Laos Optional Tours
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“Hello Nguyen, Yes we are all settled back home in Australia now. Thank you so much for organising this tour for us. We were very well looked after. While all the accommodation in Vietnam was really good, I wouldn’t recommend the Juliana hotel in Phnom Penh, it was too far away to walk to...”
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“The tour was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the walking routes each day, with the mountain from Sapa, the walk at Lao Chai & Ta Van, and the day walk at Hoian/trip to Halong bay my personal highlights. The first nights meal at the winery, and the last 2 at the family at Mekong were amazing. Our...”
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“Hi Thang, I do apologize that it has take me so long to email you and thank you for yet another super lot of organization on your part which helped to make our time in Vietnam so enjoyable. We really do appreciate so much your professional and reliable services which make our job in taking our small...”
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““We wanted to write to you personally to let you know how much we enjoyed our holiday in Myanmar and to thank you for organizing this memorable trip. We had such an amazing time discovering your diverse and beautiful country, it's people and of course the strange food. We found your tour was...”
“Hi Mr. Thang, “BEST SELLING VIETNAM FAMILY TOUR - 17 DAYS" with JTA Tours, just a quick note to say thank you for an amazing experience! Our participants commented on how wonderfully it was organized and we received lots of positive feedback (along with a few suggestions but it was overwhelmingly...”
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Laos TRAVEL GUIDE
Have you come up with the idea of traveling to Laos , but don’t know how to plan it? The following travel guide may help your idea to go a bit further.
When you think of Laos, does your mind envision waterfalls dropping into refreshing pools or does it picture golden temples cutting striking lines against a green horizon? The answer should be both.
Laos is one of Southeast Asia’s most hidden and untouched gems and is home to a diverse and interesting body of cultures, some of which date back thousands of years. Take your time walking around the Old Town in Luang Prabang or exploring the ancient Plain of Jars and you will see just how much history this country has to offer.
After experiencing the past, you can refresh your spirit at a Wat or refresh your body at a waterfall or with a cruise down the Mekong River.
Ancient” and “tranquil” are definitely the most suitable words to use when talking about traveling to Laos.
UNESCO World Heritage sites, charming old towns, stunning natural scenery, tribal villages, diverse ethnic arts, adventure, and outdoor activities and delicious food — Laos has them all
Laos is a destination in Southeast Asia good for visiting all-year-round. It has a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons: the dry season from November to April and the wet season from May to October. Local tradition holds that there are actually three seasons, with the hot season from March to April separating the dry and wet seasons.
The dry season is the best all-round time to visit, providing an opportunity for you to experience pleasant temperatures. During the wet season, you can enjoy the lush green vegetation, together with the benefits of fewer crowds and reduced hotel prices.
Once you’ve decided to visit Laos, you have to compare the seasons and weather. Weather, however, is not the only factor. The best time to visit Laos depends also on your other preferences and how you wish to travel.
Dry Season - November to February
This is also known as the cool season, with lows around 15°C and highs up to 30°C. During the dry season there is almost no rain, and this is the most popular time to visit Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The ideal river cruising conditions make it a good time to explore the waterways in the Mekong region.
In order to get around during this high season, you need to book accommodation in advance, especially during the peak Christmas and New Year period. The price of accommodation is much higher and attractions are much more crowded. Also, remember to bring some thicker clothes, as it’s quite cool at night.
Hot Season - March to April
Temperatures rise to over 30°C, the highest levels of the year, with average rainfall still generally less than 100mm per month. River levels are at an annual low, meaning that most rivers are hard to navigate.
Travel during this season can be rather uncomfortable, especially in the central and southern regions, as temperatures can rise as high as 38°C. If you visit around mid-April, you’re likely to experience the Lao New Year; be prepared to get wet, with water pouring all over the streets.
Wet Season - May to October
Also known as the rainy season, as rain falls throughout the country and reaches its peak in August and September. Temperatures are between 20°C and 30°C. The average rainfall can reach between 250mm to 300mm per month. It is hot and humid, with downpours mostly in the afternoons; showers and blue skies the rest of the time.
It’s a good time to take a river cruise to explore the 4000 Islands in southern Laos, as the river levels gradually rise. Another good option is to see the boat racing on the Mekong River. Fresher air, fewer tourists, cheaper accommodation and easier access to restaurants actually make it a good time to visit.
Obviously damaged infrastructure, such as broken-down bridges and rutted roads caused by landslides, can commo.
Hidden ruins nestled deep in green jungles, cascading waterfalls pouring over mighty precipices, and lively towns and markets where you can explore the local culture -Laos truly has it all.
But with so many options it can be difficult to know where to start. While Laos is jam-packed with options for adventure it is not huge, and only has a handful of major cities when compared to a country like China. This article highlights possible activities in the two major cities: Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
The second half of the article discusses Northern Laos and South/Central Laos due to the low concentration of urban areas in these regions. Northern and South/Central Laos are home to many of the natural wonders of Laos, like waterfalls, as well as ancient ruins and cultural sites.
- Stop by Luang Prabang Old Town to explore Laotian culture at street level
- After the Old Town, get out of town to Mount Phou Si, Wat Xieng Thong, or the Tat Kuang Waterfalls
- Visit Wat Muang and Wat Saket after taking in the colonial beauty of Vientiane
- Northern Laos is home to the mysterious fields of Jars, known as the Plain of Jars, as well as mountain peaks and quiet villages
- Head down to central and southern Laos to explore Thakhek, Pakse, or Champasak
Nestled at the comfortable confluence of two mighty rivers, Luang Prabang is the northern emerald gem of Laos. Although it is cozy enough for you to navigate its leafy lanes on your own two feet, there is still plenty to see and do.
Luang Prabang Old Town
In Luang Prabang’s Old Town the French colonists left behind a lively café culture. The quiet winding streets filled with colonial houses can be explored for days. The Old Town is filled with ancient traditions and customs for you to experience.
The Town is dissected rather cleanly by Sisavang Vong Road. As you walk down the road and admire the French architecture mixed with local styles you are, in a way, walking ON history.
Still need more exercise? Climb about 115 meters (360 feet) to the top of Mount Phou Si for a bird’s-eye view of the city and surrounding area. The hill is a convenient landmark and is especially beautiful around sunset. You can walk to the hill from the city center or go by tuk-tuk.
If it is rainy or you feel the need for mental rather than physical stimulation, then try the National Museum, where you can relive the highs and lows of the nation’s long and turbulent history.
Another option is the Traditional Art and Ethnology Center. Each of the museum’s exhibits showcases, protects, or educates about one of Laos’s many minority groups. The country is extremely diverse and this Center has done an excellent job of capturing the diversity in an accessible way.
Luang Prabang City Highlights
In addition to these relaxing options around the Old Town, below are a few of the city highlights.
Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist monastery popular with locals and tourists alike for its sweeping roof and brightly-painted exterior. The eves of the roof seem to curve almost to the ground and visitors can get right up next to the monastery to appreciate the detailed carvings on the building walls.
Most temples are open to visitors from sun up to sun down. The interior of the monastery closes around 6 pm.
Wat Xieng Mouane
Wat Xieng Mouane is the oldest temple in the city and its exterior is richly decorated in carvings, stenciling, and etchings. There are numerous statues and statuettes as well, making it a one-stop Wat in terms of admirable artwork.
Located at 600 Sakkaharin Road, you can visit the temple and marvel at its exterior any time of day.
Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls
Are you in the mood to get outdoors? Visit Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls to find out why the local ex-pats have dubbed this destination, “turquoise falls”. The waterfalls cascade into a number of swimmable pools, creating one of Laos’s top swimming destinations.
You can get there by tuk-tuk in about 45 minutes, but the road can be rough, so a private car is recommended.
Vientiane may be the busiest city in Laos, but when compared to the capitals of its Asian neighbors the city seems almost quiet and relaxed. It is a remarkable blend of French colonial architecture and soaring gilded temples and monasteries.
Vientiane is an important city in Laotian history and has been the de facto capital since 1560.
Wat Si Muang
Wat Si Muang, home to the city’s founding pillar, is highly significant to the local people. The Wax Castle procession and many other festivals and parades are centered round this temple, but it is a lively and active place any time of year.
Location: Corner of Th Lan Xang and Th Setthathirat. Open: 8 am-noon and 1-4 pm daily.
Haw Pha Kaew
Haw Pha Kaew is a temple-turned-museum. This stop is popular with tourists, as it gives an opportunity to observe and appreciate while learning more about the country’s history and culture along the way.
There are a few small shops around the entrance so if your time is limited you can grab a few gifts to take home when you are there.
If you are still hungry for more Wats then Wat Si Saket is sure to excite you. Located on the corner of Th Lan Xang and Th Setthathirat, it is easy to find. It was built 200 years ago and has maintained its integrity with the help of government refurbishment activities.
Pha That Luang
Perhaps Pha That Luang should have been higher on this list, as it is home to the Golden Buddhist statue. This large and impressive figure is said to be one of the most important symbols of Laos and is the pride of the city.
Bordering Thailand, China, Myanmar, and Vietnam is the rugged and mountainous region of northern Laos. The area is famous for its outdoor activities like trekking and biking.
The northern region is full of history and mystery, and can be explored in many ways, ranging from staying with a local family to zip-lining across the tree tops.
Vang Vieng is accessible from Vientiane by private car or bus. The town has a reputation for attracting youth and backpackers, though it does have different types of accommodation. Its setting is beautiful, but at night it may be noisy.
Plain of Jars
If you want to admire the scenic beauty of northern Laos while visiting a site of enormous historical importance, then the Plain of Jars is the destination for you.
Dating back to 500 BC, these stone jars sit in clusters numbering from a few to a few hundred and there are over 90 recorded clusters. You can do the sums yourself.
These jars are thought to be part of traditional burial practices and have been found to contain pottery and human remains, adding to their importance and intrigue. To get to the most common viewing sites you will first need to head to the city of Phonsavan, where you can book a tour.
Cruise the Mekong River
If you are on your way out of the country you might consider taking a boat tour down the mighty Mekong River. The river winds through rolling hills and towering precipices, and the journey can take anywhere from one to eight days, depending on where you start and the speed of your boat.
Most tours will set off in Chiang Mai, Thailand or Luang Prabang and travel to the other city. Tours feature local foods, stops at landmarks along the way, and the opportunity to see three countries at one time!
Central and Southern Laos
Central and southern Laos are homes to many of the country’s most ancient and exotic-looking temples and ruins. There is something unique about the way the green vegetation has grown amongst ruins that date back hundreds of years. Here are a few highlights.
Tha Khek is a trekking hub and starting point relatively close to Vientiane. Hourly buses connect these two cities and many travelers choose Tha Khek as the starting point for a kayaking or trekking tour.
In Tha Khek you can rent bicycles and other outdoor gear at The Travel Lodge, which also serves as the local welcome center for foreign travelers.
Wat Phu is a popular site where you can get up close to the ruins of an ancient temple. The first temple was built in the area in the 5th century, so you can be sure every local tuk-tuk driver is familiar with how to get there.
Daoheuang Market is another fun stop in Pakse on the weekends. Locals rely on this market for many of their daily needs, but there are also souvenirs and other things to shop for. It can be tricky to find, so make sure you bring its address: No. 38 Rd [Is this missing the name of the Road?, Pakse 1600
Champasak city in Champasak province lies close enough to Pakse to be reached easily from Pakse in a private car. There are also minibuses that connect the two cities but these tend to be unreliable, especially during the monsoon season.
From Pakse Bus Station South, the ride takes about two and a half hours and only departs from 9-11 am. Avoid the motorbike drivers at the bus station entrance. They might offer you a cheaper ride, but it won’t be a safe journey.
Once you reach this charming town you can also easily reach Wat Phu in under an hour, as well as Wat Nang Sida and the awe-inspiring Thao-Tao ruins. If you do not feel like leaving town, there is a satisfying range of restaurants featuring both Western and Laotian dishes, and a number of quiet spas.
People of most nationalities require a visa to enter Laos.
Loss of your visa/passport could result in a fine and curtailment of your travel plans. Asia Highlights recommends that our customers keep a photocopy of their passport and visa somewhere separate and/or keep electronic versions on an accessible device.
Passport holders from the following countries do not require a visa to visit Laos for the following periods:
Cambodia/Thailand/Vietnam/Malaysia/Singapore/Philippines/Indonesia/Mongolia (up to 30 days)/ Japan/Luxembourg/Switzerland/Russia/South Korea (up to 15 days)/Brunei/Myanmar (up to 14 days)
Tourist visas can be extended before the expiry date at the cost of $2 per day , in the immigration offices in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The extension process is straightforward: complete an application form, submit your passport and pay the fees. Usually your extension can be picked up the same day if you submit your application in the morning.
Two Ways to Get a Laos Visa
A visa can be obtained on arrival at the international airports and most international border crossings, or via a Laos embassy or consulate.
Visa on Arrival
A Laos visa is available to citizens of most nationalities on arrival. You can obtain your visa, usually a tourist visa but sometimes a different type of visa, upon arrival at the following international airports, bridges and border crossings, as detailed below:
- Vientiane Wattay International Airport
- Luang Prabang International Airport
- Pakse International Airport
- Friendship Bridge, Thailand (Nong Khai) - Vientiane Capital
- Friendship Bridge II, Thailand (Moukdahan) - Savannakhet Province
- Nam Heuang Friendship Bridge, Thailand - Xayabouly Province
- Thailand (Chiang Khong) - Bokeo Province (Houay Xay)
- Thailand (Nakhon Phanom) - Khammouane Province (Thakhaek)
- Thailand (Chong Mek) - Champasak Province (Vang Tao)
- Vietnam (Nam Kanh) - Xieng Khouang Province (Nong Haet)
- Vietnam (Kao Cheo) - Bolikhamxay (Nam Phao)
- Vietnam (Lao Bao) - Savannakhet Province (Dene Savanh)
The tourist visa processing time depends to some extent on the port of entry. It takes around 15 minutes at the major airports and the Friendship Bridge, and might be a bit longer at the border crossings. To save time, line up at the visa window and prepare the following papers in advance:
- One completed visa application form (the form is available at the window)
- Original passport with at least 6 months’ validity
- Two recent, passport-sized photographs
- Visa fee (best paid in US dollars)
- Supporting documents e.g. sponsors’ letters or certificates (when applying non-tourist visas)
- Anyone without passport-sized photographs will be charged a few dollars as the administration fee to have some photos taken.
Laos Embassy or Consulate
Visas can be obtained in advance from a Laos embassy or consulate. The visa fees and processing time vary according to nationality of applicant and issuing office. If you need detailed information please contact the relevant office directly.
Each applicant must complete a visa application form and submit it to the embassy or consulate together with:
- Two recent, passport-sized photographs
- An original passport with at least 6 months’ validity
- Visa fee
- Supporting documents (when applying non-tourist visas)
- Prepaid and preaddressed envelope for return of passport, if applying by mail
- Visit Laos with Asia Highlights