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Insight Laos and Plan Your Trip

Visas:

15 day visas can be obtained on arrival at Vientiane's Wattay International Airport and at the International Friendship Bridge at the Nong Khai border crossing between Laos and Thailand

15 and 30 day visas are generally issued through embassies, consulates and authorised travel agencies.

Tourism

The Lao PDR has been confidently marketing itself as one of the most unspoiled countries in Asia. Some tourist attractions include the following:

• Luang Prabang, the former capital, which was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998;
• Wat Pho, a ruins site similar to Angkor Wat, which became a World Heritage Site in February 2003
• Vientiane, the capital city and centre of tourism;
• The Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang.

The number of tourists fluctuates around 500,000 per year.

Public Holidays

Many festivals are celebrated on dates determined by the lunar calendar. The following are public holidays:

1 January International New Year
8 March Women's Day
Three days in mid-April Lao New Year
1 May International Labour Day
2 December National Day

Other holidays include:

22 October Boat racing festival (Vientiane)
19 November That Luang Festival (Vientiane)

Boat races occur on different dates in the outlying provinces.

Visa Requirements

There are two types of visas: tourist and business.

Tourist visa: Valid for 15 days. It is now possible to travel freely throughout the country with this visa. It is possible to buy tourist visas on arrival at Vientiane airport, Luang Prabang airport and the Friendship Bridge; the cost is US$30, payable in dollars or kip.

A tourist visa can also be purchased at a Lao embassy abroad for US$30 and is valid for 30 days.

Note: Although the visa states it is valid for 60 days, these 60 days represent the time available to enter the country. At the border the visa is stamped and is then valid for 30 days from that day on.

It is possible to extend tourist visas. The official cost is US$1 per day. Arranging the extension through a private travel company adds several more US dollars to the daily rate.

Business visa: A business visa is issued to persons investing in or registering a company in the Lao PDR. As the time taken to approve such investments is officially 60 days, a 30-day multiple-entry visa is initially given. In practice approving investments takes much longer and extensions to the initial visa are given.

These visas can be obtained in the Lao PDR only if there is a guarantee from a company set up in the country. The DDFI, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, and the State Employment Enterprise are responsible for this.

Business visas can be granted for three months, six months or one year, costing US$38, US$75 or US$141 respectively, though these rates have a history of changing from time to time.

Currency

The unit of currency is the kip. Kip are available in denominations of 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; and 500. Coins are not used.

All transactions are supposed to be in kip; however, in practice Thai baht and US dollars are generally accepted everywhere in the country. Government offices will only accept kip.

Traveller's cheques are well known and all banks change them, though some charge a commission.

Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted at some of the more expensive hotels, restaurants and shops in Vientiane. Credit card cash advances are also available at various banks in the city. Outside of developed areas, hard currency is the only means of transaction.

Hotels and Entertainment

First class hotels can only be found predominantly in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The Lao Plaza Hotel, Novotel, Settha Palace, and Tai Pan can be found in Vientiane. The Phousi Hotel, Phouvao, Souvannaphoum, and Villa Santi are in Luang Prabang. The Champasack Palace is in Champasack. Outside these cities accommodation is provided in very basic hotels or guesthouses. Hotels rates vary from under US$20 to over US$100.

Entertainment includes bars, discos and restaurants. In 1998 a Malaysian-Lao joint venture opened a casino about 70 km from Vientiane. Outside the larger towns the variety of Western-style entertainment available is very limited.

Air Travel

Vientiane International Airport is connected with a number of cities in Southeast Asia. Although some routes have been curtailed since the regional economic crisis, there are currently regular flights to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kunming and elsewhere. The most frequent flights are to Hanoi and Bangkok. There is a departure tax of US$10.

Flying within the Lao PDR is easy and relatively cheap. There are three flights a day between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, the trip taking about 40 minutes.

At the time of writing, a number of embassies have issued travel advisories, questioning the safety and maintenance procedures of Lao Airlines. These warn personnel to limit domestic travel on Lao Airlines to essential travel only.

Health

As throughout South East Asia, up-to-date vaccinations and other precautions against diseases such as malaria and typhoid are recommended. The level of health care can be basic, particularly outside the main towns; travellers who need specific brands of medicines should ensure that they bring an adequate supply.

As of early 2003, the Lao PDR had not been penetrated by the SARS epidemic.

Security and Safety

The Lao PDR is generally a safe country in which to travel. However, there are intermittent clashes between the army and Hmong guerrillas. Overall the Hmong pose no threat to the Government; occasionally, however, these skirmishes make certain areas unsafe for travel. Travellers should check with the local authorities before journeys into the mountainous areas.

A few basic precautions are necessary when travelling. Avoid dark streets at night. Keep hotel rooms locked at night and watch luggage on crowded buses. Avoid keeping money in trouser pockets.

The quality of some of the roads, especially away from the main towns, can be poor. A relatively high number of accidents occur in this and neighboring countries.

Places to Visit:
Visa and Travel Information

Currency:

Currency is the New Kip (NK).  This is not a convertible currency outside Laos. 
Exchange rate for the new kip is U.S. $1 = 7,578.00 Kip


The Lao kip is the only legal currency, but Thai baht and US dollars are regularly accepted, particularly in the cities.

Airport in Laos

Telephone:
Country Code  is  856

City code for Vientiane is 21
Time of day: http://times.clari.net.au/location.php3/Asia/Vientiane
Current and weekly Weather: http://cnn.com/WEATHER/html/

Vacinations

Information on required inoculations for Asian countries, click here



 

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