The Southeast Asian nation of Laos has become the latest country around the world to ease its Covid-19 related entry requirements – and there’s a strong case to be made that it should be on any traveler’s must-visit list. Sandwiched between travel heavyweights Thailand and Vietnam, and just east of Myanmar, Laos might not be as well known as its neighbouring countries, but it has just as much to offer for travelers looking to head somewhere a little bit different.
From Buddhist sites that look like they are straight from a film set, to stunning jungles, rivers and waterfalls, what Laos may lack in beaches it certainly makes up for with an abundance of other natural features and adventure at every corner. Here’s a look at the country’s recent entry requirement changes, and what travelers can look forward to experiencing should they make the trip to Laos.
Laos Eases Restrictions – Information For Travelers
Often included in the itineraries of backpackers making their way through the region, Laos’ strict Covid-19 related entry requirements effectively put an end to tourism into the country. It had suspended its visa on arrival services, and until recently was one of the few remaining countries to ask travelers to submit to measures such as quarantine, registering online and tests both pre-departure and upon arrival. Thankfully, such restrictions have now reached their end.
Speaking in a broadcast this weekend, a government spokesperson for Laos revealed that the country would be reopening for travelers. From May 9th, the country will be:
- Removing all testing for vaccinated travelers
- Allowing unvaccinated to enter with an antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure
- Allowing citizens of countries that have bilateral or unilateral visa waiver agreements with Laos may now enter without the need for a visa
That means that in most cases, travelers just have to book a flight and take it – with no unneccesary paperwork needed.
The decision to reopen was made after canvassing public opinion and consulting with experts, and was a necessary one in terms of tourism. After struggling without tourism for two years now – and with neighbouring countries all reducing their entry requirements in recent months – Laos is now perfectly placed to take in a much-needed slice of the backpacker pie this summer. Yet whilst Laos may be viewed by some as just a stop on the way to Thailand or Vietnam, there’s a convincing case to be made that it should be the main attraction.
The country’s capital, Vientiane, might not be as metropolitan or bustling as Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, but that’s where it’s charms lay. In and amongst the colonial-style buildings that host decades-old eateries and stores selling various trinkets, there’s a laid-back atmosphere that permeates its way through the whole country. Days spent at temples like That Luang and Wat Ho Phra Keo are perfectly complemented by nights along the river or at various night markets – where you’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than a few dollars. The country’s cuisine is similar to Thailand’s, with sticky rice and papaya salad reigning supreme and grilled meats often a popular choice.
Rivers are one thing Laos does have going for it, and there’s no better place to appreciate them than Vang Vieng. Tubing down the river is arguably the highlight of anyone’s trip to Laos, with ample stops along the river to refuel and gorgeous karst mountain views to appreciate as you float downstream. The region is also home to several blue lagoons, waterfalls and kayaking routes to keep even the most adventurous of travelers busy. On terra firma, Vang Vieng’s Nam Xay viewpoint is the best place to appreciate the topography and natural features that helped put this area on the map.
Laos is served by several airports in Southeast Asia, making it easily accessible for travelers to the region who want to get off the beaten path and experience an authentic slice of Southeast Asian culture. Flights from the US are on the pricier side at present, with one way flights in August currently on sale for between $600-700, but prices could come down now the country is reopening and routes get reestablished. Living and traveling through the country is noticeably cheaper than Thailand, and even more affordable than Vietnam. One thing is for sure – Laos is worth every penny.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com