ABOUT Laos is one of the few truly exotic destinations left in the world. Laos has variety of hidden charms beautiful countryside and pristine rainforests, organic cousine and unique handicrafts. You can also join various festivals and traditional ceremonies. The national language is Laos, but English is commonly used in major tourist centers. Chinese , Vietnamese and Thai are widely understood. French, German, Russian and a number of other European languages are also spoken by many educated Lao as many students received higher education in Europe. The Kip is the official currency of the Lao PDR. The best currencies to use when exchanging money are: US Dollars, Euros and Thai Baht. You can exchange your currency at the bank, airport, or at a foreign currency exchange office. The international airports at Vientiane and Luang Prabang are served by national carrier Lao Airlines. Laos used to be off-limits to low-cost carriers, however AirAsia now flies to Vientiane from Kuala Lumpur three times a week. Another cheap option for getting to Vientiane is to fly to Udon Thani in Thailand with discount airlines Nok Air or Air Asia and connect to Nong Khai and the Friendship Bridge via shuttle service directly from the airport (40 minutes); from here Vientiane is just 17 km away. Access by train the long-awaited first link across the Mekong from the Thai town of Nong Khai to Tha Naleng near Vientiane finally opened in 2009. There are two shuttle services per direction per day, with one timed to connect to the night trains to/from Bangkok. Visa on arrival is available when crossing the border by train. The train is not a very attractive option because the railway station is in the middle of nowhere. Most border crossings are open for foreigners, with an indication where visas on arrival can be issued, are listed on the web site of the National Tourism Administration

CLIMATE Laos has one wet season between May and September or October - temperatures at this time fall between 24-31°C, with high humidity and rainfall of 9.6 inches thanks to the southwestern monsoons. The rest of the year is dry and rather sunny - starting from the cool, dry season of November to February, averaging 17-29°C as cooler winds blow in from China, reaching peak temperatures of 20-32°C between February and April.

BEWARE Exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in Laos due to the risk of criminal activity. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Petty crime, including bag snatching occurs frequently. In the lead up to local festivals, such as Lao New Year in April, there is a significant increase in theft and violent crime. The theft of passports is a particular problem. Ensure your insurance covers for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash, cards, passports or luggage. Roads in Laos are in poor condition. Travel should only be undertaken during daylight hours. Travel after dark significantly increases the risk of an accident as vehicles often do not have lights. Livestock also stray on to the roads causing accidents. The numbers of road accidents and fatalities in Laos have risen sharply in recent years. If you are involved in a road accident you will be required to pay compensation for third party property damage and injury, even if you are not judged to be at fault. Lao insurers only meet a small proportion of the costs of an accident and will not cover this compensation.