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Top Laos Hotels


Laos Hidden away and landlocked into Southeast Asia's inaccessible mountains is one of Asia's forgotten lands. Quiet Laos has very few visitors and refreshingly low-key tourism. Unlike other Asian Third World countries, you will not be hassled by vendors, or feel a financial target. With a population of only six million chiefly involved in agriculture, there is little industry and consequently few hotels, which for the most part are basic and rudimentary. The restful capital Vientiane, with its population of only 100,000, feels like an escape in its own right. This is about as busy as it gets in dormant Laos, a co untry where the tallest building is only seven storeys. There can be few capitals with cabbage patches lining the busiest districts. Up country is the magical Luang Prabang, officially designated as the best preserved "city" in Southeast Asia by UNESCO. The streets are mainly dotted with quaint French colonial houses and the famed temples are ornate and absolutely spectacular. The gentle Mekong winds its way through and the rush hour is an orange tide of monks. Infrastructure beyond the threads connecting these two is virtually non-existent. The mountains have never really been tamed and are controlled by rebel forces. Even if it was safe, such is the state of the roads that it would take several days to navigate through the northern regions. Flying or boating down the languid Mekong is the only way. Poor old Laos is the most bombed country in the history of warfare. Around the barren and remote cowboy town of Phonsavan the sad legacy of Agent Orange is visible in the useless soils. Farmers try to make the best of it in the bomb-littered fields. Many deal in scrap metal, with shell casings forming props for huts or troughs for pigs. The main reason to come this far out is to scratch your head over the mysterious Plain Of Jars. Hundreds of ancient stone jars are strewn across the hilltops and no one has quite worked out what they were. In the Vietnam War these drum-sized oddities were used as bomb shelters and many have been raked with gunfire. The lazy pace, absence of materialism and strong culture is a breath of fresh air. Higher elevations are cool all year round. Laos undergoes a tropical monsoon and is best visited in the dry season, December to April. It is still quite tough to get around, but the challenge is well rewarded for those who take the time. More...

Visas

Visitors to Laos require a tourist visa to enter the country and should also ensure that their passport or travel documents are valid for 6 months or more - 2 passport photographs are also required.

A travel visa can be arranged through a travel agent prior to travelling or on arrival if arriving at Wattay International Airport (Vientiane) or Nong Khai Friendship Bridge border crossing from Laos. A visa extension can be applied for from within the country but only in Vientiane.

It is recommended that you check current regulations and restrictions with your nearest Laotian Consulate.

Customs

There are no limits on the amount of Laotian or foreign currency that can be taken into or out of the country.

Visitors may take the following into Laos duty free:

  • Alcohol -1 litre of spirits
  • Tobacco - 500 cigarettes, 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco

Time

Laotian Time: GMT + 7 hours

Currency

  • Kip (K) - Check current exchange rates
  • Notes issued: K5,000, K2,000, K1,000, K500, K100, K50
  • Thai Baht are also widely accepted.

Language

Lao is the official language, however a number of dialects are spoken in different parts of the country. French, Thai, Vietnamese and English are also used to limited degrees.

Tipping

Tipping is not customary in Laos, although it is becoming more widely acceptable - especially in the more upmarket restaurants of Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Banking Hours

Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 4.30 pm

Telephone

The international dialling code for Laos is 856
International dialling from within the country is fairly limited. When making international calls from Laos, first dial 14 + country code + area code + telephone number

Local Telephone Codes

Ban Huay Xai 053
Luang Prabang 071
Pakse 031
Savannakhet 041
Vientiane 021

Electricity

220 V, 50 cycles

2 prong plugs with both flat and round pins are widely used, therefore an adapter is a good idea.

Power cuts are not uncommon so take a torch.

Water

Do not drink tap water and avoid using ice. Bottled water is widely available.

Health

There are a number of embassies with their own medical clinics in Vientiane but generally medical care is poor in Laos. Make sure that you have adequate health insurance that includes evacuation. Consider inoculations against typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, Japanese encephalitis and take advice regarding anti-malarials. Cholera can be a problem in the south, especially during the rainy season and dengue fever has been experienced in areas of the north. It is always best to check the current situation and any vaccination requirements with your doctor when planning your trip.

International Airports

  • Vientiane - Wattay
  • Luang Prabang

International Airport Departure Tax

US$5

Domestic Airports

  • Ban Huay Xai
  • Luang Nam Tha
  • Muang Sai
  • Pakse
  • Phonsovan
  • Savannakhet
  • Saravan
  • Thakhek

Domestic Airport Departure Tax

None

Etiquette/Dress code

Dress should be modest for both men and women; avoid short/tight skirts and vests/singlets. Laotians consider it disrespectful to bare shoulders, thighs and the chest.

As with many Asian countries, the head is thought to be very special and the feet are considered to be the lowest part of the body in every sense; therefore people do not appreciate being touched on the head. Feet should remain tucked under or behind you when seated and should not be used to point with. Shoes should be removed before entering a home or religious building. It is also considered rude to point using the index finger or to stand over someone. Political topics should be avoided at all times.

Diplomatic Missions

Many countries have representative offices and consulates in Laos.

Useful Sources of Information

Further information on Laos culture and tourist attractions:

  • Sabbai Dee and Welcome to Laos - The official website for Visit Laos Years 1999-2000

Weather

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Hot and Dry Season (February - April) 20 - 32°C 51mm
Monsoon Season (May - September) 24 - 31°C 244mm
Cool and Dry Season (November - February) 17 - 29°C 26mm

Laos has three distinct seasons:

  • Hot and Dry Season - runs from the middle of February to the middle of April. Humidity levels start to climb and rainfall steadily increases during April.
  • Monsoon Season - rain falls in short heavy showers, mainly during the night with thunderstorms and higher than average rainfall in the south. As infrastructure in Laos mainly comprises dirt tracks, travel may become very difficult as roads turn into mud baths. The positive benefit of these rains is that longer stretches of the Mekong River become navigable in high water.

Best time to visit: From November through to early February during the Cool and Dry Season when temperatures are pleasant and rainfall is low.

Throughout the year temperatures drop quite dramatically in mountain areas such as the Bolovens Plateau and Xieng Khuong Province - take adequate cold weather clothes when visiting these areas.

Light clothes are essential all year round, although warmer layers are advisable during the Cool and Dry Season.

Carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings.

Featured Laos Hotels

3 stars
From
$63,202
per night (USD)
Hotel Novotel Vientiane

Hotel Novotel Vientiane

City, Laos

Location Located close to the Mekong River, Novotel Vientiane is conveniently... More...

 
4 stars
Villa Santi Hotel Luang Prabang

Villa Santi Hotel Luang Prabang

City, Laos

Location Villa Santi Hotel is located near the UNECO world heritage sites of Luang... More...

 
4 stars
Lao Plaza Hotel Vientiane

Lao Plaza Hotel Vientiane

City, Laos

Location The hotel is located in the heart of the main city centre and shopping... More...

 
4 stars
Santi Resort & Spa Luang Prabang

Santi Resort & Spa Luang Prabang

City, Laos

Location Santi Resort & Spa is located in Luang Prabang of Laos. The Traditional... More...

 
5 stars
La Residence Phou Vao Luang Prabang

La Residence Phou Vao Luang Prabang

City, Laos

Location La Residence Phou Vao is placed in Luang Prabang, surrounded by mountains at... More...

 
5 stars
Don Chan Palace Hotel & Convention Vientiane

Don Chan Palace Hotel & Convention Vientiane

City, Laos

Location Located in Vientiane, the Don Chan Palace is set along the Mekong River and... More...

 
5 stars
Le Palais Juliana

Le Palais Juliana

City, Laos

Location Le Palais Juliana is located only 10-minutes away from the heart of the... More...

 
4 stars
3 Nagas Hotel Luang Prabang

3 Nagas Hotel Luang Prabang

City, Laos

Location 3 Nagas Hotel Luang Prabang is situated in the serene residential area of... More...

 

Laos Travellers Tales

robert horgan
6/2/2005

Luang Prabang was not what I expected. It was smaller, older, more rural than I imagined. There are many picturesque views in and around LP, and I had seen photos from other travellers posted on websites. I guess it led to an unrealistic expectation that beauty would surround me at every turn. The truth is that the Mekong is muddy, many of the streets in LP are dusty, and the Wats are not in the best repair (especially after I''d seen so many impressive temples in Thailand). Having said that, once you start to explore Luang Prabang and the surrounding area, you find lots of natural beauty. The hill in the centre of town (I just can''t think of the name right now) offers spectacular views of the surrounding town and countryside. There are basically two places to visit in the area: Kuang Si Waterfall and Pak Ou Caves. The Kuang Si Waterfall is spectacular. We spent two hours there, but I could have happily spent the entire day. It is peaceful and you can shoot an entire roll of film (or fill a memory card) trying to capture all of its unique beauty. The caves were only mildly interesting in my opinion -- the main reason to visit them was to have an excuse to cruise on the Mekong River with fantastic views of mountains exposed with every bend in the river. We ate at a couple of restaurants in town, and while the food was good (the highlight was the "Luang Prabang Salad")the service was a poor quality. I spent many weeks in Thailand ahead of this trip to Laos, and the Thais offer a very high level of service everywhere. In Cambodia a couple of weeks earlier the service was not refined, but there were lots of people ready to assist you. In Luang Prabang I found that the servers were inattentive, sometimes surly, and often simply not to be found. We booked the trip to the Pak Ou Caves through a local travel agent a day ahead (though you can just walk up to the river and grab a boat if you want). The agent arranged a pickup at our hotel, and delivery to the riverside. We were then parked on a hard wooden bench with a German couple where we waited for about an hour with no explanation except that another passenger was coming. When the bench got too hard the four of us in turns asked the fellow coordinating our trip what was going on. He squirmed and mumbled, but generally just kept walking away. I kept following him until he finally said he would jump on his motorcycle and go ask his boss what to do. This didn''t happen -- finally the four of us were loaded on the boat 90 minutes later than scheduled departure, without the mysterious missing customer. This seemed to be a pretty normal approach to service in LP, which is really just a village trying to figure out how to cater to the spectrum of visitors that range from backpackers who consider indoor plumbing to be a blessing, to well-heeled travellers who are accustomed to having everything done for them. I''m probably in the middle somewhere, but I was often surprised when a van or a boat would deliver several of us to a destination, park or tie up, then let us off with no explanation about which way to go, or any hint about what to do. Even the backpackers would look around in confusion and ask, "Which way do we go?". This happened at EVERY location I visited. If all this sounds like I didn''t enjoy Luang Prabang, I must say that I enjoyed it very much. It is real Laos -- not a slicked up version of Asia for western tourists to visit. It is surrounded by incredible natural beauty, and the trip was one of the highlights of my time in South East Asia.


ralf kircher
4/24/2005
Stayed at:

The sights of Vientiane can really be exhausted in about a day. Spending two there, we found ourselves scratching our heads to figure out how to spend out time. Definitely try a Lao massage -- much better, softer and more relaxing than a Thai massage.


aideen casey
2/28/2005
Stayed at:

Go to the ''Cafe Du Maison'' on Pangkhan Road, (off Samsenthai Rd) for the absolutely best Lao Mountain Coffee in Vientiane!


raymond wedderburn
2/12/2005

I was only there for 1 day but enjoyed it. Vientiane is a fairly sleepy capital on the river. I went to see most of the local tourist attractions which were easily accessible. Budha park is way outside of town and not worth the visit IMHO if you only have 1 day. I ate dinner at a simple restaurant on the river. The fresh fish and sauce was out of this world. The meal along with beers and an entree for my driver was less than $5. Unfortunately, I don''t have the name of the restaurant but there are many places along the river. Don''t be afraid to venture out.


john stephens
1/12/2005
Stayed at:

Slash and burn agriculture is practised in the surrounding hills and mountains in the dry season. It can be quite smokey in the morning, but lifting about 10.30 -11.00 a.m. Luang Prabang is a charming town set in a beautiful location. People were most friendly and loved to practise and learn English.


aaron wilczek
12/30/2004

Luang Prabang is awesome and I am very glad I went. People are very friendly and I felt very safe. One day we did the 4 hour cave tour and 4 hour waterfall tour in one day. These two tours will cost you about $50 per person at the hotel (ripoff)or you can go anywhere in town and get the same trip for $10. I highly recommend the restaurant Nazim as it has great indian food. I would also recommend the crepe place for a snack, a bit expensive but a nice european touch. I would also recommend renting a bike for the day as it is a great way to see the city and tour the temples/wat''s and at $1 a day it is the best bargain there is. I loved this city and can''t wait to get back.


heinz banzhaf
12/27/2004

One day is enough for Vientiane. I recommend to visit Wat Sisaket in the morning and That Luang in the late afternoon. Outside of Vientiane Vang Vieng (Two and a half hour by private car) has a beautiful scenery due to its limestone cliffs but it can certainly in no way be compared with the scenery of Yangshuo/Guilin in Southern China.


mark mccarthy
12/25/2004

Coming back to LP after 6 years, the place is a bit busier, more clearly on the traveller route, but has lost none of its charm. Still the most magical place in SE Asia. Culinary highlight: The Saveur de Laos set at L''Elephant.


robert mcguigan
12/21/2004
Stayed at:

After coming from Bangkok and ChiangMai I found Laung Prabang to be a beautiful scenic place full of warm and friendly people. I would recomend people to try to meet a local and have them show you the villagers and its surrounds rather than the tours which are on offer in all the travel companies along the main street. The staff at my hotel was happy to show me his village and the people and even showed me around the town and the temples. The only tour I did was a bike trek through the country side to a waterfall and back through some villages and textiles shops. It was interesting if you are fit and can take 5-6 hours of riding a mountain bike on uneven roads. There are plenty of cheap guesthouses right through to expensive hotels so everyone is catered for. A destination that needs to be visited before the coming of MacDonalds etc...


erik brodal
11/17/2004
Stayed at:

Vientiane is a quiet and laidback city (compared to other asian capitals anyway). I also found it quite friendly. Major attractions are easily available by foot. I particulary liked Wat Si Saket. Other places worth seeing are places like Pha That Luang, Morning Market and the National museum. I spent about three days in Vientiane before moving to Luang Prabang further north.<br> <br> Luang Prabang was really beautiful. I spend six days there, including daytrips to the caves and waterfalls. The trip to the Pak Ou caves was by slowboat on the Mekong river and included stop in villages like a Hmong village. I just went down to the pier where the boats to the caves started, and hired a boat for the day (we where three persons paying US$10 each). I think the rivertrip to the caves is just as interesting as the caves themselves, because of the beautiful scenery along the river. In Luang Prabang itself I particulary enjoyed the Royal Palace Museum, Phu Si hill and Wat Xieng Thong. Or just strolling the peninsula between Mekong River and river Nam Khan. I would also recommend to rent a bike (several guesthouses have bikes for rent for about US$1.50 per day) to explore the city and its surroundings at least for one day.


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