Quick facts about Laos

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Territorial boundaries: North: China; North-west: Laos; South: Cambodia; West: Thailand; East: Vietnam

Area: 236 800 km2

Most important waterways: Mekhong river and Nam Ngum lake

 Capital: Vientiane

 Important cities: Vientiane and Luang Prabang

 Highest point: Phu Bia (2 817 meters)

Lowest point: Mekhong river (70 meter)

Time zone: ICT (Indochina time) (12h ahead of Montreal time)

Environment – current issues : Unexploded landmines; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water

Climate: ›Tropical, high both in temperature and humidity, and dominated by monsoons; ›Rain start at the end of May or in June, which continues intermittently until the end of October; ›From November to the end of February the climate is much less trying with a cooling North East breeze and a reduction in the humidity level; ›The north (north of Luang Prabang) is generally cooler than the capital Vientiane (still located in the north of the country)

Tourist seasons: ›From December to the end of February and March is the high season, and the best time to visit Lao; ›From December 15th to January 4-7th + Spring break (last week of February + 2 first weeks of March) is the peak of the high season; ›Low season (and rainy season) is from the end of May to October

Political regime: Communist state

Population: 6 894,098 (2014)

Languages: Lao (official), French (older population), English and various ethnic languages

Ethnic minorities: 55% Lao, 8% Hmong and 37% other (over 100 minor ethnic groups)

Religions: 67% Buddhist, 1,5% Christian and 31,5% other

Main sources of revenue: mining (copper, tin, gold, and gypsum); electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism

Currency: Laotian Kip LAK (1 CAN $ = 8 Laotian Kip) – xe.com

Gastronomy: Luang Prabang is definitely the gastronomic capital of Laos. Historically, the town has always been rich in the arts, especially table arts. The best cooks were hired by the King; Examples: fresh vegetables and herbs, sticky rice, soup as a full meal, green papaya salad,… Visit a coffee plantation

Protocol: When introduced to a monk, never touch him; Public displays of affection between members of the opposite sex are not supported; Never, ever point your foot at anyone; The head is sacred; Never touch anyone on the head, not even a child; Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver

Accessibility from Montreal – Main airports: ›Vientiane and ›Luang Prabang

Main airlines: A limited range of flights is offered; Most of them pass through Bangkok – Prioritize a Asian airline: Japan (JL), Korean (KE); European airlines: AF; North American airlines: AC

Entry requirements: Valid passport

Tourist Visa: Required:

*Stays of 15 days and less: possibility to get it at the land border or at the airport

OR

*Stay of 30 days or less: apply before arrival (here or somewhere else in Asia)

Business Visa: Required 

Safety issues: Thieves on motorcycles grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, motorcycle drivers and their passengers

Do not show signs of affluence and avoid travel late at night in Vientiane

Caution is also advised along hiking trails

Food and beverages (such as “happy pizzas” or “special shakes”) may contain unspecified amounts of opium and other unknown substances. These items are sold in areas frequented by tourists, particularly Vang Vieng

Landmines and unexploded munitions constitute a risk, particularly in Xieng Khouang Province (Plain of Jars) and at the Lao-Vietnamese border

Extreme caution about the safety if engaging in river-based sporting activities, including river-based activities such as tubing or jumping/diving into the river in Vang Vieng

Tourist facilities outside Vientiane and Luang Prabang are limited

Health issues: Be very careful when advising clients about health, as you are not a travel doctor. Strongly recommend that they should go to see a specialist!

Tap water is not good to drink

The sun can be very strong, risk of insolation – Recommend use of a sunblock 30 – Wear a hat

During the monsoon, mosquitos can be very annoying and carry malaria in certain areas – Recommend a mosquitos repellent with at least 30% of DEET

Reminder about food: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Vaccines to consider:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Influenza (flu)

Japanese Encephalitis

Rabies

Typhoid

Good medication to bring for:

Anti-malaria

Antibiotic to treat diarrhea

Antibiotic to treat salmonella

(Ariane)

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