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Laos Travel Guide: Tourist Information, Things to Do and See, Safety, Nightlife, Travel Tips

ultimate laos travel guide

Often overlooked by visitors to South-East Asia, Laos is the perfect country to add to any visit to Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam.

If you are looking for somewhere that still isn’t as crowded as these other countries, I’d recommend a trip to Laos. While it is known to many avid backpackers, it still isn’t so familiar to tourists.

There are many great cities to visit in the country, with amazing architecture and nature. If you enjoy an active trip, this is a great place to go hiking, tubing, and biking.

Join me today as I share with you my complete guide to Laos. Having enjoyed my visit here last year so much, I can’t wait to share with you the highlights and best things to do in this incredible country.

Useful Information for Tourists

Laos useful tourist information

Laos Visa

Most visitors need a 30-day tourist visa to visit Laos. On arrival by plane or on land, you can purchase your Laos visa. You will need the fee, one passport photo, and information about where you are staying.

The fee is dependent on your nationality but is between US$30-42. You can pay in US Dollars. Thai Baht are accepted, however, there is an additional fee of 1500B for paying in this currency.

When you arrive in Laos, you will find their customs inspections to be quite relaxed, unless you are traveling with excessive amounts of luggage. The customs limit for distilled spirits is 1 liter, and you can’t enter with more than 500 cigarettes.

Laos Currency

The Laos currency is called the Kip and is available in many different denominations of notes. Alternatively, you can use US dollars in many places, so it’s worth traveling with these as well.

ATM’s in Laos always have a fee, even if your bank offers free withdrawals abroad. Be really careful when withdrawing money, as sometimes these fees are not clear.

The ATM’s in Laos dispense between 700,000k to 2,000,000k and expect to pay between 10.000-30.000 KIP for each million KIP withdrawn.

Tipping in Laos

Tipping in Laos is not customary, but of course, staff will appreciate it. You will notice that in many tourist areas, staff are accustomed to tips, so you may feel it’s expected on tours and in restaurants.

Laos Time Zone

The time in Laos is on the Indochina Time Zone (GMT +7), which is the same as Bangkok. If you are looking to stay in contact with home, you’ll be pleased to know free wi-fi is common throughout Laos in guesthouses and hotels in the main tourist destinations.

How to Get to Laos

laos pakse airport
Image by TADAHIKO OMATA from Pixabay

Most travelers start their trip to Laos in Vientiane, which is the capital of the country. If you are arriving from the UK or elsewhere overseas, there are no long-haul direct flights to Laos.

Instead, you can connect from Bangkok, Chiang Mai or other South-East Asian cities by plane into Wattay International Airport.

Another option is to travel by bus. You can connect with many of the big cities throughout the country on direct buses, and these are reasonably cheap to use.

Once you arrive in Laos, many places are easy to navigate on foot. Alternatively, you can rent a bike or motorbike.

Best Time to Visit Laos

laos weather temperature and rainfall

For dry, warm weather, Laos is best visited between November and January. This time of year offers little rain and the perfect temperatures for active adventures.

During this time you can tube and swim in the rivers, as the water levels are safe. Expect temperatures of about 24°C in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and about 30°C in Pakse.

Between March and May, the country is very hot and dry, and then June is the rainiest month of the year. Expect rain throughout the summer until about October.

See also: How to Find Cheaper Flights to Southeast Asia

Where to Stay in Laos

laos hotel

Laos is a great value destination to visit, and regardless of your budget, you’ll have some high-quality accommodation options here.

Hostels are really cheap here, and there are many to choose from in each major city.

In Luang Prabang, I recommend the Kounsavan Guest House, which has its own swimming pool. If you are looking for a party hostel here, Villa Merry Laos III is my top choice.

In Vang Vieng, I loved the Easy Go Hostel, where I met some amazing people and I loved its mountain surroundings. If you are looking for a really sociable hostel, the Chillao Youth Hostel has a massive open area that’s perfect for meeting other travelers.

In Vientiane, you’ve got to stay at the Funky Monkey Hostel. It’s near the night market and is great value for money with a swimming pool on site.

In Pakse, Laos, the You Empire Hostel & Bar is a great place to meet locals and travelers and has a sociable bar area onsite.

What to Do in Laos

Laos offers endless activities for travelers on all budgets. Here are some of my top recommendations for the most-visited cities in the country.

Things to Do in Pakse

Pakse Market
Pakse Vegetables Market. Image by Suanpa from Pixabay
  • Bolaven Plateau – visit the highlands and enjoy the fantastic waterfalls and scenery. Make sure you try the coffee here!
  • Pakse Market – Daoheuang Market is Pakse’s most popular marketplace. This extensive market offers dozens of stalls offering clothing, souvenirs and great local food.
  • Vat Phou – Vat Phou is a ruined temple complex, which is located at the base of a mountain. It’s an amazing sight and has a very unique structure.
  • Wat Luang – This was my favorite site and one I always recommend when people ask what to do in Pakse. The temple is stunning and has majestic decorations.

What to Do in Vang Vieng

Hot Air Balloon Vang Vieng Laos
Hot Air Balloon. Photo by Elena Rabkina on Unsplash
    • Kayaking Vang Vieng – The highlight of my time in Vang Vieng was kayaking on the river. Alternatively, if you prefer to put in a little less effort, try drifting along in a tube.
    • Blue lagoon Vang Vieng – One of my favorite thing to do in Vang Vieng is to visit the Tham Phu Kham Cave and Blue Lagoon. It’s a great hiking trip, and I loved seeing these amazing caves.
    • Hot Air Balloon Vang Vieng – If you’ve never tried a hot air balloon before, this is a great place to go on one. It’s quite affordable here, and I loved gliding above the incredible scenery and countryside.
    • Kaeng Nyui Waterfall Vang Vieng – Rent a bike and explore the local area as you head to this awesome waterfall. It’s a great place to cool off during warm weather.

Vang Vieng is one of the best party places in Southeast Asia. Check our guide and find out what are the 10 Best Vacations for Single Guys to Get Laid in Southeast Asia

What to See in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang Laos Temple
Image by 41330 from Pixabay
  • Wat Chom Si Shrine – Located at the top of Mount Phou Si, this temple overlooks the city.
  • Royal Temple Museum – The previous Royal Palace, is a great site to visit to learn more about the history of Laos.
  • Wat Xieng Thong Temple – With over twenty different buildings and designs on the property, I appreciated the elaborate temples here.
  • Pak Ou Caves – I took a hiking trip here, and it was one of my favorite things to do in Laos. It was a great way to spend a day in nature, admiring these incredible formations.

Best to Visit in Vientiane

Food Market Vientiane Laos
Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash

There are many things to do in Vientiane, but some of the best are:

  • Anou Market – Visit this market one evening for the incredible street food. It’s an inexpensive place to enjoy dinner.
  • Wat Si Saket – This is a Buddhist temple that previously held an Emerald Buddha. You’ll find it located on Lan Xang Road.
  • COPE Visitor’s Center – If you are interested in learning more about the past of Laos, this is an eye-opening museum. It discusses the bombings that have taken place and the country’s role in the Vietnam War.

Other Things to Do and See in Laos

Nong Khiaw Laos
Nong Khiaw
  • A slow boat – If you are spending a while in the country, consider adding on a slow boat journey. They take a few days and travel between Huay-Xai and Luang Prabang.
  • Take a cooking class – This is one of my favorite activities to do anywhere in South-East Asia. Take a hands-on class where you’ll cook many different dishes and learn more about the preparation of their traditional meals. Cooking classes take place in all the major cities.
  • Visit Nong Khiaw – Three hours away from Luang Prabang, this is the perfect place for trekking and enjoying nature. It’s located on the Nam Ou River in Northern Laos and attracts fewer crowds than other towns and cities.

Laos Travel Safety

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Many people ask me ‘Is Laos safe?’ In my opinion, traveling anywhere in the world has its risks, but it’s all about keeping your wits about you and following basic safety advice.

Road Safety

motorbike on road safety
Image by Maciej Cieslak from Pixabay

Road safety is a big issue in Laos. With the recent increases in vehicles on the road, the number of accidents has naturally increased. The majority of deaths and accidents are from motorcycle incidents, and a lack of helmet wearing partly causes this.

Not many visitors rent a car in Laos, instead choosing to take buses. However, driving is a great way to enjoy the country’s beautiful landscape.

One of the main issues with the roads in Laos is the lack of paving. This makes the roads very dusty, which means they are more susceptible to slippery surfaces.

If you are driving a vehicle of any kind, remember that they drive on the right-hand side in Laos. There are limited markings on the roads, so it’s important for drivers and cyclists to remain alert at all times.

A lot of tourists love to rent motorbikes here, and it’s a fun way to explore the cities and towns.

If you choose to rent a car, it’s important to note that mobile phone use, including using a hands-free device, is illegal. The blood alcohol limit is 0.08, and it’s not uncommon to be stopped and breathalyzed.

See also: The Absolute 10 BEST Places to Visit in Southeast Asia

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Safety

landmines in laos

Between 1964 and 1973, the USA dropped over two million tonnes of bombs on Laos. This legacy sadly lives on today, and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) is still a threat to citizens and visitors.

Statistics state that the removal of these bombs is at less than one percent of the number dropped.

The areas most affected by the bombings are the southern part of the country and the Xieng Khuang province. Generally, most areas tourists are likely to visit are safe from this threat.

However, it’s important to always remain aware, especially if you are hiking or venturing away from the town or city centers.

The landmines in Laos are a real threat that makes hundreds of victims every year. If you want to adventure and hike in less populated areas, take a guide with you.

Crime & Safety


Generally, Laos is safer than other countries in the region. However, in the past few years, more tourists reported scams and crime.

When staying in hostel dorms, ensure you lock up valuables in the lockers in your room. Don’t leave any expensive gadgets or cash on show in your room, or advertise these to your roommates.

When traveling on public transport, ensure you also keep your belongings hidden. Beware of pickpockets on buses, and watch your luggage during the journey.

If you rent a bike or motorcycle, don’t leave anything important in the basket. If you are keeping your bike overnight, make sure you lock it up. This is becoming more of an issue recently, with theft of motorbikes in particular increasing.

If you do experience any theft or crime during your visit, head to the nearest police station to report the incident. Like anywhere, you’ll need to be most aware at night time and when walking down dark roads.

Vang Vieng is a big party town, and so attracts more crime. This is due to drunk tourists being unaware of their surroundings and belongings. However, like anywhere in the world, it’s all about having common sense and being aware of who’s around you.

Carry any valuables such as money and your passport in a money belt, as some theft and crimes do happen.

Pickpocketing is more common in Vang Vieng than anywhere else. Be careful on small, darker streets at night. It’s also known for motorbikes pulling up out of nowhere and robbing unsuspecting tourists.

Laos Travel Itinerary

Laos riverside
Photo by Ioana Farcas on Unsplash

If you are spending a month in Laos, I would recommend starting your trip in Vientiane, as it offers the best travel links.

If you have a month in the country, which your tourist visa will allow, split your time into 5-7 days in each area.

From Vientiane, travel to Vang Vieng by bus. The journey will take about four hours. From Vang Vieng, head even further north to Luang Prabang.

The journey here takes about 5-6 hours, and you’ll enjoy spending a good few days exploring and relaxing.

I would then recommend taking the 1 hour and 45-minute flight down to the south to visit Pakse, before coming full circle back to Vientiane.

If you have only 2 weeks in Laos then you should check this itinerary.

Laos Nightlife

Bor Pen Nyang Vientiane Laos
Bor Pen Nyang. Source:

The fun in Laos doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, and after a busy day exploring you’ll be pleased to know there are ample bars, restaurants and clubs throughout the country.

In Vientiane, visit Bor Pen Nyang, which is busy any night of the week. It has amazing views from the fourth floor of the Mekong River, and the DJs here are fantastic.

In Luang Prabang, visit Icon Klub for a great night out. I loved the wide selection of cocktails here, and the club has a great crowd every night.

My other favorite club in the area was Dao Fah Night Club, which has a young local crowd. They play Laos techno and EDM music here, and after 10 pm it attracts a large crowd.

In Vang Vieng, the best club I visited was Sakura Bar. It was packed, and I loved the energetic DJs here. Drinks are really cheap, so it’s a great night out for all.

I found Vang Vieng to be the best place for drinking and clubbing, so definitely plan a few nights out during your time here.

Laos Travel Tips

laos travel tips

Here are a few of my top pieces of Laos travel advice to keep in mind when planning your Laos adventure:

  • Beware of the over-inflated tuk-tuk prices for tourists. If you can, stick to walking and cycling around the cities and towns. Take tours to visit areas further away.
  • Elephants are endangered creatures here, so I would advise not riding on them during tours. There are some sanctuaries you can visit, but research where you are giving your money to before visiting.
  • Save money by eating street food instead of dining at Western restaurants.
  • Consider upgrading to VIP buses for more comfort and air conditioning when traveling between cities.
  • If you are hiking alone, always stay on marked paths. There are plenty of hiking trips available, so consider joining one of them for a safer experience.
  • Always have travel insurance and make sure it covers any active adventures you are going to do.

Laos is a fantastic country to visit, whether you plan to spend an extended time here or tag it onto another South-East Asian destination.

Accommodation is really affordable here, and you’ll be able to stay in great hostels and hotels for much lower prices than in the neighboring countries.

I hope you have an amazing time on your next trip to Laos and enjoy exploring this lesser-known part of South-East Asia.


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Catalin Geangos
Catalin Geangos is the founder and previous owner of TravelTrained. He has been to more than 35 countries and lived in a few more before. He was a digital nomad travelling and backpacking extensively in Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and others parts of South East Asia from 2020 to 2023. He wrote about many articles about his first hand backpacking and partying experiences in these countries. He stayed in many hostels and hotels, met many other backpackers, travelers and locals whom he partied and shared his story with. His articles have inspired travelers, mostly single backpackers, around to world to take the leap to explore South East Asian countries from grassroots and not just the tourist attractions but also the real and happening life on the streets after the sun sets down! He now writes about outdoor gear and hiking.