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Lao Pre-departure Information

Passport and Visas:

Passport: First and foremost it is imperative that the first name and surname on your passport corresponds exactly with the first name and surname you have given to Back Ride Travel to be printed on your airline tickets. Failure to do so may result in the airline refusing you the right to travel.

Please make sure your passport is in order and that it has been signed. It should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned return date. Please note that at the time of booking, we will require your full passport details (all names as written in your passport, passport number, date of issue and expiry and date of birth).

Visa:  Visas for Laos can be arranged on arrival in any international borders and are valid for 30 days. The visa fee is US$35 in cash per person and you will require one passport-sized photo. We advise you take some spare passport-sized photographs as the amount required could change at any time.


Health and Security: Your doctor will advise you on which inoculations are compulsory and which are recommended for your itinerary. If you are travelling to the Far East the recommended vaccinations are Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio, Meningitis, Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever (only if you have visited an affected area within the 5 days prior to your arrival), but these are subject to change so please check the current advice with your doctor. Please arrange inoculation at least 10 days before your intended departure date. Also ask your doctor to prescribe a course of anti-malarial tablets which should be taken daily starting 7 days before your departure, throughout your stay, and for 4 weeks upon your return to the home. As a precaution against malaria, do try to keep arms and legs covered in the evenings, exposed skin should be liberally coated with mosquito repellent after sunset. Take advantage of a dental check-up (since treatment may be difficult while you are away) and consult your optician if you anticipate any difficulty with spectacles or contact lenses.                                                 

Please be careful not to touch any animals whether wild, stray or apparently ‘tame’. If you are bitten you must get immediate medical attention. Go to the nearest doctor or hospital. You may need a rabies vaccination and the course of injections must be started immediately. Ask for ‘human diploid cell vaccine’, if possible. In case of difficulty, contact the nearest Consular official. 

We suggest that where possible the following should be avoided - tap water, drinks with ice cubes and food and drink from street vendors. Drink only bottled, mineral water and ensure that the seal is intact before opening it.  Also avoid spicy food and raw vegetables/salad for the first few days to allow your body time to adjust to the change in diet. If you become unwell, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and warm tea. Sunburn is a common affliction, so don’t sit out for too long in the sun. If walking in the heat of the day, wear a hat and protect your skin. Throat infections are common, so take a good mouthwash like Oraldene together with a supply of Enterosan or Immodium to relieve diarrhoea.

Cities in Laos are probably a good deal safer at night than London, US, Franace but it is still a bad idea to carry all your money and valuables around, wherever possible use the hotel safe deposit. Pickpockets tend to operate in public places such as bus stations and anywhere else where there are crowds, so keep a sharp eye out - and never leave a bag and valuables unattended.


Insurance:  A good travel insurance that covers lost luggage, money and valuables, personal liability, medical and cancellation expenses is essential. It is a condition of travelling with Back Ride Travel that you have adequate Travel Insurance. Many clients prefer to make their own insurance arrangements to suite their particular requirements. Please note that we will need to know the following information before commencement of your holiday:

- Name of your insurers

- Policy number

- Insurers emergency contact number


MoneyWe recommend taking US dollars cash. In Vientiane and Luang Prabang major credit cards, such as Visa and Master Card are accepted by most hotels, shops and restaurants. In southern Laos (Pakse), you will need US dollars cash, as credit cards are virtually useless.

You will be able to get cash advances on credit cards for kip at banks (opening hours are generally Monday to Saturday from 08.30hours – 15.30 hours, closed on public holidays).

Local Currency – Kip


What to take: Travel as light as possible. Most items including clothes, toiletries and accessories are cheaper abroad than at home. Try and pack everything in one large soft bag. Small items such as a camera, music player, maps, books etc. can go in a light shoulder bag or day sack which can be used later, on day trips, sightseeing etc. In general, loose cotton clothes are best for hot, tropical climates though you will need to take warm clothing, as the evenings can sometimes be cooler. Casual dress is acceptable everywhere, but note that low-cut dresses, shorts etc. will offend in the holy places - as will leather (bags, belts, shoes etc.). For visits to temples it is better if shoes can be slipped on and off easily. For trekking, hill-walks and visits to wildlife sanctuaries we suggest that you take heavy cotton chinos, strong shoes etc. Laundry facilities are cheap and readily available throughout. Your tour guide will be able to assist you with this. 

Depending on your destination and style of travel you may consider taking the following:

torch                               music player                           mosquito repellent                    spare contact lenses

alarm clock                      camera and film                      sunglasses                                binoculars

extra batteries                   mirror                                   sun cream                                day pack

inflatable pillow                sewing kit                              lip salve                                   sun scarf/hat

snorkel/mask                   personal medical kit                 spare spectacles                         water bottle


Climate: The dry season in Laos is from November to April, with temperatures reaching their highest from March to May. The South West Monsoon is from mid- May to June, bringing frequent rains that continue into late October. It generally rains in the early morning and late afternoon, which offers a refreshing relief from the heat. During the monsoon season the landscape is fresh and green.

From February to May the North is sometimes surrounded by thick fog from local crop burning. This can be quite bad in March.

Electricity: Electrical current varies in Laos is 220 volts, most sockets are the two-prong flat or round type so take a selection of adapters with you. Remember a small torch too, in the event of power cuts


International Flights: First and foremost it is imperative that the surname and initials on your passport corresponds exactly with the surname and initials shown on your airline tickets. Failure to do so may result in the airline refusing you the right to travel. Final international flight details will be confirmed with your travel documents. Please check-in at the airport at least 2½ hours prior to your scheduled departure time from the UK. In general seat numbers can only be allocated on arrival at the UK airport, we would therefore suggest that you report to the check-in desk on time to obtain your preferred seats. Baggage allowance on your international flights is usually restricted to 20 or 23kgs, plus a single piece of hand luggage


Domestic Flights: Within Laos delays and last-minute cancellations are not uncommon. Should this happen our local representative will discuss the best possible alternative available to you and endeavour to get you to your destination with the least possible inconvenience to you, either by surface or air. Please note that on most domestic and international flights, knives of any kind and some liquids are not allowed in hand luggage and should be packed in your main luggage. Please note that you may be required to pay an airport departure tax (please see ‘Extras’ in your itinerary for further details). You will not be able to exchange money at the airport, so please ensure that you retain your departure tax in cash.


Travel by Road: Road travel in Laos remains very undeveloped, with very few main roads. Most roads around the main cities are surfaced elsewhere they are not and a journey of 200kms could take from 10 to 18 hours to complete. Our cars and drivers in each country are carefully chosen for experience and reliability. When calculating journey times you should allow for an average speed of 40kms per hour but reducing to 25-30kms in hill-country.


Travel by Train: There is currently no rail network in Laos.


Photography: Always ask permission first to take photographs of the local people. Photography is prohibited at airports, museum and military installations. There is normally an extra charge to use a video camera at some monument sites including National Parks and very occasionally a small charge for still cameras. We would also recommend that if you are taking a digital camera, be sure to carry extra batteries and have enough space on your memory card or take spare ones with you as they are not readily available to purchase.


Telephones: Telephone is available in most part of country


Shopping: In general our advice is “Buyer Beware”. Should you not wish to enter a shop, please do not bow to pressure and be firm in stating that you do not wish to shop. Shops are generally open daily from 09.00 hours - 19.00 hours or 20.00 hours, but subject to variation from place to place. Please be aware that any expensive item imported into the UK will incur VAT and possible import duties unless the shop provides you with an exemption certificate which applies to items exported/imported between Commonwealth countries. The import of ivory into the UK is prohibited. There are also restrictions on the export of art objects and antiques from some countries.


Tipping: This is left to your discretion and should, of course, be based on the satisfaction of the services you receive. The following are some guidelines for tipping drivers and guides:

    Tour guide      US$5 to US$10 per day per 2 people

    Tour driver     US$3 to US$6 per day per 2 people

    Luggage         US$1 per two pieces carried                                          

It is common to leave a small tip for the room staff at the end of your stay at a hotel. 20 – 40k per day, depending on the quality of service should be ample. Small change is difficult to come by so we suggest that you obtain some from your hotel at the start of each day. This will be useful for tipping people such as ‘shoe minders’ at temples etc.


In General:

* Always ask permission before entering a temple.

* Remove your shoes before entering a religious temple.

* When walking around shrines or temples, walk only in a clockwise direction, keeping the building to your right.

* Ask permission of people before taking their picture. Paying to photograph people should be avoided.

* Modesty in clothing is important. A long (below the knees) skirt is ideal for ladies or trousers are perfectly acceptable.

* We discourage giving money to beggars, particularly children, as an unfortunate impact of begging is that it may create dependency. If you wish to contribute, it is more beneficial to give to your preferred charity. If visiting a rural village in Asia you may wish to make to make a contribution to the local school. Exceptions are also made for the physically handicapped and spiritual devotees.


Suggested Reading: Do as much advance reading as possible - it will greatly add to the enjoyment of your trip. Footprint Handbooks and Nelles Maps offers comprehensive and up to date information on Laos.

A Dragon Apparent’ by Norman Lewis (1951) - An absorbing and heart aching glimpse of lands, peoples and customs which have gone forever. This book has recently been reprinted but is also available from many second-hand bookshops.

‘One Foot in Laos’ by Dervla Murphy - Dervla Murphy went to Laos in 1997 to discover a country that after fifteen years of isolation, had only just opened its borders to the West. What started as a simple journey on foot through the high mountains soon developed complications. However she discovered Laos was a country where the people more than compensated for everything that went wrong.