Living In Laos Expat Guide – that will be the topic of today’s article.
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We all move abroad for many reasons! Some sign up for a new job, others go for visitation, and some move looking for affordable places, while others may decide to find a place suitable for retirement. Laos is a small country in Asia that’s known today as an expat destination. Let’s talk more about living in Laos.
As history disclosed, this country was an overseas colony of the French until the 1950s. During this period, a conflict broke out between the royal forces and the communist resistance, which later lasted for about 20 years. Well, in the long struggle, the community forced prevailed, leading to a new life.
Over the years, this country has become a part of several global organizations, including the World Trade Organization, among others which accepted the country’s membership in 2014. However, one of the few aspects Laos still lags in is the not-so-efficient healthcare system that gets people baffled.
Notwithstanding, that’s just one of the significant things expats need to put into consideration while moving to this country for the first time. They may choose to overlook it because of the many unique and distinct things about the country. But, the fact still remains that Laos is one of the best countries in Asia.
Today, we have compiled some of the pros and cons of living in Laos as an expat. Not only is that our discussion for the day, but you’ll get to know some of the best places to reside. The ultimate guide to moving to Laos is no exception, and many others, to mention a few. Read further to get the full details.
Best Places Suitable for Expats in Laos
Laos is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in Southeast Asia, steeped in food, history, culture, and nature, even if you don’t know. Besides, the country is lovely and, thanks to its mountain and riverways, an adventure-seekers paradise.
In addition, Laos offers a relaxed and outdoor-oriented experience of a lifetime with many incredible places to visit. From one week to one month, you can easily fill your time in Laos, traveling along with the cities, from the south to the north. So, without further ado, below are the best places for expats in Laos.
This is the capital of Lao’s most southerly province that sits on the Mekong River, just 6km from the border with Thailand. Once a thriving French trading outpost, the benefits of living in Laos cannot be overemphasized.
Wandering the old historical quarter and marveling at the decaying early-20th-century building is a must in this country. Other places to explore include; dinosaur museum, friendship bridge, and more. If you’re feeling active, you can also head to the northeast out of the town to the centuries-old That Ing Hang.
2. Nong Khiaw
Nong Khiaw is a small town on the banks of the Nam Ou River in the country. The Nong khiaw boasts a gorgeous backdrop of imposing Limestone Mountains, picturesque river views, and genuine local flavor. While it is true that a lot of people use this small town as a stop-over en route to Van Vieng and Muang Ngoi, this place is worth a visit in its own right.
Of course, being Laos, you can also explore zip-lining, mountain bike riding, trekking, and waterfall swimming to be found. Aside from this fact, there are many outdoor activities you can explore as an expat in this beautiful city.
This is the third city on our list. Having been long regarded as a sleepy backwater, this city has come a long way in the last two decades. Not only is that, but it’s on a wide bend of the Mekong, which is more akin to the loose collection of villages than a thriving capital city.
If you love history and want to explore some of the best attractions in the country, this is the right place to visit. Like many other cities in Laos, it mixes French-colonial architecture with Buddhist temples, dotted around the city in every boulevard and tree-line street.
4. Luang Prabang
The charming city of Luang Prabang, inhabited for thousands of years, and it was once known as the capital city of the country, up until 1975. This city is an eclectic mix of Buddhist temples, Indochina architecture and food, and a magical nature. Here, you’ll want to spend time immersing yourself in the old town of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO-protected site housing 33 gilded wats (temples).
Also, you’ll find the striking Wat Xieng Thong and the Royal Palace, as well as the Phu Si (great sunset views) in this city. At night, you can also explore the Night market, and by day all the fantastic street food the city has to offer you. In fact, there are many things to explore in this country as an expatriate.
5. Luang Namtha
Surrounded by Myanmar, China, and oudomxay and Bokeo provinces, you’ll have a lot to explore here. Moreover, a whopping 85 percent of this region is mountainous, and it’s more commonly known as the Golden Triangle. And we can tell you that’s why people come here, to take advantage of the resplendent countryside, studded with ethnic villages and waterfalls.
10 Interesting Facts about Living in Laos
Laos, also famous for having the tallest treehouse globally, the oldest human fossil in Southeast Asia, and more, is considered one of the fastest-growing economies in all of Asia. Not only is that, but they also have a lot of papayas which are absolutely ginormous. Below are the fun facts about this country.
1. Home to the Only Landlocked Country in Southeast Asia
If you’ve been wondering about the fun facts about this small country, this is one of the first things to put into consideration. All other countries in Asia have coastlines, which gives a country an advantage in trade.
However, Laos is completely landlocked, dramatically impacting the country in terms of trade and economic growth. Even though the government doesn’t produce a large number of food, we can confidently tell you that the country is rich in minerals. The high number of rivers makes it ideal for creating hydroelectric energy. Meanwhile, China has been helping to support Laos’ economy by investing in these sectors to build the country more.
2. Home to the Shortest People in the World
Have you ever believed that the shortest people in the world are found in Africa? Well, that’s what many people would think of in terms of the birthplace of short people. But your concept is wrong.
In a list of the countries with the shortest people in the world, Laotians rank second, with the average person standing just 155.89cm (5 feet 1.37 inches) tall. In addition, the locals here are the youngest population of all countries in Asia, with around 70 percent of the population under 30 years old.
3. A Country Known as a Socialist State
Laos is known to be among the world’s five remaining communist countries alongside Cuba, North Korea, China, and Vietnam. The official name of this country became the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, having the red communist flag with a hammer and sickle seen flying on the official building.
Moreover, the country especially relied on the support of the Soviet Union for military and economic aid, up until the union’s collapse in 1991. But nowadays, Laos relies on trade with its neighbors Thailand, china, as well as Vietnam.
4. Home to Heavily Bombed Place in History
As history disclosed, Laos is known as the most heavily bombed place by the capital due to the US bombing during Vietnam War. For about nine years, the US dropped over 2 million tons of bombs across Laos, and that’s more than all the bombs during World War II combined, but around 30 percent didn’t explode.
This has today left the country with a high number of unexploded bombs, rendering most of the land unusable for farming. Not only is that, but there are frequent sad stories of village children discovering what looks like a toy metal object near their school and, without knowing any better, start playing with it, resulting in tragic endings.
5. Fastest Growing Economy in Asia
While Laos is still a relatively developing country compared with other regions, we can tell you that it’s still the fastest-growing. Besides, poverty has halved in the past 20 years, while education and health have improved overall. So, if you’re moving to this country, be rest assured that you’ll enjoy your stay.
6. World’s First Consumer of Sticky Rice
The Laotians are the highest consumers of sticky rice in the world, eating more than 345 pounds (156 kgs) a year per person. Funny enough, they even refer to themselves as the luk Khao niaow, meaning the children of sticky rice. Aside from this fact, Laos also makes unique sticky rice dishes for religious ceremonies, and uncooked sticky rice grains are often thrown into the air after prayers.
7. Home to Tallest Tree Houses in the World
In the Nam Kan National Park of Laos, you can stay in treehouses that perch 30 to 40 meters above the jungle. Well, this is made possible by the Gibbon Experience. This local tourism-based conservation project offers visitors the chance to explore the jungle while Ziplining through the trees and sleeping in the jungle canopy.
If you like to explore, this city is one of the best places to visit in the country. Here, you can see Conservation Park. Not only is that, but travelers can have an incredible holiday while keeping themselves safe from any uniform men or third party that could affect their cruise.
8. Home to the oldest Human Fossil
Have you been looking for the oldest human fossil in the world? But it doesn’t seem easy to get. Well, maybe you’ve been navigating to the wrong platform. Here, we can tell you that Laos is home to the oldest fossil of Southeast Asia.
This discovery was also significant because it showed that people had migrated out of Africa to Southeast Asia. Therefore, if you’re visiting this country for a couple of days, or weeks, you can see the Tam Pa Ling that remains at the Lao National Museum in Vientiane.
9. Coffee in a Plastic Bag
This is one of the countries where you’ll see locals drinking coffee in a plastic bag. I’m sure that’s funny to you, right? Of course, this contributes to why the country has a unique culture and traditions and is also different from other countries in Asia.
Notwithstanding, Laos coffees are delicious and not as internationally famous as they should be. Also, this is one of the country’s agricultural exports. Both the Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties are grown in this country, mainly on the Bolaven Plateau, which has cool temperatures and plenty of rain ideal for coffee growing.
10. Expect a Nationwide Midnight Curfew
While planning to relocate to Laos, you should be ready for a nationwide midnight curfew at any time. In practice, this is not enforced on the people so much, but more on businesses, although many guesthouses will ask you to return before midnight.
However, businesses do stay open past the midnight curfew. And this is because; many of them have obtained a special license or bribed the police enough to let them stay open till they close. Meanwhile, most people living in this country tend to go to bed early and rise early to give alms to monks.
Top 7 Top Attractions in Laos
Laos is known to be a mountainous and landlocked country (as said earlier) in South-East Asia that has long been isolated from the outside world. A visit to Laos is, in many ways, a trip back in time and an excellent way to know more about Asia’s history.
Travelers are drawn by the laid-back lifestyle in Laos that has disappeared elsewhere in the region. Even the capital, Vientiane, feels like a relaxed riverfront town in the country. Meanwhile, as the country opens up, with an increasing number of roads and bridges being built, the amazing tourist attractions in the country are becoming more and more accessible. Without further ado, below are the tourist attractions.
● Visiting the Vieng Xai
The Vieng Xai caves are an extensive network of caves that served as a hidden city during the Vietnam War. This area was home to the Communist army, who were fighting the royalist forces based in Vientiane and was bombed by the US army. Moreover, up to about 23,000 people lived in the caves, which contained a hospital, military barracks, bakeries, shops, and even a theatre, to mention a few.
● Wat Phu Temple
This is another place to take into consideration if you want to explore what the country has to offer. The Wat Phu is a ruined Khmer temple complex located at the base of mount Phu Kao in the Champasak province. Besides, its structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries. Meanwhile, Wat Phu is small compared to the monumental Angkor-era sites in Cambodia. And this temple is still in use as a Buddhist site today.
● Exploring the Pha That Luang
Located in Vientiane, this tourist attraction is one of the most significant monuments in the country. The stupa has several terraces, with each level representing a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment. Not only is that, but the lowest level represents the material world while the highest level represents the world of nothingness. Meanwhile, Pha That Luang was smashed by a Siamese invasion in 1828 and later reconstructed by the French in 1931.
● Visiting the Wat Xieng Thong
Located near the northern tip of the peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers, Wat Xieng Thong is in Luang Prabang’s most magnificent temple. Also, it was built in 1560 by King Setthathirath and was under royal patronage during the Kingdom of Laos. Meanwhile, in 1931, the image was taken to Paris and displayed at the Paris Exhibition, only to return to another place (Luang Phrabang) more than 30 years later.
● Sightseeing the Plain of Jars
This is another expat destination in Laos. The Plain of Jars is a large area extending around the town of Phonsavan, where giant jars of unknown origin are scattered around the landscape. In fact, the stone jars appear in clusters, ranging from a single or a few to several hundred jars.
These jars vary in height and diameter between 1 and 3 meters and are all hewn out of rock. Aside from this fact, the stone jars are undecorated, with the exception of a single jar that has a human bas-relief carved on the exterior. Moreover, research of the plain of jars suggests that the stone jars are associated with prehistoric burial practices.
● Visiting the Si Phan Don
Visiting the Si Phan Don is another thing you’d like to explore as an expat. And that’s because it’s a beautiful island, set against a scenic section of the Mekong River in Southern Laos. The Mekong is impassable to river traffic here due to the Khone Falls, a series of rapids that stretch 9.7km of the river’s length. Moreover, the three principal islands that cater to tourists are Don Det, Don Khon, and Done Kong.
Frequently Asked Question about Laos
Why is Laos so special?
There are so many reasons why this country remains the best destination for expatriates today. And this is because; it’s a landlocked country in Southeast Asia with some of the shortest people in the world. Not only is that, but the country is also famous for having the tallest treehouse in the world, the oldest human fossil in Southeast Asia, and is considered one of the fastest-growing economies in all of Asia.
Is Laos a good country?
Well, we are calling it a good country! However, Laos is the most relaxed country in Asia. No one is in a hurry, and you might even find a shopkeeper asleep, operating on a trust system until he has finished his nap. The country is also really fertile, but the locals are content with just harvesting one rice crop a year.
How can I Marry a Lao Woman?
Unlike most other jurisdictions, a foreigner must obtain the permission of the Lao government to marry a Laos’s citizen. Meanwhile, under Laos’s law, there are two ways of certifying a marriage to a Lao citizen in the country; to have a foreign marriage certificate or to obtain a Lao marriage certificate.
Can a foreigner buy property in Laos?
According to the country’s law, foreigners can now purchase and own condominiums in Laos. But under the revised law, foreigners can also own land-use rights under land lease and concession agreements with Lao citizens and the government. More so, land ownership rights are limited to 30 years and 50 years respectively in the country.
How long can a foreigner stay in Laos?
Tourist visas on arrival are available at specific ports of entry and generally permit a stay of 30 days. But you can extend the visa up to an additional 60 days through the department of immigration in Vientiane. On the other hand, you can refer to our post about the visas in Laos for more information about staying in this country as an expat.
Can I travel without a visa?
Visitors in this country must obtain a visa from one of the Laotian diplomatic missions or online unless they come from one of the visa-exempt countries or qualify for a visa on arrival. Meanwhile, all visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months. That’s why you need to inquire about visiting the country.
Can expats retire in Laos?
There are small towns, villages, tourism sites that make the country a beautiful place to retire as of today. However, Laos is a developing country, but there are a lot of reasons why it might be the best place to retire in today’s world.
Laos’s people are amiable, peaceful, and calm. Going by the cost of living, you can live comfortably in the country for $1,000 or less. Surrounded by economic powerhouses such as China and Thailand, you’ll never regret relocating to this beautiful country. Nonetheless, refer to this Lao guide to know more about the country.