Laos travel suggestions

Getting to Laos via Air:

You will not be able to fly directly to Lao with North American, Japanese or European carriers. Airlines from these countries do not serve Lao. The list below is constantly changing, but you will see that in general you will have to fly to Lao via a regional city in S.E. Asia or China. Even Singapore Air and Malaysian Air, as of this time, have halted direct flights to Lao. You can however still use Silk Air from K.L. or Singapore.
There are two entry points for international flights at the moment: Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Vientiane is the most significant entry point with a decent airport and many flight options. Luang Prabang is largely limited to one international airline at the moment, Bangkok based Bangkok Airways has daily direct flights from Bangkok
Daily flights from Chiang Mai and some days from Chiang Rai. This is a growing air service with a good track record. Check their www site for more up-to-date flight schedules.
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Airlines Serving Lao & Nearby International Airports
Chiang Mai International Airport:
http://www.bangkokair.com/
Thai Airway:  http://www.thaiair.com/

Overland routes to Laos: You can save some money and see more interesting sights if you enter Lao via land. There are multiple overland entry points to Lao. As with the airlines, these entry points may change over time. Common modes of travel are bus and train, with the Nongkhai/Vientiane crossing being the most used land entry point. 

Visa Information: Visas can be obtained in advance at a Lao, P.D.R. embassy or at most entry points. You may contact the Lao embassy in your country (I have compiled a list in this section) for the latest procedures. Note, the availability of visas at the border changes from time-to-time. Generally, it is easier to get the visa at the entry point rather than the embassy. Embassy may save you a few dollars, but it will take time and at least two trips (unless you use a service or agent). You can get your visa on arrival at the following entry points: Wattay International Airport, Vientiane, Friendship Bridge, Luang Prabang Airport, Ban Muang Kao / Chong Mek. Visa on arrival requires a valid passport (make certain you have six months of life on your passport and some blank pages), one photograph and US$30. Stories and rumors circulate throughout the tourist grapevine about where one can enter Lao and where visas are available. Be careful and plan ahead by doing research. As of this time, if you plan on entering Laos through any other international checkpoints, you will need to obtain a visa in advance of your arrival. This can be done in two ways – either through a tour company, or from a Lao P.D.R. embassy overseas.

GOOD IDEA 1: At entry points to Lao, be careful of those trying to take you to ‘visa offices.’ These tend to be for profit agencies that will help you fill out the visa form and help process the application. This will likely cost you another US$15-20/application on top of the official US$30.. Skip this and head directly to the border crossing and the official immigration office for an application. These ‘visa offices’ may save you 20-30 minutes of time queuing up to get the applications at the border and filling them out and submitting, but we do not feel their services were worth the additional US$15-20 per person. The forms are in English and quite easy to understand, but do bring your glasses the type is small. Lao Embassy to the United States:   http://www.laoembassy.com/
Lao Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand:  http://www.bkklaoembassy.com/

GOOD IDEA 2: Contrary to the L.P. and some other guides, the visa office at the Vientiane/Friendship Bridge border post only requires ONE passport size photo for the visa. Handy though to have extras just in case you want to travel to Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, or Vietnam

Medicine and Emergencies: Make certain you are in good shape before setting out for Lao. In terms of international standards, medical facilities are limited in Lao. Basic medical care is available in Vientiane at one or more internationally staffed private clinics. As you will read in the guide books, the blood supply is not screened for HIV or AIDS. In case of a serious medical emergency while in Lao, contacting your embassy or that of a ‘friendly’ nation to your homeland would be recommended.

IMPORTANT MALARIA NOTE: Malaria is not a problem to any significant extent, especially in the high and DRY season (November-May), so leave your pills in your backpack. Most people think that taking Malaya pills will prevent you from getting it. Not so! You are just starting the treatment before you get the disease. Many people get sick from the pills. There is no prevention for Malaria, except not getting bit, so use your mosquito net at night to be safer if you are in a vulnerable area. Daytime activities offer little exposure risk, and despite the rumors, and health cautions of some western Governments, very few people now contract Malaria in Laos.

GOOD IDEA 1: Remember to see your physician prior to leaving for Lao and get some Cipro or other broad spectrum antibiotics just in case. If you know what you need (not recommending this) you can purchase most common antibiotics etc. in the local pharmacies – but age and purity of what you get may be questionable.

GOOD IDEA 2: Recommend you bring your own mini pharmacy/good supply with you in terms of plasters, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, etc. Wounds go septic twice as fast as in temperate climates. Things such as contact lens solutions which are readily available in Thailand are very difficult to find – so rely on glasses or bring your own supply.

GOOD IDEA 3: Recommend you get medical evacuation insurance prior to leaving for Lao. It is relatively inexpensive and most policies generally cover doctors bills, hospital charges, provide air evacuation for serious injuries that cannot be treated in country, translators via phone, medical consultations via phone etc. We have taken out medical evacuation insurance from time-to-time through American Express Travel Medical Protection – but thankfully have not had to call on their services. S.O.S. and Liaison Traveler are other popular insurers.

Weather & Clothing: Much of this can be found in other travel guides, but general weather info is key information for your packing and worth including here. As with much of S.E. Asia, it can be hot and sticky much of the year during the mid-day. Recommend cotton and light fabrics. Shorts are not acceptable by local standards, nor are sleeveless shirts on men or women. You won’t be stoned by the locals for wearing these things and one does see foreign tourists in beach-wear around the cities. However, just be aware that it is not seen as appropriate dress by the Lao people and will only attract negative attention (if any).

 

Luang Prabang Current Weather
Vientiane & Luang Prabang - Temperature and Annual Rainfall
WEATER NOTE: Luang Prabang is dramatically cooler and dryer than Vientiane as the following graph indicates..

 

Average Temperature – Luang Prabang

Jan 
 Feb  
 Mar  
 Apr 
 May 
 Jun 
 Jul 
 Aug 
Sep
  Oct  
  Nov 
  Dec 
Year Average 
° C
19.8
22.2
24.5
27.2
28.0
27.9
27.4
26.9
26.7
25.2
22.7
19.8
24.9
° F
67.6
72.0
76.1
81.0
82.4
82.2
81.3
80.4
80.1
77.4
72.9
67.6
76.8

Average Rainfall – Luang Prabang

Jan
 Feb  
 Mar  
 Apr 
 May 
 Jun  
 Jul  
 Aug 
  Sep 
  Oct  
  Nov 
  Dec  
Year Total 
mm
22.9
21.2
38.9
91.3
130.0
166.2
204
266
164
74.3
22.9
8.4
1195
Inch
0.9
0.8
1.5
3.6
5.1
6.5
8.1
10.5
6.5
2.9
0.9
0.3
47

Average Temperature – Vientiane

Jan 
 Feb  
 Mar  
 Apr 
 May 
 Jun  
 Jul  
 Aug 
  Sep 
  Oct  
  Nov 
  Dec  
Year Average  
° C
21.3
23.6
26.5
28.1
28.0
27.8
27.4
27.0
26.9
26.2
24.2
21.6
25.7
° F
70.3
74.5
79.7
82.6
82.4
82.0
81.3
80.6
80.4
79.2
75.6
70.9
78.3

Average Rainfall – Vientiane

  Jan  
 Feb  
 Mar  
 Apr 
 May 
 Jun  
 Jul  
 Aug 
Sep
Oct 
  Nov 
Dec 
Year Total 
mm
7.3
18.0
41.2
87.7
211.9
215.7
208.8
253.8
244.3
80.8
15.5
5.3
1406.6
Inch
0.3
0.7
1.6
3.5
8.3
8.5
8.2
10.0
9.6
3.2
0.6
0.2
55.4
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Luang Prabang Weather is determined by the surrounding hills. In other words it is mountain weather. For most of the year, excepting the hot season from mid February to March untill May, the mornings are overcast and sometimes foggy. This usually burns off as the day wears on. However, this means that one almost never sees a sunrise in Luang Prabang. The sunsets more than make up for that loss. The temperature is quite comfortable, neither too hot or too cold. While it can get hot it is not overly oppressive. If you come between November – February, don’t forget to bring warm clothes as it does get cool. The hottest months are March to May. And the rainy season begins in May and ends in October. 
The rainy season is a beautiful time of the year to visit with every thing so lush and green. The planting of the rice paddies is in June and July. However, it does make travel a bit uncomfortable with muddy roads and land leeches. On any one day in the rainy season the odds are that it will be bright and clear for most of the day. But when it rains, it pours. There are days on end when you won’t see the sun. 
If you are trekking in the cold season, be sure to dress in layers. Towards mid-day you will want shed your layers and then reapply them once the sun goes down. Light, casual attire is fine most days of the year, though one should bear in mind that Lao — and most other people as well! — appreciate respectful clothes and are offended by revealing or unseemly dress.  
Tevas or some kind of footwear which breathes when wet is the best for trekking.  Expect to cross many streams, go through mud and walk in rain. Teva-type sandals or amphibious shoes are ideal as you don’t need to remove them to cross streams and dry quickly. Also keep in mind that if you are visiting people’s homes that you will be taking your shoes off and on a lot! Sandals or flip-flops are easily removed and slipped back on.
Nylon stockings, reportedly, present a barrier that leeches cannot penetrate. Leeches are very sensitive to bases like soap and salt. This is important to prepare for when trekking in the rainy season. That is unless you like leeches!
GOOD IDEA 1: Bring a good supply of clothes and or be prepared to launder frequently as the heat will take its toll and local standards are high in terms of personal hygiene. At least two changes of clothes a day would be recommended.
GOOD IDEA 2: Skip the rain coats/slickers, and stick to rubber sandals and umbrellas for the rainy season. A good pair of athletic sandals (Teva) will prove invaluable.

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