Travellers to Laos will be rewarded with a unique view of a country that has hardly changed in over a century. Laos’s lifeline is the Mekong River, which runs the length of the country, stretching from the forest-clad mountains of the north, to the islands of the far south – it’s used for trading, transporting and connecting Laotians. Visitors have a choice of attractions to marvel at, including Vientiane, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang and the mysterious Plain of Jars. In addition to the 160 ethnic groups, including the colourfully dressed hill tribes that populate the higher elevations, the country has preserved some of its French influences, most noticeably the freshly baked bread, coffee aromas and French restaurants housed in some of the old shophouses.
Luang Prabang with its a vast collection of wats (Buddhist temples) offers a brilliant, yet authentic look into the country’s rich religious past, which is still very much alive today. Visit Wat Xieng Thong, the most historically significant and impressive of Luang Prabang's many wats. Spared from wars, fires and over zealous restorations, with its low sweeping roofs and gold stencil work within, the entire monastery complex is an architectural gem as elegant as it is historic. Perhaps a trip to Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham is on the cards. Wat Mai is one of the city’s most extravagant monasteries, boasting a wooden ordination hall with a five-tiered roof crafted in typical Luang Prabang style, along with the roofed verandahs demonstrating extraordinary features of golden murals depicting scenes of Buddha’s birth, Ramayana and village life.
The Royal Palace and the Pha Bang Buddha
Pha Bang Buddha, the mystical national emblem of Laos and from whom the town of Luang Prabang takes its name, stands at 83 centimetres tall, completely covered in gold leaf, his hand raised in the Abhaya Mudra, representing the dispelling of fear. Having undergone a tumultuous history, the Buddha is now housed in a richly ornamented shrine in the Royal Palace Museum, except during the Laos New Year celebrations when it is placed on display in Wat Mai temple.
Plain of Jars
For the adventurous, take a trip to Plain of Jars, a bizarre archaeological collection of giant stone jars that lie scattered around the Xieng Khouang plain, dating back to the Iron Age. They are often referred to as a south east Asian version of Stonehenge. The discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics, found in association with the stone jars, have led Laos and Japanese archaeologists to conclude that the jars were funeral megaliths.
Pha That Luang
Take your adventure to Laos one step further with a trip to the magnificent golden Pha That Luang in Vientianne, where you will see the country’s most important religious building; a symbol of Buddhist religion and Laos sovereignty. Legend has it that Ashokan missionaries from India built the stupa to enclose Lord Buddha’s breastbone. The stupa stands at forty-five metres high and is best seen at sunset when it appears to ‘glow’ in the fading light.
The best time to visit Laos is between November and February when it's at its best; the rains are usually finished and the temperatures are milder than between March and May when the country is at its hottest. Monsoon season is between June and October.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Laos.
British Airways, Thai Airways International and EVA air from London Heathrow to Bangkok, with onward connecting flights to Laos. Flights with Emirates (via Dubai) from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow are also available.
From London Heathrow to Laos: 16 hours, 60 minutes (excludes touchdown time in Bangkok)..
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.