Visiting Laos

Laos had been high on my bucket list for years so when I had the chance, I just had to visit. I visited in February 2024.

Quick facts

-         -          Officially the Loa People’s Democratic Republic, the only landlocked country in South East Asia, it is bordered by 5 countries (Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand).

-        -          It’s capital and largest city is Vientiane and the people speak Lao.

-        -          They have an estimated population of 7.8 million people.

-          -          The local currency is called Lao kip

Visa Process

I wrote to the Lao embassy in Yangon where I live, to make enquiries and was told as a Nigerian passport holder, I needed the following:

-          -  Letter of introduction from where I work

-          - Proof of funds (pay slips/ bank statements)

-         -  Visa fee of $35

-         -  Hotel reservation

-          - Flight booking

-         -  2 passport photographs

-         -  Copy of passport data page

-         -  Passport with at least 6 months validity

As no visa application had been treated for a Nigerian at that Embassy before, I was told that my application would be sent to their Ministry of Foreign Affairs for approval. The lady seemed worried and asked if we had an office in their country, so they could apply for me. I told her I was in no hurry and would wait for the approval. The approval only took 2 weeks!


On arrival, when I got to the counter, it seemed like the immigration officer had never seen a Nigerian passport and didn’t even know how to pronounce the country. He called on his colleague who ushered me away. I started laughing when this was happening as I’m coming to terms with being the odd one in many countries in this region. I was the only black person on that flight, then being ushered into an immigration room, made it appear like I was up to something dodgy. It wasn’t long before I realised that communication in English was a bit of a challenge. I was asked to sit, and a woman came out of an office, she was probably the boss. She could communicate in English and proceeded to interrogate me. After looking through my passport, “what do you do in Canada” was the next thing I heard. Of all the visas in my passport, that was the one she chose to focus on. I looked up and said “I live and work in Myanmar and that’s where I flew from. Would you like to see my work ID”. I presented it to her but noticed her scrutinising and struggling, as my work ID was issued from hq and didn't show Myanmar. I put her out of her confusion by asking if she would like to see proof of my residence in Yangon and she said yes, so I gave her my driving license. She had a few questions for me:

-          Who are you here with? Alone

-          What are you here for? Holiday

-          For how long? 3 days

-          Can I see your return ticket? Sure

-          How much money do you have with you? xxx

She seemed satisfied after her questioning and left. One of the officers took all my documents and proceeded to scan them while he chatted with his colleagues. The entire time, no one said anything to me. Then one of the officers yelled ‘okay madam’, the one scanning gave me my documents, and they were suddenly in a hurry for me to leave their office. I wondered what the rush was for, but I took my time to organise my documents in the folders and purses they came out of, which I did in no hurry, before I left. I went back to the officer who could not pronounce Nigeria and he stamped me in. By this time, I was tired, hungry and slightly ticked off. I got a taxi and as we drove through town around 8:00pm, the streets were quite empty. I asked the driver, who struggled with English too, why and according to him, it was the Chinese New Year, so he believed people were celebrating with their families. On arrival at the hotel, I met a guest at the reception asking for food, but there was none. He had spent a night in the country already and mentioned there was a restaurant down the road where he ate the day before. I asked if he could wait for me to drop my suitcase and off we went. He called Vientiane a sleeping capital.

The restaurant was buzzing with life and activity. We settled in, only problem was that we could not speak Lao. The waitresses seemed to avoid us. As they approached, once we asked for English, they would gesture to say no and leave. A young chap was brave enough to bring the menus to us, but the pictures were so small that we could not make things out. It took 15 – 20 minutes to place our orders. We ended up using google translate, but even that seemed problematic, especially as the person I was with was vegan. It appears the translation was inaccurate. What an eventful welcome I had.

Before going to bed, I mentioned to the reception that I would like to hire an English-speaking driver the next day to see some places. We agreed that my departure would be at 10am.

At 9am, the receptionist was at my door. As I opened the door to speak to her, she let herself in. She told me about the driver she had got and how much the tour would cost, I had just woken up and was still trying to process things. Then she proceeded to remind me that the tour was to start at 10am and started giving me orders to shower and get ready. It was only 9am, so I assured her I would be ready and down in time but she wanted me to give her the money. I politely refused, informing her that we’d sort things out when I came down. After 40 minutes, she was back at my door asking for the payment. I had just walked out of the shower and repeated that I would be down soon, she was on the floor, probably attending to someone else but 5 mins later, her voice was at my door again. So I opened the door, told her I was getting ready and would be down and asked her to respect that and stop bothering me.

Lao kip
I got down just before 10 and she stated that the driver was there already, which was great. I showed her pictures of the places I wanted to visit. The minute we started speaking to the driver, I realised he could not communicate in English. I sensed it would be an interesting ride and asked her, but she tried to explain it away. The driver complained that the buddha park where I was requesting we start from was too far. It was only a 37- 40 minute drive and we had all the time, so I made it clear that I could get another driver. The receptionist had a negotiation with him, and he agreed to go to all the places I wanted to see. She paid him and off we went…

Places to Visit

He chose to start at the Pha That Luang (The Great Stupa) in the centre of Vientiane. This gold covered stupa is regarded as ostensibly the most important national monument/symbol in Laos. It is believed that the breast bone of the buddha is enshrined in the stupa. You can read more details here Pha That Luang - a symbol of Buddhism and Laos sovereignty [2022 updated] (

Next we headed to the buddha park. Two people had recommended that I visit. I enjoyed wandering around and taking the sights in. It took me 40 minutes to get there and I went by taxi. I was told that by public transport, bus no 14 goes that way. 

The park has a collection of statues, and I spent a little over two hours wandering around. The highlight was getting up the famous giant pumpkin of life and death. It was a rather adventurous climb as you literally have to squeeze your way up, which caused hesitation for some people. 

The pumpkin has three levels and once you get to the top, you are treated to a lovely view of the park. I would say the climb was worth it.  

Collection of  statues.

In my opinion, half a day would suffice for the visit, including going back and forth.

I also visited the Wat Si Maung, Ho Phra Keo museum and Wat Sisaket. If you live in Asia, at some point, you may experience temple/stupa fatigue. Although, I went, there wasn’t anything particularly new. It cost 30,000 kip to visit each place except the buddha park which cost 40,000 kip.

The Patuxay Victory Monument was quite interesting on the other hand. It tells the story of independence from the French rule in 1953 and patuxay means victory gate. It is a dedication to all who sacrificed their lives in the war for independence. There are pictorial depictions of how the building was constructed and the story behind this monument. It has 7 floors; each floor was different and on the last floor, you get such a nice view of Vientiane.

The night market was also a good place to visit. It was buzzing with life and activity like any other night market. If shopping is on your mind, this could be a place to check out. The receptionist was kind to offer to take me, so I gladly obliged. After wandering around, we settled in to eat but I didn’t like the food we ate. 

The service was not great either and a French family beside me ended up making eye contact with me, then we laughed about some things. When they were leaving, the man dissatisfied with their food, said ‘very bad’ to me and I smiled in understanding.
Beerlao is King here

The day after I was hungry and had searched online for a place to find food I knew. I opted for a French restaurant I had found good reviews for; la cage du coq. The food was good.

I was leaving the next day and wanted to have a proper breakfast before my fight. Café Sinouk near the Thai Embassy came up. While I was waiting for my order, an American came in and needed clarification before placing her order as she had some dietary restrictions. It took about 4 people to understand English and explain to her. After that arduous conversation, I turned around and smiled in understanding. We ended up having a chat and a good laugh over our shared frustration which isn’t limited to Laos.

By the way, I discovered that all the times I asked the receptionist to organise transport for me, she was cutting a deal with the drivers. So when I was going to the airport and she tried, it didn't work. I paid the taxi when I was at the airport, he also didn't have change so he took less which ended up being the right amount.

I wanted to venture out of Vientiane on a day trip but couldn’t because I didn’t find an English-speaking driver. While I was at the airport, I chatted with an Indian who showed me things he got up to. Apparently, there is a train that goes from the capital to Luang Prabang in 3 hours or less. There are stops along the way, depending on your preference. He mentioned that the group he was with stopped in 3 places and showed me pictures. There were gorgeous mountains and views, beautiful temples and a great scenery. I’ve seen similar so as much as it’s a shame I missed out on that, I don’t feel like I particularly missed anything and didn’t have to beat myself up for missing out.

Can I really say I love Laos? Not so much...

Back Story

My monthly visitor had shown up earlier than expected, and I had only a few sanitary pads. I was in this place, where communication in English was not the norm, a country where I was told things closed down on Sundays, so I headed to the store after dinner. As I was with the receptionist, she pointed at a pack of pads stating that they were good. Without question, I picked it.

The next day when I wore one, I felt mint travel right up, shocking my body. I’ll only need these pads for one day I thought to myself. But through the course of the day, the confusion from those pads seemed to drain me of energy. Are fragrances/scents in sanitary pads a normal thing?

I was shocked the first time I wore a pad and it had mint in it.  As a male friend said, mint is harsh enough even on and in the mouth, then to think of it down there, it boggles the mind. As much as this flows out of us naturally, we women know to save ourselves the embarrassment. I was returning the following day to Yangon and had saved two normal pads for the trip thankfully.

In conclusion, Laos is a good place to visit, but my tips to bear in mind would be:

i)                    Depending on what you would like to do and see, you probably may not need more than a week. This depends largely on the kind of traveller you are. If you are a traveller like me with itchy feet, you may tick things off your bucket list quite quickly. 

ii)                If you are travelling from far, you might want to combine your visit to Laos with other countries in the region. If you are visiting from nearby like I did, 3 days were sufficient for my trip

iii)                 The cost of living is cheap which is a plus. On the other hand, English is hardly spoken, so the language barrier may cause some frustration. Patience, a lot of it will be required.


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