Step inside Laos, traveler!
Welcome to inside-laos.com, our website about the beautiful Laos. Maybe you’re one of those people who haven’t heard much or nothing about Laos yet. You probably don’t associate much with the country. Well, that’s normal. At the beginning we too had no idea what Laos has to offer. We actually believed that there was nothing here anyway and that the other countries in Southeast Asia were much more interesting.
That’s not the case anymore. Since we travelled here the first time we came again and again. And you know what? It was definitely not the last time. Laos is totally underrated but an amazing destination for traveling. Especially if you are adventurous and not afraid to discover something completely different. Got curious? Great! Because on our website you’ll find everything you want to know about this amazing destination. And should a question remain open, you can always leave us a comment or write an email. We’re happy to help you!
How to go to Laos
The easiest way to go to Laos is to fly. There are four international airports. Most travelers prefer to fly to the Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, since there are a lot of flights to there and Vientiane isn’t only the capital but also a good spot for starting your journey. The other airports are the Pakse International Airport, the Savannakhet International Airport and the Luang Prabang International Airport. If you are in one of the neighboring countries, you can actually also cross the border to travel to Laos. Laos borders China and Myanmar in the north, Vietnam in the east, Cambodia in the south and Thailand in the west. So there are a total of five countries where you can enter from the land border.
How to get a visa for Laos
Getting a visa for Laos is no problem at all and you don’t need to worry about it before entering. With some nationalities you don’t even need a visa and can still enter the country for a certain number of days. Those 15 countries are (in alphabetical order):
If your nationality isn’t on the list, you’ll need a visa. You can get it on arrival and you just need two small passport-sized photos and your passport. Better don’t forget to bring a pen so you can easily fill up the necessary form. Yes, you need to fill a form for your visa on arrival. Still, absolutely no need to worry. I absolutely never saw or even heard from someone getting rejected. What you still need is money to pay the visa fees. You should bring dollars with you, although Thai Baht is also accepted. However, euros or other currencies are not that popular. We saw that a tourist on the border wanted to pay with euros and the immigration wasn’t so happy about it. Well, the prices also vary. It’s cheaper for some nationalities than for others but it’s not expensive at all. The cost of the visa is between $ 20 and $ 42. However, only the Chinese pay $ 20. Australians pay $ 30, US citizens and most Europeans pay $ 35, Indians pay $ 40.
Requirements for a visa on arrival:
An exception are travelers from Sri Lanka and Pakistan. In special circumstances, these two nationalities can get a visa on arrival. But only if they’re traveling on an official visit and have an official letter of guarantee issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos.
What if you would like to stay longer in Laos and extend your visa?
Good news! In most cases, you can easily extend your visa and travel up to 3 months in Laos. All you have to do is to extend your visa in time at one of the designated places. Some of those places are Luang Prabang, Pakse and Vientiane but an extension is also possible in other cities. As a rule, it is sufficient if you simply ask on the spot. If an extension isn’t possible where you are, there are actually always visa agents somewhere who will take care of the extension for you. Especially in tourist spots like Vang Vieng or others. Well, you should be aware that the agents need your passport for this. So don’t go to a random place, but only to reputable providers. Actually you can really stay in Laos for a long time. Even after those 3 months. With visa runs it’s still not a problem. In contrast to Thailand, where the situation is becoming more and more serious, everything in Laos is still relatively relaxed.
What to do in Laos
Would you like to know what you can do in Laos? Well, then you definitely should check out the different citys and look what we wrote about them. We have divided each city into different topics so that you can easily find what you’re looking for. Let’s anticipate one thing. There is really a lot to discover in Laos. You could go to the Buddha Park in Vientiane, observe the Irawaddy dolphins in Pakse, stroll through the old town of Luang Prabang, travel to the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan, visit the waterfalls in Champasak, get lost in the Four Thousand Islands of Si Phan Don, explore the mysterious caves of Vieng Xai or take a bath at the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng. And you know what? There’s by far not all. There’s so many amazing things you can do in Laos. So many that you would need a lot of time to experience them all. If you won’t stay in Laos for a long time, we recommend planning your trip well or simply coming back.
Is traveling in Laos safe?
Yes, Laos is a safe travel destination. In fact, it is one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia. The crime rates are low and you hear rarely anything about assaults on tourists. So you don’t have to worry when you travel to Laos. This also applies to women. But of course that doesn’t mean you should be too careless. Especially theft and other petty crimes are a potential danger. Robberies also occur in rare cases. With a little caution, such incidents can usually be avoided. Although crime is not a major problem, there are still a few risks. For example, there are some places in Laos where there are still mines from the Indochina War. Of course, you should only visit such places with an expert guide. In addition, the nature in Laos is unpredictable and traffic in larger cities can also be dangerous. Since Laos is not a nanny country and the healthcare situation isn’t the best, you really should be careful. Still, all in all Laos is a safe country.
Food in Laos
Laos has a lot to offer in terms of cuisine. There is no shortage of restaurants and also the street food is pretty good. In addition to Laotian food, you’ll also find some western food here. Especially in the larger and more touristy places you usually have a good selection. Food plays an important role on our website. We always have some articles about the food in the different cities. You’ll definitely find all the information you need there. And if not, just write to us. Maybe we can give you one or two culinary tips. We love food and have tried a lot. So we’re sure we can help you.
Nightlife in Laos
In terms of nightlife, Laos is of course not comparable to Thailand. However, that doesn’t mean the nightlife here is bad. There are quite a few bars and clubs. Especially in the larger cities. However, one thing is the curfew. Most places close around midnight or one in the morning. But as we said, most places. If you’re really into partying you’ll usually find a place where you can party until late night. Not everywhere though. Especially in more rural areas you shouldn’t expect too much. Another aspect is that sexual relationships between Laotians and foreigners are prohibited by law (if you aren’t married). There are even raids on hotels to make sure of that. When you go partying, you should be aware of that.
Infrastructure in Laos
The condition of the streets in Laos is not the best. You also can’t travel by train, as there is no well-developed rail network yet. That will change in the future. Mainly because of the cooperation with the Chinese. So in a few years the situation will definitely be different. At the moment, you’ll mainly have to travel by bus and van. Some places can only be reached this way. Including Vang Vieng, since there is no airport there. Generally there are only four international airports in Laos. As you can see, the infrastructure is not yet well developed. You should be aware of this if you plan to travel to Laos. But don’t worry. Laos is still a lot of fun. Due to the infrastructure many trips are also very adventurous. So there’s also something good about the whole thing.
Healthcare situation in Laos
So far, the health situation in Laos isn’t that good. It still needs a lot of improvement. But it is not nearly as bad as some people claim. For most ailments you can expect competent staff and good treatment. At least in the major cities. In rural areas it’s different. There’s still a shortage of doctors and hospitals. Another problem is that equipment is lacking. Because of this, there are some things that cannot be dealt with in Laos. Not even in the international hospitals. For such emergencies a transfer to Thailand is necessary. In any case, you should get a travel health insurance to get the best possible treatment in an emergency. As already mentioned, minor or moderate complaints are something completely different. Especially since there are many well-stocked pharmacies.
Culture and traditions of Laos
Laos is a country with an exciting culture. There are influences from a total of over 47 ethnic groups. The culture of Laos is most comparable to that of Cambodia and Thailand. There are many similarities. Laos is also a predominantly Buddhist country. About 60% of the population believe in the Theravada Buddhism (oldest school of Buddhism). That’s why many festivals in Laos are of Buddhist nature. Other religions only have a small percentage of believers. Despite the many different beliefs in Laos, even Islam and Christianity together make up less than 2% of the countrys population. In any case, Laos has a lot to offer culturally. The travel destination is also suitable for you, if you’re interested in a culture trip.
Animism in Laos
In addition to Buddhism, animism also plays an important role in Lao culture. As in Cambodia and Thailand, the animist traditions are related to spirits. These spirits can be the spirits of certain buildings, places or phenomena. There are evil spirits who want to harm people and benign spirits who help them. Many animistic traditions are strongly linked to Buddhism in Southeast Asia. This is also visible in Laos. However, both beliefs should be listed separately. We believe that this can help to better understand Laotian culture. If you see small shrines at temples or on the side of the road, that shrines are dedicated to these very spirits.
Traditional Laotian clothing
Although traditional clothing is usually only worn on festive occasions, it still plays a very important role in Laotian culture. Traditional Lao costumes are worn in both rural areas and cities. However, traditional clothing is more common in rural areas. The traditional Lao costumes are called sinh and salong. Sinhs are for women and salongs for men. Both can have traditional or modern patterns and are produced in a wide range of colours. You can easily find Laos traditional clothing for sale, if you just go to one of the markets. Especially in touristic areas, you should have it easy to find traditional Laos clothing. The first time we were in Laos, we took some traditional clothing as gifts for our relatives. In our opinion they’re a great gift, since they usually are made of Lao silk. Lao silk has a good reputation and is a material worth to know more about.
Lao silk has its advantages and impresses with several things. Those things are:
These factors naturally show what makes Laos silk so attractive. However, you must be aware that you need to buy the right silk first. Not everything on the market has the expected quality. So be sure to check some vendors before you decide to buy Laotian silk or traditional Laotian clothing. An alternative would be to order the costumes from the internet.
Pop culture in Laos
Most of the famous pop singers that appear on television or in movies come from Thailand. This is one of the first things many travelers notice when they visit Laos for the first time. Especially if they’ve been in Thailand before and spent some time there. But despite the fact that the media are mostly overrun by Thai stars, there’s still a Laotian pop culture of its own. Some well-known names of Lao pop culture are Annita Chanthrasomboune, Alexandra Bounxouei, Taiy Akard, Jojo Miracle and Sam Intharaphithak.
If not applicable to everything, most of the physical artistic heritage in Laos is strongly influenced by Buddhism. There are impressive archaeological sites, imposing religious monuments, old sculptures, traditional paintings, wood carvings, weaved baskets and of course interesting creations made from a wide variety of textiles. Since Laos was once part of the Kingdom of Siam, there are still some works of art from this period. Such objects are often sought after by collectors.