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LAOS: everything you need to know about this Asian country in just a few minutes

Dernière mise à jour : 7 juil. 2023

Laos, in long form the Lao People's Democratic Republic, also translated as République Démocratique Populaire du Laos (in Lao : ປະເທດລາວ (Lao) and ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ (Sathalanalat Passathipatai Passasson lao)) is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is surrounded by Burma (or Myanmar) and China to the northwest, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south and Vietnam to the east.

The capital is Vientiane, the official language is Lao and the official currency is the kip. Laos' motto is "Peace, Independence, Democracy, Unity and Prosperity", and its flag consists of three horizontal stripes, the upper and lower red and the middle blue, with a white disk in the center. The national anthem is Pheng Xat Lao. Its total population is around 7 million. The inhabitants of Laos are called Laotians.


Confined to the center of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos lies between the 14th and 22nd northern parallels. Its surface area is 236,800 km2. It borders China (200 km), Burma (150 km), Thailand (1,000 km), Vietnam (1,000 km) and Cambodia (150 km).

Mountains and plateaus cover more than 70% of the country.

Watered by the Mekong River, which is difficult to navigate due to its irregular flow (1,898 km in Laos out of a total course of 4,200 km), and which largely forms the border with Thailand, the country stretches from north to south for 1,000 km from the Chinese border to the Cambodian border. The river is sometimes only a hundred or several hundred meters wide, depending on location and time of year.

Discover Luang Prabang presented by Charly, one of our designers


Provinces of Laos

Detailed articles: Subdivisions of Laos and List of towns in Laos.

Laos is divided into 17 provinces (khoueng) and 1 prefecture (kampheng nakhon). These are further divided into districts (ເມືອງ, muang), of which there are 148 in Laos, and villages (ບ້ານ, baan).

  1. Oudomxay Province

  2. Sayaboury Province

  3. Xieng Khouang Province

  4. Houaphan Province

  5. Bokeo Province

  6. Phongsaly Province

  7. Luang Namtha Province

  8. Luang Prabang Province

  9. Vientiane Province

  10. Vientiane Prefecture

  11. Khammouane Province

  12. Savannakhet Province

  13. Xaisomboun Province

  14. Borikhamxay Province

  15. Attapeu Province

  16. Saravane Province

  17. Sékong Province

  18. Champassak Province


This population is made up of 68 ethnic groups according to ethnologists (47 listed by the Lao National Edification Front). Officially, in the late 1960s, the government adopted an arbitrary classification based on ethno-geomorphological concepts. These ethnic groups were divided into three main categories:

  • The Lao Loum, or "Lao of the plains" (68% of the population), which includes the Lao ethnic group itself, who speak Lao (or Laotian), as well as similar ethnic groups who use Tai (Tai Lu, Tau Neua, Tai Dam, Tai Deng, etc.). Lao belongs to the Tai group of Tai-Kadai languages.

  • The Lao Theung, in Model healthy village (Bolaven Plateau)The Lao Theung or "Plateau Lao", sometimes pejoratively called Kha (meaning "slave" in Lao, reflecting their disadvantaged status in society), speaking Mon-Khmer (approx. 22%); The Mon-Khmer (or Austro-Asiatic) comprising 31 ethnic groups: Kuemu (Khmou or Khmu), Pray, Singmou, Khom, Thene, Idou, Bit, Lamed, Samtao, Katang, Makong, Try, Trieng, Ta-oi, Yeh, Brao, Harak, Katou, Oi, Krieng, Yarou, Yeh, Souai, Gnaheune, Lavy, Kabkae, Khmer, Toum, Ngouane, Meuan and Kri.

  • The Lao Sung or "Lao of the peaks" (9%), a name that groups together the Hmong, the country's main ethnic minority, and the Yao (or Mien), both Hmong-Mien-speaking and Tibeto-Burman. The Sino-Tibetans include eight groups: Akha, Sing, Sali, Lahou, Sila, Hayi, Lolo and Hor...

An unusual 14-day trip to Laos to meet the ethnic groups of the North

to the 4,000 islands of the South

To help you prepare for your trip to Laos, here's a link explaining everything you need to know before setting off on an unforgettable trip to Asia.

Information sources and copyright : Amoureux de la culture du Laos


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