Welcome to laid-back Laos, where napping is a national pastime and life flows by as lazily as the Mekong winding its way across the country in dry season. In Laos, babysitting duties take precedence over work, hammocks abound and haggling is a relaxed affair. Slip into the slow pace of life here, where bus journeys take forever, locals pedal languidly along dusty roads and saffron-robed monks pad through French colonial towns at dawn, collecting their daily alms. It’s no wonder people say that the real meaning of Lao PDR is Please Don’t Rush.
It may be one of South East Asia’s poorest countries but you’ll always be greeted warmly in Laos. “Sabaydee!” children will call as they cycle to school, while farmers working the rice fields pause to lean on their shovels and wave. As you explore Laos’s wild terrain, which is characterised by meandering waterways, forested karsts and tea plantations farmed by hill tribe communities, you’ll encounter mysterious stone funeral urns, vast cave systems and the scars of a secretive American war.
To truly understand Laos, talk to our travel gurus and local guides, they can help you choose the best destinations, tours and accommodation that Laos has to offer.
Time difference: GMT +7
Flight time: London + 13-14 hours
Currency: Lao Kip (K)
Electricity: 230 voltage
Telephone code: +856
Tipping: in recent years, tipping has become more popular in Laos. If you’re at a high-end restaurant or spa, tip 10 percent if you receive exceptional service. You may also wish to round-up your tuk-tuk fare or tip a personal tour guide if they’ve been especially helpful.
Etiquette: Laos is a conservative country with a predominately Buddhist population, so dress modestly. Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered in temples and remove shoes and hats. Be careful not to point your feet at Buddha images and remember, women should never touch or sit next to a monk. To politely greet Laos people, perform a nop by putting your hands together in a prayer-like gesture and bowing your head.
Religions: around 64 percent of the Laos population follows the Theravada school of Buddhism and it’s common to spot monks as you travel. A further 30 percent practise Animism, a belief that animals, places and objects have a soul. The rest of the population follows Christianity and other ethnic minority faiths.
Visas: You can look up the latest advice on https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/laos/entry-requirements. Please be aware that this information can change at short notice.
Vaccinations: Health facilities, hygiene and disease vary world-wide and you may choose to take the necessary vaccinations before you depart. You can find out more about Laos on the NHS’s Fit for Travel website.