1. Basic sentences in Laos language
Almost travelers/tourists will be confused for the first time communication to the local. Thus, it is necessary to learn some basic Laos words when talking to the local people, especially it is very useful when bargaining to buy some tropical fruits from the local vendors. That will be an amazing experience you wish to do it.
The Lao word for “hello” is “Sabai dee”, say it with smile and you’ll be well-treated.
Khop chai = Thank you
Lai lai = Very much
Khau thot = So sorry
Phaeng lai= Too expensive
Phaeng the = Too expensive
2. Transportation &and Transfer in Laos
Laos is laid-back land with the undeveloped infrastructure when comparing with other neighboring Southeast Asia countries but it still has some reliable transportation routes which link big cities or central areas.
The truth is that Mekong and Nam Ou rivers are the main natural transportation method. It is available for large boats. Main popularity gathered to live nearby the bank of the river in lowland villages. Their main earning money method are for fishing, small trading, and selling some goods to tourists.
Until nowadays, there are more and more project to build-up and renovate the road system to reach the neighborhood countries as well as the inner road system to fit the demand of the local people.
Other popular local transport such as the tuktuk, Songthew or Tricyclo are still used by large amount of the local. Taxi is not really convenient in this country due to the limited availability.
For long distances, it is available minivan, bus, air and cruise trip. With the very fast development of tourist, all the means of transfer are increased for both quality and quantity.
By air, it is not really popular to be used by the local as the air fare is still high and not many choices of the time schedule and ticket classes.
Two popular vehicles are minivan of 09s and 15s in Laos.
– Minivan of 09s: mainly imported from South of Korea, the Hyundai Starex is the most popular car used even it is out of date at this time. This 9 seat van is suitable for 01 to 04 pax with a guide and driver.
– Minivan of 15s: this is a 15 seat Toyota Hiace mini-van which very common in Laos. It is suitable for maximum 9 pax without luggage or 7 pax with luggage.
With boat transportation on Mekong river from Thailand border/Houai Xay to Luang Prabang via Pakbeng (02D/01N or 03D/02N), it is available from the low budget to expensive one.
Other local cruising trip such as:
- Cruising on Nam Ou river from Muang Khua to Muang Ngoi or Nongkhiaw
- Cruising on Nam Song river in Vang Vieng
- Cruising from Don Khong to Don Khone (in 4000 island area)
For overnight cruise option, It is available only 2 suppliers on Mekong river.
- Mekong cruise is a upscale supplier who offers 2 luxury cruise brand names: Mekong Sun and Mekong Pearl. Mekong Sun cruise runs from Golden Triangle till Luang Prabang town. Mekong Pearl cruise will be from Vientiane to Golden Triangle passing by Luang Prabang town.
- Vat Phou cruise just offer 03D/02N trip from Pakse to 4000 island famous area.
3. Dos and Don’ts
When travelling in different country, the tourists have many things to prepare to make sure their trip is smooth and successfully as well as well-communicate with the local community. Therefore, it is necessary to study a little bit about DOS & DON’TS before heading to Laos. Here some tips with more details:
Putting your hands together in a praying gesture at chin lever is the most formal greeting in Laos to show your respect to the opposite person. However, handshakes are commonly used among the male friends or with travelers and tourists.
- Dress in orient style is highly appreciated here, especially when entering religious shrines or temples. If your dress is not suite this regulation, we can hire the clothes from the local people who standing nearby the gate of temples/pagodas.
- Should take off your shoes if visiting the temples or pagodas.
- It is open to take photo at local people but should ask a permission or do it with a smile.
- Despite the high temperature from 30 – 40 degree, Laotians dress is conservative. You don’t need to wear similar to the local, just don’t reveal so much skin.
- The condition of accommodation (hotel/homestay) in Laos is not really comfortable while compared with other neighborhood countries so keep your expect lower to get more happiness during your Laos trip.
- In generally, English spoken skill of guide in Southeast Asia is not really good which may be not match your expectation.
- Learn some basic Lao phases and try to practice to speak them loudly with the locals you meet with a big smile, the local will be amazed and very happy.
4. Money & budget
Laos’s local currency is named KIP.
Here are some popular notes: 500; 1000; 2000; 5000; 10000; 20000; 50000 and 100000 KIP denominations.
It is quite different to Cambodia, Laotian just accept KIP or Vietnamese Dong or Thai baht.
The official exchange rate in Laos is around 8,336 Kip = 01 USD (as of December 2017).
US Dollars, Euros, Thai Baht, Australia Dollars…are widely used in Laos to be exchanged in KIP at the current market rate at the banks, airport or at any licensed moneychanger in the downtown.
You are advised to change small amount of $50 into KIP to pay for small stuffs from the local food stores, the vendors, etc…
5. Credit Cards and ATM
ATM machines are available in few cities in Laos such as Luang Prabang, Vientiane. When withdraw money from ATMs, there is a limit of withdrawal amount such as 1,500,000 per time and 7,000,000 per day. Credit Cards are widely accepted by local suppliers in big cities (such as Luang Prabang and Vientiane), usually high-end hotels or shops, with a surcharge of 2.5-3%.
In reality, the cash is highly recommended while Traveler Cheque is rarely used in Laos.