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LAOS TRAVEL GUIDE

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Laos

Fast facts:
Location: South-East Asia.
Time: GMT + 7.
Area: 236,800 sq km (91,400 sq miles).
Population: 6.3 million (2006).
Population Density: 26.6 per sq km.
Capital: Vientiane. Population: 700,000 (2005 estimate).


 

Introduction

Laos is one of the few Communist countries left in the world. Until 1988 tourists were not allowed access to Laos, but the country has now opened up and it is perfectly feasible to travel all over the country, preferably with a recognized tour company, although plenty of backpackers do it independently. The number of tourists is expected to continue increasing over the next few years as more and more people discover the delights of this laid-back country of mountains and rivers.

For now, Laos remains relatively isolated and undeveloped. Its capital, Vientiane, is more like a big village than a crowded Asian hub and life throughout the country is slow-paced. Most people come to Laos and make a brief tour of Vientiane and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang with perhaps a brief detour to the mysterious Plain of Jars. But those who make the effort to explore further afield will be well rewarded with luscious landscapes, friendly people and unique glimpses of a country hardly changed for over a century.
 

Geography: Laos is a landlocked country bordered to the north by China, to the east by Vietnam, to the south by Cambodia, and to the west by Thailand and Myanmar. Apart from the Mekong River plains, along the border of Thailand the country is mountainous, particularly in the north, and in places is densely forested.

Government: People’s Republic since 1975. Gained independence from France in 1953.

Head of State
Choummaly Sayasone since June 2006.

Head of Government
Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh since June 2006.

Language
The official language is Lao, however, many tribal languages are also spoken. French, Vietnamese and some English are spoken.

Religion
The majority of the Lao people are Buddhists. The Laos-Lum (Valley Laos) people follow the Hinayana (Theravada) form of Buddhism. The religions of the Laos-Theung (Laos of the mountain tops) range from traditional Confucianism to animism and Christianity.

Electricity
230 volts AC, 50Hz.

Social Conventions
Religious beliefs should be respected. Lao people should not be touched on the head. Handshaking is not that usual; Lao people greet each other with their palms together and a slight bowing of the head. Take care when discussing politics and related subjects in conversation so as not to cause offence. Shorts or revealing clothes are not always acceptable. It is a legal requirement to carry an ID document or a passport, and fines for not having one for presentation on demand can be high. The Lao government prohibits sexual relationships, including sexual contact between foreign citizens and Lao nationals, except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao family law. Penalties for failing to register a relationship range from fines to imprisonment.

 

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Laos major places of interest:
 Phongsali, Sayabouri, Savannakhet, Luang Namtha, Xieng Khouang, Salavan, Bokeo, Vientiane, Sekong, Luang Prabang, Bolikhamsai, Pakse, Houa Phan, Khammouane, Attapeu

 

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