Travel Tips - Thailand & Lao
TIP 1: [March 2001 Update - Check with the Lao Embassy to verify how and where to get visas - as I understand one may now need to get them in advance.] At entry points to Lao, be careful of those trying to take you to 'visa offices.' These tend to be for profit agencies that will help you fill out the visa form and help process the application. This will likely cost you another US$15-20/application on top of the official US$30. Skip this and head directly to the border crossing and the official immigration office for an application. These 'visa offices' may save you 20-30 minutes of time queuing up to get the applications at the border and filling them out and submitting, but I did not feel their services were worth the US$15-20 per person. The forms are in English and quite easy to understand.
TIP 2: Contrary to the L.P. and some other guides, the visa office at the Vientiane/Friendship Bridge border post only requires ONE passport size photo for the visa.
Medicine and Emergencies
TIP 1: Remember to see your physician prior to leaving for Lao and get some Cipro or other broad spectrum antibiotics just in case. If you know what you need (not recommending this) you can purchase most common antibiotics etc. in the local pharmacies - but age and purity of what you get may be questionable.
TIP 2: Recommend you bring your own mini pharmacy/good supply with you in terms of plasters, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, etc. Wounds go septic twice as fast as in temperate climates. Things such as contact lens solutions which are readily available in Thailand are very difficult to find - so rely on glasses or bring your own supply.
TIP 3: Recommend you get medical evacuation insurance prior to leaving for Lao. It is relatively inexpensive and most policies generally cover doctors bills, hospital charges, provide air evacuation for serious injuries that cannot be treated in country, translators via phone, medical consultations via phone etc. We have taken out medical evacuation insurance from time-to-time through American Express Travel Medical Protection - but thankfully have not had to call on their services. S.O.S. and Liaison Traveler are other popular insurers.
Weather & Clothes
TIP 1: Bring a good supply of clothes and or be prepared to launder frequently as the heat will take its toll and local standards are high in terms of personal hygiene. At least two changes of clothes a day would be recommended.
TIP 2: Skip the rain coats/slickers, and stick to rubber sandals and umbrellas for the rainy season. A good pair of athletic sandals (Teva) will prove invaluable.
TIP 1: Recommend bringing a combination of at least a Visa card as well as US$ travelers checks and US$ notes.
TIP 2: Although there is a 3-5% mark-up for using credit cards in Lao, I recommend making use of them when possible, as it conserves precious paper currency/T.C. You are a long way from an ATM so conserve cash. Try paying for hotel/guesthouse or airline tickets if possible with a credit card.
TIP 3: If crossing into Lao at the Friendship Bridge border crossing near Vientiane, there is one last ATM on the Thai side of the border - literally outside the Thai immigration office. I believe it is a Thai Farmers Bank ATM. This would be the last chance to easily tap into your bank account for extra funds.
TIP 1: Recommend you forget about your mobile unless you are a subscriber of Thailand's AIS network, as very few other carriers have roaming agreements with the Shinawatra network.
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