Passports, Visas and Immigration
If joining a Stray trip then you will need to hold a passport with at least 6 months validity. An entry visa will also be required. Depending on which country your passport is from will depend on the cost. This can cost between US $8 – 42 with most countries costing around US$30. Arrival visas can be issued at embassies and consulates in your country of origin where they are present prior to your arrival. However visas on arrival can be issued at most major entry points as well as the international airports (Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse). Carry passport size photos for visas on arrival. More information can be found at The Tourism Laos website (external link).
Laos’s time is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+7). Laos has the same time zone as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Being so close to the equator there is no daylight saving changes when going for summer to winter and vice-versa.
Laos is similar to the rest of South East Asia and experiences a hot and humid tropical climate with two distinct seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is usually October through March and the wet (rainy) season is from May through to September. The hottest temperatures are in the south of the country and get up to 38c and can get as cold as 10c in the northern regions during winter.
Laos’ currency is called the Kip (LAK) but pronounced Kiip. The bank notes come in 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000 denominations. Most ATMs and bank machines will dispense up to 700000 Kip with some machines in the larger towns dispensing up to 2 million Kip. In larger towns people will accept Thai Baht and US Dollar; however it is more culturally acceptable to use the native Laos Kip. Changing money (into the Kip) can only be done once in Laos and after having left Laos you can not change it (Stray will have a donations box set up).
Most Lao people start the day very early (around 5 in the morning) and correspondingly open their shops between 6 and 7 in the morning then take a break (sometimes for two hours) around 11am. Then close between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. Laos is not very developed so do not expect to find any kind of supermarket outside the large cities. Haggling or bargaining is common but is not as fierce as Thailand and often the best price is displayed, but there are bargains to be had!
Local Travel and Activities
In most places in Laos you will find that entering a cave or visiting a waterfall you will be asked for a minimal local cover charge (>50000 LAK usually) and you may also need to pay for tuk tuks in some places (most are included in activities though).
You must have valid and current travel insurance to travel with Stray Asia.
Before travelling to Laos you should visit a travel doctor for quality medical advice (we want you to be healthy and enjoy your trip with us). There are many diseases present in tropical climates that are transmitted by mosquitoes. It is possible to get dengue fever and malaria (remote countryside) from mosquitoes so we recommend you carry some strong (>30%) insect repellent.
Laos is one of the least-visited countries in the region – but why? Maybe because it’s not as built up as Thailand, as well-known as Vietnam, or as large as China, but Laos isn’t lacking in reasons to visit in fact it's these things and more that make it so special!