Here some assorted tips to Lao beyond what is written in the blog.
Progress in LAO was fast recently. Most roads are paved even though still very bumpy (and windy) so driving is slow. In the mountains calculate with at most 30 Km/h.
There are ATMs at most places now. But you’ll get only 100$ each time and at a high price. Take a wad of cash with you, that may be the cheapest way to get money.
Food may be a problem in the real small destinations. On some places the only thing we could get was chicken soup.
Not a problem for adults but for the kids that was a problem occasionally. There are small shops everywhere but they all sell the same things that are useless to feed kids. But you can buy soy-chocolate milk there. This was our emergency thing to feed the kids. And fresh fruit whenever available. And come to think of it, fried grubs.
Just kidding. [actually Michael told us he ate raw spider salad].
There are tourist buses for the bigger destinations and Vans for the smaller. Depending on the season they may be crammed.
We hired a private driver for the more remote places and it was worth it. I had quite a panic having to wait for the single bus per day at 5:00 in the morning with 2 kids. Also we could visit more places.
With kids the main problem with a private driver is that you may not wish to travel each day. Most drivers cannot handle this. We had an agreement of 120$ for a driving day with a fixed route and 40$ for a non driving day. Even better would have been to agree on a fixed prices per day + distance. But we were lucky to have a driver that was both, flexible and also spoke some English and driving was secure. However, he said that this agreement was because of low season. You may ask for him in LPB, his name was Pong unfortunately I lost his address.
Usually he drives a fixed route. That is a fanny thing. The bus/van is private but another company sells the tickets. So they never can be sure that earn some money. If you buy your ticket in an agency so 3 parties want their share.
If you wanna do water sports of some kind with the kids or drive with the smaller boats you may need an inflatable live-west. They are cool and better than the things you just put around the arms (what is that in English). I would have felt much more secure on our thunderstorm trip to Muang Ngoi Neua.
Health: there seem to be enough hospitals. Even in the most remote place we were, the next hospital would have been less than 4 hours distance. The quality seem to be not that good though. However, even airports are never far away, I would take less emergency medication with me next time.
Kids had to wash hands before meals if possible (take wet napkins with you) but that was about what we did as precaution. We also drank tea and occasionally even water but never from the tap. In Restaurants the water usually comes from bottled water you may have to check. We were all sick at the beginning of our stay in Lao but that was a farewell gift from Vietnam. After that everything fine.
We liked pretty much everything we did.
Here my favorites in ascending order:
And of course Michael’s home with the zoo was a kids dream too.
Buy a local SIM card for connections to the internet. Works only in bigger places. The settings had to be done manually. Do not leave the shop until it works.
Electricity is everywhere, this seems to be program from the government to keep people happy with a TV.
Booking: Do not book arrangements beforehand. The stuff we checked was overpriced. Plenty of local agencies that are happy to help you. Booking hotels with rooms for 2 Adults + 2 Kids is difficult like everywhere in Australasia. I usually checked in a Guide-bool and/or online (very few) but then just went there and checked the rooms.
There are more hotels than mentioned online or in guide books.