Essential guides to Laos

laos tour packages

The French formed Laos in 1907 to act as a buffer state to protect Vietnam. It is a country with not only rich history but also big mountains and vast forests. Laos is definitely a travel paradise. With the availability of Laos tour packages, you cannot go wrong.

Appling for a visa to any country can be a bit confusing.A visa to Laos is no different.Dont sweat it though. Read on and you’lldiscover everything you need to know.

There are several countries that Laos gives a ‘visa-exempt’ status.If for example you are from Japan, you enjoy a visa-free trip to Laos for a maximum stay of 30 days. It is important to inquire if you are among the countries. Doing this curbs the “when will my visa be ready?” qualms.

Whether you are planning a short-term stay in Laos for pleasure or business, you are required to apply for a 1 or 3 month visa. How do I obtain my visa? Easy! Visit the Laos embassy or consulates in your country. For some reasons you cannot get to the embassy, don’t sweat it. The visa can be mailed to you.

Another option of obtaining your Laos visa would be the Laos pre-arranged visa (visa on arrival).The name only makes sense after you make arrangements before your arrival.

You are required to fill the visa application form online after which you pay a service fee to the agent who will work on your paperwork. After 2 or 3 days, you will receive a confirmation letter from Laos Immigration Department informing you that you can get your passport stamped together with a visa once you arrive at either one of theinternationally recognized airports:Vientiane Wattay Airport, Luang Prabang Airport and Pakse Airport.

You should know when the best time to visit Laos is for an outstanding experience. The months between November and March are characterized by pleasant temperatures and evidently the best time to be in Laos. Verdant? Yes. The months of July and August are seen to have high humidity and a bit of wetness.Most European tourists are seen in Laos during such a time.

If you are not one to enjoy scorching sun, the months of April and May should not find you in Laos. The temperatures during these months go as high as 40 degreesCelsius. September and October is characterized by a deluge accompanied by amazing cloud formations.

It is common to hear people say that Laos is a sleeping country with just one tourist destination – Luang Prabang. However, there is more to Laos than what meets the ear. With many places to visit in Laos, you are assured of an amazing tour.In Luang Prabang,you will find amazing temples with breath-taking architectures.If you are a religious fanatic,this is where you should be.This old town presents a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere where you can comfortably enjoy your stay.You will not miss a 5 star hotel in the center of the town where luxury,class and comfort is all provided in one package.

Stop by Kamu Eco Lodge located on the banks of the famous Mekong River and later cruise to NongKhiaw for breath-taking experiences. South to Luang Prabang, you are able to board the famous Luang Say Cruise which is an experience you will live to tell your grandchildren. Pass by Muang Sing all the way to Luang Namtha region for a trekking delight.Phongosali tops the list of places to trek in Asia with its perfect rural setting.

South of Luang Prabang, you find VangVieng which provides awesome opportunities for caving, trekking and kayaking. Other places you should take note of are: Si Phan Done,Wat Phou and last but not least Champasak. Make sure to also drive to “Plain of Jars” for a remarkable site. Here, thousands of stone jars are distributed loosely across a plateau with vast grassland.

One claiming that giants created them to store wine, the other believes that their purpose is to collect the monsoon rainwater. With many myths said about the jars, no one knows for sure how they got there. I bet the Laos travel agent has his/her own version too. Maybe your trip to Laos will be the breakthrough to the never ending mystery of the “Plain of Jars”

Things to do in Laos
Try the laohai (rice alcohol) and get into a festive mood.Do not forget the lao-lao too.Be careful with the latter though, drinking it represents some form of ritual.Find out before you go all in. Learn the greetings and try to show the Laos people kind gestures. A nop, the Laos greeting, is generalized by hands together at the chin(imagine yourself praying, there!)  This shouldn’t be a tad bit hard. Sabai di (hello) is a good gesture which should be said to the locals bring a smile to their faces.

It is important to note that Laos is a Buddhist country and modesty in manners and dressing is very important.As a man, you shouldn’t be seen shirtless in public and women should be careful not to show their shoulders and thighs.

Flip-flops and sandals are recommended as footwear is removed before entering homes belonging to the Laos people and Buddhist monastery buildings. Are they that clean? You may wonder. No. It is a tradition that goes far beyond cleanliness. Disobeying such a tradition is regarded as rude and disrespectful.

Some interesting social taboos…
Feet-unclean and low. Be careful not to step on people either sitting or lying on the floor. This is not only rude, but very rude.  “Oops” and “sorry” will not easily cut it in this scenario.

The heads are deemed as sacred and therefore shouldn’t be touched unnecessarily. Women are not allowed to touch the monks or even their clothing. In a situation where you are supposed to hand over something to the monk, you have two options. Either place the object in context on a table or pass the object to a layman who in turns hands it over to the monk.

Images of Buddha are respected in Laos. They shouldn’t therefore be touched inappropriately. If you happen to sit in a monastery building, free tip, do not point your feet in the direction of the image. When in Rome, do what Romans do: observe the Lao keenly and imitate their sitting position.

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