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Laos Travel Tips

Country & population
The Lao People's Democratic Republic is located in South East Asia at the centre of the Indochinese Peninsula between latitude 14-23 degrees north and longitude 100-108 degrees east. 

Laos has an eastern border of 1,957 km with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a western border of 1,730 km with the Kingdom of Thailand, a southern border of 492 km with the Kingdom of Cambodia a northern border of 416 km with the People's Republic of China and a North Western border of 230 km with the Union of Myanmar. Total area of Laos is 236,800 square kilometers, three quarters of which is mountainous and forest-covered 40 % while the country is rich in natural resources, such as mineral deposits, including 1 billion tons of high quality iron are between 60-70%, lead, gold, tin and 8200-8232 calorie/gram coal. 

Although the Lao P.D.R. has no direct access to the sea, it has the Mekong River, which is the main river of the country flowing north to south. In addition, there are many branch rivers, which nourish agriculture. Laoss people use it as a power source, which supplies hydroelectric of over 18,000 MW from 57 dams. 

The Population of the Lao P.D.R. is estimated at 4,581,128 (1995) and population density remains one of the lowest in the region at 19 persons per square kilometer with a population increase rate of 2.64 %. The Lao population is ethnically diverse with up to 68 different ethnic groups identified inhabiting the country, with various languages, cultures and traditions which are classified into three groups: The Lao Loam, who occupy the lowlands plains and the Mekong River valley, and constitute about 56% of the total population; the Lao Thing, who occupy the mountain slopes, comprising about 34% of the population, and the high mountain Lao, constituting about 9% of the total population, and one per cent foreigners. 

Passport & Visa
Visa is required by all nationalities. Visa is usually delivered by Lao Embassies who require the original passport and 2 photos for two full working days in order to stamp the visa. If Visa is arranged by Asean Travel & Tours upon the client request, the personal data ( full name, passport number with date of issuance and expiry, date and place of birth, nationality) must be supplied to us at least 14 days before arrival to Laos. Visas obtained upon arrival at Wattay Vientiane airport and Friendship Bridge is quoted US$ 30 per person. However, the procedure of getting visa will be change from time to time. 

Customs & formalities
The regulations are now more favourable for travelers arriving by air in Wattay Vientiane airport. Passengers should have completed immigration and customs declaration forms during the flights and must submit these on arrival. 

The local currency is the KIP. The exchange rate at the time of updating is approximately 9,800 KIP to one US. Dollar. Travelers can make an exchange either at licensed exchange shops in the major cities or at their hotel. While paying in Laos, traveler cheques and other currencies than U.S.Dollars are only accepted by major banks. Thus, It is best to carry US Dollar bills in small denominations. 

Laos can be visited throughout the year. The dry or cool season begins end of October and lasts until end of February. It is necessary to take along a pullover or jacket during the cool season as nights can be very cool , especially in the mountainous areas such as Luang Prabang , the plain of jars, Saravane and Houeixai. The hot season lasts from March to June and light cotton and hats are recommended. The rainy season starts in June and ends in October. For visitors travelling between end of March and beginning of April , please note in the mountainous area where the slash and burn cultivation remained, the weather may be worse caused by smokes and domestic flights are subject to delay or cancel. 

Heath requirements
No vaccinations are presently required. If travelling to remote or border areas, travelers should check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against Typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis. 

International flights
The direct flights to Vientiane are available from Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, Kunming, Chiang Mai ( via Luang Prabang ). 
By air : Presently, Vientiane is the only legal point of disembarkation in Laos for air passengers. At the present time, Bangkok is the most common gateway for entry to Vientiane , although it is possible to come from Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon, Kunming ( China) , Chiang Mai , Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. 
Airport arrival : Arrivals at Wattay airport, Vientiane are generally rather casual event. Carry on bags are not surely inspected if that all you have brought. For checked baggage when claimed at counter ,sometimes passengers are required to declare if they had antiques and silver item brought with. 

The other way to get into Laos is by land from from Vietnam, China, Thailand. Tourists can pass the border at the following entry points: 

* From Nongkhai ( Thailand ) by crossing Mekong River by shuttle bus. 

* From Chiangkhong ( Thailand ) by crossing Mekong River by ferry to Houeixey. 

* From South China (Yuna ) to Luang Namtha province via Boten chek point. 

* From Mukdahan (Thailand ) and from Quang Tri (Vietnam ) to Savanakhet. 

* From Ubol Rachathani (Thailand ) to Pasker. 

* From Vinh (Vietnam) via Keo Neua check point to Km 20 , Khamkeuth district Borikhamxay province, then on to Vientiane by bus. 

The official language of Lao PDR is Lao. It is spoken in different parts of the country. The Vientiane dialect is understood throughout the country. In spite of the colonial past, French remains the second official language . English is in common use among business sectors and young generations. 

Public holidays
Jan 1 : International new years Day 

Mar 8 : International Women Day 

May 1 : Labour Day 

Oct 14 : Boat Racing Festival in Vientiane 

Dec 2 : Laos National Day 

Tipping is not obligatory in Laos, but is nonetheless widely practiced in hotels and restaurants in addition to the service charges shown on bills. (Porters, 5000 - 1,000 Kip per bag.) 

Airport tax
Airport tax is US$ 1,0 per passenger on domestic flights and US$ 10 per passenger on international flights. 

Business hours
GMT + 7 hours.

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