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Thailand and Laos

Marry History and Culture with striking scenery! - Trip for singles

Book From   € 1,499,-
GROUP SIZE: 6-24 | 20 DAYS

Frequently asked questions

Index

1. What is the best time to travel?

The coolest period in Thailand is between October and February. During this period the rain is infrequent and this is therefore generally seen as the best time to travel. Between May and July rain showers can fall but dry periods prevail. Travelling during this time is pleasant as nature is lush and there are not as many tourists at the main sites of interest.

2. What is the best time to see wildlife?

Hornbills are most frequently observed in Thailand between January and May. In the jungle of Koh Sok there are almost 50 species of mammals including bears, leopards and gibbons and over 180 species of birds including hornbills. You will probably see gibbons, which are widely present all year around. In Thailand, the abundant tropical fish and corals are remarkable.

3. What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

The number of festivals in Thailand is immense, especially between November and February. Many festivals are related to Buddhist rituals and follow the lunar calendar so the dates vary.
April: Songkran (New Year) is celebrated in mid-April. Buddha statues are washed with perfumed water, houses are cleaned and respect is shown to monks by the sprinkling of water over the monk’s hands. The crowds are cooled with ice water. Tourists can also expect to be drenched by happy Thai folk. If you wish to remain dry on this day, it is best that you shut yourself in your hotel room!
May: The rocket festival is held in the North and North-East. Fireworks are set off in their thousands in order to bring plenty of rain. Dance processions accompanied by loud drums make their way through the streets.
November: Loy Krathong, the festival of floating lights, is one of the most beautiful festivals. It is held beside rivers and canals in the evening during full moon.

4. Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes, you have the option to pre-book airport transfers (arrival only) and secondly the option to pre-book pre and post tour nights.These extra services should be added to your booking.

5. What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

6. Do I need a visa?

You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. Please check the embassy if you need a visa for Thailand. You can check the current situation here. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure so that you do not run into time problems. The current information is that a visa is not necessary for UK/EU citizens for stays of up to 30 days.

7. Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations or malaria tablets for this country and then contact your GP or a specialised health centre to make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you arrange this at least six weeks before departure to allow time for a full program. Two weeks should be enough for people who have already had a few injections. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

8. What is the recommended currency for Thailand?

The baht is the official currency of Thailand and it comes in denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 20 baht notes. Coins come in denominations of 10, 5, 2, 1 and 0.5 and 0. 25 baht. Foreign Money can usually be changed in the larger cities. There are ATMs which issue baht in most sizeable towns and cities.
Some more upmarket hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. In banks in the bigger cities you can withdraw cash with your credit card.

9. What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

Don’t bring too much baggage. Thailand is a tropical country so thin, cotton clothing is advisable. A sweatshirt can be useful for the cooler evenings, especially in the winter. All you need for your feet are a good pair of walking shoes and a pair of flip flops (easy to remove before entering temples). An umbrella will come in useful too. As protection against the sun, bring a hat, sunglasses and sun cream. Other important items include swimwear, insect repellent and a long-sleeved T-shirt, toiletries, a beach towel, a first-aid kit, a (video) camera and sufficient film and batteries, a torch, a pocket-knife, an alarm clock, writing equipment, books, your passport, sufficient travellers cheques and money, all relevant travel insurance details and documents.

10. What kind of luggage should I take?

We request that you bring a frameless backpack or strong weekend bag to carry your luggage. Don’t bring a suitcase as these are very tricky to transport. We find that 12 kg is the maximum weight for your requirements. A small backpack or shoulder bag is best for your hand luggage. For the storage of valuables and important documents we advise that you bring a thin money belt that you can wear discreetly under your clothes.

11. How is the electricity situation?

Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are in use in Thailand. You could also consider taking a universal electric plug adaptor.

12. Which travel guides and maps?

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

13. What is the accommodation like?

In Thailand we mostly use mid-range accommodations, such as guesthouses and lodges. Most have twin rooms with private ensuite facilities.

14. 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.

15. Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?

For some of the optional, locally booked trips it is advisable to bring a sleeping bag. You may prefer to hire one once you are in Thailand. 

16. Do I need to take a mosquito net?

You don’t need to bring a mosquito net with you. Malaria is not considered a high risk throughout most of Thailand. Insect repellent and t-shirts with long sleeves are useful for avoiding bites.

17. Do they cater for vegetarians in Thailand?

In Thailand there is plenty of choice for vegetarians. Rice and vegetables are the basic ingredient of the local cuisine. Thai people have no regular mealtimes; they tend to eat simply when they are hungry. For this reason, food is available virtually round the clock. In the cities there are special food markets, where it is easy to find tropical fruit such as coconut, mango and pineapple. Foods tend to be spicy. There are many levels of spiciness, and sauces are used to add extra fire. If you would prefer milder food, ask for “mai pet” (not spicy).

18. What kind of transportation is used?

In Thailand we use air-conditioned buses and sometimes trains.

19. Is Thailand dangerous?

In general Thailand is a place where you can feel safe.
Theft occurs in Thailand, so keep an eye on your valuables in the same way that you would do back home. Money and important documents are best kept in a thin money belt worn under your clothes. 

20. What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

Touching other peoples' heads is extremely impolite in Thailand. The head is seen to house the soul and must be treated as sacred. 

it is considered rude to point at somebody and pointing with your foot is an even greater sign of disrespect.

You must be both bareheaded and bare-footed in all holy sites in Thailand. If you walk round a pagoda, you must walk in a clockwise direction. If you carry your shoes in your hand, use your left hand. Another deeply offensive gesture is sitting with your feet pointing towards a Buddha statue or a monk. Photos of Buddha statues are also not appreciated by the locals.

Monks must not be touched under any circumstances, especially by women. If a woman wishes to give something to a monk, it is best to do it via a man or lay the object down in front of him. Women are also best advised not to sit next to a monk. It is extremely impolite to get in the way of a monk.

21. Are there opportunities to snorkel or dive?

Thailand has a wonderful coast and tropical islands. There are many coral reefs and exotic fish are easy to spot. You will have the opportunity to snorkel or dive off some beautiful Thai beaches.

22. Are there opportunities to swim?

You will have the possibility to swim in beautiful tropical sea water and, depending on the tour, also to swim in clear water in Kanchanaburi and/or in the Chang Mai area.

23. What other activities and sports could I do?

In Thailand there are so many possible activities that is difficult to list all of them! You can experience elephant riding, rafting and bamboo rafting. You can go on bike rides or a boat trip, hike in the jungle or try to swim under a waterfall! In the islands and on the coast you can enjoy windsurfing and other watersports.

24. How are communications in Thailand?

The international country dialling code for Thailand is +66. The outgoing code is 001, followed by the relevant country code. City/area codes are in use, e.g. Bangkok is (0)2 and Chiang Mai is (0)53. International direct dial facilities are available throughout most of the country. Mobile phone networks cover most towns, cities and holiday resorts; operators use GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.

25. What is the time difference?

Please check the world clock in order to find out the exact time difference 

Index

1. 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.

2. 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

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. 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.

5. 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.

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. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Which travel guides and maps?

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

12. In what kind of accommodation do we sleep?

Accommodation is provided in medium class hotels in double rooms with private facilities including breakfast.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. Do I need to take a mosquito net?

Yes, it is advisable to prevent being stung from the mosquitoes.

16. 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.

17. What kind of transportation is used?

You will travel by Minibus and by boat.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. Are there opportunities to swim?

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

21. What are other activities and sports I could do?

There are plenty of oppurtunities to go trekking and on bicycle tours.

22. 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.

23. 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.

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