If you are ever interested in visiting Laos whether it is for families or fun, here are a few key items to note down:
1. Decide what time of the year you want to go
The best time I recommend for you to visit Laos is between November through April. Although that is considered their dry season, the weather is nice with a hint of cool air. There are also plenty of local cultural events and festivals to explore in the country. The wet season is from May to October and is wet and soggy. Depending on the road conditions, it may be tough to get around in rural areas.
2. Apply for your passport months prior to the trip
You will definitely need it to enter Laos. Do it ahead of time so that you don’t have to pay an extra rush fee. The passports can be processed within a month without a late fee but don’t risk it. In the U.S., you can apply at your local post office or go through the US Department to find information and forms for applying for a passport.
2. Start searching for your flight ticket early
Whether you want to use a travel agency or just google it yourself, it doesn’t hurt to start early. The earlier the search, the cheaper the flights will be. Flights to Laos during the dry season are the most expensive ranging from at least $1000 and up per ticket. During the rainy season, the prices usually drop really low. Flights are never direct and usually require a connection in some other countries such as Thailand, Tapei, and Vietnam depending on where you are flying from.
I recommended going through a travel agency because they can help you find the lowest deal regardless of the season although it may not always be the best flight times.
3. File for your visa to enter Laos
Entering Laos requires a visa and there are two options on how to do this.
Option A: You can file via the Laos Embassy in the U.S. if you want to be prepared ahead of time. The cost in the is about $50 per visa application and will require at least three weeks to process. You are required to send your original passports to the Laos Embassy and they will return everything back along with the visa once the application is approved and processed.
Option B: Apply for a visa once you landed in the country. I did this process because I was short on time and it only costed me $35 US per visa application. You will have to wait in line at the Visa counter to process it but the flight attendant will come around and ask you before you land if you need a visa application.
4. Get the proper vaccinations
If you have never been out of the country, to Laos, or Southeast Asia, be sure you check in with your doctor for the proper vaccinations and antibiotics at least a month before your trip. You can read about a list of vaccinations for Laos in this blog post.
5. Be prepared to have small bills for tipping Although there are signs everywhere at the airport that states that the country does not support tipping, the staff and people around the airport may ask for tips. I want to believe this was a gentle gesture from a visitor a long time ago and now, it has become a part of the norm for airport staff to ask for tips.
5. Pack a light carry-on
When I say pack light, I mean the size of a backpack. The Laotian plane is tiny and will not be able to hold any carry-on luggage bags that are bigger than 15LBs on the upper shelves.