- The Red Journal
- Uniquely Red
Laos is the only land-locked country in SE Asia and, in terms of tourism, is often overshadowed by it’s neighbors. However, Laos offers several sights and destinations worth exploring including the quaint UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, the more remote archaeological sites in the Plain of Jars, and the authentic villages and scenic rivers and waterfalls throughout the country.
Take a look at the sample itineraries below that we can use as a starting point to design your unique trip.
Discover the hidden charm of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former Royal Capital City of Laos till 1975. Dotted with beautiful ancient Buddhist temples and charming French colonial architecture, Luang Prabang is home to about 56,000 inhabitants with the UNESCO protected site being inhabited by around 24,000. On this trip, you will have an intimate experience with local culture, religion, traditional craft and cuisine. Explore the ancient ... View Itinerary
Experience the highlights of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Luang Prabang and Plains of Jars with this spectacular journey that starts from the Capital City of Vientiane. This tour is designed to provide an insight to the history, religion and mysteries of Laos. From modern to ancient times, you will explore the fascinating tone jars scattered across the highlands of Phongsavan and ravages of the Secret War in the ... View Itinerary
Northern Laos offers some of the most spectacular road trips in South East Asia and hill tribe villages that hardly see any visitors. This area is accessible from Luang Prabang and features an upscale lodge that offers intimate insights and experiences at surrounding villages. Home to reclusive communities originating from China and Tibet, Muang La is a small provincial town surrounded by rolling hills, tranquil farmlands and Nam Pak River. ... View Itinerary
November to February is the best time for visits due to more comfortable temperatures and less rainfall. Temperatures during this time range from an average 14–28°C, and there’s little to no rain. Clear days make this an ideal time for hikes, bike tours, and boat rides. This is also a good time for exploring the various river systems including the Mekong River, as water levels from the previous months’ rainfall makes river travel pleasant, safe and easy.
Typically, the climate is at its coldest in the northern areas during this period. In the northern regions, including Luang Namtha and Phongsali, temperatures can get as low as 5°C in the evenings. So carry extra clothes when visiting these parts. Vientiane and Luang Prabang witness temperatures around 24°C, while Pakse and other parts of the south hover around 30°C.
The monsoon months are from June through September and daily rain showers make the days hot and humid. Avoid the months of March through June when temperatures soar to uncomfortable levels and fields are slashed and burned making the atmosphere hazy and air quality poor.
We’ve inspected and stayed in dozens of hotels throughout the country. We will not only recommend which hotel may be best for you, but which room category. Here’s a few that we highly recommend based on the quality of the rooms and facilities, cleanliness, standard of service, and locations. These aren’t always the cheapest hotels, but they are among the best hotels in their category. We tend to have a preference for high-quality boutique hotels that have a great location, excellent food, and a local ambience, or perhaps a colonial-style atmosphere that conjure images of former eras.
Housed within a French colonial fort, Sofitel Luang Prabang is built on a heritage site in the former royal capital and is a UNESCO Heritage protected building. While there is no palatial lobby or entrance gate to greet visitors (guests are checked-in in their rooms), the manicured grounds and attention-to-detail make it a pretty unique and elite spot within walking distance of the night market.
Situated in the center of Luang Prabang, 3 Nagas Luang Prabang MGallery by Sofitel consists of 3 UNESCO World Heritage buildings all over 100 years old with just 15 spacious rooms. This boutique hotel offers a restaurant, free use of bicycles and 3 Nagas welcome drink on arrival. It has a unique furnished garden next to the Nam Khan River and ideal access to the main street of Luang Prabang.
US and Canadian citizens need a visa to enter Laos. E-Visas can be obtained via the official Laos web site for $50 and are valid for 30 days.
Visas are also available on arrival at the Luang Prabang and Vientiane airports, and some other entry points. The visa-on-arrival fee is $35 for US citizens and $42 for Canadian citizens, and you’ll need two recent passport photos and a passport with 6 months validity from time of arrival. The main disadvantage of this is that you’ll have to wait in lines to have this processed before proceeding through immigration.
An eVisa is the fastest and easiest way of obtaining a visa for Laos because travelers can submit their applications and supporting documents online. Once the application is approved, travelers receive their eVisa confirmation electronically.
No restrictions if you provide proof of being fully vaccinated. If unvaccinated, you’ll need to provide evidence of a Covid-19 ATK (rapid antigen) test within 48 hours of arrival.
Travelers are recommended to have medical travel insurance with international coverage that covers COVID-19 before traveling to Laos.
If booking a private tour with us, costs can range from $250/day/person for staying in nice 3-star quality hotels to over $500/day/person in high-end luxury hotels. Staying in small luxury boutique hotels can cost an average of $300 to $400/day/person. These cost estimates include not just accommodation, but also internal flights, airport transfers, tours and activities, entrance fees, private guides, and private vehicles with driver.
There are so many that it’s hard to quantify, but here’s a few major benefits: 1) the tour is customized for your interests, which means you get to see and do the things you’re most interested in. 2) you’re not running on a fixed daily schedule, which means you have flexibility to stay as long as you want or move on early from something or even skip it altogether if that’s what you decide on the spot. 3) We’re able to design the activities at popular sights to avoid the crowds!
It’s generally best to avoid tap water and ask about the source of water in restaurants, but ice is usually safe. It’s best to use bottled or purified water in hotels to drink…and brush your teeth.
Perhaps. 4G connectivity is good in Laos. Some providers, like T-Mobile allow for free unlimited data internationally, though it is usually at a 2g speed. However, that’s often good enough for texts and emails, using Google maps, and some browsing. If you’re staying long enough and always want good data access while you’re out and about, buy a local SIM card with a data plan for your phone. They’re quite inexpensive.
Almost all hotels have US-style outlets that are fine for plugging in electronics. However, the voltage is 240 volts, so be sure your devices can handle that. Most can!
The official currency is the Lao kip. Notes come in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000. There are no coins. The exchange rate is around 15,000 kip per US dollar. Both the Thai baht and the U.S. dollar are also accepted and are often used for larger transactions. If you are carrying larger amounts of cash, then it is best to carry dollars or baht. The kip is non-exchangeable outside Laos.
ATMs are available in Luang Prabang and Vientiane and most accept international debit cards. However, they charge hefty fees and limit withdrawals to 1,000,000 kip (about $100). You can exchange cash at money changers, just shop around for the best exchange rates.
Upscale hotels, shops, restaurants, and markets will accept credit cards.
Tipping is expected by private guides and drivers, however, the amount depends on the quality of service. Generally for private guides, we recommend about $5 to $10 per person per full day in your group and about $3 to $4 for drivers. For example: if you’re a couple and you’re in Luang Prabang for two days and have a full schedule of tours and airport transfers and you’re very happy with everything, tip the guide about $40 and the driver about $15.
Elsewhere such as restaurants, tuk-tuk drivers, and hotel staff, tipping is not expected but can be an appreciated surprise. Try to give the money directly to the person you want to tip so that you can be sure they get it.
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