Laos Travel Information
In a region where ancient temples and natural wonders abound, many hotels in Laos reflect more traditional style architecture and furnishings. In areas that are a little more remote, the quality of accommodation is the best available and provide clients with a comfortable stay.
Two monsoons set the rhythm of daily life in Laos. From November to March, the cool dry north eastern monsoon blows and brings little rain. From May to early October, the south western monsoon picks up moist air from over the Indian Ocean which brings strong winds, high humidity and heavy rain. Even during the wet season there is not much rain in the mornings as most of it will come in a late afternoon downpour. Always a good idea to pack a travel poncho as they are inexpensive, light and easily carried throughout the day.
The currency of Laos is the kip. The USD and the Thai Baht are very popular alternatives that are widely accepted, especially for bigger purchases. It is not unusual to be quoted a price in kip, pay in USD and receive Thai baht as change. USD and Thai baht can be changed at hotels, banks or any foreign exchange establishment. Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted in large shops and restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. All major banks, even in provincial towns accept travellers cheques and currencies other than USD or baht. It is recommended to carry USD bills in small denominations. Visa, Mastercard and Amex payment facilities are becoming more widespread throughout the country and a surcharge is usually added to the service.
Electricity supply is 220 volts, AC50. Plug sizes and styles vary between cities and even between hotels - they can be 2 or 3 pin, round or flat (although more commonly 2 round pins), British, American, European or Australian-style! So it is advisable to take a complete set of adaptor plugs for any electrical appliances and these can be readily purchased in most big stores, luggage outlets and at duty-free stores. Battery operated appliances can be an advantage for a short trip.
If you are planning to recharge batteries for video or digital cameras, be aware that you will need to do this whilst in your hotel room as lights and power are normally operated by the insertion of your key tag or security keycard; when you leave the room and remove the key, all power to the room shuts down.
Laos is popular for local handicrafts with the best buys being those which have originated from the hill tribes crafts and textiles. Traditional fabrics are another favourite when used to make the ‘pha sin’, the Lao sarong and the ‘pha baeng’ which is a shawl worn by the local women. Silverware in the form of jewellery and pots or chunky tribal bangles, necklaces and earings are often sold in markets or the antique shops in Vientiane. Traditional carvings, most with a religious theme and elephant statues are also popular souvenirs from Laos. The exportation of important cultural or historical antiques or statues of Buddha are prohibited. As a general rule, it is always a case of ‘buyer beware’ and if you bring items home and they are defective, it is impossible to obtain a refund.
Live Lao bands are popular in discos around Vientiene with most of the major hotels having their own nightclubs onsite for those who want to dance their way into the early hours. Other towns tend to prefer the more laid-back and relaxed nightlife, often including quiet dinners, a few drinks with friends and taking in a local cultural show.