I spent a lot of time travelling in 2016, but one of the countries I was quite excited to visit was Laos – I’d never considered visiting Laos before as a long weekend getaway option because even though Laos is just 3 hours away from Singapore, you could not fly direct from Singapore to Laos until Silkair* started flying to Vientiane and Laos in 2016. I was invited on the inaugural flight from Singapore to Laos and spent 5 days in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and I think it’s a place you definitely need to visit before everyone and their mother discover it.
(Funnily enough, my mum actually booked her trip to Laos 2 weeks after me, so you know, get clicking!)
*I flew with Silkair in 2016, but Scoot will take over operation of Singapore-Laos flights from 1 April 2019 onwards.
Why visit Laos for your next vacation?
When it comes to travel, Singaporeans are terribly predictable. Long weekend getaway? Pretty high chance it’s going to be Bali, Bangkok, Penang or if a little further, Taipei or Hong Kong. We’re pragmatic people and with a short amount of time, we like easy.
The Occasional Traveller is all about the easy – and I’ve been to each of these cities listed above multiple times myself – 5x each for Bangkok and Bali! But I’m also about veering off that trodden path when you can, and going somewhere a little different from where all the other tourists are going while still managing your precious holiday time.
And now with direct flights to the two major cities in Laos, there’s really no reason not to visit anymore. And you need to get there before you start hearing too many Singaporean accents on the streets. I swear that Bangkok’s Chaktuchak market feels a bit like being at home…
Scoot Flight Route to Laos
Scoot has 3 flights to Laos on Mon, Thur and Sat and flies the loop Singapore > Vientiane (VTE) > Luang Prabang (LPQ) > Singapore. So you can fly directly up to Vientiane, and fly back direct from Luang Prabang, which is great if you plan to visit both cities.
Lao Airlines is its codeshare partner and has 3 flights to Laos as well on Wed, Fri and Sun, but it flies Singapore – Vientiane – Luang Prabang, which basically means you have to stopover in Vientiane getting to and fro from Luang Prabang.
This is the original Silkair route + timing:
Mon / Thur / Sat
Wed / Fri / Sun
Wed / Fri / Sun
[NEW] Scoot Singapore-Laos Flight Schedule from 1 April 2019 onwards – note the earlier timing and change to SIN>LPQ>VTE>SIN
Mon / Thur / Sat
The flight from Singapore to Vientiane is just under 3 hours, and Laos is 1 hour behind Singapore time.
Erm, where is Laos exactly?
Many people know that Laos is somewhere in South-east Asia but don’t have a sense of where exactly it is.
Just remember that Laos is the only landlocked country in SEA – that means no beaches and coastlines, and that it’s smack in the middle of all the IndoChina countries and has borders with 5 countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Yunnan in China. Because of this close distance, you can see a lot of intermingling of these countries cultures all in Laos.
Best time to visit Laos
The peak season for Laos is in November and December because of good weather – it’s cool and dry during this period, particularly up in Luang Prabang which is hilly so it’s generally cooler than Vientiane. I visited in early November which was actually pretty nice – the nights were starting to get cooler though the days still felt pretty hot, and it wasn’t too crowded.
Pack a light jacket for the cool mornings and nights during this time, but you’ll need a good sweater when it gets colder – it apparently snowed for the first time in Luang Prabang last year, but that’s pretty exceptional!
January and February are also good months for IndoChina region in general. Laos gets most happening in April when its Laos New Year and they celebrate something similar to that of Thailand’s Songkran water festival – you can expect everywhere to be quite booked up and crowded then!
Laos essentials to know
Laos uses the Kip – you’re unlikely to find anyone in Singapore who will change that currency for you, not even at the airport! Your next best bet is the USD which is also accepted quite widely in Laos – ask for small change if possible. If you go to Thailand a lot, you can try using Thai Baht. Remember to change your Lao Kip back before heading back to Singapore (unless you’re planning to go again of course!).
The rough exchange rate when I was there worked out to about roughly 60,000 Kip to SG$10, or about 80,000 Kip to US$10.
Kip can be a bit confusing because some of the numerals on the notes are in Lao, so you often have to do a bit of flipping around to find the correct number. Sometimes you’ll pay in USD and get Kip in change.
I had a Lao Telecom SIM Card with 5GB of data for 60,000 Kip – that’s 10,000 for the SIM card and 50,000 for 5GB/30days worth of data. Connection and speeds were quite decent overall.
What to wear
As in the video – both downtown Vientiane and Luang Prabang are pretty walkable cities where most of the sights are not too far apart, so a good pair of walking shoes is essential.
There are lots of temples to visit, you need to have your knees and shoulders covered and take off your hat when you visit. It’s useful to bring around a scarf or sarong, though they usually have some at the entrances of most temples if you forget. They are quite strict about his covering up rule, some more so than others, do follow as a sign of respect for their culture.
Big ups to my fellow media and bloggers on the trip! Check out #SilkAirMarvelLaos (LOL the hashtag I know) on instagram for more of our antics in Laos – we had a ball of fun hanging out together :) Spot them in the video!
This article originally referenced Silkair, but note that Scoot will take over the Silkair Singapore-Laos route with changes in timing and route from 1 April 2019 onwards.