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From Australia to Laos: A Travel Guide

Posted By : Threeland Travel / Laos Travel Guide

For those looking for a holiday in a country embodying rich cultural and religious heritage, breathtaking scenic landscapes, and a slower pace of life, Laos is awaiting your arrival. While it's a lesser-explored country by tourists, perhaps that's what makes travel there so enriching -
it's left vastly untouched. For all you need to know about travel to Laos from down under, we’ve got you covered.

Best Time to Visit

Like anywhere in the world, there will be the best seasons to visit and some seasons you may want to avoid if you don’t enjoy crowds or want to avoid the rainy season. We have some guidance on some of the best months to visit, and why.

November - February

If you can visit during November - February, you will arrive when temperatures are in their prime. While many tourists flock to Laos around this time, it’s for good reason. These months are perfect for outdoor activities, sightseeing, and exploring religious and cultural sights. You
can also experience a range of festivals like Boun That Luang in November or Pi Mai Lao in April.

March - May

While higher temperatures and dry humidity characterize these months, your trip will still be enjoyable if you don’t mind temperatures upwards of 35°C. Do be wary that April will likely be the hottest month of the year, and travelling on and to the Mekong River may be limited as water
levels become increasingly low. Traveling to Laos in these months is not for the faint of heat, and probably not the best time to go if you want cooler temperatures while exploring the country.

June - September:

June - September is known as the wet season in travel, during these months brings heavy showers in the afternoon and evening. Despite it being wet season, temperatures will range from 25°C to 32°C. The great thing about visiting during these months is that you will witness
landscapes at their most luscious green, and waterfalls seem to be more striking. Travelling during these months also means you will encounter fewer tourists and less crowded cities.Accommodation prices will also be lower than usual.

Travelling to Laos

There are no direct flights from any Australian airport to Laos. This means the flight duration will be longer, with one or two stops along the way (expect a full trip to be between 16–32 hours). However, the wait is well worth it. You can fly popular in-direct routes from Melbourne Airport,
Adelaide Airport, and Sydney Airport, to Vientiane Wattay Airport.

  • From Melbourne Airport, you can fly to Wattay with stops in Sydney, Singapore, Hanoi, Shanghai, Bangkok, or Phnom Penh, for a round trip price between $960.00 - $1,377.00.
  • From Sydney Airport, you can fly to Wattay with typical stops in Ho Chi Minh or Bangkok, for a round-trip price between $942.00- $1,782.00
  • From Adelaide Airport, you can fly to Wattay with stops in Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, and Bangkok, for a round-trip price between $1,380.00-$1,940.00.

While these are the most popular airports for flying from Australia to Laos, you can fly to Laos indirectly from almost any airport in Australia; however, the ones mentioned above will offer the most convenient routes as considerably cheaper flight prices compared to flying from other

Travel Tip: Consider using Momondo or Skyscanner to scan the prices offered by various airlines during your date range. Or, turn on the ‘track prices’ feature on Google Flights’s website to get notified when prices are at their lowest for particular dates. Additionally, if you plan to keep your car at the airport while away, Flyparks can help you compare and book Adelaide Airport parking, or parking for Melbourne Airport, Sydney Airport, or any other airport in Australia for that matter. You can compare all the available car parks in the airport you wish to park at and find the most affordable car parks, as well as the most highly rated. Just be sure to book your airport parking in advance, especially if you are travelling during the holiday season, as both on-site and off-site airport parking facilities get booked quickly. And, remember, if you can book online, do it. It will save you up to 40% as opposed to driving up to the parking on the day of booking and incurring drive-up rates.

Acquire your Visa

As an Australian travelling to Laos, you will need to obtain a visa. You can do so by acquiring it online or by acquiring a physical copy of it at a few points of entry into the country, such as at Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airports, or the Friendship Bridge between Nong
Khai Thailand and Vientiane Laos. A tourist visa will only be valid for 60 days upon the date of arrival, and travellers must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry into the country, or a visa will not be granted. Additionally, you will have to pay a fee for
your tourist visa which will be approximately $45.00, or more.

To avoid any trouble or inconvenience, we recommend acquiring your e-visa online via the Lao e-visa website. Below are the requirements for obtaining an e-visa.

  • Apply 2 - 3 weeks before your designated arrival
  • Ensure your passport is valid for 6 months from the date of arrival in Laos, with at least 2 blank pages.
  • Provide a copy of the biographical page of your passport in a digital format
  • Use a recent digital photograph of yourself in a digital, passport-like format
  • Pay AUD $80.00
  • Provide a current email address to receive your approval letter

Please note that e-visas can only be used to enter the country via the Wattay International Airport and the Friendship Bridge between Nong Khai Thailand and Vientiane Laos. The e-visa will grant you a 60-day stay in the country. However, please remember that you must not extend
your stay in the country without appropriate legal approval, or you risk a heavy fine. You can re-apply for your visa at a consulate or online.

Travel Tip: After arriving in Laos, you will need to exchange your currency for Lao Kip, as you can not do so anywhere outside the country. Be sure that before leaving the country, again, you exchange any leftover Lao Kip you have, as you will not be able to exchange it anywhere else
outside the country.

Transportation in Laos

In Laos, you can find transportation catered to both modern and traditional methods. Tuk-tuks are common forms of transportation to get from one place to another within the city and are often very affordable and safe, just be sure you negotiate the price beforehand and have cash
on hand to pay. Songthaews is another common transportation mode that allows travellers to join a shared minivan car ride on benched seating. Songthaews operates on fixed routes, so be sure you ask the driver to which location a given Songthaew is visiting if you are unsure if it’s the correct bus for you. Speaking of buses, Laos has an extensive network of bus routes. The routes and stations will be in the Lao language. So, when in doubt, consult your Google Maps, and it will direct you to which bus stop, and bus number, to take. When you are in cities like Vientiane or Luang Prabang, you will be able to get to many places simply by foot, not to mention that travelling by foot is one of the best ways to explore the cities you are in as you will be able to stop whenever you like, and in these cities, you’ll want to stop often. Travellers can also rent motorbikes from various rental companies within the city, just be sure you are skilled at riding one before taking it on the streets. If you plan to travel between cities, look into domestic flights as they tend to be very convenient; however, they are not cheap. If you are not in the mood to catch a flight, look into arranging a bus transfer, as they are affordable and secure.

Travel Tip: As mentioned, Laos isn’t catered to tourism, so expect travel and transportation within the country to be relatively slow.

Choose your Laos Accommodations

Depending on where you fly into and travel within the country, there are some spectacular accommodations to stay in, and for a very low price compared to Australian standards. Check out some of the highly-rated accommodations below.

In Vientiane:

  • Vientiane Plaza Hotel: For $67.00 a night, you can experience a 4-star hotel only 6 kilometers away from Wattay International Airport, and right in the heart of the business district.

  • S Park Design Hotel: For $54.00 a night, you can experience another 4-star hotel that is 3 kilometers away from the airport, Wat Sisaket (a Siamese 19th-century temple), and the Patauxi war monument.

  • Villa de Mekong: If you are travelling with a larger group of people, renting a villa isn’t a bad idea. The Villa de Mekong houses 10 people and is a 9-minute walk from the Laos National Museum. Within 12 miles, you are at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge, which is great for those just arriving from the border, or planning to leave for it the next day.

In Luang Prabang:

  • The Namkhan: Rated 4.9 stars, The Namkhan is great for those travelling within Luang Prabang and want a villa-like accommodation experience for $73.00 a night. The NamKhan is located on an organic farm, making for excellent views to wake up to, and it's only 8 kilometres from the Luang Prabang Airport.

  • The Sanctuary Hotel Luang Prabang: This hotel is set upon a lotus pond that was once the home to the brother of the King of Laos. Located within the heart of the historic center, it's only a 12-minute walk from the Royal Palace Museum, and a 13-minute walk from Cross River Ferry, for $152.00 a night.

  • Mekong River View Hotel: Located only minutes away from various Buddhist temples and monuments, the Mekong River View Hotel offers scenic views of the Mekong and a restaurant with highly rated reviews.

Plan your Laos Activities

Most people explore Vientiane at least for a few days when travelling to Laos, as it is the capital and houses the most popular airport in the country, Wattay International Airport. While we have a comprehensive review of must-do activities in Laos, below are a few additional excursions we recommend, both in the capital city and towns/cities not far from Vientiane.

  1. Participate in a Baci Ceremony. No matter where you are in Laos, you can partake in a Baci Ceremony. And, it's even better if you are experiencing a major life event or transition whilst you are in the country - it will make the ceremony much more meaningful as it is a ceremonial tradition in Lao culture celebrating individuals.
  2. Take a Lao Cooking Class. You can do this in any city, and it is a great way to engage with locals (your hosts) as well as try traditional cuisine and reap the rewards of your cooking! You will get to visit a local market to hand-pick your fresh ingredients beforehand.
  3. Visit a Rice Farm and engage in the authentic farming experience. If you’re keen to learn about the agricultural mastery practices in Laos, this experience will completely enlighten you. You will see first-hand how the rice you so often eat is made. You can partake in this experience with a tour or program that allows you to plant and harvest rice.
  4. Participate in an Almsgiving Ceremony in Luang Prabang. If you are travelling outside of Vientiane, which we highly recommend, take a trip to Luang Prabang and partake in the daily morning ritual of offering food to Laos monks as they walk through the streets. It's an incredible experience to feel the giving nature of Lao culture.
  5. Visit an Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury. If you can make a weekend trip to Sayaboury from Vientiane, you should. There is an elephant conservation center within this town where travellers can learn about the conversation that goes into sustaining the country’s elephant population and the ethics at the foundation of the upkeep. While visiting the center, you can also interact with elephants in a safe environment for both them and you.

Additional Things to Know:

  • Do not speak about Lao politics, it is highly discouraged.
  • Do not do drugs in Laos - penalties and punishments may be extreme.
  • Pack toilet paper and feminine hygiene products if you foresee yourself in need of them, as public restrooms do not commonly offer toilet paper, and tampons are difficult to find
  • Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious and cultural sites, as mentioned above.
  • Pack lightly - many accommodations do not have elevators to transport heavy, rolling luggage to and from your rooms. So either pack a light backpack with you or be ready to lift heavy.
  • Be ready to eat with your hands! It is common in Laos, especially when eating with locals.

Now you have just about everything you need to start your journey to Laos. Of course, do your research to make sure you are seeing and partaking in everything that would appeal to you. Remember to bring modest clothing for when visiting religious and cultural heritage sites, and, if you can, pick up a few Lao phrases that you can use when out shopping or eating in a restaurant or café, it will go a long way with the locals and is perceived as a sign of respect and appreciation. Happy travelling!