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Voyage au Laos

Laos travel tips

 

This section is designed to give some basic information and answers to many frequently asked questions on Laos.

 

The People and Country
Laos has been known through history as “ The Land of a Million Elephants”, and although approximately the same size as Vietnam, supports only 8.5 million inhabitants of which 80% live in the rural countryside. Bordered by China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam this land-locked country has many differing ethnic tribes sprinkled through it and their colorful dress is on display for all to see.
Much of Laos is recognized by UNESCO as pristine environment and parts of the country including rainforests and Luang Prabang have international heritage protection.

 

Currency
The local currency in Laos is the kip, and although the kip is legally negotiable in everyday transactions the reality is that in the larger towns and cities ( like Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse) the locals use three differing currencies; the Kip, Thai baht, and $US. In provincial towns everyday items are quoted in Kip or Baht and the larger purchases of tours, boat or car hire prices etc, are usually quoted in $US.

Due to the portability of $US and the Thai Baht this three tiered currency system is firmly entrenched.

Visit: www.xe.com for all up to date currency conversions.

 

Credit Cards
In the main centers many hotels, restaurants and upmarket gift shops accept Visa and Mastercard credit cards. ATM’s are now available in Laos for cash withdrawals.

 

Western Union
Western Union has now established branches in Laos making money problems much more easily to overcome.

 

Prices
Many hotels, restaurants and gift shops display prices that are fixed. Otherwise in some gift shops and markets it is best, as in all of Asia, to ask prices at several shops or stalls before making a purchase so you can get a “ball-park” price on the items of interest before purchasing.

 

Power Outlets
Power is supplied through 220v circuitry and most always is delivered through a two pronged flat or round socket. Although adaptors are available in Laos, it is best to purchase one before you leave home.

 

Power Outages
In the smaller towns and villages local power stations may only deliver power for three or four hours a night, and in fact some of the more remote villages have no power at all, so a torch is an essential item when traveling away from the main centers.

 

Getting Around
For your own convenience try to obtain an up to date map of the province, district or towns you are visiting. Armed with a map, bicycles are a relaxed way of exploring some of the less mountainous towns and regions.
There are over 4,500kms of waterways in Laos. The largest, more than 2000kms in length, is the Mekong. Many large and smaller boats operate ferry services along the waterways, often stopping at riverside villages along the way, to pick up or drop off villagers and for tourists to take in the sights and culture. It is a very relaxing way of travel.
Motor car taxis are available for hire in the larger cities and towns but the most prevalent vehicles and cheapest are three wheeled “tuk-tuks”. Generally carrying six to eight passengers they are the mainstay of road transport around towns.
Larger modern tourist coaches travel between the main cities and centers and older local buses are available but breakdowns are a real possibility

 

Tipping
Tipping is a way to show genuine thanks for good service and because the kip is of very low value, small tips are not costly to the giver but very much appreciated by the receiver.

 

Accommodation
Although Laos is behind its neighbors in this area its accommodation varieties are improving all the time. Tourist hotels and guest houses are available in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannaket and Pakse and tourist resorts are springing up like mushrooms. Mostly all are clean and offer good service, but the golden rule stays the same i.e. check out your accommodation before committing!

 

 


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