• Mia Cosco

travelling to laos? read this

This blog post is all about a trip that I took a little over a year ago now.

It’s early 2021 now and it’s still unsafe to travel with COVID-19, but before COVID-19, I was travelling a ton.

The reason why I went to Laos is because when I ended my last significant relationship, I thought to myself: what is the biggest thing I can do for my self-development and for my personal growth? The biggest, weirdest, most serious thing to me was to go to a developing country that I’ve never been to before by myself.

I kind of thought, "wow, that would be pretty crazy," so when I did it, I travelled pretty much alone the entire time. It took me about at least 20 hours for me to get there. I live in Vancouver and I flew to the right into Luang Prabang, which I believe is the capital city of Laos if I'm not mistaken, and basically there was a lot that I needed to know. I prepared for months to go to Laos so I’m gonna just walk you through 10 things to know about Laos before you go, if you’re planning on going or if you are just curious to know more about the country.

I prepared to stay in a guest house because I went to Laos on a humanitarian mission which means that I was there on a specific type of visa. I was volunteering there on behalf of an organization, so I volunteered with GVI (which I would totally do again!) which I believe stands for Global Vision International. The org takes people of any age from basically all over the world to different places in the world to help enrich specifically developing communities and causes. You can stay with elephants, you could teach English to monks in Laos like I did, or you could even swim with sea turtles.

For me, I wanted that security with an established international organization to help me feel comfortable about doing this mission and also feel a sense of purpose and enjoying purposeful travelling, as opposed to just going to a country to have fun and party or whatever. I'm not saying that having fun is wrong, I'm just saying that I wanted to travel in a purposeful way for me personally. I made a complete list after reading through blogs and watching videos of all the things I wanted to do and I was going for two weeks

tip 1: pack light - laos is a very warm place

I packed pretty light for my clothing. I went in October, which I thought was the best time to go because in October, there is the end of Buddhist Lent.

tip 2: go during the festival of lights! :)

Laos is a very spiritual place and it’s primarily Buddhist, so you will see Buddhist monks in orange robes. At the end of Buddhist Lent, it signifies a festival of lights. The festival of lights is super beautiful and everyone just makes these incredible lanterns and parades them in the street for one night of the year. Definitely go to Laos when this festival is happening, so Google when the Buddhist festival of lights is happening in Laos and go at that time. It's gonna be an unforgettable experience.

tip 3: stay on the main roads to stay safe

Additionally, I stayed in the capital city and I would say in terms of safety, I only roamed the streets alone during the day primarily - not during night. Everyone’s out and it's safe as long as you are taking the main streets and you’re going on the main roads.

tip 4: respect the laws of laos - it's a communist country

Keep in mind that Laos is actually a landlocked country, which means that there are no bodies of water around it for travel - it's not coastal. What you want to keep in mind is that Laos has very strict rules around it when it comes to substances so if you are even bringing marijuana or other sorts of narcotics or illegal drugs, check and make sure that if you have a prescription with a certain kind of substance, make sure that’s not illegal in Laos. If they confiscate it before you enter the country and you need it to live or live well, don't risk a nasty shock of having it taken away or worse, imprisoned!

tip 5: wear clothing that's respectful for laos and respect the spirituality

The fifth thing I would say about Laos is an important point that I forgot earlier. You want to be basically mindful that it’s a very spiritual place, so I remember that when I arrived in Laos, I was like, "I’m gonna wear, you know, my halter top and my jean shorts because it’s so hot here and that’s the only way I can survive the heat." I was there on behalf of GVI, a very well-established organization that prides itself on respecting Laotian values and spirituality in the culture. Part of that actually is respecting the spiritual mandates to actually cover your shoulders and cover your knees. I remember that this was kind of a shock to me because I remember bringing some shirts that openly exposed my chest and shoulders and I kind of learned the hard way. Even on the weekends when I wasn’t doing work for the organization, I was still there as a volunteer and I shouldn’t have been wearing open tops. I was kind of in for a shock.

tip 6: live practically - laos is not a luxe destination

My sixth tip is that in Laos, there’s a really big gap between the haves and the have nots and it’s important to consider that. I would highly recommend that you should definitely look at some of the nice places to stay in Laos. There’s a few very very notable hotels and they’re very beautiful like Kiridara, but there’s not a whole lot so it’s not gonna be a whole lot of options. While Laos is amazing, it's just not one of those places that has really prioritized luxury living.

tip 7: appreciate the spiritual experiences

There are amazing things to do in Laos that are perfect if you’re looking for a spiritual experience, so going to the temple sometimes. Monks may allow people to come in and witness the chanting, sometimes all-night chanting.

tip 8: the food is amazing value and delicious for being inexpensive!

I would also mention that in terms of the food, incredible. I guarantee that most places that you go to are going to be delicious, but definitely review Yelp or review top places to go in to make sure that you are going to the best. It's pretty inexpensive. I think I spent less than $500 when I was there on food and shopping.

tip 9: hit up the night market!

I would also mention to go to the night market on the weekends. If you’re looking for pom-pom bags, loose yoga pants, remember that you are allowed to haggle!

There will be curfews depending on where you are and restaurants shut down. You really shouldn’t be out partying - there are actual places open after 10 PM or midnight or something. I would recommend Utopia - it’s like an outdoor bar with yoga in the mornings and dance parties at night. It’s owned by a really friendly Canadian so far as I know and it’s literally utopic. It’s just a beautiful friendly place and the food is so delicious - I can just taste the banana crepes right now!

Also, another good place to go to is Kiridara to just cool down and chill out. I would also highly recommend going to the waterfalls. There are some nearby waterfalls to go to and pretty much any waterfalls you go to are gonna be amazing. There are also sun bears around, identifiable by the golden rings on their bellies and they’re just the cutest.

tip 10: be wary of tuk-tuk's and be careful on motorcycles

Don’t forget that everyone pretty much rides around in motorcycles so you definitely wanna be careful if you want to think about getting a motorcycle, because they are dangerous to ride around in in some parts.

Tuk-tuk's are the taxis there and you wanna be careful with drivers. They can give you one price and then go drop you off somewhere (that you didn’t pay for) so there can be a lot of corruption. You want to make sure that you pay after because they can screw you over if you pay before. It’s not a whole lot of money, especially if you're from a First World country, but it's a life skill to learn to not get hoodwinked/ripped off.

Those are really all the things I would say about Laos and I hope you enjoy this! I hope this gave you some information and some resources on Laos for your next spiritual trip or humanitarian mission, whatever it is. Comment below what this taught you and what you learned or what surprised you!

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