Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. Check with the Lao Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. Securing required documents is the responsibility of the traveler. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
It is good advice to always drink as well as brush your teeth with bottled water. You should only eat fruit that can be peeled, and be sure to wash it well in bottled water before eating. In restaurants, insist that they bring a sealed bottle to your table and avoid ice. Take extra care with hygiene and make sure you wash your hands before and after eating. It is a good idea to bring along hand sanitizer. Carry a kit of the basic emergency medicines you might need for diarrhea, fever, etc., plus mosquito repellent, band-aids and antiseptic ointment. We recommend you see your doctor for advice about local health conditions and precautionary medicines, as you may need to be immunized against certain illnesses.
Laos uses the Lao kip. Each kip is worth 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 kip. Frequently, and especially in tourist areas, you will be able to use US dollars or Thai baht. Plan on conducting transactions in cash, not with credit cards. You can change money at banks and currency exchange agencies. A passport may be required when exchanging currencies.
Laos has 230 V at 50 Hz, with a type A, B, C, E or F socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and possibly an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is available in major cities throughout Laos. There are also Internet cafés in main cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
Stores are usually open from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. In tourist areas some shops will stay open longer and may be open on Sundays. Good buys include handicrafts, art, textiles, silk, wood carvings, pottery, silver jewelry, sarongs and hill tribe bags. You may be able to bargain for better prices than what items are marked.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Taxi drivers don't expect to be tipped, but rounding up the fare on the meter is appreciated, Restaurants and bars 10-12% of the total bill.
To get around within cities, you can hire a car and driver (driving yourself is not recommended) or use a taxi or tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled vehicle. For the last two options, set the fare with the driver prior to entering the vehicle. A songthaew, a pick-up truck with two benches, a roof and open sides is also available in many cities. You might want to rent a bike or scooter. To go from town to town, a bus is probably your best alternative.
Generally, casual jeans or slacks, shirts, sweaters, a jacket and comfortable walking shoes are all you'll need. When visiting temples you may be asked to cover bare shoulders or to take off your shoes. Shorts, tank tops or halter tops are sometimes not permitted in temples. Don't forget to pack good outdoor shoes, a hat and sunscreen. You may wish to bring long pants and long-sleeved shirts for hiking, trekking, or outdoor activities. If you are traveling during the summer, bring raingear and an umbrella in case of a monsoon.