All visitors entering Laos must possess a valid passport. Visas are also required and can be obtained from Lao Embassies and Consulates abroad. In addition, tourist visas can also be obtained on arrival at the international Checkpoint. This includes the airports at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse, as well as other international border checkpoints. For visa on arrival, you need to have two passport-size photos and pay $35. You will generally be allowed to stay in Laos for 30 days after you arrive.
The official language is Lao. Other languages used are French, English. Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese.
The Kip is the official currency of the Lao PDR, and the following banknotes are currently in circulation: 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000 and 50,000 Kip. The best currencies to use when exchanging money are: US Dollars, Euros and Thai Baht. You can exchange your currency at banks, airports, or at a foreign currency exchange office. U.S. dollars are also widely used. As in other Indochina countries, worn U.S. dollars, and certainly those that are marred or torn, will be refused for both exchange and purchases.
Credit cards are not widely accepted yet, although nicer hotels and restaurants can generally take them. There usually is a 3-5% mark-up when using credit cards.
Mobile phones & Communications
For mobile phones, international roaming is available throughout the country, but it is a good idea to check with your service provider as only a few international mobile phone companies have roaming agreements with Lao service providers, and also for the costs involved. Internet cafes are common in most major towns and in places frequented by tourists, and are generally inexpensive.
Most of the year is hot and humid. Laos enjoys a tropical climate with two distinct seasons. The rainy season is from the beginning of May to the end of September, and the dry season is from October through April. The yearly average temperature is about 86F, and can rise to 100F during April and May. In Vientiane a minimum temperature of 68F is to be expected during January. In mountainous areas, however, temperature drops to as low as 58F during the winter months. The most popular time to visit Laos is between November and April. The hot season, from Mar-May, is very dry and certain river trips may not be possible.
The voltage in Laos is 220V. A converter is required for U.S. appliances rated at 110V. There are different plug types found around the country, so bring along a universal adaptor.
The time zone is G.M.T. +7, or 12 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time. No daylight saving time is practiced.
Tipping is not required in Laos but is widely appreciated to recognize good service. In hotels and restaurants a ten percent tip is sufficient, provided that no service charge has been added onto the bill. It is customary to tip your tour guide and driver.
There are no vaccinations required to enter Laos, unless you are arriving from a cholera infected area. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor prior to travel, and any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available locally. Travel insurance is recommended, including evacuation by air for emergencies. For serious matters, it is advisable to have treatment in neighboring Thailand. Drink lots of bottled water to keep hydrated, but never drink tap.