Bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, Laos is a popular stop-off point for digital nomads exploring Southeast Asia. With a similar low cost of living and a high quality of life as neighboring countries, not to mention strong infrastructure and WiFi coverage, you can easily spend several weeks or months setting up a business in beautiful Laos. If you are from Europe, Australia, or North America, however, you may not be used to the climate of Laos, so you are likely wondering what to pack. Below you will find the essentials you will need to thrive long term anywhere in Laos. Once your packing is sorted, you can redirect your attention towards planning activities and working on your freelance career.
A tropical, savannah, monsoon climate is standard all across Laos. With this in mind, you will want clothes that keep you cool in the heat, protected from wet weather and your own sweat, as well as keeping you safe from creepy crawlies and the sun.
A Mixture of Short-Sleeve and Long Sleeve, Lightweight, Loose Fitting Shirts
Your normal cotton shirts aren’t going to do you much good in Laos. Instead, head down to your nearest outdoor store and get performance gear. All of your tops should be made of synthetic material or merino wool, in order to prevent the odor that will inevitably build up as you sweat. These kinds of materials will also dry quickly if you end up in a sudden downpour.
Short sleeve shirts are fine during the day and if you are away from water. Laos is landlocked, but bugs gather near rivers and creeks, so have some long sleeve shirts ready to protect yourself from nasty bug bites. These will also protect you from a burning hot sun and are essential when visiting holy temples, as you are required to cover your shoulders, so leave the tank tops at the hostel.
All t-shirts should be light in both weight and color to help you stay at a safe and comfortable temperature.
Travel Pants and Quick Dry Shorts
Knees are also considered disrespectful and unsightly at holy sights, so long pants are a must. If you are traveling into any area of jungle, then you must also ensure that your lower legs are covered up, unless you enjoy being covered in itchy insect bites. However, your typical pair of blue jeans are going to get hot and uncomfortable. Look for pants which are made of thin, quick-dry and odor resistant material so that you always remain comfortable in the hot, humid, and wet weather.
At least one pair of quick-dry shorts, such as a swimsuit, should also be packed. You will almost certainly go for a dip in a creek or hotel pool in order to stay cool. When there are not many bugs around, you can also wear these to stave off the heat during your daily wanderings. Just ensure that they are quick-dry so that you can keep your total packing list to a minimum.
Lightweight, Waterproof Jacket
Tropical paradises can be hit unexpectedly with torrential rain, especially during the wet season. Always keep a raincoat stashed in an easy access pocket for such an eventuality. Many people opt for a pack-it jacket or poncho, which saves on weight and space in your bag. Whatever you choose, make sure it is light and packable because you won’t be wearing it for much of your trip.
Breathable Sneakers and a Pair of Sandals
You shouldn’t need more than two pairs of footwear in Laos but choose them carefully. If you are hiking among nature, then you will need a high-quality pair of shoes, which offer some cushioning and protection from the rugged terrain. Hiking boots could be fine, but make sure they are not too moisture retentive and offer some breathability. A pair of running sneakers might be a better and more versatile option.
For more relaxed days, a solid pair of sandals is perfect. Make sure they offer some foot support, but they will stop your feet from becoming too hot or sweaty. These are perfect for casual strolls through town or an afternoon spent lounging by the pool.
Merino Wool Hiking Socks and Quick Dry Underwear
Laos is a mountainous country and you would be crazy not to explore this incredible landscape. For that, though, you will need hiking socks to prevent blisters. Merino wool is a great material because it is thick enough to provide a cushion, but it will also regulate your temperature, wicking away sweat and keeping your feet cool. After a long day of hiking, give them a sink wash and they’ll be dry within a few hours, especially if hung in a hot, sunny spot.
Similarly, find underpants which are made of a quick-dry material. You could always go commando, but a base layer protects your outerwear. You only need a couple of pairs at most because they can be worn, washed, and dried overnight.
Large, but Lightweight Water Bottle
Hydration is essential and nowhere is it more important than in an equatorial country such as Laos. With temperatures averaging between 70°F and 85°F, and sometimes getting much hotter, you will struggle to cope without plenty of water. Ensure you get your required amount of hydration by taking a large water bottle. If you are worried about weight, remember that many brands offer incredibly lightweight water bottles. Tap water in Laos is not drinkable, so consider a bottle with a filter if you are concerned about your level of plastic consumption.
A computer is not necessary if you are just traveling for leisure, but Laos could be a perfect spot to work from. The living costs are low and there are an increasing number of coworking spaces where you can network and get things done. The food and coffee is generally regarded as world-class, so you’ll be able to find the fuel you need to work remotely from Laos.
Smartphone Protective Case
Whether or not you have a laptop, you will definitely need a smartphone. Ensure you have a local sim card so that you can use your phone cheaply and then get yourself a strong protective case. Many activities in Laos are outdoor themed, so you are likely to drop or otherwise damage your phone. Choosing a waterproof device would also be wise, given the frequent rainfall and abundant opportunities for swimming.
High Capacity Power Bank
Although infrastructure is improving, you are likely to struggle to find power outlets in Laos. The right co-working space will offer charging points but don’t expect it to be in all cafes or railway stations. Furthermore, the best and cheapest form of travel around Laos and to bordering countries is the bus. This means you will likely spend many hours on public transport which invariably does not come with power outlets. With all that in mind, a high capacity power bank will ensure that you never end up with a dead cell phone during an emergency or when stuck in an unfamiliar environment.
Your trip to Laos is bound to be an exciting and eye-opening adventure. However, packing the wrong stuff could lead to problems down the road. Ensure that you have suitable clothing to deal with the heat, rain, insects, and local customs. Consider bringing a laptop and doing some remote work, but always ensure that your phone has a local sim card, protective case, and comes with an external power bank. This way, you will be prepared for any eventuality and ready to make the most of your Laos adventure.