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    Practical information Laos

     Laos
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    Laos

    Laos : Travel Information before you go!

    Area

    91,429.0 sq mi

    Flights

    There are no direct flights between the United Kingdom and Laos; there is always at least a stopover in Bangkok. For London-Bangkok, daily flights are sold by a number of airlines. Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways are the two main carriers. The flight from London to Bangkok is 13 hours long, then allow 90 minutes from Bangkok to Vientiane. London-Vientiane flight duration via Bangkok: 17 hrs. Distance: 5,800 mi.

    Jet Lag

    Population

    6,700,000

    Airports

    The Vattay international airport in Vientiane, the capital, is 2 miles northwest of the city. Customs and immigration formalities are generally smooth. You will find a currency exchange bureau, but if you already have Thai Baht or US Dollars, then there is no need to make the detour as these currencies are accepted everywhere in Laos. To get to town, you can choose between a taxi (about 3.50), or a pedicab or bus (which you can catch on the road to Luang Prabang).

    Security

    The lastest advice from the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) is as follows:

    Unexploded ordnance in rural areas is an ongoing danger. Take care when travelling around Laos.

    Medical care in Vientiane is extremely basic and outside the capital there are no reliable facilities to deal with medical emergencies. Medical evacuation is difficult to organise and very expensive.

    Dengue and malaria occur in Laos and there are no vaccinations against these diseases. Visit your GP to discuss malaria prevention tablets.

    Poor sanitation and eating contaminated food can increase the risk of cholera and other diarrhoeal illness. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Laos you should seek immediate medical attention.

    Water borne, food borne and other infectious diseases are common, but serious outbreaks occur from time to time. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure.

    Seek medical advice before travelling to Laos and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks, and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) or NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

    Languages

    The official language is Laotian. French is spoken with pride by people over the age of 50.

    Required travel documents for

    Visa conditions change regularly. For the most up to date information contact the nearest Laos Embassy or Consulate.

    There have been reports of a visa scam where travel agents are supplying 5-day or 15-day visas to customers who pay for 30-day permits. Check the visa validity and conditions carefully. Official long-stay visas can be obtained from the Laos Embassy in either Hanoi or Bangkok.

    When you enter Laos, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Fines for not having a legitimate stamp can be high.

    Religion

    The official religion is Theravada Buddhism. People originating from the mountains are generally animists.

    Currency

    The majority of international ATMs are reliable. There is a limit to the amount of money you are able to withdraw per day (1,000,000 LAK = approx 65).

    Major credit cards are generally accepted at the larger international hotels and main tourist sites, and travellers cheques can be cashed at most banks in Vientiane and major towns. Most transactions are conducted in cash; American Dollars, Thai Baht or Lao Kip (LAK).

    (Source: FCO Travel Advice for Laos).

    Local transportation

    Unexploded mines and ordnance are a continuing hazard in Laos, particularly in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars), Luang Prabang Province (as a result of scrap metal collection), and areas of the Lao-Vietnamese border, formerly the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mined areas are frequently unmarked. Do not stray off main routes in rural areas.

    There is no curfew in Vientiane but people travelling in the city and elsewhere in Laos may be stopped by the police at any time, particularly in the evening. You may be asked to show identification papers before being allowed to travel on. Comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.

    (Source: FCO travel advice for Laos).

    Plane: practical and fast to travel between the country's major cities. Lao Aviation serves internal flights from Vientiane. Daily flights go to Luang Prabang and Pakse.
    Boat: rivers are a real communication network in Laos (2,850 miles long). Ferries shuttle between Huay Xai-Vientiane, Pakse-Champassak or Huay Xai-Luang Prabang.
    River taxis, "long tail boats" are quite expensive (about 20 US$ an hour), and are a fast but sometimes dangerous means of transport (serious accidents have sometimes occurred on the Mekong). You should always wear a helmet, which also protects you from the noise produced by these powerboats!
    Car: motorway infrastructure is very poor. Go for four wheel drives. Accidents are very rampant, so it is inadvisable or rather suicidal to drive personally.
    Taxi: only in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse. You can hire them for an hour or day, and the cost depends on your bargaining ability.
    Pedicab or tuktuk: they cost nothing and are found in all the towns. They are relatively comfortable.

    Health

    Dengue and malaria occur in Laos and there are no vaccinations against these diseases. Visit your GP to discuss malaria prevention tablets.

    Poor sanitation and eating contaminated food can increase the risk of cholera and other diarrhoeal illness. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Laos you should seek immediate medical attention.

    Water borne, food borne and other infectious diseases are common, but serious outbreaks occur from time to time. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure.

    Follow an anti-malaria treatment (the country is listed in zone 3). Do not forget to bring a repellent and calming cream for mosquitoes. Update the following vaccinations: diphtheria, poliomyelitis, tetanus. Vaccinations against the following diseases are recommended: hepatitises A and B, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis (for longer stays in remote areas). Do not swim in stagnant water and only drink sterilised or bottled water (with the cap taken off in front of you).

    (Source: FCO travel advice for Laos)

    Electricity

    Voltage is 220V. Adaptors for European type outlets are easily found in shops in Vientiane. Power cuts are frequent during the rainy season and in smaller towns. Therefore, it is highly recommended to have a good flashlight and/or candles.

    Tourist numbers

    Taxes and tips

    In international restaurants, a tip of 15% of the total amount of the bill is sufficient. Elsewhere, service is included in the bill. Always have a small amount of cash with you to give to the temples' offering boxes. This is not mandatory, but the act of kindness will be greatly appreciated.
    The international tax is $US 10 when leaving the country. You can pay it in kips, Thai bahts or US dollars.

    Telephone

    To call Laos from the UK: dial 00 + 856 + town code (Vientiane: 21; Luang Prabang: 71; Pakse: 31; Pakxane: 54) + the number you are calling.
    From the UK to Laos: dial 00 + 44 + the number you are calling.

    Laos : Useful addresses in the country

    Useful Addresses

    In the UK

    There is no Lao Embassy in London; the Paris office is the closest, and takes care of UK inquiries.

    Lao Embassy in France
    Add: 74 Avenue Raymond-Poincare 75116 Paris
    Tel: (+33 1) 4553 0298, 4554 7047
    Fax: (+33 1) 4727 5789

    At the destination

    There is no British consular representation in Laos. Routine consular matters are provided by the Australian Embassy in Vientiane. The British Embassy in Bangkok is responsible for non-routine consular matters.

    The nearest British embassy is in the Thai capital, Bangkok. Address: 14 Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330. Tel: +66 (0) 2 305 8333 - Main Embassy line: +66(0) 2 305 8252 - Consular information (Please note the Consular/Main Embassy lines are NOT for visa enquiries). Office hours (Local time): Mon-Thurs: 08:00-12:00 / 12:45-16:30 Fri: 08:00-13:00. Website: British Embassy in Thailand.

    Our Laos expert

    Neil Kreeger Section editor

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