SMOO GOES LAOS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO LAOS!
Preparing for your trip to Laos and realizing there isn’t actually a whole lot of information about travelling to Laos? Well, here are the 7 things I think you best need to know before travelling to Laos!
ONE. BOTTLED WATER ALL THE TIME.
Better safe than sorry. Only drink bottled water and to err on the side of caution, use only bottled water to brush your teeth as we don’t know how rusty the water pipes are. Wouldn’t be very fun if your trip were to be ruined from unclean water.
TWO. STAY ON THE BEATEN PATH.
We all like to live a little adventurously and find that unbeaten path during our holidays. Laos is, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world (thanks to the USA during World War 2). The bombs still lurk around, undetonated, and the process to have them removed has been slow; therefore, don’t stray too far off from the tourist paths.
THREE. THE INTERNET IS SLOW. PRINT YOUR CONFIRMATIONS.
The internet/wifi is not as bad or slow as what I’ve read up on the internet, but it will be comparatively much slower than your home country. The wifi in restaurants don’t always work (don’t always meaning most of the time); therefore, make sure you’ve downloaded an offline map on your phone or have an actual map for navigational purposes. Laos is still a bit behind in technology so to make your life easier, print all the confirmations that you have in case they say they don’t have your hotel or tour booking (yes, it happens).
FOUR. PLAN AHEAD BUT BOOK IN LAOS FOR TRANSPORTATION.
Tourists in Laos don’t just visit one city. Most tourists in Laos were either visiting Laos in conjunction with its neighbouring countries or they were travelling within Laos. For me personally, I did 9 days in Laos, which meant there was a fair bit of planning in terms of activities and transportation between one city to another. Accommodations, flights, and certain “foreigner-friendly” tours were bookable through the Internet – in fact, if you go during high season (Oct -Feb), it is recommended that you book your accommodations beforehand because we met travellers who had to go to each guesthouse door to door and all of them were booked out.
Regarding transportation, it was very hard to get correct and up-to-date transportation information on the Internet; however, it’s actually very easy to get bus tickets, times, and information once you’re in the country. Your hotel will sell it or they’ll be dozen of places within the “backpacker” areas. I think they’re more or less the same (ie. you’re thrown into the same bus regardless where and who you buy your ticket from) so shop around for the best price.
FIVE. LAOS IS MORE RELAXED COMPARED TO ITS NEIGHBOURS.
If Laos and its neighbouring countries were siblings, then Thailand is the doctor, Cambodia and Vietnam are lawyers, and Laos is the underachiever in the family who just has a normal desk job. In reality, Laos is a great country for in between Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam because it’s a much slower paced and relaxing place where you can take a breather. It’s still very much authentic and rustic so I would highly recommend to visit Laos before the huge tourist boom hits (looking at you Myanmar) and it becomes too touristy and commercialized. Though Laos is more sleepy; however, each city has a very distinct personality so choose accordingly. I loved Pakse but it’s very rural and rustic but great for hikes and anything scenic related, whereas Vientiane the capital is more modern but slightly boring with less personality. Vang Vieng is a party party town, with the infamous tubing party, so you might want to skip over if you’re not into that scene and Luang Prabang is a mix between all of them and was my favourite city in Laos.
SIX. NEED MEDICAL CARE? FLY TO BANGKOK.
If you need serious medical care – fly to Bangkok. Lots of tourist visit “The Mekong” cluster – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos – together. Out of the cluster, Bangkok is definitely the city with the best medical facilities should you unfortunately require it.
SEVEN. HAPPY PIZZA AND HAPPY SHAKES.
Call me stupid, but I had no idea what the inneundo was – I naively thought it just meant the “House Special”, which I guess it kinda is. In Vang Vieng, happy shakes and happy pizzas are explicitly advertised on the menu boards. These “happy” items contain shrooms, weed, opium or a combination of all of that so make sure you don’t order them mistakenly or else you’re in for a trip (literally).
Have you been to Laos? What would you add to the list?