Country name: Lao People’s Democratic RepublicLand area: 236,800 sq km (91,400 sq miles)
Population: 5.9 million
Capital : Vietian
Major languages: Lao, French
Major religion: Theravada Buddhism (60%)
Ethonic Groups: Lao Loum- lowlanders, Lao Theung - seminomadic mountain dwelllers, Lao Sung – hill tribes and monorities
Life expectancy: 53 years (men), 56 years (women)
Monetary unit: 1 new kip= 100 ath
Main exports: Clothing, timber products, coffee
Internet domain: .la
International dialling call: + 856
Laos is a landlocked country sharing its borders with China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Cover an area of 236,800 Km2, 70% of its total land area is comprised of mountains and plateaus. The Mekong River is Laos’ primary geographical feature and serves as a natural border with Thailand.
CLIMATE AND SEASONS
Laos has a tropical monsoon climate with wet and dry seasons. The rainy season lasts from May to September, and the dry season lasts from October t April. Temperatures and rainfalls vary considerably throughout the year and also by region. The coolest and driest time to visit Laos is between November and February.
Laos’s population of 6 million consists of 47 different ethnic groups, with most falling into three main categories: the Lao Loum are lowlanders, the Lao Theung are semi-nomadic mountain dwellers, and the Lao Soung are hill tribes originating from Myanmar, Tibet and southern China.
The Lao language has varying dialects throughout the country. Interestingly, many ethnic groups don’t speak any Lao. Other languages used in Laos are French, English, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese.
The great majority of the Lao people are Theravada Buddhists. Many Laotian men attend Buddhist monasteries for training before entering secular life. Other religions practiced are Anglican-Episcopal, Baha’s Faith, Christian Fellowship Group, Evangelical, Islam, Lutheran and Roman Catholic. Animism is widely practised among ethnic groups.
FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS
Pimai, the Lao New Year, is the country’s most important holiday. The three-day celebration usually takes place in mid-April and is characterized by the ceremonial washing of Buddha statues in temples. Other noteworthy festivals include the Baci ceremony, the Rocket festival (a celebration of fertility during the full moon in May), the October Water Festival on the Mekong River, and the weeklong That Luang Festival that honours the dead buried at stupas around the country.
HANDICAFTS AND SOUVENIR
Laos has a strong tradition of cotton and silk weaving. In fact, several renowned European designers have recently started coming to Laos to purchase elaborate Lao weavings. These weavings display a level of skill and artistry mot seen anywhere else in the world. Artists from each province incorporate distinctive colours and patterns into their work. Such pieces can be bought in all the major markets, or directly from makers in silk weaving villages in Luang Prabang.
Typical Laos food consists of glutinous rice accompanied by communal dishes of meat, fish, chicken and vegetables. Vientiane boasts some of the restaurants in Indochina, including Laos, French, Indian and Italian cuisine.
International airport tax is US$10 from Vientiane and Luang Prabang International airport. Domestic airport tax is $50 kip everywhere.
For most visitors to Laos PRD, visas are obtainable upon arrival at both Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airports . At land crossing checkpoints with Thailand, Vietnam & Laos, visitors will need to have already obtained their visas prior to their arrival through a Laos Embassy or Consulate overseas.
Visa fee is 30 USD (transit visa valid for 7 days visit); 1-month visa cost 45 USD.
BUSINESSES HOURS (LOCAL TIME IS GMT PLUS 7 HOURS)
Most business offices are open from 08:00 till 12:00 and from 13:00 till 17:00, Monday through Friday. Banks generally operate from 08:00 till 15:00hrs. Most private companies work on Saturday, while government offices are closed
Vaccination is not required for entry into big cities of Laos, but we suggest you check with doctor as some countries recommend their citizens be inoculated before embarking on an oversea adventure.
There is only one cellular phone service provider offering communication via the GSM system, now more Laos people use mobile phones. Phone IDD and facsimile are also available.
Internet services are available in big cities and tourist sites. But the connection sometime is not so smooth. Currently the charge is between 01 to 02 US dollars per hour.