Laos Travel Guide: All things you need to know
Situated at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula and surrounded by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Laos is an often overlooked oasis. However, the fact that Laos possesses many incredible sights from the beauty of nature to rich culture and history. With a slow, rather old-fashioned charm and friendly people, Laos is undoubtedly one of the highlight destinations of any visit.
Our following Laos Travel Guide post will give you the comprehensive knowledge for your future plan to Laos – the country of millions of elephants. Let’s keep reading with Laos Travel team!
- I. Laos travel facts
- II. Laos Visa & Immigration
- III. Laos Climate & Best time to visit
- IV. How to get to Laos?
- V. Getting Around Laos
- VI. Places to visit & Things to do in Laos
- VII. Accommodation in Laos
- Accommodation in Vientiane
- Accommodation in Luang Prabang
- Accommodation in Phonsavan
- Accommodation in Vang Vieng
- Accommodation in North Laos
- Accommodations in South Laos
- VIII. What and Where to Eat in Laos?
- IX. Suggested Laos Itinerary
- X. Dos & Don’ts in Laos
- XI. Travel Advisory
I. Laos travel facts
- Country name: Lao People’s Democratic Republic
- Government: Unitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
- Head of State: Mr. Bounnhang Vorachith – General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party & President of Laos since 2016
- Head of Government: Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith – Prime Minister of Laos since 2016
- Capital: Vientiane (the largest city)
- Location: South East Asia, bordered by China (North), Vietnam (Northeast and East), Cambodia (South), Thailand (West) and Myanmar or Burma (Northwest).
- Border countries: China 423 km, Vietnam 2,130 km, Cambodia 541 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Myanmar 235 km.
- Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
- Topography: largely mountainous with steep terrain, elevations are typical over 500m with tapered river valleys.
- Total Area: 237,955sq km (91,875 sq miles) – Water: 2,53%
- Population: 7,123,205 (estimate 2019)
- Population density: 26,7 per sq km
- Population Distribution: by elevation: Lao Loum (lowland people) ~ 60%; Lao Theung (midland people) ~ 30%; Lao Soung (highland people) ~ 10%
- Religion: Theravada Buddhism 66.0%, Tai folk religion 30.7%, Christianity 1.5%, Others / None 1.8%
- Ethnic groups: 53.2% Lao, 11% Khmu, 9.2% Hmong, 26.6% others (Phouthai, Tai, Makong, Katang, Lue, Akha, etc)
- National language: Lao (Laotian). However, many tribal languages, French, English are also spoken.
- Time zone: UTC+7 (ICT)
- Calling code: +856
- Electricity Socket: 220V/50Hz (European & US plugs)
- Currency: Lao Kip (LAK). The denominations of the notes are 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000. Besides LAK, US dollars and Thai baht are also widely accepted.
- ATMs: available over Laos with a variable withdrawal fee according to the provider (from 10,000 Kip to 30,000 Kip per million Kip withdrawn. Maximum 2 million Kips per transaction).
Visa, MasterCard, and China UnionPay are commonly accepted at these ATMs.
- Changing money: at airport, at ATM, at money exchange or at the bank. Although US dollars and Thai Baht are widely accepted, cash in LAK is still highly recommended for local expenses.
- Internet: Free Wifi can be possible at guesthouses, hotels, and many cafés in tourist destinations, except rural and isolated areas which are less common. In Vientiane, Free Wifi can be also found at airport or museum as well.
- SIM/Card: A prepaid SIM to stay connected in Laos via a cell phone or other mobile device is necessary. There are 5 GSM network operators in the country: Unitel, ETL, TPlus (formerly Beeline), Laotel and Planet Online (in Vientiane only). Buy a recharge card to add some credit into SIM for your usage. Prepaid packet is recommended for good deal.
- 1353–1707 – Kingdom of Lan Xang
- 1707–1778 – Kingdoms of Luang Phrabang, Vientiane & Champasak
- 1778–1893 – Vassals of Siam
- 1893–1953 – French protectorate
- 11 May 1947 – Unified Kingdom
- 22 October 1953 – Independence from France
- 2 December 1975 – Monarchy abolished
- 14 August 1991 – Current constitution
- 1986 – Introduced market reforms
- 1997 – Became member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
- 2011 – New stock market opened in Vientiane
- 2013 – Became a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
- Northern Laos: includes the villages in the hills, mountains and the ancient capital.
(Ban Nalanl Trail, Bokeo Nature Reserve, Houay Xai, Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Muang Ngoi Neua, Muang Long, Muang Ngeun, Muang Xay, Nong Khiaw, Pakbeng, Vieng Phoukha)
- Central Laos: includes the capital and the countryside.
(Vientiane, Phonsavan, Jars fields, Tha Khaek, Tham Nong Pafa Cave, Vang Vieng, Vieng Xai)
- Southern Laos: includes the Mekong Delta, mountains and is the area least visited by tourists. (Champasak, Pakse, Savannakhet, Si Phan Don)
Major Cities & Districts
- Vientiane – the capital, Lao’s largest city on the bank of Mekong River.
- Luang Prabang – UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its many sacred temples, colonial architecture, and vibrant night market.
- Houay Xai – on the Mekong River and on the border with Thailand.
- Luang Namtha – the center of the north, well known for trekking.
- Muang Xay – also known as Oudomxay, capital of the multiethnic province of Oudomxay.
- Pakbeng – halfway on slow boat overnight between Houay Xai and Luang Prabang.
- Pakse – the gateway to the relic Wat Phu and “4000 islands” (Si Phan Don).
- Savannakhet – 2nd largest city in Laos, after Vientiane in the south on the Mekong River, connected by Thailand’s Mukdahan bridge.
- Thakhek – the capital of Khammouane Province, popular base for exploring Phou Hin Boun National Park including the famous cave Konglor.
Holidays & Festivals
There are some public holidays and festivals in Laos:
- Hmong New Year – usually take place in November and December, at the end of the harvest season when all works are done.
- Bun Pha Wet – in the first month of the year
- Magha Puja – on the night of full moon day in February
- Chinese New Year – January or February according to lunar calendar
- Boun Khoun Khao – often in March
- Pi Mai/Songkran – Lao New Year, annually in mid-April
- Visakha Puja – in May
- Boun Khao Phansaa – from July until October
- Haw Khao Padap Din – on the 15th day of the waning moon in the 9th month of lunar calendar
- Awk Phansaa – on the 15th day of full moon in the 11th month of the lunar calendar
- Bun Nam – in October
- Lao National Day – 2 December
II. Laos Visa & Immigration
Getting a Visa On Arrival for Laos is very convenient and no need to wait so long. Depend on your nationalities, the visa fee will be varied between US$ 30-US$ 45/person. Visa exemption within 30 days is applied for citizens of ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland, Russia, and South Korea.
Certain countries in Africa and the Middle East must apply for visas beforehand while most others can just get visas on arrival by show up at the airport / border, fill in a form, pay visa fee, wait for your turn, and receive a 30-day tourist visa on arrival. Be sure to get entry stamp on arrival and exit stamp before leaving. Double check the stamp date is good for your travel.
The documents for visa on arrival will include original passport (valid for at least six months) with enough 2 blank pages (endorsement pages are not considered blank); 2 passport sized photos with light background, no longer than 6 months (or it will cost you US$ 1-2 extra for this service), application form and visa fee (in cash in USD or even Thai Bath).
More details about List of Who Can’t get Laos Visa on Arrival & Port of Entry for Visa On Arrival in Laos, you can find here: https://laostravel.com/laos-visa/
From July 2019, the Laos government has officially launched The E-Visa Laos which is an electronic travel authorization, allowing citizens from 162 eligible countries (list at https://laoevisa.gov.la) who can apply online (non-refund).
Lao e-Visa can be used to enter 5 international ports:
- Wattay International Airport (Vientiane)
- Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge 1 (Vientiane)
- Luang Prabang International Airport (Luang Prabang)
- Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge 2 (Savannakhet)
- Pakse International Airport (Champasak)
- Hotel booking & Return ticket may be required to show (not always if you traveling overland). It is wise to produce an itinerary from a travel agent to avoid any problems.
- Currency restrictions for entry or exit: The import or export of local currency is not permitted. Over 2,000 USD or equivalent in foreign currency, the declaration at customs can be applied.
- Few nationalities (from particular African countries like Sudan, Somalia, etc. or Asian countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.) can be asked for security deposit (from USD 500) at costumes & will return on the day of departure. Otherwise the entry won’t be allowed.
III. Laos Climate & Best time to visit
Climate of Laos
Laos has a typical tropical monsoon climate with wet season from May to October (by the winds of the southwest monsoon) and dry season from November to April (by the northeast monsoon). However, there are variations in temperature within each season. For example, the dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early wet season (May and June) are typically the hottest period of the year.
During wet (rainy) season, an average rainfall can reach 1,300 to 2,300 mm (50 to 90 in). The heaviest rainfall is generally in August & September, especially in the South where the highest amounts of 4,100 mm (160 in) is recorded on the Bolovens Plateau, Champasak Province. However, the rainfall is not always adequate for rice cultivation because, sometimes, it may be only half or less of the norm, causing significant declines in rice yields. Luckily, such droughts often are by region, so production in other parts of the country is unaffected. The average temperature in wet season is around 27 °C (80 °F).
In dry season, minimum temperatures average between 16 and 21 °C (60 and 70 °F) in the cool months of December through February, then increase higher of more than 32 °C (90 °F) in March and April, just before the start of the rainy season. The coolest month comes to January while April is usually the hottest month together with Lao New Year and water festival.
Temperatures throughout the country does vary by the altitude (lowest point: Mekong River 70m – highest point: Phou Bia 2,817m). There is an average drop of 1.7 °C for every 300m (~ 1000 ft.). As general rule, according to the higher altitude in North, Central and Eastern regions than in the South and Mekong River valley, the humidity of these areas is also higher and temperatures can easily reach over 32°C in the hottest months of year.
Best time to visit Laos
Despite 2 distinct weather seasons in Laos, you can actually travel to this landlocked country all-year-round. The best time to visit can be from November to February when the weather is the most pleasant, and even get pretty cold in the evenings if you are in the far north of Laos.
Tips: If you plan to travel in March or April, you should prepare yourself with the height of hot seasons as well as the burning of the fields which create air as smoky as it is humid. In rainy season, a rain gear with you will be smart choice for smooth trip.
Dry season also falls in high/peak season when the travel expenses are expected to increase, especially in Christmas/New Year Eve or Lao New Year in mid-April. Therefore, making travel service reservations at earliest stage as possible are highly suggested to avoid full occupancy or lower service quality.
IV. How to get to Laos?
As Laos has been overlooked as a travel destination with fewer tourists than its neighboring countries, it also means less tourism infrastructure than other countries in the region.
It is obviously seen that the most common & fastest way to get to Laos is by flights (direct, daily or not frequently, depends on travel dates). There are 2 main international airports in Laos are Wattay International Airport (Vientiane – VTE) & Luang Prabang International Airport (Luang Prabang – LPQ) where locate several airlines carriers such as Laos Airlines (QV), Vietnam Airlines (VN), Bangkok Airways (PG) & Thai Airways (TG).
Other airports of Pakse (PKZ) or Savanakhet (ZVK) also serve few regional flights.
Laos Airlines provides the most various domestic and international flights, of which, from Vientiane, there are international flights to/from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap (Cambodia); some provinces in China; Seoul (Korea); Bangkok, Chiang Mai (Thailand) or Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang (Vietnam).
From Luang Prabang, you can have choice of flights nearly same from Vientiane, except less provinces in China and no flight from/to Ho Chi Minh City.
From Pakse, you have flights from/to Siem Reap, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, while they are flights with Bangkok, Danang from Savanakhet Airport.
Vietnam Airlines serve flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang to Luang Prabang, Vientiane and vice versa.
Bangkok Airlines provides flights to Luang Prabang from Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket and vice versa.
Thai Airways have flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi to Luang Prabang, Vientiane and vice versa.
If flights are not your preference or you expect more adventurous trip from places to places, an access by overland to Laos through border crossings can make sense. Just note that visa on arrival is not available at all overland entry points, so you need to check for the most up-to-date information to get smooth journey.
Thailand Laos Checkpoints
There are 6 routes across the Thai border into Laos as follows:
- Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I: Nong Khai to Vientiane;
- Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge II: Mukdahan to Savannakhet;
- Friendship Bridge III: Nakhon Phanom to Thakhek;
- Chiang Khong – Houayxai, Chiang Rai to Bokeo Province;
- Chong Mek – Vang Tao, Ubol Ratchathani to Champasack Province;
- Nakaxeng – Kaenthao, Loei to Sayabouly Province.
Visa on arrival are accepted at all these border check-points. Laos E-Visa is also available for Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge I, II. To save time, a pre-visa at embassy before travelling will definitely work well.
Vietnam Laos Checkpoints
You can travel into Laos from Vietnam via the following 7 border points:
- Tay Trang – Sop Hun; Dien Bien to Phongsaly Province;
- Na Meo – Namsoi; Thanh Hoa to Huaphanh Province;
- Nam Can – Nam Khan; Nghe An to Xieng Khuang Province;
- Cau Treo – Nam Phao; Ha Tinh to Bolikhamxai Province;
- Lao Bao – Dansavanh, Quang tri to Savannakhet Province;
- Bo Y – Phou Keua, Kon Tum to Attapeu Province;
- Cha Lo – Naphao, Quang Binh to Khammuane Province.
Visas on arrival are not available at all of these crossings. Need to check before travel. Visa at embassy is highly recommended to save time, especially in peak season.
Cambodia Laos Checkpoints
There is one border gate which is upgraded to international checkpoints in 2009 between Cambodia & Laos as below:
- Trapeang Kriel (old name: Dong Kralor) – Nong Nokkhien (old name: Veun Kham), Stung Treng to Champasak Province.
Visa on arrival is available at this checkpoint. Visa at Embassy is still recommended to prepare before trip to save time.
Myanmar Laos Checkpoints
There is one main crossing at the Friendship Bridge between two countries:
- Kyainglap – Xieng Kok, eastern Shan State to Luang Namtha Province.
Visa at Embassy is required before trip.
China Laos Checkpoints
There are 2 border gates between 2 countries:
- Mohan – Boten, Yunnan to Luang Namtha Province (*).
- Mengkan – Lantouy, Yunnan to Phongsaly Province (for Chinese and Laotian citizens only)
Visa on arrival is available at the checkpoint (*). Visa at Embassy is recommended before trip to save time.
Mekong River is an important transportation link among countries. If you’re coming from Chiang Khong in Northern Thailand, you can take the 2-day slow boat downstream from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang with a typical stop at Pakbeng and visit Pak Ou Caves along the way.
Due to the lack of the required infrastructure, railway is not a significant part in the transport sector of Laos while Thanaleng Station on the Lao side of the border is the only station for the Bangkok–Thanaleng rail route. There are 4 direct trains from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Nong Khai or vice versa with estimated travel time in 9 hours 25 minutes. The fastest train from Bangkok to Nong Khai is #75 (estimated departure at 8.20) and the return way by #76 (estimated departure at 7.00).
By the end of 2021, the Boten – Vientiane railway (also known as the China-Laos railway) will be expected to be completed. This will be a new railway that will connect Kunming in China to Vientiane in Laos in 414km. At the Southern end, Thailand is also preparing to build a new railway that will connect to this line.
V. Getting Around Laos
Getting around Laos on its own transport system is challenging due to the vehicle quality, slow travel and road condition. Therefore, journeys can take a lot longer than distances that are shown on a map. Route 13 is the country’s main route which stretches from Luang Prabang, passing through Vientiane, Savannakhet and Pakse with a steady flow of bus traffic. Apart from Route 13, there are a wide range of road conditions from freshly paved carriageways to potholed tracks. Anyway, it is still an adventure, and there are plenty of transport forms in Laos for your choice. Let’s find out below.
Renting a bicycle for touring around the city such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Paske or Si Phan Don is not only saving money but good for active persons and easily access the tourist ways. It can cost 10,000-50,000LAK for a day. Do ask for a lock, helmet. Also remember to stay hydrated and look out for erratic traffic.
This is ubiquitous means while traveling in any major city of Laos. Tuk Tuks are suitable for groups, and cheaper than taxies. The price can typically be around 30,000-50,000LAK around town. Fix the price with driver before you go to avoid any unpleasant feeling due to upcharge at your destination.
Songthaew or Jumbo
Cheap fare at about 10,000-20,000LAK for this form of transportation, followed by a set route at irregular intervals. However, do prepare yourself without surprise if you might be riding with many other locals from school children to those with their baskets of daily products (fish, rice…).
You can rent motorbike which is automatic or semi-automatic from your accommodation in major tourist destinations. Cash deposit or your passport can be required in this case, but make sure that your personal document will be safe with you all the time to avoid any trouble on the way. Before departing, check carefully the bikes including breaks, tire pressure and shifting. Keep a full tank and wear helmet always.
VIP Night Bus
Taking a double decker VIP night bus with air-conditioned, toilets on board, blankets and pillows at around 150,000LAK (verified by destinations) will be good option to go anywhere in Laos, but it takes time, of course. You can buy the tickets through your accommodation or at the station directly. Take your shoes off and put in the plastic bag before boarding on the bus. You can bring your own snacks, eye mask, ear plugs and sleeping meds for the pleasant experience of your own. A twin bunk is for 2 people to share. For your most privacy, think to pay two tickets to get the whole bunk for yourself.
Another form of transportation that you can try in Laos if the crowds, no seatbelt or someone’s leg or child to touch you do not cause so much uncomfortable to you, is a mini van at around 50,000LAK. Just show up at bus station and find the van to your desired place. Its bags and cargo will go on the top of the vans. Take care of your personal valued things (money, passport).
Trying local bus with a fan-cooled brings you a super experience in Laos including watching Lao music video, regular stop for cigarette, loading and uploading cargo or even peeing in the bush.
Cheaper than tourist buses with more frequent departure and allow you to get off anywhere along the route, not just major bus stations. However, you should be familiar as local way of sitting on little plastic stools which are put into the aisle for more seating or some motion sickness from the locals. Bring a plastic bag with you in this case.
This is the most reliable and faster way to travel in Laos. You can ask service from your accommodation or via travel agent. Offline maps app will be helpful to navigate because many Lao people are unfamiliar with reading maps and rely on landmarks.
A completed preparation for whole services before travelling will keep you stress-free and travel agent can easily assist you in this case. Don’t hesitate to contact Laos Travel team in this case.
Rivers are very important in navigable waterways in Laos, including stretches of the Mekong, Nam Ou, Nam Ngum, Xe Kong and some other arteries, among of which, Mekong is the longest and most important route. Since the route 13 has been upgraded, Mekong remains links Huay Xai and Luang Prabang by slow boats instead from Huay Xai to Savannakhet in the South as before. Smaller boats still cruise on smaller rivers, but all depends on the water levels if it is high enough to operate or not.
Laos Airlines (QV) is the main domestic carrier in Laos which provide excellent customer service and run more professionally. However, due to lack of competition, the airfares can be steep and more limited flights to every destination on every day of the week. But anyway, this can save considerable time on a short visit while Laos airport are small which also save your time to present less than normal schedule.
VI. Places to visit & Things to do in Laos
Getting to Laos means to explore the area’s unspoiled natural beauty as this landlocked country remains one of the most pristine and culturally rich countries in South East Asia (SEA). Laos is known for its spectacular limestone mountains, forests, waterfalls, French colonial architecture, sacred temples, ethnic villages, making it real adventure in SEA. Although often being overshadowed by its neighboring countries, Laos still has plenty to offer with benefit of less crowded and provides a perfect setting for the relaxing and laidback atmosphere as well as adventure sports and outdoor activities.
Let’s see! For those who prefer the slow and peaceful spaces, a spiritual tour at sacred temples in main places such as Luang Prabang, Pak Ou Caves, Vientiane, Champasak (Wat Phou), etc will work well. Wake up early in the morning to take part in Alms giving ceremony to the monks is definitely great. Other things to do are walking around Luang Prabang Old Quarter, watching the daily life of locals, attending colorful night markets, joining a cooking class or food tour. Why not?
For nature lovers, try a trip to Buddha Park in Vientiane, waterfalls in Luang Prabang or Si Phan Don, Bolaven Plateau in the South, elephant sanctuary in Vang Vieng, doing farming works in Luang Prabang, ethnic villages of North or South Laos. If you are the fan of adventure and outdoor activities, no need to look further as this is enough for a good destination to meet. You can experience a stay in the tree houses and try with Gibbon Experience by zip line through the forests in the Bokeo Nature Reserve (Bokeo Province, North of Laos); go tubing in Vang Vieng; join trekking to explore the hidden places.
The best areas for this great experience is Northern Laos with most pristine mountains and adventurous trails such as Nong Khiaw, Luang Nam Tha, Phongsaly…where you can access to remote villages & meet ethnic minorities. Don’t forget to check out the 4,000 Islands for kayaking, biking, and trekking. Those who seek for a truly unique historic experience, you should visit the Plain of Jars and the Vieng Xai Caves. Pay a visit to museums or other historical sites throughout the country brings you a deeper understanding about the destination where you are visiting.
Love cruising? Yes, Laos also offers. A Mekong Sunset Cruise or longer boat trip down (2 days) from Huay Xai, border town between Laos and Thailand to Luang Prabang through Pakbeng; or discover the serene beauty of South Laos during a cruise from Pakse, the capital of Champasak Province, to Mekong Islands. Interesting?
Read more about Best places to visit in Laos at: https://laostravel.com/best-places-to-visit-in-laos/
Read more about Best things to do in Laos at: https://laostravel.com/best-things-to-do-in-laos/
VII. Accommodation in Laos
Where to stay in Laos? This question is very popular and become one important part of any trip. There are good (even luxury) hotels & some fantastic boutique options in main cities such as Luang Prabang, Vientiane. The better concentration goes to Luang Prabang because of its UNECSO-listed setting and elegant colonial buildings. In other places, the facilities will be more basic, just some exceptions. Guesthouses, hostels, homestays are also available, especially in remote areas, sometimes a bit old-fashioned look.
Although being not as modern as in Thailand or Vietnam, hotels in Laos normally get higher prices. Depending on seasons (low/high) and accommodation ranges, the prices can vary anywhere between 40$ – 250$ per room (1-2 people sharing) per night, catering for budgets from 3-5 stars. It will cost lower for choices in guesthouses, hostels or homestays, and higher for some luxury options in Luang Prabang such as Amantaka or Rosewood Luang Prabang. During peak season, do expect the increase in prices, especially in 4*,5* and luxury ones.
Here is the suggested list for preferred choices of accommodation in the main regions of Laos for your pocket-list.
Accommodation in Vientiane
3-star hotels in Vientiane
- S2 Modern Boutique Hotel
Add: Chao Anou Road, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 253 611
- Bloom Boutique Hotel & Café
Add: Rue Setthathilath Xiengngeun Village, Chanthaboury District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 216 140
- Xaysomboun Boutique Hotel and Spa
Add: Khounboulom Road Sisaket Village, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 216 233
4-star hotels in Vientiane
- Ansara Hotel
Add: Quai Fa Gnum, Ban Vat Chan Tha Hom 5, Chanthabury District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 213 514
- Poet Hotel
Add: Henbounnoy Street, Ban Haysoke, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 253 537
- Salana Boutique
Add: Chao Anou Rd, 112 Wat Chan Village Chanthabouly District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 254 254
5-star hotels in Vientiane
- Le Seine By Burasari
Add: 160 Quai Fa Ngum, Ban Sithan Neua, Sikhottabong District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 253 800
- Settha Palace
Add: 6 Pangkham Street, Vientiane
Tel: +856 (21) 217 581
- Crown Plaza Vientiane
Add: 20 Samsenthai Road, Nongduang Nua Village, Sikhottabong District, Vientiane
Tel: +856 21 908 888
Accommodation in Luang Prabang
3-star hotels in Luang Prabang
- Villa Chitdara
Add: Ban Vat Nong, Khounsua Road, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 254 949
- Villa Ban Lakkham
Add: Soukkasuem Rd, Ban Vatsene, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 252 677
- Sala Prabang
Add: 81 / 1 Ounkham Road Ban Xiengmouane, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 252 460
- Villa Maydou
Add: Ban Meuna, B.P 749, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 254 601
4-star hotels in Luang Prabang
- Villa Maly
Add: 75, Oupalath Khamboua Road, Ban That Luang Village, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 253 903
- Le Bell Air Hotel
Add: 1 Old Bridge, Ban Muang Nga, pb 120, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 254 699
- Victoria Xieng Thong Palace Hotel
Add: Kounxoau Rd, Ban Phonehueng, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 213 200
- Burasari Heritage Hotel
Add: 44-47 Unit 3, Khiri Village, Kingitsarath Road, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 255 031
5-star hotels in Luang Prabang
- Satri House
Add: 057 Photisarath Road, Ban That Luang, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 253 491
- Pullman hotel
Add: Ban Pong Wanh, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 211 112
- Sofitel Luang Prabang
Add: Ban Mano Mano Mai, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 260 777
- Luang Say Residence
Add: 4-5 Ban Phonepheng, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 260 891
- Belmond La Residence Phou Vao Resort
Add: 3 PO Box 50, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 212 530
- Amantaka Hotel
Add: 55/3 Kingkitsarath Road, Ban Thongchaleun, Luang Prabang
Tel: +856 71 860 333
Read more: Best hotels in Luang Prabang
Accommodation in Phonsavan
- 3-star Vansana Plain Of Jars
Add: Ban Phonesavanh, Phonsavan
Tel: +856 61 213 170-3
- 3-star Anoulack Khen Hotel
Add: 059/4, Ban Phonsavanxay, Pek District, Xiengkhouang Province
Tel: +856 61 213 599
- 3-star Maly Hotel
Add: P.O.Box 649A Phonsavanh, Paek District, Xiengkhouang Province
Tel: +856 61 312 031
Accommodation in Vang Vieng
- 3-star Silver Naga Hotel
Add: Ban Savang, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 822
- 3-star Villa Vang Vieng Riverside
Add: Ban Viengkeo, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 460
- 3-star + Villa Nam Song Vang Vieng
Add: Ban Viengkeo Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 637
- 4-star Riverside Boutique Vang Vieng
Add: Ban Viengkeo, PO 360, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 726-8
- 4-star Inthira Vang Vieng hotel
Add: Ban Viengkeo, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 088
Accommodation in North Laos
Hotels in Huay Xai
3* Houay Xai Riverside Hotel
Add: R3A Road, Ban Khonekeo,Houay Xai District
Tel: +856 8) 211 765
Hotels in Pakbeng
3* Mekong Riverside Lodge
Add: On the bank of Mekong River, Pakbeng
Tel: +856 20 55 171 068
3* Pakbeng Riverside Hotel
Add: Ban Pakbeng village, Pakbeng
Tel: +856 20 58 740 999
4* Luang Say Lodge (with Luang Say Cruise)
Add: On the left bank of Mekong River, Pakbeng
Tel: +856 81 212 296
Hotels in Nong Khiaw
3* Nong Kiau Riverside
Add: 78/1 Ban Sop Houn, Nong Khiaw
Tel: +856 71 810 004
3*+ Mandala Ou Resort
Add: on the left bank of the Nam Ou River, Nong Khiaw
Tel: +856 30 53 77 332
Hotels in Luang Namtha
The Boat Landing Guest House and Restaurant
Add: PO Box 28 Ban Kone, Luang Namtha
Tel: +856 86 312 398
Phou Iu III Bungalows
Add: Phonxay Village, Luang Namtha
Tel: +856 20 9944 0084
Zuela Guest house
Add: Main Luang Namtha Road (opposite to Night Market), Luang Namtha
Tel: +856 20 2239 1966
Accommodations in South Laos
Hotels in Pakse
3* Pakse Hotel
Add: Street N°5, Ban Vat Luang, Pakse
Tel: +856 31 212 131
3* Residence Sisouk
Add: Ban Lakmuang, Pakse
Tel: +856 31 214 716
3*+ Athena hotel
Add: Phabat Village, Pakse
Tel: +856 31 214 888
4* La Folie Lodge
Add: Done Daeng, District Pathoumphone, BP 668, Pakse
Tel: +856 20 55 532 004
4* The River Resort
Add: Ban Phaphinnoy, 14A Road, Champasak
Tel: +856 31 511 055
4* Le Jardin De Pakse
Add: 001 unit 01 Phonsavanh Village, Pakse
Tel: +856 30 94 63 324
Hotels in Don Khong
3* Pon Arena
Add: Ban Kangkong, Muang Khong, Khong Island
Tel: +856 31 253 065
3* Senesothxeune Hotel
Add: Muang Kong, Ban Khang Khong, Khong Island,
Tel: +856 20 55 353 949
Hotels in Don Khone
3* Sala Done Khone Hotel
Add: Ban Khone Tai, Don Khone
Tel: +856 31 515 050
3* Tad Fane Resort
Add: No.23 Lak 38 Paxong Road, Ban Nongkok, Pakse
Tel: +856 20 5669 3366
3* Tadlo Lodge
Add: Ban Nongtoung, Pakse
3* Sinouk Coffee Resort
Add: Paksong-Thateng Road, LakKhao Village, Bolaven Plateau
Tel: +856 30 955 8960
VIII. What and Where to Eat in Laos?
Closely related to Thai cuisine (in fact, many popular Thai dishes were influenced by Lao cuisine), Lao food share many of the same traditional dishes. The main sources of protein in Lao diet includes freshwater fish, pork, chicken, duck, water buffalo together with distinctive taste to fish sauce, chilli, lemongrass, lime juice or other herbs. A cooking class in Laos will definitely help you to learn more about the local cuisine. Alternatively, the below are lists of some Laos’ specialties that you should not miss.
What to eat in Laos?
- Jaew: One of the main staples of Laos food, referring the dipping sauces for every Laos dishes. It will be served with steamed fish, grilled meat, vegetables, and sticky rice.
- Sticky rice: This is very popular and eaten at every meal, every time of the days in Laos. You can easily find this dish in a cone shaped woven basket or on skewers barbecuing over a grill on the streets. Sticky rice can be served together with grilled meat, fish dishes, salads or even omelets.
- Laap (or differently spelled as larp, lahp): This is signature dish of Laos which can be made with almost any meat (fish, chicken, pork, beef, buffalo or duck) mixed with sauce, vegetables and herbs. There are different versions of cooked meat or raw (the locals can enjoy this way with drinks) but it is safer with cooked meat anyway.
- Sai Oua: This is a tasty grilled pork sausage of Laos packed with herbs and spices, typically served with sticky rice. There is also another local sausage called Sai Oua Krouaille, a black spicy grilled buffalo sausage, that you can find in Luang Prabang.
- Tam Mak Hoong (Papaya Salad): Similar to Som Tam Salad in Thailand, this salad dish is made with unripe shredded papaya, fish sauce, meat and vegetable. If you like spicy food, this dish is absolutely suitable for you. Serving with some sticky rice will give more balance to its spiciness.
- Mok Pa (Steamed fish in banana leaves): If Cambodia has Fish Amok as the signature dish, then Laos has Mok Pa in considerably similar way. The fish is soaked in vibrant local flavors such as kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, onion, chilli and fish sauce, then neatly packaged in a banana leaf tied up with a bamboo string. It is then steamed until the fish is perfectly well done. Tasting soft fish with sticky rice will melt your mouth with each bite.
- Khao Piak Sen (Lao noodle soup): This staple can be easily found in almost every street corner of Laos. The dish includes flat rice noodles served with meat (beef, chicken, pork) with a handful of the greens and various vegetables. If following the local style, this bowl can go with a few innards such as heart, liver and tongue. For those who find quick meal but still tasty, this is right choice.
The above list is not all, but among the most popular specialties of Laos cuisine for tourists. There are more than that, just wait for your arrival to discover yourself.
Where to eat in Laos?
As the culinary hubs of the country, Vientiane and Luang Prabang are boasting excellent Lao food and international cuisine. There are several good restaurants in the regions for your delicious meals with mouthwatering dishes of Laos & fusion food. Here we go with some samples.
Restaurants In Vientiane:
- Lao Kitchen (11.00am – 10.00pm), offers set of Laos dishes such as sticky rice, Pakse-style pork sausage, Luang Prabang style stew, grilled Mekong fish or even vegetarian food.
Location: 140/01, Unit 15, Rue Hengboun, Baan Anou, Vientiane
- Kualao Restaurant (11.00am – 2.00pm & 4.00pm – 10.00pm), serves Laos cuisine in upscale setting, including papaya salad, handmade Lao sausage, deep fried Mekong fish, spring rolls…
The restaurant also holds traditional Lao dance and music performance.
Location: 134 Samsenthai Road, Thatdam Intersection, Vientiane
- L’Addresse – Cuisine by Tinay (11.00am – 10.00pm): This is an authentic French restaurant with all the French staples in the menu (set or a la carte options) and extension wine list. It will add more taste for your stay in Laos, beside local delicious cuisine as always.
Location: Just behind Wat Ong Teu, Vientiane
- Bor Pen Nyang (10.00am – midnight): This restaurant overlooking the Mekong River with roof top bar so if you would like to watch sunset, head here early to get seats available and enjoy the various ranges of food, such as fajitas, pizzas, Lao-style BBQ, larb, soup, etc. together with draught BeerLao in pints, pitchers and beer towers.
Location: Quai Fa Ngum, Vientiane
- Khop Chai Deu (7.00am – 11.30pm): This is a favourite spot among expats, backpackers and tourists, serving authentic Laos, international dishes and vegetarian options.
Location: 54 Sethathirat Road, Namphou, Vientiane
Restaurants In Luang Prabang:
- Manda de Laos (12.00pm – 3.00pm & 6.00pm – 10.30pm; Bar: 12.00pm – midnight): Located around a UNESCO classified Lily pond, features Laotian Family Cuisine specialties from all regions of Laos. The decoration is cozy and chic, giving attention to the details which make the overall experience incredible.
Location: 10 Norrassan Road, Unit 1 Luang Prabang
- 3 Nagas Restaurant & Bar (10.00am – 10.00pm): Good traditional Lao cuisine with good services, including gentle sounds of traditional folk music in beautiful setting and a fantastic wine list. The restaurant also serves vegetarian menu on request.
Location: Vatnong Village, Sakhaline Road, Luang Prabang
- Tamarind Restaurant & Cooking school (11.00am – 10.00pm): Serves a true taste of Lao cuisine. This family-run business also operates a cooking school to discover the secrets and customs at the heart of Laos kitchen with an informative market tour in a picturesque lakeside pavilion.
Location: On Nam Kham River, Ban Wat Sen, Luang Prabang
- Tangor Restaurant (10.30am – 11.00pm): Featuring diverse options of French and international cuisine in a cozy atmosphere, you can experience best western gastronomy and Laos culture.
Location: 63/6 Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang
- Khaiphaen Restaurant (10.00am – 1.00pm, closed on Sat, Sun): offers a creative Laos cuisine with great shakes and cocktails in beautiful surroundings. This is popular training restaurant that operates a network of inspired venues across the region.
Location: 100 Sisavang Vatana Road, Ban Wat Nong (Between the French Institute and the Mekong River), Luang Prabang
Apart from restaurants, you can easily enjoy the cuisine of Laos at many street stalls, night markets or any Laotian homes.
In rural Laos, especially the remote mountainous regions, you also see different animals, such as mouse deer, wild pigs, rats, birds, etc. being sold in the roadside when travelling here, although they may not be encountered on menus. So, don’t surprise!
IX. Suggested Laos Itinerary
A. Laos Cultural & Historical tours
- Hidden World of Laos 7 days
Destination: Vientiane, Xieng Khuang, Luang Prabang
Overview: Just a week for Laos trip, enough? It is yes. During this 7 days of adventure, discover Laos’ hidden beauty in the capital of Vientiane and Luang Prabang with stunning stupas, mysterious pagodas and glorious temples. Moreover, you will visit the Plain of Jars tribal villages in Xieng Khouang and learn the traditions and customs of the local people….
- Laos Highlights 8 days
Destination: Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Pakse, 4000 islands
Overview: Traveling from the North to the South in just more than a week will bring you a different experience of Laos. The itinerary covers the ancient town of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a relaxing atmosphere in Vientiane with a cold beer and sunset views over the Mekong; an ideal base for weary in Pakse with friendly locals and adventure down to 4000 islands to admire the beauty of nature.
- Laos Essential 11 days
Destination: Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Pakse, Wat Phou, 4000 islands
Overview: A deeper exploration in this 11-day trip in Laos takes you to Luang Prabang – a perfect spot to unwind, eat good food and enjoy the scenery; then head to Vientiane, Laos’ capital city to explore French architecture as well as beautiful, ornate Buddhist temples. Next, travel further to the South to experience laidback, sleepy, charming local life of Siphandone, consists of lots of tiny islands scattered in the vast Mekong Delta.
- Laos Insight 13 days
Destination: Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Pakse, Khong Island
Overview: Spend mostly 2 weeks in Laos, you will feel great to discover the best things of this lovely country of South East Asia. The trip covers the most highlight destinations of Laos from the exquisite town of Luang Prabang; the mysterious town of Phonsavan with the Plain of Jars; a peaceful town of Vang Vieng with many attractive outdoor activities; Laos’ capital – Vientiane, and ends in Southern Laos. All in one in this trip for culture, history, nature beauty and adventure.
B. Laos Adventure tours
- North Laos Adventure 10 days
Destination: Vientiane, Luang Namtha, Huay Xai, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang
Overview: From Laos’ capital – Vientiane, this trip allows you to explore the attractive North of Laos. Travel down the mighty Mekong River is the most incredible adventure, an on this package you will have chance to connect with remote villages and friendly Hill Tribes as Khmu, Lanten… along the way.
- South Laos In Depth 5 days
Destination: Pakse, Wat Phou, Bolaven Plateau, Ban Kiet Ngong
Overview: Southern Laos is the land for who love a slow life. People here very much enjoy there live with no hurry. Travel to Southern Laos, you will not only visit the historical site but also discover beauty of nature and local life style.
- Grand Laos 27 days
Destination: Luang Prabang, Huay Xai, Luang Namtha, Nong Khiaw, Xieng Khuang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Pakse, Bolaven Plateau, Khong Island
Overview: Nothing better when you have time to travel & get most of everything from destination in one go. You can have it in this tour which offers you the chance to discover deeper Laos. Within 27 days you will explore almost places in Laos from the hill tribe villages in mountainous area Northern to peaceful town on rivers bank. From ancient Luang Prabang to bustling Pakse. You will see all the beautiful waterfalls, different ancient temples and ruins, cultural diversity of many different places. Realy worthy for your adventure.
C. Laos Luxury tours
- Laos Luxury Journey 7 days
Destination: Vientiane, Luang Prabang
Overview: A week tour to explore Laos – one of South East Asia’s most beautiful secrets in luxury style, why not? This country is a land of wats (temples) and orange robed monks. Laos is tranquil and unhurried, being the perfect base to experience luxury holidays in beautiful resort with unique local style. Let’s come to Laos and explore its most favourite destinations including the country capital – Vientiane and UNESCO World Heritage Site – Luang Prabang.
D. Laos Culinary tours
- Taste of Laos 7 days
Destination: Vientiane, Luang Prabang
Overview: Understand the secrets of local culinary arts not just by tasting, but hands-on it by your own, that will definitely great experience. This 7-day tour gives you time to explore the most highlights as well as to join Laotian cooking classes in beautiful Vientiane and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang. Let your culinary senses guide your way, indulging in a tapestry of tastes and tantalizing aromas all while travelling in comfort and style.
- Culinary Delights 9 days
Destination: Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Khong Island, Pakse
Overview: Combine your love for food with your passion for travel on this unique culinary tour. Learn the secrets of Laos’ world famous cuisine, as you explore the landscape, meet the people and delve into the history of the country – finding inspiration in the favorite local dishes.
E. Indochina tours
- Highlights of North Laos & Vietnam 9 days
Destination: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Halong Bay
Overview: Combined travel between Laos and Vietnam will give you the opposing emotions, but it will be memorable memories in your life. This trip will lead you to 2 world heritage sites: Luang Prabang town and Halong Bay. Luang Prabang is a charming town with beautiful architecture, a peaceful haven for anyone who dreams of an escape from the busy life. While Halong Bay will give you the breathtaking moment with the beauty created by Mother Nature.
- Highlights of Cambodia & Laos 9 days
Destination: Siem Reap, Luang Prabang, Vientiane
Overview: If you would like to experience a truly Southeast Asia, this tour is a right choice for you. As home to the once-powerful Khmer Empire, you shouldn’t miss Angkor temples, among of which, Angkor Wat is protected as one of Southeast Asia’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites while visiting Cambodia.
Laos retains many of the traditions that have disappeared in a frenzy of development elsewhere in the region. You will visit the country capital – Vientiane and magical Luang Prabang.
- Thailand & Laos Highlights 12 days
Destination: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Khong, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane
Overview: This private and exclusive 12 day adventure takes you to the major destinations of Thailand and Laos to go up close and personal with the country’s culture and traditions. Highlight of the trip is 2-day boat trip on mighty Mekong River to explore rural laidback river’s lifestyle. You will enjoy the difference of those two countries for sure.
- Best of Laos & Myanmar 11 days
Destination: Mandalay, Bagan, Yangon, Vientiane, Luang Prabang
Overview: The combination of Laos and Myanmar give you the different experience of culture and nature beauty of Southeast Asia. Myanmar with the scattered landscape and gilded pagodas; Laos with the people enjoy the slow life.
X. Dos & Don’ts in Laos
For international travelers, especially first-time ones, you can find it difficult to navigate the cultural norms of Lao culture sometimes. Therefore, the below information will be helpful for your happy journey in associated with the customs of Laos’ traditions and daily lives.
- Say hello in Laos word “sabai dee” with a smile by touching your palms together below your chin and nodding your head downwards;
- Dress clean and neatly (long and body covering clothes) to show respect to the local religious customs;
- Ask permission whenever you would like to take photos with the locals;
- Take off your shoes and leave them outside before entering a Laotian home;
- Show your best respect to monks, novices and nuns;
- Only use your feet to walk or play sports;
- Try to pass behind someone who is seated. If not, make sure to gently crouch down when passing in front of them;
- Accept any water that is served by Laotian even if you don’t drink it.
- Don’t touch someone’s head as head is “high” in Laos;
- Don’t point with your feet/toes or have your feet raised/or propped up on tables as foot is “low” in Laos;
- Don’t touch the monks and the monk’s robe;
- Don’t wear swimsuit or bikini to walk around. At swimming places, Laotians often bath in fully clothed so your swimsuit should be modest;
- Don’t wear tank tops, shorts, low cut neck-lines, or revealing clothes to the pagodas, temples or other religious places;
- Don’t sit higher than a monk, or a statue of Buddha, or your host;
- Don’t give money, candy or gifts to children as it encourages begging. It is better to give to an established organization or village elders instead;
- Don’t step over someone in your path without asking an excuse first;
- Don’t shout or raise your voice as Laotians speak softly and avoid confrontation;
- Don’t use drugs in Laos as it is illegal with very strict punishment;
- Don’t buy antique Buddha images or other sacred items as many of them were taken from unprotected temples and sites and you can meet trouble at customs.
- Don’t make public displays of affection (kiss, hug or even holding hands) as it makes most Laotian uncomfortable and show the impolite gestures.
XI. Travel Advisory
- Do prepare carefully all necessary documents for smooth immigration at Laos regarding visa, valid passport, passport sized photos, permitted amount of money for import/export, cash for visa fee…;
- A good travel insurance before trip will be highly recommended;
- Packing list: T-shirts, shorts and other summer gear including comfortable footwear. A formal clothes should be prepared in case of taking part in the formal restaurant. A set of layer clothes are recommended if you join tour in December, January, especially in mountainous areas of Laos as the temperature can drop low;
- If you travel in rainy season, a lightweight raincoat is a wise;
- Personal items can be added with sunscreen, sunglass, hat, insect repellent, toiletries including anti-bacterial handwash, little medical kit or your own medications, refillable water bottle, earplugs, a universal travel adaptor, unlocked mobile phone to use Lao sim card…;
- A light side bag or backpack will be convenient for your day trips;
Keep your eyes on personal items while in public and valuable things should be kept in safety box;
- Prepare copies of your personal documents, including your passport while outside for safety;
- Keep Laos clean by not leaving litter or throwing rubbish at wrong places;
- Tap water is not safe for drinking;
- Enjoy delicious Laos cuisine and purchase local handicrafts/products. That is also way to assist local business and farmers of Laos;
- Making all service reservations prior to the trip (as soon as you can) in peak season to avoid any fully-booked status or lower quality than you expect.
With all above information, wish you have an unforgettable holiday in Laos.
Laos Travel team will always be ready to assist and become a part of your memorable journey. Let’s contact us at any time!