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In recent years, Laos has increasingly become the focus of Southeast Asian vacationers and backpackers. Compared to its neighboring countries Thailand or Vietnam, Laos is still perceived as a very pristine travel destination where big package tourism has not yet arrived.
The country is considered unspoiled and peaceful, making it perfect for a vacation where you can relax. Incidentally, Laos is the only country in Southeast Asia not by the sea - but that doesn't make it any less beautiful.
Laos is located in Southeast Asia. The country borders China and Myanmar to the north, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Approximately 7.4 million people live in a total area of 236,800 km².
In general, it can be said that Laos is a comparatively safe country to travel to. There is less fraud and crime here than in Thailand and Vietnam. Nevertheless, as in all countries in the world, you should be on your guard against pickpockets, take care of your valuables, and not flaunt your wealth.
Laos is 7 hours ahead of the UK when using the Asia/Vientiane timezone.
British citizens need a passport to enter Laos, which must be valid for at least six months and should have at least three free pages.
A visa is also required, which can be applied for before entering the country at a Laotian diplomatic mission, online, or on arrival.
As there are different altitudes in Laos, there are correspondingly large differences in temperatures and rainfall in the individual parts of the country.
The best time to travel to Laos is generally in the dry season between November and February. This is when temperatures average a pleasant 28°C and humidity is also kept within limits. However, it should be noted that temperatures in the Mekong Plain can drop to as low as 15°C at the same time. In the higher areas, temperatures can even drop to around freezing point. You should therefore always bring suitable clothing.
Between May and October, the southwest monsoon brings heavy rainfall and the humidity rises significantly. Temperatures can then often reach the 40°C mark. Traveling to Laos during this time is less pleasant. In addition, many roads can be flooded, making onward travel difficult or impossible.
According to the Federal Foreign Office, no vaccination is required for direct entry from the UK. However, the standard vaccinations should be up to date. The recommended travel vaccinations are: COVID-19, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and tetanus.
It should also be noted that there is dengue fever and malaria in Laos - with an increased risk during the rainy season. It is therefore important to consistently protect yourself from mosquito bites:
- Body-covering, light-colored clothing (long pants, long shirts)
- Repeated application of insect repellent to all exposed areas of the body
- Sleep under an impregnated mosquito net
There are no direct flights to Laos from Europe. However, there are numerous connecting flights, e.g. via Bangkok, Hanoi or Singapore. There are a total of four international airports in Laos:
Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Savannakhet
There are also good bus connections from Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia.
As already mentioned, Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. The Mekong is therefore at the heart of a trip to Laos. Accordingly, the country with its beautiful natural landscapes can also be discovered in a relaxed way on a river cruise. Would you prefer to design your own route? No problem! Then we have a few tips for you here:
The capital Vientiane is the economic, cultural and political center of Laos and also the only major city in the country. There are numerous sights to discover here and yet Vientiane is considered the most relaxed capital in Southeast Asia. The many French colonial buildings and Buddhist temples characterize the city. Take a leisurely stroll through the city and take a look at the national symbol of Laos - the Pha That Luang. Also worth seeing are the Ho Phra Keo Museum, the Wat Si Saket shrine and the Hindu shrine Wat Si Muang.
Although not by the sea, you can still enjoy a beach vacation in Laos. In the south of the country, on the border with Cambodia, lies Si Phan Don, better known as the "4,000 Islands" area. Depending on the water level of the Mekong, there are more or fewer islands in the water here. At its widest point, the Mekong measures a whole 14 kilometers! There is one large island and a few inhabited islands, while the other thousands of small areas and miniature islands are mainly a paradise for birds and fish. With a bit of luck, you may even spot some of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins here.
For most travelers, Champasak is just a stopover on the way to the 4,000 islands or for a visit to Wat Phou. However, a leisurely stroll through Champasak allows you to immerse yourself in the bygone colonial era and enjoy the peaceful tranquillity over a coffee.
Wat Phou is the most important Khmer temple and the most famous sight in Laos. The temple complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Some of the oldest parts are even older than Angkor in Cambodia.
We head up to the Bolaven Plateau in Cha Province, which lies 1,000 meters above sea level. This fertile highland plateau with its beautiful waterfalls and coffee plantations is home to long-established mountain villages, which can also be easily explored by motorcycle or scooter.
Another must-see on a trip to Laos is Luang Prabang. The old town with its temples and pagodas has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the oldest preserved temple town in Southeast Asia. Located directly on the Mekong, life here takes place on and by the river. After a stroll through the old town, a break in one of the many restaurants on the Mekong riverbank promenade is highly recommended. There is also a large night market in the old town every evening. Here you can stroll along hundreds of stalls selling beautiful souvenirs and handmade art.
The Kuang Si waterfall near Luang Prabang is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos.
Here the water plunges down three levels, with a drop height of up to 50 meters. At the lower end of the waterfalls, there are a series of ponds where you can swim and enjoy the view of the large waterfalls. There are many hiking trails and a butterfly park to explore around the waterfalls. As some of the paths can be slippery, you should wear sturdy shoes.
The Kong Lor Caves are located in the Phou Hin Boun nature reserve in the center of Laos. The river cave system stretches for more than 7.4 kilometers, making it one of the longest in the world. Here you can take a guided boat trip through the caves, where you can marvel at the impressive geological formations.
We hope to have provided you with a bit of insight into navigating some of the basics of what you can expect to find in Laos. But, remember, there is always more to discover. To find out more about what you should see and do in the country, read our other blog articles, exploration doesn't stop here!
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.