Laid back country to relax and ease your mind.
Visa: 30 days on arrival for 30 USD
Time zone: GMT +7
Location, Boarders: South-East Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China
Language: Lao, English and French are widely spoken in touristic areas
Currency: Lao Kip, 1USD = 8030kip
Price guide: pepsi bottle (500 ml) = 4000Kip, baguette sandwiches (10000 – 15000 Kip)
Arriving at Laos, the arrival hall is like a wide room with 6 counters, the visa costs 30 USD, but you will cause some delay in queue as they will still try to figure out how our beloved passport works (big as a notebook and opens from the right). After getting my bag I went to change some money (1 USD = 8000 kip), the only way out of the airport is taxi for 56000 kip or 6 USD, are you shocked ?? yes they use small USD bills in laos and you may not need to exchange any more money, and the exchange rate for the small bills (1 usd) is the same as the 100 notes.
Where to stay
The best options are around Francios street and “Nukko-komane” street. Reaching the town center you will find many cheap stays, the cheapest “Lao Sakonah guest house” a fanned room with shared bathroom costs 40000 Kip, another good choice is “Laos youth inn” a single room with air cond. and shared bathroom is for 50000 kip .
2 days is enough to tour the city in relaxed pace.
Pha That Luang: this is the symbol for Laos, 4 Km away from the city center (2Km North-East of Patuxai), this is probably the most important monument in here. Admission: 5000Kip, hours: 8am -4pm.
Patuxai: Laos’s replica of Arc de Triomphe, 8am-5pm, Fees: 3000Kip to go up and have a spectacular view over Vientiane.
Laos museum: Admission: 5000Kip, hours: 8-12, 1-4., no photography allowed.
Buddha park: situated 25 Km away from the city center, bus #14 costs 5000 kip one way, entrance fees, 5000kip +3000Kip for the camera. It’s a park by the Mekong river filled with Buddha statues, the park also contains statues for other Hindu gods (Vishnu, Shiva...etc)
Wat Si Saket: the oldest temple in Vientiane, include more than 300 seated Buddha and 2000 Buddha images. Admission: 5000Kip, hours: 8-12, 1-4.
Getting there and away
Vientiane is the main hub to travel around Laos. There are buses to all destinations in Laos and around South-East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand)
Town famous for outdoor activities (cycling, rock climbing, rafting, hiking and tubing), though there is no man made attractions, this place is essential in your tour around Laos.
Vang Vieng is infected by “friends” phenomenon, where mostly all the cafes and restaurants starts showing friends the series from the early morning till they close; now they added “family guy” to the list.
For budget travelers this place is ideal, you can stay the night for 20000Kip (2.5 USD), for dining, there is a variety of choices from sandwiches, pizzas to steaks, though as for halal food there is one indian restaurant (nazim) that serves halal meet.
Cave exploration: there is a lot of caves around vang vieng, the most famous one is “Phu Kham cave”; mostly for the blue lagoon where people like to take a swim after they enter the cave. The climb to the cave is steep but the view inside is amazing with a sleeping Buddha marks the start of the pass to the hall. To reach the cave, just keep moving forward in the dirt road, ignoring all the signs, until you pass a small bridge which is 3 KM away from your destination. (15 Km round trip)
Tubing: Vang Vieng is famous for tubing activities, though it is mostly drinking and hardly any tubing, tube rent is 50000 Kip including the life jacket and transportation to the starting point, the river drifts you to the end point, while people like to make some stops at the bars around the river, most people just go from bar to bar :D
Rock climbing: you can either DIY for experienced climbers, but you have to get a permit first, or join any of the climbing organizers offering climbing courses (1-3 days) for beginners
Balloon ride over vang vieng: this is new to town so it’s still expensive and there are few people who want to try it. Three trips a day 1 hour each, 6:30 am, 7:30 am & 4:30 pm (sunrise 6:30am, 5:30 sunset)
Getting there and away
There are buses from/to Vientiane (30,000kip), and from/to luang Prabang (95,000 – 130,000kip)
You can hire a motorbike or a bicycle to go around town.
The old capital of Laos and it attracts more tourists than the capital itself, and it is a UNESCO protected World Heritage city.
Where to stay
The best options are around the old quarters north of the palace,
Sights and Activities:
National museum: it is the former King’s palace now converted to a museum. Fees: 30,000 Kip, visiting hours: 8-11:30, 13:30 - 16:00; closed on Tuesdays. No cameras are allowed.
Wat Xieng Thong: the royal temple, was built in 1560. Admission Fees: 20,000 Kip. Hours; 8am – 5pm.
Phou Si: the hill in the town center offering great views over the town and hosting some temples. This a great place to be at sunset. Admission: 20,000 Kip, hours: 8am – 6pm.
Morning alms giving ceremony: as monks start there day roaming the streets and people offers them food, this has been a tradition in Luang Prabang and became a touristic attractions. They start at 6am in the main roads. Some guidelines should be followed:
never sit higher than the monk as it is disrespectful
don’t stay in the way of the monks or the givers, stay a little bit behind unless you want to make an offering
Wear appropriate clothing T shirts and long shorts should be ok.
Kuang Si waterfall: the biggest waterfall around Luang Prabang about 35 Km from town, a nice spot to have a swim in the turquoise-green pools. Admission fees: 20,000Kip
Organized tours for hiking, cycling and elephant rides
Getting there and away
There are buses from/to Vientiane (110,000 – 150,000kip), and from/to Vang Vieng (100,000kip).
Luang prabang hosts an airport with flights around Laos, Bangkok, Chang Mai and Siem Reap.
Renting a bicycle is a great way to explore the town.
Si Phan Don (4000 Islands):
Home to the Irrawaddy rare dolphins and S.E.A. widest waterfall.
The main 3 islands are Don Khong (the biggest), Don Det and Don Khon connected with small a bridge
Where to stay:
According to its size and being the first island to have electricity Don Khong has the most accommodation places, While Don Det is much popular for backpackers.
Boat trip to see the falls and the dolphins
And the usual Tubing, hiking and cycling
Getting there and away:
Buses leave Vientiane to don Khong at 7:30 pm arriving at 10:30 am for 210 Kip. there are also frequent buses from Pakse.
It is close to the Cambodian borders, though a lot of bad stories heard about travelers trying to cross the border solo, it is advised that you arrange the crossing with a group or with a tour company to facilitate the crossing and to arrange the transportation on the Cambodian side as it seems to be scarce.
N.B. maps are obtained from google search engine, please refer to it for larger formats.