The popularity of South East Asia has increased year on year in recent times. One of the beneficiaries has been Laos which although it is landlocked still has plenty of great attractions for tourists on Indochina travel packages to see. If you are planning a Laos holiday, it is worth doing some research both into the places to see and the things to do, but also the lifestyle of the locals and what they might expect of you.
The Laotian people are most welcoming but there are some cultural differences you need to consider when visiting Laos, and with religion being so important, you must always remember to dress respectfully when visiting any religious site. Shorts and sleeveless shirts should be left for elsewhere. You must be patient and certainly polite to get the best out of a Laos holiday.
Laos’ tourism has been fairly late in its development and you may find that there is less English spoken than in neighbouring countries. Seasoned travellers are usually able to make themselves understood and if you learn a few words of the local language you will certainly get a smile in response.
If you are looking for advice before you travel, a good Laos travel agent who organises your Laos tour package will certainly be able to help. It is likely that your tour will include the current capital, Vientiane, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang where you will encounter many lovely temples and plenty of monks, and the Plain of Jars. The collections of jars, differing in number and condition where thought to be ancient burial areas. Some are damaged because of American bombing in the 1970s. Laos has had periods of warfare and conflict over the years, and perhaps one piece of advice is not to wander off too far. There are landmines that have not been defused but they do not exist in popular tourist areas. It does not mean that you cannot go hiking on well-worn paths but always get some advice before you set out.
Vientiane is often overshadowed by Luang Prabang but both are worth some of your time.
The highlights of Luang Prabang are religious, cultural and natural:
• Wat Xieng Thong is the city’s oldest and most beautiful.
• Temples include Vipassana, KhilI, SirimoungkhounSayaram, Sibounheuang and Sop Sickharam.
• The Mekong River flows through Luang Prabang and the waterfront is a popular place for tourists and locals alike.
• Kuang Si Waterfalls have many tiers and they are a place you can visit on a motorcycle if you are so inclined. There are leeches if you decide to swim though. A smaller falls is Tad Sae while the Pak Ou Caves above the Mekong River are full of Buddha statues in various states of repair; none are ever thrown away because that is regarded as unlucky.
• Haw Kham used to be the Royal Palace but is now a museum.
Vientiane certainly has some attractions, many of which are the museums. If you are going on a Laos family vacation, you will learn a great deal about the country and its history:
• The Laos National Museum has a large number of exhibits with 18th Century history extremely well portrayed, a century of colonialism and struggle.
• Lao People’s Army History Museum providea a great insight in military history.
• Hophakaew Museum was formerly a royal temple. It once held the Emerald Buddha which is now in Wat PhraKaew in Bangkok.
It is great to have some independence during an organised holiday. You will have some free time and there are often motorcycles to rent. That’s fine, and the roads are not busy, but equally they are sometimes in poor condition, so be careful. Travel as a whole can be slow, especially if there have been heavy rains and you are travelling in remote areas.
It is best to avoid water that has not been boiled first. That includes water for drinking as well as brushing your teeth or making ice. Milk that has not been sterilised is best avoided as well. The last thing you want to happen during your Laos travel is to get ill when you already have an itinerary planned.
Laos is perhaps less well-developed than the other countries of South East Asia. It means that its medical facilities are lagging a little as well. A small first aid kit may be useful and certainly you should check on the vaccinations that are
There are ATM Machines in Laos, but outside Vientiane and Luang Prabang, there will be limited. Vang Vieng attracts tourists because it is equidistant between those two main cities and offers many outdoor activities. You will find ATMs there but carrying cash is important in other areas. A few US Dollars are useful while you can use your credit card in tourist shops as well as restaurants and hotels frequented by tourists.
If you haven’t been to South East Asia before, a holiday in Laos is likely to be a great contrast with what you have seen before. Even though life runs at a slower pace than elsewhere in the world, traffic seems chaotic in Vientiane. It is perfectly safe to walk around but keep your eyes open and don’t carry unnecessary valuables if you are mingling in crowds;; it is the same advice that you would be given in every other part of the world.
If you have booked an organised tour then you are likely to have a guide and driver with youmost of the time, people who will provide you with any help you need. Your accommodation will be pre-booked as well. If you use a good travel agency, you can discuss Laos before you even book and do plenty of research as well. It is great to be prepared for the exciting holiday that Laos can provide with the certainty that when you return home you will have plenty of stories to tell friends and family, and plenty of photographs as well.