Labelled the poorest country in South East Asia, Laos is a developing country whose people are very much integrated into traditional values of living and hospitality. Most who travel to this country in a gap year or otherwise generally do not do so with the intention of finding work. Employment is hard to come by and is unlikely to pay very well. Instead, people take part in the development process as volunteers teaching English, or go to Laos simply for the environment. Laos is a mountainous country and neighboured by Vietnam and China, many expedition organisations lead treks through these countries.
If you do find any paid employment in Laos it will be as an English teacher. Hourly rates can be as much as $7 (approx. �4.22), remember that there is a low cost of living in Laos. Teachers are often required to have a degree and TEFL qualification, so this type of work is not always suitable for those on a gap year before university. The main area to find such work as this is Vientiane where many colleges and schools employ English teachers.
Most teaching opportunities in Laos are more likely to be voluntary than paid as is the case in many developing countries. A lot of volunteer organisations operate throughout Asia offering teaching positions, but given Laos’ low population, it is often missed out by such schemes. Nevertheless, asking around schools in Vientiane will very likely find you teaching work and although it is unpaid it is often very rewarding. Try Nita Kindergarden and Primary School, Lao International College, and JM International College, all in Vientiane. Most schools will provide you with food and very often accommodation. Gaining a TEFL qualification before you leave the UK will also be very much to your advantage.
VentureCo’s 16-week programme combines aid projects with expeditions from Cambodia, through Vietnam, to Laos, and finally China. The first three weeks are spent in what is known as ‘cultural orientation’ consisting of visiting various places guided by a team who introduce you to the culture and traditions of the countries, and learning the Khmer language. The following four weeks consist of community aid work in Koh Kong, involving teaching and food distribution to underprivileged children. A 9-week expedition then follows taking you through Vietnam: Saigon, HoiAn, China Beach, and Hue City; Laos: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and the Mekong River, and finally China: Kunming, Lijiang, the Yangtze, Xi’an, Beijing, and finishing with a trek on the Great Wall of China. Programmes with VentureCo are self-funded and can cost you up to �5000, which includes travel, food, accommodation, transport, and fees for the activities themselves.
Pacific Challenge arranges a 58-day expedition through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The nature and orientation of the trek is very much similar to that of VentureCo. However, Pacific Challenge is an American company and so departure is from Los Angeles, but if you are planning on travelling to the USA first you could always combine the two expeditions. In 2004 the expedition to Laos departs on September 18th and will cost $4950.