LAOS KEY FACTS
236,800 sq km (91,400 sq miles).
6 million (2008).
25.3 per sq km.
Vientiane. Population: 702,000 (2007 estimate).
People’s Republic since 1975. Gained independence from France in 1953.
Head of state:
Choummaly Sayasone since June 2006.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh since June 2006.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin flat or round plugs are in use.
This land-locked mountainous country is gaining a reputation as an ecotourist destination. Its many rivers criss-crossing the country and unspoilt national parks are ideal for activities such as trekking, kayaking and caving. The capital, Vientiane, and the other major towns have been spared major modern developments with traditional and colonial architecture still dominant.
LAOS is one of the few Communist countries left in the world. Until 1988, tourists were not allowed access to Laos, but now it is perfectly feasible to travel all over the country, preferably with a recognised tour company, although plenty of backpackers do it independently. The number of tourists is expected to continue increasing over the next few years as more and more people discover the delights of this laid-back country of mountains and rivers.
For now, LAOS remains relatively isolated and undeveloped. Its capital, Vientiane, is more like a big village than a crowded Asian hub and life throughout the country is slow paced. Most people come to Laos and make a brief tour of Vientiane and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang with perhaps a brief detour to the mysterious Plain of Jars. But those who make the effort to explore further afield will be well rewarded with luscious landscapes, friendly people and unique glimpses of a country hardly changed for over a century.