Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some useful answers to some common questions concerning travel in Laos that should prove helpful to you as you plan your trip. Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions.
When is the best time to travel ?
Travelers can visit Laos any time of the year, though the country does have two very distinct seasons. The dry season runs from October through April, and the wet season runs from May through September. Typically the hottest months of the year span from March through June. Rainfall is typically more sporadic early in the wet season, and becomes more consistent and heavy as the wet season progresses through the summer months. Temperatures are affected by the altitude as well, with the northern parts of the country being slightly cooler than the lower Mekong basin of the South. During rainy season, temperatures in the valleys can average around 85 F (29 C) and top 95 F (35 C). Averages cool off to around 62 F (17 C) in the north and 73 F (23 C) in the southern regions during the coolest months of December and January.
What are the accommodations like?
In each location, we strive to use charming accommodations that are locally owned and characteristic of the area. These range from charming, family-run bed & breakfasts to luxurious, boutique hotels. Most hotels have private baths, hot water and clean, comfortable rooms except in instances where noted such as a homestay or rural family-run guesthouse. We strive to also find hotels in good locations, whether that be walking distance to main attractions, or out of the city if it is consistently noisy. Larger hotels are used in metropolitan areas as typically these are the only available options.
Do I need a converter/adapter for the electricity?
Laos generally uses 230V, 50Hz electricity. They use types A, B, C, E and F power sockets. It is recommended to bring a converter or to purchase one upon arrival. You will need a converter throughout Laos.
Are meals included?
Most meals are included for travelers as well as your guide. You will need help translating the menus, and thus the guide will typically eat with you unless you specify a different arrangement. Occasionally meals will be up to you, particularly when you are in a larger city with many restaurant options that cater to tourists. This gives you freedom to eat what you want to try, and your tour guide can give you restaurant recommendations in these scenarios.
What are the tour guides like?
Our tour leaders are exceptional! They are fluent in English and Lao, and some speak other rural dialects as well. Our tour leaders receive an official guide license after fulfilling a government training program. In addition, guides go through an Adventure Life training specific to our services and tours.
Many were born and raised in the local areas where they guide and are among the very best guides available in each region. Some specialize in specific adventure activities as well, such as hiking. All of our tour leaders treat our travelers like friends, showing visitors both the major highlights and the local treasures.
What type of transportation is used?
It is compulsory that our customers have some form of medical insurance to participate in our tour programs. Although there is an international medical clinic in Phnom Penh, the country still lacks adequate medical care for serious illnesses and injuries. Therefore, we advise that travelers have sufficient cover for emergency medical care as a precautionary measure. The costs for emergency medical evacuation can start from US$50,000.
What are the communication facilities like?
Our Laos tours utilize a variety of transportation including private vans/cars, internal flights, etc. We use a mix of private/public transit to provide travelers with the safest and most efficient transportation in each area. Occasionally, we may include non-typical transportation modes (tuk-tuk, bicycle, ferry, taxi, etc.) for short distances to give travelers a sense of local flavor. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!
What type of food is typical of Laos?
Lao cuisine, while not ‘discovered’ on the international cuisine scene, is quite savory and will tantalize your palate. Most similarly linked to northern Thai cuisine, Lao cuisine staples include sticky rice, padaek (a type of fermented fish paste/sauce) combined with a variety of vegetables and dipping sauces. Meats are often added only as a supplement, such as goat, duck, chicken, pork, and freshwater fish. Spices used include lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilies, lime leaves, mint, cilantro, & shallots. Meats are often grilled or ground up into a spiced mixture. Fish and chicken based soups with noodles and vegetables are also common, along with spicy greens and salads.
Are these trips suitable for kids?
While the trips are suitable for kids, they may not be ideal. Some tours involve a fair amount of car travel and transit between main destinations that may not be best for younger kids. We are happy to customize an option that involves less travel time in between activities, as well as more engaging activities (and fewer temple visits) when asked. Please just let us know what you prefer and we can put something together that keeps the whole family engaged.
Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You can purchase international flights on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in international flights.
How much should I budget for tips?
Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary to offer a small tip for exceptional service. Tipping amounts vary widely, but we recommend $5-$7 per day for your guide and $2-$3 per day for a driver for a full day tour. Other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers along the way.
How safe is Laos?
Laos is a relatively safe country both in the rural countryside as well as in larger cities. As always, travelers need to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense when venturing out at night. However, crime rates in general are very low, particularly against tourists. The most common issue reported are pickpockets when visiting crowded marketplaces or shopping areas. Be wise and keep your possessions hidden under your top layer of clothing to prevent anything from being stolen.
Can I use US dollars or do I need local currency? What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?
The Lao Kip (LAK) is the official currency of Laos. US dollars are also widely accepted in bigger cities, particularly in restaurants. It’s a good idea to arrive in Laos with some US dollars as the Lao Kip cannot be exchanged outside Laos, thus you will not be able to purchases before your arrival. Note that torn and old US dollar notes are not generally accepted in Laos. In areas located near the Thai border, the Thai currency, Baht, is also accepted.
Upon arrival, you should plan to exchange your money at a bank. The airports and hotels generally will give you a worse exchange rate. Check out a currency converter such as, www.oanda.com/currency/converter/, for the latest exchange rates.
Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks? Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards?
Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard & Amex) are accepted in major hotels and in a very limited number of upscale shopping places. Please note that there is usually a levy of 4% charged on credit card purchases. In Vientiane and Luang Prabang you’ll find several ATMs, which dispense Lao Kip only. Travelers’ checks (in US dollar or Euro) can be cashed at banks.
Can I use my cell phone?
Depending on your provider, some mobile phones will receive a signal in major towns as Vientiane. You should contact your phone carrier to find out if your phone will work properly. Another option is to buy a local SIM card once you are in Laos if you do have an unlocked phone. It is advised to also double check your international calling rates with your provider.
Services for making international phone calls are widely available in tourist areas. All major tourism centers offer internet access and some provide chat-webcams. Email is the cheapest and fastest way to communicate while traveling in Laos. The rate is usually around 1 minute/100 Kip in Vientiane.
Do I need a visa/passport?
US citizens can apply for a visa in advance. Travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 6 months after they depart. Also, you can obtain a “Visa On Arrival” which is valid for 30 days. Forms are typically passed out on the arrival flight for these. The “Visa On Arrival” cost depends on your nationality (from USD $30-42). One passport photo will also be required. It is also possible to extend your visa for another 30 days at a cost of about USD $2 per day. Otherwise, you will be charged USD $10 per day by border authorities when you leave Laos.