The lush jungle surrounding the Mekong river, some of Asia’s most spectacular waterfalls and ancient temples … there is much to explore in Laos.
The country is becoming increasingly more popular among world travellers and backpackers — thanks to its charming people, breath-taking scenery, and budget-friendly options, Laos has now come to the front of the world’s international tourism stage.
The government has kept up with the pace, introducing a new electronic visa system that allows foreigners to obtain a Laos Approval Letter entirely online in minutes. For all these reasons, traveling to Laos has become a lot easier.
Once they decide that Laos will be their next holiday destination and they have booked their flights and applied for their visa, foreigners may be wondering what to pack for Laos.
This article will try to answer some of your packing doubts for Laos and will include:
- A packing list for Laos
- Clothes advice: what to wear in Laos and what to avoid
- Travel information regarding bringing money and prescription drugs into the country
- Items and souvenirs you can take out of the country.
Laos Travel Essentials: a Laos Packing List
As always when going on a holiday adventure, it’s paramount to stay comfortable at all times. That goes from footwear to hats, from sunscreen to earplugs. You want to be able to be active during the day and rest well at night.
Remember that Laos presents a tropical humid climate that can get very hot (up to 40 degrees Celsius during the warmest months) but also freezing at night in mountain areas.
Here’s a short travel packing list for Laos:
- Lightweight, light-coloured clothing to wear under direct sunlight
- Comfortable sandals or shoes — avoid buying new shoes and wearing them for the first time
- A hat
- Refillable water bottle
- Powerful sunscreen and long-lasting deodorant
- Earplugs for peacefully sleeping and traveling
- Universal power adaptor to charge your devices
- USB drive to store your documents and pictures
- Unlocked mobile phone for use with a Lao sim card
- A light and portable raincoat for the humid months and if planning water-based activities. The jungle can also be humid all year round
- Dry pack if planning water-based activities like river tubing, kayaking or rafting
What Should I Wear in Laos?
Cotton and linen are the go-to materials for tourists in Laos all year round. They will keep your skin dry and protect your from the sun at the same time. If you’re planning to go during the coldest months or to visit mountainous areas, remember to bring a jacket or jumper for the colder nights.
The dress code in Laos is quite relaxed. Most tourists won’t need to carry formal clothing and Western beachwear is acceptable at the pool or beach. However, be mindful of local customs and dress appropriately when visiting religious sites.
How Much Money Should I Take to Laos?
As nobody wants to find themselves with no money and possibility to get cash out, it’s just normal to wonder about currency and daily budget in Laos. Although each traveler’s situation is different, we’ll try to give you some general information and money advice for Laos below.
The official currency of Laos is the Laotian Kip (LAK). However, US dollars and Thai bats are also widely accepted. The Kip is normally preferable for small purchases — the majority of a traveler’s expenses.
Exchanging money is fairly easy in all major and medium towns. Considering how hard it is to find Kip outside of Laos, it may not be worth it to carry local cash with you from abroad.
Exchange rates are roughly the same in banks and money changers but you’ll get a better deal for larger bills. Remember that credit cards are often useless in Laos especially outside the biggest cities, and it’s a good idea to always have cash with you.
Your daily budget will depend on your travel style, of course. However, Laos is a generally very affordable country where you’ll need a lower budget than in most Southeast Asian destinations. Many backpackers spend as little as $10 per day and almost all travelers stay well below $50 per day.
Bringing Prescription Drugs into Laos
Laos is a safe country that you can confidently travel to by just getting vaccinated in advance and following relevant health advice.
It can be difficult to reach a pharmacy and buy the medications that you need. Therefore, it’s best to take your own drugs with you, especially if you’ll need to use prescription drugs. That is completely acceptable at the border — just remember to keep the medicines in the original boxes and bring the doctor’s prescription with you.
What Can I Bring Back from Laos?
There are several unique Laotian souvenirs that will make for a great memory of your trip. Some are easily portable in a carry-on bag, others will need larger space and great care to be transported properly. Either way, the below is a list of Laotian items that will go through customs hassle-free:
- Sinh and other textiles. Some of the world’s finest cotton and silk weavers operate in Laos. Bring home the famous Laotian Sinh (silk skirts) or household items like table and pillow covers.
- Pottery. Laotians are gifted pottery makers, specialized in clay artefacts.
- Silver jewelry. Eye-catching and affordable, silver jewelry makes for the best gifts for friends and relatives.
- Snake whiskey. The snake whiskey is a very popular souvenirs. Just be aware that it’s a very strong liquor.