Laos is a beautiful country covered by lush rain forests, beautiful rivers, waterfalls, and some of the kindest people you'll ever meet.
By doing high school abroad in Laos, students will have the opportunity to explore this often overlooked country and learn about a culture that most never even know about. Go on a teen travel program and trek through rainforests, travel the Mekong River, and immerse yourself in Laotian culture. Or, volunteer your time conserving Laos's wildlife or helping with community development. Either way, you're guaranteed to have a summer or spring break unlike any of your friends.
Laos is great for students who are interested in adventure, exploring, environment, cultural education, and volunteering, and who don't mind roughing it a bit.
Laos provides unique experiences for high school student to learn outside of the classroom. Typically, students will do one of the following two types of high school abroad programs in Laos:
- Teen travel programs
- Volunteer / service-learning programs
Starting over near the Thai border and working their way through the country, students are given the opportunity to learn about Laos's history while traveling through it. Students will travel to important historical sites, Buddhist temples, and bustling cities.
Volunteer / service-learning programs
For students who want to get involved in improving the quality of life in Laos, there are also opportunities for high school volunteer trips or service learning trips (which pair volunteer work with classes). Popular projects include volunteering with Laos' elephant population, assisting at a school, or working with local NGOs.
The capital city, Vientiane, is a great destination and most students will at least pass through it. Beautiful temples mixed with modern city are a great contrast of the past and present coupled with the French influence really reflect the countries history.
Luang Prabang is known for its colonial architecture and Vang Vieng is a hotspot for adventurous activities.
All students entering Laos are required to have a valid passport and visa. Visas can be obtained online ahead of time for around $50 or at the airport on arrival for around $35. The paperwork can be found online, filled out, and brought with you to the airport. The process doesn't take long if you chose to get a visa on arrival. If you want to get it ahead of time you can send the paperwork into the nearest embassy and they will return your passport with a visa in around 2 weeks. Allow extra time incase there are any complications.
Housing is provided in all programs offered in Laos. Typically, students will be living in a local homestay, hotel, or camping -- depending on the program. Do note, however, that most accommodations in Laos will be basic. Though many hotels do have electricity, running water, and air conditioning, there's always a chance that you might be without one of these items during all or part of your stay.
Laos is a very cheap destination; although the plane tickets can be quite pricey once you are there the prices are very low. Street food and transportation are never more than a couple dollars. It's recommended to have a daily budget of about $20 - 30 USD -- possibly even less if your food and accommodation are included in your program's fees.
Laos is home to many Buddhist temples and shrines. Shoulders are expected to be covered and shoes removed in many of these temples. Don't be alarmed if they give you a robe or a napkin to cover your shoulders.
It is considered rude to point, especially to an elder, although it is a more modern custom, younger people are not offended, however, try to nod with your head when speaking with elders.
Laos, like the rest of South East Asia, has two seasons: rainy and dry. However, even in the dry season the humidity is ridiculously high. Regardless of time of year, be sure to pack lightweight clothing and drink a ton of water every day.
However, make sure you're not just packing short-shorts and tanks. For visits to temples and shrines, you'll be required to cover up your knees and shoulders (yes, this goes for both genders). Bring a below-knee skirt / pair of loose-fitting pants / capris and a t-shirt for these occasions. Also don't forget to bring:
- Bug repellant
- Shoes that are easy to slip off
- Lightweight clothing
- Day pack
- Rain jacket
- Headlamp / flashlight
- A sarong
All travelers are required to be up to date on their routine vaccinations. Most travelers are recommended to get Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Polio before traveling to Laos. Be careful when drinking the water, it is best to avoid tap water and uncooked vegetables that have been washed with water.
Beware of pickpockets in Laos' major cities.