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Laos, officially Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. This mountainous country has a long and rich history. It was a French colony until 1953 and then, a conflict broke out between the royal forces and the communist force, which lasted for about 20 years until the communist resistance defeated the monarchy in 1975. The country was dependent on military and economic aid from the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Laos began to open up to foreigners.
In recent years, Laos is known as a peaceful country. Although it has plenty to offer visitors, such as natural beauty and Buddhist temples, it remains one of the least explored countries in Southeast Asia. However, more and more international tourists are visiting the country to experience its laidback atmosphere and admire its beautiful attractions. Many expats from all over the globe are also relocating to this country due to its slow-placed lifestyle and affordable cost of living.
Find the latest rental rates on the Laos property market
One of the most popular parts of Laos is its capital, Vientiane. Home to over 800,000 people, it is the most populous city in Laos. Compared to other bustling capitals in Southeast Asia, Laos boasts a relaxed atmosphere and feels more like a small town. It was once a French trading post during the colonial period, which is why visitors will find numerous French-inspired architecture and a beautiful old French quarter in the city. Some of the most popular attractions are the Lao National Museum, Pha That Luang (a gold-covered stupa that is considered as the most important and most sacred structure in the country), Patuxai (Laotian version of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe), and Pho Khao Khouay.
Besides Vientiane, Luang Prabang is also very popular among international visitors. Having 33 temples, French colonial architecture, bustling night markets, and natural beauty, there are many things to see and do in this town. The whole town is listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site due to its beautiful mix of traditional architecture and French colonial buildings.
Vang Vieng is another famous destination in the country that is frequented by backpackers. Due to its wild nightlife in the past, it was infamous for being a hedonistic jungle. However, today, things have calmed down and the city has become a perfect place for visitors who want to immerse themselves in nature. This does not mean that visitors cannot party in the city as the city still boasts a lively nightlife scene.
Most foreigners in Laos choose to live in houses or apartment and they come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and prices.
Bungalows (one-story brick house), two-story detached houses, and townhouses are the most common types of houses in the country. Three to five-bedroom bungalows or two-story detached houses with large gardens are very popular among foreigners because they offer more space and privacy, and the rent is only slightly more expensive than apartments and other types of houses. Townhouses are also popular. However, they do not come with large gardens as they share one or more common walls with the units beside them.
Apartments in Laos are divided into three main categories: standard apartments, high-end apartments, and serviced apartments. Standard apartments are the most affordable as they only offer basic amenities, such as parking spaces. High-end apartments are usually more modern and well-made. They offer more amenities than standard apartments, such as 24-hour security systems and parking spaces. Some high-end apartments in the country also come with swimming pools and gyms.
Serviced apartments provide luxurious amenities and services that allow renters to live a hotel-like lifestyle. These amenities and services include housekeeping, laundry, swimming pools, gyms, children’s playgrounds, 24-hour security systems, and designated parking spaces. The units are usually fully furnished and come with air conditioning.
All types of apartments in the country are available in low-rise and mid-rise buildings. Renters can choose between studio apartments and one to three-bedroom apartments. Some apartment buildings are mixed-use properties, meaning they are equipped with shops, restaurants, and mini markets on the ground floor.
The standard of living in Laos is improving thanks to the country’s fast-growing economy. However, this also means that the prices of items and rents in the country are higher than they used to be. Still, most foreigners can enjoy a comfortable life with less amount of money than in the United States or Europe. In general, 1,000 USD a month is needed for a single person to cover all the basic needs.
The official currency of Laos is Lao Kip (LAK), and 1 USD is equivalent to 9,103 LAK. Sometimes, US dollars and Thai Baht are accepted and even preferred to pay for goods and services. When exchanging your money, always make sure to pay close attention because some vendors and establishment use their own rate instead of using the correct exchange rate. ATMs can be found in major cities and tourist areas. Debit and credit cards are rarely accepted, so always carry some cash when traveling around the country.
Accounting for about half of the country’s population, Theravada Buddhism is the largest religion in Laos. This is why the country’s culture, customs, and etiquette are highly influenced by Buddhism. Non-Buddhist local religions are still practiced by about two-fifths of Laos’s population. Freedom of religion is actually provided by the constitution, which is why Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith are present in the country. However, in practice, the government restricts this right to practice.
Since Laotian people are very friendly and welcoming, many foreigners do not have any trouble adjusting to the country. The official language is Laotian, or Lao language, but French is widely used in commerce and government. English is also increasingly studied and spoken in the country.
To live or stay in Laos for an extended period of time, it is essential for foreigners to obtain a visa. Many visa categories are available, but the most common is the 30-day business visa (NI-B2) and visa for experts and their dependents (C-B1).