Laos is a Southeast Asian country traversed by the Mekong River and known for mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. Vientiane, the capital, is the site of the That Luang monument, where a reliquary reportedly houses the Buddha’s breastbone, plus the Patuxai war memorial and Talat Sao (Morning Market), a complex jammed with food, clothes and craft stalls.
Population : 6.5 million
Capital City : Vientiane (750,000)
People : Over 48 ethnic minorities
Language : Lao
Currency : Kip (KIP)
Time Zone : GMT +7 Hours
International Dialing Code : +856
Passports should be valid for six months from the date of entry into Laos. We recommend you make a photocopy of your passport and keep it somewhere separate, or scan it and keep it in an accessible email account.
A 30 day visa on arrival is available for many nationalities at the various international airports and land borders with China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. A passport sized photo is required to complete the visa. Visa extensions can be made in Vientiane for 30 extra days, a maximum of 2 times.
Postal services are available in Laos. The best way to receive any mail is to have it sent to a post office or collect it yourself. Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap. Internet access is available in most major tourist places such as hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Like many of its neighbouring nations, Laos has a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons: a rainy season and a dry season. Rainy season usually occurs between May and October, while dry season is most commonly between November and April.
Most of Laos is hottest in March and April, when temperatures can reach as high as 38C. During the "coldest" time, usually around December, temperatures can dip to a brisk 15C. Average temperatures throughout Laos are usually between 25C and 30C. Mountainous areas or places with higher elevation tend to have lower temperatures.
However, the weather can be unpredictable, so it may be a good idea to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you. You can purchase these from most supermarkets and general stores.
Since Laos is predominantly Buddhist, many of its national holidays revolve around the Buddhist calendar. The most significant of these celebrations is Laos' New Year, also known as Laos Pee Mai, which is similar to Thailand's Songkran in its connection to water and cleansing. Celebrated from the 14th to 16th of April, water is used more for sprinkling over Buddha images in temples than for dousing other people.
Another of Laos' most important Buddhist holidays occurs in mid-July during a holiday called Boun Khao Phansa, or Buddhist Lent. During this period of three months, monks throughout the country are required to stay within their wats for meditation and dharma studies. Since much of Laos is Buddhist, this is a significant time for pious believers.
In certain parts of Laos, the Boun Bang Fai Festival, also called the Rocket Festival, is a popular and decidedly more extravagant celebration in mid-May. Originally held as a festival honouring fertility and rain, the celebration is held just before the onset of the rainy season and includes enormous homemade rocket launches along with music, dancing and processions to bring luck for the upcoming rice-growing season.
Other important holidays include:
Lao National Day - December 2
H'mong New Year - Late November to Early December
Boun Song Hua (Dragon Boat Races) - Mid-October
That Luang Festival - Full moon in early November in Vientiane