In Laos, the time does not change due to winter and summer and is, therefore, the same all year around.
The local currency in Laos is called Kip, and although the Kip is legally negotiable in everyday transactions the reality is that in the larger towns and cities (like Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse) the locals use three differing currencies; the Kip, Thai baht, and USD. In provincial towns, everyday items are quoted in Kip or Baht and the larger purchases of tours, boat or car hire prices, etc., are usually quoted in USD. Due to the portability of USD and the Thai Baht, this three-tiered currency system is firmly entrenched. Check out the current currency rate here.
In the main centers, many hotels, restaurants and upmarket gift shops accept Visa and Mastercard credit cards. ATM’s are now available in Laos for cash withdrawals, besides in the big cities like Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Pakse.
Many hotels, restaurants and gift shops display prices that are fixed. Otherwise, in some gift shops and markets, it is best, as in all of Asia, to ask prices at several shops or stalls before purchasing so you can get a “ball-park” price on the items of interest before buying.
Tipping is a way to show genuine thanks for excellent service, and because the Kip is of very low value, small tips are not costly to the giver but very much appreciated by the receiver. Always have a little money on hand for guides or make donations to temples, as it is expected.
For your convenience try to obtain an up to date map of the province, district or towns you are visiting. Armed with a map, bicycles are a relaxed way of exploring some of the less mountainous villages and regions. There are over 4,500kms of waterways in Laos. The largest, more than 2000kms in length, is the Mekong. Many large and smaller boats operate ferry services along the waterways, often stopping at riverside villages along the way, to pick up or drop off villagers and for tourists to take in the sights and culture. It is a very relaxing way of travel.
Motorcar taxis are available for hire in the larger cities and towns, but the most prevalent vehicles and cheapest are three-wheeled “tuk-tuks.” Generally carrying six to eight passengers, they are the mainstay of road transport around towns. Larger modern tourist coaches travel between the main cities and centers, and older local buses are available, but breakdowns are a real possibility. Just ask on the street for a ride and remember to negotiate the price before you start your trip.
Power is supplied through 220v circuitry, and almost always are delivered through a two-pronged flat or round socket. Although adaptors are available in Laos, it is best to purchase one before you leave home.
In the smaller towns and villages, local power stations may only deliver power for three or four hours a night, and some of the more remote communities have no power at all, so a torch is an essential item when traveling away from the main centers.
Although Laos is behind its neighbors in this area, its accommodation varieties are improving all the time. Tourist hotels and guest houses are available in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse, and tourist resorts are springing up like mushrooms. Mostly all are clean and offer excellent service, but the golden rule stays the same, i.e., check out your accommodation before committing!