, a good tour guide and the booking papers for this trip.
21. What kind of luggage should I take?
Pack all of these things into a weekend bag or backpack. Do not bring a suitcase, as this will become a burden when traveling. A small backpack or shoulder bag comes in handy for hand luggage. Valuable papers are best kept in a thin cotton money belt, to be carried underneath your clothes. Take care to have an extra clean set of clothes in your hand luggage, so that you can do without the other luggage for 48 hours, just in case it arrives later than you do.
22. What kind of transportation is used?
You will travel by Minibus and by boat.
23. What local customs do I need to keep in mind?
In Asian countries such as Laos, differences of opinion are rarely displayed in public. Short and revealing clothes are generally not acceptable. Public displays of affection are taboo in Lao society. Avoid touching anyone on the head or using the feet to point at anything. Appropriate dress and behaviour when entering places of worship is essential. The Lao government prohibits any sexual contact or relationships between Lao nationals and foreigners, unless married under Lao law; penalties may involve heavy fines or imprisonment. It is illegal not to carry an identity document. Photographing military sites is prohibited.
24. Which travel guides and maps?

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet.