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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

LAOS TRAVEL INFORMATION

April, 2006

10,000 kip = $1 USD

The ancient kingdom of the Million Elephants, which became the Popular Democratic Republic of Laos  in 1975, is now open to tourism. The Annamitic mountain range crosses the NW region, while the Mekong river divides Laos with Thailand and Myanmar in the West. Laos has 14,000km of road, 80% of which are not asphalted. Presently very few road maps are available, and city maps are rare and uninformative. Laos boasts of being the least populated country in S.E. Asia.

The official language is sanscrit and pali native, however, English and French are both spoken, especially in hotels, guesthouses, some restaurants and upper priced stores.

About 70 ethnic groups of Laos can be identified. They are generally placed into simple classifications according to geographical location: Lao Loum (from the plains); Lao Theung (from the hills); Lao Sung (from the mountains).

 

General Information

Money

The official currency in Laos is Kip. Thai baht and US dollars are freely accepted in big towns, but less so in rural areas. Banks will take Euros and are open from Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Visa withdrawals come with a charge of around 3%. Credit cards are accepted in high class  hotels.

We utilize US dollars or Thai baht. USD in small denominations will prove useful to you in any of the cities or towns in Laos.

Do not bring any Kip back with you from your visit to Laos, you will not be able to exchange them in any other place on earth.

Visa

Our Lao Visa cost $30 USD per person upon entry. Bring a passport size photo of yourself. The Lao officials take Thai baht as well as USD. If you wish to have your Visa extended, you can do so only in Vientiane, with a $2 USD cost per day. If you don't plan ahead and wait until you arrive at the airport to take care of this extension upon leaving the country, it will cost you $10 USD per day.

Flights

The airfare for this trip was 14,625 Baht pp, 6 flights to 3 cities on Lao Airlines. We went from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, to Vientienne, then to Phonsavan to see the The Plain of Jars. The tickets will read Xieng Khouang, which is another name for Phonsavan.

There is no ATM machine inside the Luang Prabang airport to change money, just a change house. You must buy a ticket at the ticket office inside to use the taxis and tuk tuks to get into the center of town, which costs $5 USD. It is walkable but if you have luggage or heavy packs, it might be worth it to just buy the transport ticket.

 

When we arrived in Vientiane, we bought a taxi ticket for $6 USD, but they wanted 65000 kip. In fact, all the money translations are a little bit more than the straight across 10,000 = $1 USD. This happened several times.

There is a domestic tax on every domestic flight and is 5,000 kip or .50 cents per person. The departure tax for international flights is $10 USD per person.

Road Traffic

Driving in Laos is risky especially in urban  areas. Lao people drive by putting their faith in the Lord Buddha. A road code exists bit it is not respected so be careful particularly when on a motorbike. Road insurance is a necessity in Laos.

Romance

Those seeking romance with Lao people in mind may be disappointed. Laos, unlike many of its neighboring countries, forbids the liaison between foreign gentlemen and local people. Police inspections of hotels sometimes occur and one may be subjected to a hefty fine and expulsion while the local person faces a far harsher penalty. So be careful.

Water

The tap water is undrinkable, but bottled water is available everywhere. To cool your drinks, use ice cubes, as opposed to crushed ice where bugs lurk.

When ordering wine, always order one bottle at a time and two glasses, even if you are alone. It's customary. Besides, someone may come by and join you!

Restaurant in Vientiane

Vientiane is known for its French influence and they have many French restaurants from which to choose. We had lunch at Namphou Restaurant & Bar, 99/03 Namphou Square, where there are several French Restaurants to choose from, each with price fix menus. (P.O. Box 226, Vientiane, Lao PDR, Tele: (856-21) 216248, mobile: (856-20) 5414439, email: inthavongleo@hotmail.com, Anousom Inthavong is the manager).

It is a charming restaurant. The Chef is Son, and his wife is the front manager. They have 2 well behaved children and everyone spoke English. Their price fixed menu at $8USD each or $6USD offer sumptuous choices. Recommended!

Markets

Markets are everywhere in Laos, with the two main ones being in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. In Vientiane you can buy all the goods manufactured in Laos such as tribal handicrafts, jewelry, traditional fabrics and carvings. These are sold at Talat Sao, or morning market on Lane Xang Avenue not far from the post office.

In Luang Prabang there is a night market which sets up nightly in the main street. Be prepared to bargain. Hand woven silks, knives made from left over US steel from the war, embroidered goods, hand made paper lanterns and more. During the day, there is Talat That Luang behind the Stupa That Luang which specializes in exotic products.

Internet

Depending on which town you visit, internet service can be practically non-existent (Phonsavan) or quite convenient (Vientiane and Luang Prabang). In either case, I wouldn't expect to get much digital service at this time, in terms of burning CD's for photos, music or the like. Think ahead for your digital storage needs before you arrive in Laos! Vientiane would be your best bet for anything related to your computer.

Health

Medical care in general is inadequate and unevenly distributed in Laos, with most of the health care facilities located in urban areas.

Infant mortality rates are high, and life expectancy is low. Respiratory diseases, influenza, malaria, and gastroenteritis are the major health problems.

 

The departure of most of the country's physicians after 1975 created a serious problem for the new government. It began to build village infirmaries and dispensaries in most of the provinces and to train medical workers. These village medical workers, often using only traditional medicinal herbs, now provide most of the country's primary health care.

The health situation has improved significantly over the last few years although there is still a lot to do. Problems can be treated in a number of Vientiane hospitals (Mahosot, Setthathirat and the international clinic) or in hospitals or dispensaries in the provinces.

In serious cases or for practical reasons (insurance coverage for instance) you may prefer to be treated in Thailand at Nong Khai, Udon Thani or Khon Kaen which will save you a trip to Bangkok.

Personally, we bring our own first aid kit and try to stay healthy and avoid accidents. Other than that, we would go to Thailand Thailand for care.

Guest Houses or Hotels

We went to Phonsavan to see the Plain of Jars. Although the town is poised for a tourist boom, there were skimpy selections for Guest Houses. We can recommend Banna Plain of Jars House, Rd.07. Ban Tuern, Peak district, Xiengkhouang, Laos, PDR, Tel/Fax: 856-61212484, Mobile: 856-20-2482816 Email: chansmon@laotel.com, Vilai Thipphavone, General Manager. It is just outside the center of town but easy walking distance to the town's few restaurants. Try to get a room with a view or a balcony, otherwise the inside rooms seem visually stuffy and dark. $10USD per night, includes breakfast and hot water showers.

There are lots of places to choose from in both Vientiane and Luang Prabang to stay the night. Try several, if you plan to stay for more than a night or two. Some offer breakfast included in the price of the room.

Quick Laos Phrases

Greetings/Hello - Sabaai-dii                Goodbye - sohk dii (good luck)            Thank you. - Khawp jai
Thank you very much - Khawp jai lai lai            Itís nothing/Youíre welcome - baw pen nyang

Excuse me - Khaw thoht            How are you? - sabaai-dii baw?            Iím fine. Sabaai dii            And you? Jao deh?

Numbers

0-suun                1-neung                2-sawng                3-saam                4-sii                5-haa                6-hok
7-jet                8-paet                9-kao                10-sip                11-sip-et                12-sip-sawng                20-sao
21-sao-et                22-sao-sawng                30-saam-sip                40-sii-sip                50-haa-sip                60-hok-sip
70-jet-sip                80-paet-sip                90-kao-sip                100-hawy                200-sawng hawy                1000-phan
10,000-neun (sip-phan)

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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