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Laos is a mountainous, landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It is located between Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. It was colonized by French until 1953, and today, remnants of colonization remain in major towns. Similar to the rest of the former French Indochina, it is a laidback country with nice cafes and European-style villas. Although it may not be as popular as its neighboring countries, the country welcomed an estimated 4 million tourists last year, which is a year-on-year rise of 8.2%. This has made tourism one of the biggest growth sectors in the country.
The charming capital of Laos, Vientiane, is home to over 700,000 people, it is also the most populous city in the country. Although it is technically a capital city, Vientiane still offers a small town-feel rather than a bustling metropolitan. It was a French trading port during the colonial period, and the remnants are still visible. Visitors can explore the delightful old French quarter or admire the abundance of French-inspired architecture in the city, such as Patuxai, which is the Laotian version of Arc de Triomphe. The city has a number of interesting temples as well, including Wa So Saket Temple, which is the oldest of its kind in the city.
Besides Vientiane, Luang Prabang (Louangphabang) is frequented by international visitors as well. This serene and historic town lies on the mighty Mekong and Khan rivers, offering a perfect mix of natural beauty and pretty little European cafes. The city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its remarkable preservation of cultural, architectural, and religious heritage, both from Lao traditions and French influence. Visitors can explore the Buddha caves, Climb Mount Phousi, Visit the Royal Palace (Haw Kham), trek to the Kuang Si Falls, or watch the sunset along the Mekong River.
Along with Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Van Vieng is also a popular destination, particularly for backpackers. This town is known for its lush jungle scenery and the mesmerizing Nam Song River. There are also other attractions, such as the Tham Phu Kham Cave, which is famous for its bronze statue of the Buddha and lagoon.
The type of houses available for rent in Laos includes one-story brick house (bungalows), two-story or more detached houses, townhouses, and shophouses.
The most common house type that foreigners rent in Laos is three-to five-bedroom bungalows or two-story detached houses. These types of houses are very common in the country and offer renters a lot of space and privacy. Renters can also benefit from the huge land or garden that surrounds the houses.
Townhouses are also popular among foreigners and each unit is independently owned. Townhouses are rows of uniform homes with two stories or more.
Shophouses in Laos are similar to other shophouses that are found in other parts of Southeast Asia. They consist of shops on the ground floor and homes upstairs. However, some shophouses were refurbished and made entirely into a home.
The standard of living in Laos has been improving significantly in the last 20 years as the country continues to develop its economy. However, the cost of living is still fairly affordable for most foreigners. The living costs are generally similar or slightly less than Thailand, but higher than in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Lao Kip (LAK) is the official currency in Laos, and the exchange rate is approximately 9,103 LAK. It is important, however, for foreigners to pay attention when exchanging currency since many establishments or vendors use their own exchange rate. In some cases, the US dollar or Thai Baht is accepted and even preferred. When using US dollars to pay, the vendor may give Lao Kip back as the change. ATMs can be found in major tourist areas. Debit and credit cards are rarely accepted, so always make sure to carry enough cash with you.
Half of Laos’ population follows Theravada Buddhism, making it the largest religion in the country. Approximately two-fifths of the population adhere to non –Buddhist local religion. Other religions, including Mayahana Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, and Baháʼí Faith are also practiced in the country. However, be aware that while in theory, the country’s constitution provides for freedom of religion, the government actually restricts the right to practice.
The Lao Language, or Laotian, is the official and most widely spoken language in Laos. French and English are considered as minority languages in the country.
Different visa categories are available for foreigners who wish to live or stay in Laos for an extended period of time, which depends on the reasons for your relocation. These include 30-days business Visa (NI-B2), longer-term visas for experts and their dependents (C-B1), officials (S-A2), and diplomatic staff (D-A1).