Internet cafÃ©s can be found in larger towns, however access speeds are usually painfully slow and cafe staffs have less knowledge. The most reliable connections are in Vientiane, and usually cost around 100 kip/minute, with the cheapest offering 4000 kip/hour. However the internet security is not guaranteed and computer virus issues are abandoned.
In most cases, Wi-Fi with Mac/Linux laptop or iPad are highly recommended. Some cafes offer free WiFi-access for customers check first if it's really free. Many accommodations now offer free wifi. GPRS via mobile phone is also an option, especially if you have a local or Thai SIM, for those who intend to stay longer term and require mobile internet.
Mobile phone usage in Laos has mushroomed, with four competing GSM operators. Two of these offer roaming services. Calling people on the same network is always cheaper than calling another network, but there is no clear market leader. Tourist and expats tend to prefer Tigo or M-phone Laotel, while locals could have any of the four networks.
Beeline (formerly known as Tigo)
(http://beeline.la/) has agreements with over 100 international phone networks - see roaming with tigo (http://www.gsmworld.com/r...). another popular choice, they also have low-cost international rate of 2000 kip/minute to many countries, if you buy their sim card and dial "177" instead of "+". however, as of february 2009, tigo's coverage is still said to be poor away from larger towns.
Local prepaid SIM cards can be purchased in various shops and stores without any paperwork. But pay attention with almost of network also including phone or fax traffics are tapped as government order.
As another options, there is Thai GSM coverage close to Thai border including a significant part of Vientiane, and Thai SIM cards and top-up cards can be bought in Laos; in addition, DeeDial International Call Cards are available. Thus, if you already have Thai number, you can use generally cheaper Thai network and/or avoid buying one more SIM. However, beware - if you have a Thai SIM which has International Roaming activated it will connect to a Lao network when the Thai network is not available, and the roaming charges will be significantly higher.
Postal service in Laos is slow but generally reliable. Other paid options such as Fed Express, DHL, and EMS exist in various locations. Though these services are much more expensive, they are more reliable.
Parts of Laos have a good deal of Malaria so anti-malarials are recommended if visiting those areas for an extended period, but check with health professionals: there are many high incidence of drug-resistant parasites around Laos. Other mosquito-born diseases, such as dengue, can be life-threatening, so make sure you bring at least 25% DEET insect repellent and ensure that you sleep with mosquito protection like nets or at least a fan. Vientiane seems to be malaria-free but not dengue fever-free. The mosquitoes that are active during the day carry dengue and those that are active in the evening carry malaria.
The usual precautions regarding food and water are needed. Bottled water are widely available but almost all of them are less-filtered.
Vientiane has several medical clinics are associated with European embassies. Otherwise, you probably have to go to Thailand for better treatment of serious injuries and illnesses. Udon Thani and Chiang Mai are generally recommended; they're only a few hours away, depending on your location in Laos. Ubon Ratchathani and Chiang Rai might have suitable clinics, as well, and there's Bangkok, of course. Expatriates in Laos probably have the best information; the more upscale hotels can be good resources, as well.
Medical travel insurance is a practical option. Visitors always need to examine the local infection information, too. In fact, as Western and European medical industries reported so much, the environment in Laos has infectious issues even now. According to local newspapers, Laos goverment is eager to launch improvement plans of water and foods quality. The travel guide "Lonely Planet" also describes this social reality. However, it is not definitely affecting the tourism market. Laos goverment sides and tourism industries never show the atittude to adjust this serious problem.
Dress respectfully long trousers, sleeved shirts when visiting temples and take your shoes off before entering temple buildings and private houses.
As with other Buddhist countries, showing the soles of your feet is very poor manners. Never touch any person on the head. Despite prevelant cheap alcohol, being drunk is considered disrespectful and a loss of face.
Things in Laos happen slowly and rarely as scheduled. Keep your cool, as the natives will find humor in any tourist showing anger. They will remain calm, and venting your anger will make everybody involved lose face and is certainly not going to expedite things, particularly if dealing with government bureaucracy.
Respect for monks is part of Laotian life, and the monks take their duties seriously. Remember that monks are forbidden to touch women. Some undertake a vow of silence, and will not answer you even if they can understand and speak English. It is best not to compel them to stand next to you for a photograph, or start a conversation, if they seem reluctant.
See also: Lao phrasebook
The official language of Laos is Lao, a tonal language closely related to Thai. Thanks to ubiquitous Thai broadcast media most Lao understand Thai fairly well, but it's worth learning a few basic expressions in Lao. Most younger people prefer to learn English over other foreign languages in school, so young people generally know some basic English, though proficiency is generally poor. French, a legacy of the colonial days, still features on signs and is understood by some older people, but these days English is far more popular.Tourist areas will sometimes have school children who will practice their English with you as part of their curricular requirements. They may after a conversation, ask you to sign a form or pose for a photo with you as proof that this conversation took place. These conversations can be a great time to gain some local ideas for your next sightseeing trip.
There are two main ways to turn the Lao script into the Latin alphabet: either French-style spellings like Houeisay, or English-style spellings like Huay Xai. While government documents seem to prefer the French style, the English spellings are becoming more common. The latter is used on Wikitravel. Two quick pronunciation tips: Vientiane is actually pronounced "Wieng Chan", and the letter x is always read as an "s".