The Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Laos
is located in the center of Indochina,
sharing borders with China to the North
416 kilometers, Myanmar to Northwest 236
kilometers, Thailand to the West 1,835
kilometers, Cambodia to the South 492
kilometers and Vietnam to the East 1,957
With a total area of 236,800 square
kilometers, around 70% of Laos' terrain
is mountainous, reaching a maximum
elevation of 2,820 meters in Xieng
Khouang Province. The landscapes of
northern Laos and the regions adjacent
to Vietnam, in particular, are dominated
by rough mountains.
The Mekong River is the main
geographical feature in the west and, in
fact, forms a natural border with
Thailand in some areas. The Mekong flows
through nearly 1,900 kilometers of Lao
territory and shapes much of the
lifestyle of the people of Laos. In the
South the Mekong reaches a breadth of 20
kilometers, creating an area with
thousands of islands.
Location and Terrain
The Lao P.D.R. is located in the heart
of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast
Asia. It lies between latitude 14 to 23
degrees North and longitude 100 to 108
degrees East. It is the only Southeast
Asian country without direct access to
the sea, stretching North to South 1,700
Laos encompasses a total of 236,800
square kilometers with the terrain
characterized by three distinct regions
- mountains, plateaus, and plains. The
mountains and plateaus make up
three-quarters of the total area. High
mountains rising to an average height of
1,500 meters dominate the Northern
region. The three
mountains in the country are all located
in the Phou Ane Plateau in Xieng Khouang
Province. They are Phou Bia at 2,820
meters, Phou Xao at 2,690 meters and
Phou Xamxum at 2,620 meters. The Phou
Luang (Annamite Range) stretches from
Southeast on the Phouane Plateau down to
the Cambodian border; the others are the
Nakai Plateau in Khammouane Province and
the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos,
which is over 1,000 meters above sea
The plain region consists of large and
small plain areas distributed along the
Mekong River. The Vientiane Plain, the
largest, is situated on the lower
reaches of the Nam Ngum River. The
Savannakhet Plain is situated on the
lower reaches of the
Sebangfai River and Sebanghieng River,
while the Champasack Plain on the Mekong
River stretches out to the Thai and
Cambodian borders. Blessed with rich and
fertile soil, these plains represent one
quarter of the total area known as the
granaries of the country.
The Lao PDR is criss-crossed with a
myriad of rivers and streams. The
largest is the Mekong River, flowing for
1,898 kilometers from the North to the
South, with 919 kilometers of the river
forming the major portion of the border
with Thailand. It is estimated that some
60% of all the water entering the Mekong
River system originates in Laos. These
rivers and streams provide great
potential for hydropower development
with 51% of the power potential in the
lower Mekong basin contained within
Most of the year is hot and humid. Laos
enjoys a tropical climate with two
distinct seasons. The wet season is from
the beginning of May to the end of
September, and the dry season is from
October through April. The yearly
average temperature is about 28 degrees
Celsius, rising to a maximum of 38
degrees Celsius during April and May.
In Vientiane a minimum temperature of 19
degrees Celsius is to be expected during
January. In mountainous areas, however,
temperature drops to as low as 14-15
degrees Celsius during the winter
months, and during cold nights, can
easily reach the freezing point. The
average precipitation is highest in
Southern Laos, where the Annamite
Mountains receive over 3,000 mm.
annually. In Vientiane rainfall is about
1,500-2,000 mm., and in the Northern
provinces only 1,000-1,500 mm.
People & Population
Population: 6.2 million.
Density: 23 people/square kilometer.
The population consists of 49 ethnic
groups, in 4 main linguistic.
The Kip is the official currency of the
Lao PDR and the following bank notes are
currently in circulation: 500; 1,000;
2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000 and 50,000
The best currencies to use when
exchanging money are: US Dollars, Euros
and Thai Baht. You can exchange your
currency at the bank, airport, or at a
foreign currency exchange office.
When to visit
The best time to visit Laos is between
November and April. - The hot season
from March to May is very dry and
certain river trips are not possible.
The official language is Lao. Other
languages used are French, English.
Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese.
Silk and cotton fabrics, objects made
from wood (sculptures, cut-out figures),
pottery and traditional instruments are
part of the rich tapestry of Laotian
Films can be found in shops in the
larger towns, also if you need a digital
download service for your digital camera
it is also available.
Flora & Fauna
Laos has one of the most pristine
natural landscapes in Southeast Asia. An
estimated half of its woodlands consist
of primary forest, in particular the
tropical rainforest. Unlike the
vegetation that grows in the climate of
Europe and the United States, tropical
rainforest is composed of three
vegetative layers. The top layer
features single-trucked, high-reaching
trees called dipterocarps. The middle
canopy consists of hardwood such as
teak. Beneath, small trees, grass and
sometimes bamboo can be found.
addition to its fascinating vegetation,
Laos plays host to a diverse animal
kingdom. Several exotic mammals are
endemic such as leopard cats, Javan
mongoose, goat antelopes as well as rare
species of gibbons and linger, Malayan
sun bear, Asiatic black bear and gaur.
The discovery of the Saola Ox, a breed
deer-antelope, in Vietnam a few years
ago caused a great sensation. This
extremely rare animal inhabits the
Eastern border regions of Laos. It is
thought that these remote areas probably
still hide other unknown species.
In Southern Laos, near Khong Island,
Irrawaddy dolphins inhabit the Mekong
River. While many species of wildlife
are shy and can rarely be seen,
spectators will generally be able to
spot the dolphins in Springtime when the
water level of the Mekong is lowest.
Laos is also rich in resident and
migrating birds. One of the more notable
ones is the rare Green Peafowl.
Lao religious images and art is also
distinctive and sets Laos apart from its
neighbors. The “Calling for Rain”
posture of Buddha images in Laos, for
example, which depicts the Buddha
standing with his hands held rigidly at
his side, fingers pointing to the
ground, can not be found in other
Southeast Asian Buddhist art traditions.
Religious influences are also pervasive
in classical Lao literature, especially
in the Pha Lak, Pha Lam, the Lao version
of India’s epic Ramayana.
Projects are underway to preserve
classic Lao religious scripts, which
were transcribed onto palm leaf
manuscripts hundreds of years ago and
stored in Wats.
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