General information about Laos
Laos A few hundred years ago, Laos was called Lane Xang – the empire of a million elephants. This unique country, situated in the heart of the Indonesian peninsula is gradually opening up to visitors from all over the world. Laos is developing gradually and without haste. It still belongs to the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in Asia. In spite of this, it is rich – in culture, history and natural resources. However, the people of the country are even more fascinating. The great ethnic variety, the more than sixty different tribes, the natural hospitality and open-hearted and helpful people make travelling in Laos into a very special experience. The day is still dominated by peace and calm. Hectic business and pure profit-seeking are still largely unknown.
The time difference to CET (Central European Time) is five hours in summer and six in winter.
Laos, the only inland country in South East Asia is situated between Thailand and Vietnam. It borders on China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand und Myanmar. Laos has six million inhabitants in an area of 236,800 square kilometres. The capital and largest city is Vientiane. The northern part of the country is situated on the South East Asian mainland.
Laos has a tropical climate with high temperatures, and due to the great differences in altitude, there can be large fluctuations in temperature. The climate is very strongly influenced by the monsoons. From May to October is the summer or southwest monsoon, which is accompanied by heavy rain and high humidity. In this period there is a rainfall of an average of 1,778 millimetres, while between November and February there is a cooler dry climate due to the northeast monsoon.
It is advisable to adapt your clothing to the tropical conditions. Clothing should be light, airy and quick-drying, so that any surprise showers can be withstood easily. It should also be noted that in the tropics you quickly become sensitive to temperature, and in some cases temperatures below 23 degrees can be experienced as cool. Therefore a warmer windproof jacket should also be considered. For hot sunny days a sun hat, sun cream and a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection are important.
As is to be expected in Asia, the menu in Laos is dominated by rice. Even the word for food "Kin Khao" literally means "eat rice". Apart from starchy rice, fish, meat, poultry, game and all kinds of exotic animals are just as common on tables in Laos as large quantities of vegetables and a simply unbelievable selection of various herbs.
Accommodation which corresponds to Western standards can only be found in the tourist centres. The rapidly growing number of private guest houses, and the increase in Chinese investment in the north has extended the quantity of supply. One often has the impression that locally restricted quality standards have been set up.
The currency of Laos is the Kip, which is an internal currency. This means that Kips may not be imported or exported. Apart from the Kip, the US Dollar and the Thai Baht are the main currencies which are accepted. Traveller's cheques and increasingly credit cards are becoming very common.
Post and Telecom installations can be identified by their ochre-coloured paint. International calls are usually possible from all telephone exchanges in the country. The dialling code from Germany to Laos is 00856, and from Laos to Germany 0049. Although Laos has a rapidly developing mobile phone network, mobile phones which are brought in only function in the region of the Thai network, i.e. on the border. The emergency number for the police is 191, and for the emergency doctor it is 195.
Medical treatment in the country cannot be compared with Europe and is often problematic from a technical, equipment and/or hygienic point of view. Often there is a lack of English or French-speaking doctors who have trained in Europe. If you need any daily medication, please ensure that you have an adequate supply with you. Hygienic conditions in Laos do not correspond to European standards. Therefore, several precautions should be taken: wash your hands often, and do not drink tap water or water which has not been boiled. Wash fruit well before eating, or better still, peel it.
It is advisable to check your general vaccination status – diphtheria, tetanus and polio. We also recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and B, typhoid and possibly rabies. Travellers should obtain information about infection and vaccination protection in good time and seek medical advice. Please refer to to the general information available from health authorities, doctors experienced in travel medicine, specialists in tropical medicine, travel medicine information services or the Federal Centre for Health Education [Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung].
Usually you can find combination mains sockets which are suitable for Japanese flat plugs. Caution: Plugs with an earth contact usually do not fit! You should also note that the mains voltage can vary between 150 and 250 Volt. Caution should also be exercised outside of large towns, as here the electricity usually comes from small generators. Even a 1,000 Watt hairdryer can cause such a plant to break down. The mains voltage is normally 220 Volt, 50 Hz.
Any currency should be declared, as only the amount which has provably been brought in may be taken out of the country. It is also recommended to declare valuable objects such as photo, video and computer equipment beforehand. The currency of Laos, the Kip may not be imported or exported. Please note that Buddha figures and antiques may not be exported. The following may be imported duty free: 1 bottle of alcohol, 400 cigarettes and perfume in "reasonable quantities".
The main religion of Laos is Buddhism. From this teaching arose the rules for everyday life, which should be respected by visitors.
"Modest" clothing should be worn. A woman should never touch a monk, or give him anything directly. Pagodas should not be entered wearing shoes, and nothing should be pointed to with the feet. The Laoist "doesn't matter" is not just a phrase, but also a philosophy of life. Visitors are advised not to lose their patience.
In the past years there have been occasional ambushes along the national roads 13 and 7. Since 2004 the situation has been quiet. However, you should be conscious of the risk and check the present conditions and if necessary choose an alternative route.
To avoid theft, you should not leave anything lying around unobserved. Valuables should be carried close to your person and you should keep your eyes open with regard to what is going on around you.
This information has been compiled to the best of our knowledge, however this may be subject to change. We are not liable for the accuracy of the stated information.