Browse our Laos Tours
Often overlooked but always making a lasting impression, Laos shows us a more laid-back, mellow Southeast Asia. At dawn, hundreds of alms-seeking monks brighten the streets of Luang Prabang with their impeccable orange robes. Outside the cities, farmers walk in sync with water buffalo through sparkling rice paddies, against a backdrop of misty sandstone cliffs, wispy Buddhist temples, and wild jungle landscapes. No doubt, more than the spectacular waterfalls, rivers, and caves, it’s the famously patient and gracefully unpunctual Laotians that will transform your experience.
Backyard Travel offers tailormade Laos tours for travelers of all kinds. From relaxing luxury escapes and river cave expeditions, to jungle hiking adventures and cultural and culinary explorations — whatever your passions, our Laos travel agency can design a bespoke Laos holiday just for you.
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Landlocked at the center of Southeast Asia, Laos is a country of lush jungles, deep caves, and tumbling waterfalls and rivers. For adventure travelers and nature enthusiasts, the country holds countless rafting, biking, trekking, hiking, and wildlife-watching opportunities. A tailormade Laos vacation through the country’s natural treasures will take you past dreamy vistas and exuberant wildlife, like tigers, elephants, and rhinoceros.
In the towns of Laos, the country’s lively people welcome you in with ancient ritual, colorful celebration, and a contagious, agreeable attitude. The country’s capital of Vientiane, a sleepy town on the banks of the Mekong, is filled with temples and stupas, elegant boulevards, and fragrant riverside stalls serving up zesty Laotian cuisine. Luang Prabang, the cultural heart of Laos, is known for its commanding royal palace complex and fine architecture. Outside major cities, hundreds of villages offer a view of Laos’s deeply rooted customs and unassuming everyday life.
Click on a city to discover more about travel in laid-back Laos.
We had an absolutely fantastic vacation, we could not have been treated better, It could not have gone better. Thank you for all your work and your recommendation of Laos!
Hiba & Nadine Balfaqih (Laos, Sept 2013)
I would just like to give you both an extremely big personal thank you for our recent trip to Laos. Everything was just perfect and far exceeded our expectations.
Nick & Sharon West (Laos, Jan 2014)
It was truly a wonderful trip. We encountered a couple of snags but Backyard was extremely flexible and provided great customer service.
Mr. Patrick Lizot (Laos, May 2014)
I just wanted to send you an email telling you how my girlfriend and I absolutely loved our trip! It was fantastic from start to finish. I completely fell in love with Luang Prabang!
Mr. Douglas Landsborough (Laos, May 2015)
Some Questionsabout our Tours of Laos
Visitors who are not from the ASEAN member nations or Japan will need a visa to enter Laos, but on-arrival visas are available at most international airports and border checkpoints. A visa costs US$35 for most nationalities and allows a 30-day stay in the country.
The small nation of Laos does not have a lot of direct flights. Most travelers fly into either Vientiane, the nation’s capital, or into Luang Prabang, a quaint and historical town in the north. Many also opt to take a boat from the northern Thai border town of Chiang Rai, which makes for a magnificent journey into Laos.
Because there are no long-haul flights into Laos, most travelers fly from regional hubs, such as Bangkok, Singapore, and Ho Chi Minh City. During the key travel period of October to January, flights are often fully booked, and we recommend booking as far in advance as possible.
As many other Southeast Asian countries, Laos has two distinct seasons: dry and wet. November to February is generally more temperate and dry, and things start to heat up around March, when temperatures reach the high 30s Celsius (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit). Luang Prabang and the northern provinces can get cool at night and in the early mornings, so we recommend bringing warmer clothing when visiting these areas during winter.
In July the rainy season arrives and lasts until October, although the wet months vary by location. In Vientiane, located in central Laos, the rainy season lasts from May to September, whereas in Luang Prabang, further north, August is the wettest month. Typically the monsoon season produces short bursts of rain and visiting during this time offers luscious green landscapes. It’s also typically a less busy time to travel, and most hotels slash rates and offer promotions during this period.
For those who don’t like humidity, traveling to Laos between March and May is best avoided, as this is the hottest and most humid time of year. Autumn is the best time of year to visit, with the dry season falling between October and March and the That Luang Festival providing a vibrant cultural experience in November. However, hotels are often fully booked during this period, and we recommend booking as far in advance as possible.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind the heat, Lao New Year—known as Pii Mai—falls in April and is a fantastic time to travel to Laos and other Asian countries that celebrate the new year at the same period, such as Thailand and Myanmar. During these multi-day long festivals, locals participate in parades and throw the world’s largest water-fights, where entire cities participate. Kids absolutely love this fun experience, and so do the locals!
Vientiane and Luang Prabang are undoubtedly the two Lao cities that see the most tourists, and for good reason. Both are charming destinations with lots to offer in activities, cuisine, culture, and sight-seeing. But Laos abounds with lesser-known areas to discover, such as 4,000 Islands (known to locals as Si Phan Don), a grouping of literally thousands of islands that seem to calmly float in the middle of the Mekong. This is a wonderful place to kayak, meet dolphins, or relax on a giant inner tube and let the river’s current pull you gently downstream. Verdant, off-the-map Muang La will also give you a dose of tranquility in the midst of northern Laos’ rolling mountains, and remote Sam Neua offers quiet rambles in a quaint village and a jumping-off point for cave exploration. Contact our local Lao guide with your specifications and we’d be happy to customize a unique Laos tour off the beaten path.
Although Laos was regarded at one time as a haven for backpackers, the country is rapidly earning a rightful reputation as one of Asia’s most mellow and laid-back countries. With improving infrastructure and increasing amenities, Laos is quickly becoming an easy and enjoyable destination for your family vacation. Sweetening the deal, the locals in Laos love children—babies always get big smiles and extra attention!—and welcome families with open arms. Imagine your family whizzing around Luang Prabang in a tuk-tuk, sampling some of Vientiane’s French cuisine, or taking a lazy Mekong river cruise with water activities and cave exploration thrown in between.
The possibilities for exploring nature and playing in the great outdoors—especially on rivers or in the jungle—are dizzying in Laos. From tubing and zip-lining to trekking and meeting an elephant, families will not run out of experiences to share in Laos.
You can purchase a local Lao SIM card and top-up credit almost anywhere, although coverage in rural areas tends to be spotty, and some regions may only be serviced by certain operators. Laos’ main mobile phone operators are ETL, Unitel, Lao Telecom (LTC) and Beeline (ETL and Unitel are the largest). All of these operators offer 3G; however, connectivity often drops in rural areas. SIM cards cost roughly US$5 at any phone shop. You’ll need to register your personal information to activate the SIM. Internet cafes and Wi-Fi access are also available in Laos’ main destinations but are harder to find in more remote areas.
ATMs are ubiquitous in larger towns, such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Champasak, but they are still uncommon in remote areas. The same goes for VISA and MasterCard credit cards, which are now accepted at most hotels in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Champasak. By and large, restaurants and bars are not yet set up to accept credit cards. To be on the safe side, bring cash to exchange. US dollars and Thai baht are the most widely accepted currencies at exchanges nationwide.
Although Lao food is often overlooked due to the dynamic flavors and dishes of its neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam, the cuisine of Laos has a special place in the Southeast Asian culinary scene. The French influence remains strong in the Lao capital of Vientiane, and world-class French restaurants abound—some of which have even been noticed by worthy critics such as the New York Times.
Traditional Lao food tends to use hot, fresh flavors with a medley of herbs and vegetables. Laab, a minced meat or fish dish mixed with lemongrass and fresh herbs, is a national staple and is fantastic with sticky rice. We recommend dabbling and exploring all of Lao cuisine, combining fine dining experiences at French restaurants with quick stops at local food stalls hawking traditional Lao dishes.
Beer Lao, which has gained a faithful following abroad, is the national drink of Laos. Lao-Lao is the traditional rice wine often drunk at special occasions. Fine wines and premium spirits are readily available in restaurants and hotels in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Champasak; however, they’re harder to come by in remoter areas.
Laos has excellent homegrown coffees and teas. Green tea is often served as an accompaniment to meals, and you can drink Lao coffee, which is very strong, any time of day as a pick-me-up.
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Laos. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a journey or tour. It’s also good form to tip hotel and station porters a small amount for their troubles. As a general rule, 10% of any total is considered a generous tip.
Vientiane boasts a full spectrum of accommodations for all budgets and predilections. Family friendly, luxury, or corporate—take your pick. You may also be surprised to find that smaller and more laid-back Luang Prabang rivals Vientiane in accommodation options, and it’s home to some of our favorite boutique hotels in Asia. Outside the main tourist areas of Luang Prabang and Vientiane, accommodation options are more limited and can be quite basic. We should add, though, that 4,000 Islands and Muong La have some gorgeous boutique hotels on offer.
Although hotels in Laos are quite safe, we recommend keeping your valuables properly stowed away. Virtually all hotels decline to take responsibility for lost or stolen goods.
No vaccinations are required for Laos, except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. (Yellow fever is most common in parts of South America and Africa.) However, we recommend being inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A and B, tetanus and polio, and having comprehensive insurance that covers the cost of medical evacuation.
Malaria is present in most of the region and we advise talking to your physician about anti-malarials if traveling off the beaten track. Do try to avoid mosquito bites and use insect repellent. Check your government’s travel advisory on Laos for up-to-date information.
As in most Asian countries, dress modestly and respectfully. Cover up from the shoulders to the knees, especially when entering places of worship. Please take your shoes off before entering a temple or a person’s home.
Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional arts and crafts alive. Also, when shopping for Lao antiques, beware of fake or reproduced items. Just because a vendor claims an item is vintage doesn’t necessarily make it so. Also, discourage temple-robbing by refraining from purchasing antique Buddha statues and imagery. Some of these objects may be genuine, but stolen from a religious site.
Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
Please do not bring pens, sweets, chewing gum, etc., to hand out to children, as this encourages begging. Instead, we suggest donating money to a reputable charity of your choice that has a strong mission to help disadvantaged children.
Sights & Experiences
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS & INSIGHTS
Respect and patience are virtues in Laotian culture. The country’s easygoing people give their time freely and expect the same in return. Laotians are a frank, open, and polite people — often considered the most friendly and welcoming locals of Asia.
While a bit chilly in the mountains, the months between November and March are arguably the best time for a visit, with mild temperatures and few downpours. Spring and early summer can be scorching, while the wet season runs from July to October.
Bars and nightlife options, albeit somewhat limited, are concentrated in the tourist centers. For traditional entertainment, head to the Royal Theater in Luang Prabang and the National Opera Theater in Vientiane.
Laotian culture varies considerably across the ethnic groups of the country. Theravada Buddhism is practiced throughout the nation, with heavy influence in art, architecture, and daily life. Several regional customs, however, predate the introduction of Buddhism.
Lao is the official language of Laos but is spoken by only slightly more than half of the population. Especially in the countryside, you’ll often hear minority languages such as Khmu and Hmong. Road signs are written in Lao and French.
Meet the Laos Team
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