Laos is a gem landlocked between Thailand to the west, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Myanmar and China to the north. Laos gets skipped a lot by the backpacker traveling through southeast Asia as its a bit more difficult to get to because it’s not on the banana pancake trail. Filled with roaring waterfalls, lush green mountains, and plenty of outdoor activities you won’t run out of places to see and things to do as you explore this untouched country. Without further ado here is the perfect 2 week itinerary to explore and see all of the beauty that Laos has to offer.
- 4 days: Luang Prabang
- 3 days: Vang Vieng
- 2 days: Vientiane
- 2 days: Pakse
- 3 days: 4,000 Islands
Arrive in Luang Prabang. Whether you traveled here by slow boat, bus, or flew you will be a little tired from the journey. If you are arriving by slow boat check out my post on Catching the slow boat from Thailand to Laos.
Get settled into your guesthouse or hotel. I stayed at the Le Vang Bua Villa and it was perfect. Close enough to walk to the night market, WiFi was fast, it had a nice pool, and the monks walk down the street that the hotel is located on for Tak Bat every morning, which makes it very convenient to participate in because a 5 am wakeup call is early I don’t care who you are.
Other Accommodation Recommendations:
- Downtown Backpackers Hostel – Amazing location right by the night market, free breakfast and a great option for a backpack budget. Prices start at $6 a night for a dorm room.
- Villay Vanh Place House – 10 minute walk from the night market. Lots of cafes and restaurants nearby. Clean and comfortable for the price. Prices start at $22 per night.
- My Dream Boutique Resort – Located on the Nam Khan River, surrounding by gardens. If you’re looking for relaxation this is the place for you. A beautiful pool to relax by and shuttle service provided to and from the airport. Prices start at $70 per night.
- Ock Pop Tok Mekong Villa – Located ten minutes away from town, comfortable rooms, nicely decorated and the best bang for your buck. Prices start at $50 per night.
- Mekong Riverview Hotel – Great location, phenomenal views, A+ service and comfortable rooms and bedding. Prices start at $150 per night.
- Satri House Secret Retreats – the colonial-style Satri House was the previous residence of Prince Souphanouvon. The hotel offers 2 outdoor pools, free Wi-Fi and a spa. Prices start at $155 per night in off season.
Explore the night market. The night market is open from 4 pm to 10 pm and is not like most markets you will find in SouthEast Asia. This market is filled with hand woven linens, jewelry, and other hand crafts making it more authentic and one of my favorites in Asia. Although the tourists still outnumber the locals, it still as a genuine feel.
Grab dinner at one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the market. I always enjoy people watching.
Take a tip to see the famous Kuang Si Falls, a highlight on any Laos itinerary. The powerful waterfalls are located just 45 minutes outside of Luang Prabang. The tiered waterfalls are hidden in the jungle and cascade down each level creating natural infinity pools. You can easily spend the day here swimming in pools, jumping off trees, and pretending to be Jane or Tarzan.
Rise early at 5 am to give alms to the monks that start their daily walks through the streets at 5:30. You’ll need to buy fresh sticky rice the morning of or have an offering of candy. The reception at my hotel provided us with bowls to put our rice in and invited us to kneel next to him in preparation for the alms. The monks will walk by with their alms bowls open and you’ll put your offerings inside. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I had my whole time traveling through Laos. As long as you show respect this is something that I would NOT miss out on.
Enjoy Utopia! ‘Zen by day, Groovy by night’ is Utopias motto and the perfect way to describe it. Not only does the food menu have a wide variety, including many vegetarian options but its also delicious!! Read a book, play some cards, or sip a hand crafted cocktail as you lounge on the deck and watch the Nam Khan River flow by. Utopia embodies the Lao saying of PDR – ‘Please don’t Rush’. It even offers yoga at sunrise and sunset. Check out there website here.
Arrange bus transportation to VangVieng for tomorrow morning. Tickets will cost around 120,000 Kip per person and can be arranged with the reception at your hotel. It’s about a 5 to 6 hour drive depending on road conditions. Rent a scoopi to explore the surrounding area. Relax by the pool. Enjoy a happy hour. This is your last day in Luang Prabang so live it up.
Arrive early afternoon. Vang Vieng is a much smaller town than Luang Prabang and you’ll be able to walk everywhere. There are many hostels, guesthouses, and hotels to choose from.
- Rock Backpacker hostel – basic room or dorm bed with a fun atmosphere and a fun game and common area. Prices start at $4 for a single bed in a dorm.
- Pan’s Place – Nice relaxed tv area and offers single, double, or triple room with shared facilities. Prices start at $5 per night
- Simon Riverside Hotel – located right on the river with phenomenal views. Prices start at $40 per night.
- Vieng Tara Villa – Mountain or river view bungalow. Great place to enjoy your morning coffee or tea. Clean and comfortable. Prices start at $60 per night.
- Phoxay Ngam Resort – Located about 10 minutes outside of Vang Vienna this resort. Small boutique hotel with beautiful views, location and price. Prices start at $60 a night.
- Amari – If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious this hotel has amazing views, a huge breakfast, and supreme service. Prices start at $80 per night.
- Riverside Boutique Resort – located on the banks of the Nam Song river has the best views in town complete with a pool and a spa. Prices start at $110 per night.
If you haven’t heard of Vang Vieng, it is a small party town that is kind of like the wild, wild west. After you have gotten settled and familiar with your hotel go out grab dinner and then a drink at one of the lively bars in town. My favorite was the Moon Bar because it has a pool table, a friendly staff, and good music. There is also a ‘happy’ menu if you desire.
Check out my post Best Bars in Vang Vieng for a list of the best bars and restaurants.
Go tubing down the Nam Song River and jump off trees into the Blue Lagoon. This is the main reason backpackers flock here. You rent a tube for the day that cost 60,000 Kip. You float down the river and locals will rope you in and pull you into their bar. Needless to say this activity could be as short or as long as you want depending on how many bars you stop at.
Arrange for transportation to travel to Vientiene tomorrow. It cost about $10 and is a 3 hour drive. Buses are frequent, leave in the afternoon so you can party one more night in Vang Vieng.
Rent a moped or Dune Buggy and explore the surrounding area. The landscape is breath taking. I traveled to Laos during the rainy season so it was much more fun to explore the area in a Dune Buggy because of all the mud it was easier to be on 4 wheels. Theres a 24 kilometer loop that has 4 different viewpoints to stop at and go for a hike. *Note it does cost to go to these viewpoints 5,000 Kip per person.
If you followed my suggestion you’ll arrive in Vientiane in the late afternoon/evening.
- Barn1920s Hostel – Friendly atmosphere, great place to meet fellow travelers. Located near the night market and its clean and comfortable. Beds start at $9 a night.
- Moonlight Champa – Great location and walking distance to most things. Great breakfast and cost effective. Prices start at $25 a night.
- Bloom Boutique Hotel & Cafe – Located in the center of Vientiane. Colonial and elegant interior near the night market. Lots of street food and restaurants are located near by. Prices start at $40 a night.
- VKS Hotel – Clean and comfortable located near an abundance of street vendors and restaurants. Prices start at $35 a night.
- Vayakorn Inn – Walking distance to shops, restaurants, the night market and the river. Located in a quiet area with no street noise. Prices start at $35 a night.
- Crowne Plaza Vientiane – Located in city center, spacious and furnished rooms. Plus an excellent breakfast. Prices start at $140 a night.
- Green Park Boutique Hotel – Outdoor pool, fitness center and a spa. Prices start at $100 a night.
- Settha Palace Hotel – Another gem located in the city center of Vientiane, a family run boutique hotel complete with an outdoor pool, fitness center, and spa. If you’re looking for a place with big enjoyable pool, this is the place for you.
Arrange a night bus for tomorrow night that will get you to Pakse.
Visit the Buddha Park. This quirky attraction is a collection of massive concrete sculptures. The sculptors range from humans, animals, gods and even demons and some may seem a bit bizarre. The cheapest way to get to the park is on the #14 bus from Vientiane’s central bus station. It runs every 15 minutes and cost 6000Kip.
Take the night bus to Pakse. This will save you a night on accommodation but I warn you it will not be the best nights sleep.
PAKSE/ THE BOLAVEN PLATEAU
You’ll arrive in Pakse around 8 or 9 in the morning. You’ll want to recoup and probably take a nap after that wild night bus journey you just completed.
- Chato Hostel – Nice chill out area, kitchen, clean and comfortable beds. Beds start at $6 a night.
- Tad Fane Restort – Located walking distance to the Tad Fane Waterfall. The rooms are basic but you if you’re looking for a retreat in nature this is the spot for you. Every room comes with a balcony and A/C. Prices start at $30 a night.
- Champasak Grand Hotel – Large spacious rooms tastefully decorated and located 15 minutes away from the airport. Spa, fitness center and a large outdoor pool. Prices start at $50 per night.
- Le Jardin Hotel – A quiet but central location. Comfortable beds and an outdoor pool. Prices start at $90 a night.
Relax by the pool and get ready for a full day of exploring waterfalls via moped tomorrow.
Also arrange transportation for the day after tomorrow to head to 4,000 islands. It only takes 2 hours to get there and will cost 55,000-65,000 Kip including a ferry ticket if you plan on staying on Don Det (which I recommend).
Most people who travel to Laos usually pass through the north from Thailand on their way to Vietnam but I think everyone should explore the Bolaven Plateau by moped. There are many waterfalls clustered together located 45 minutes to an hour outside of Pakse. You follow the only road that leads out of town and you’ll pass through some villages. Tad Fane is the first waterfall you will visit. Two waterfalls cascading down and the most popular waterfall in Southern Laos and reminds me of a scene straight out of Jurassic Park. Tad Yuang is the next waterfall you will visit and was my favorite.
In the dry season you can take a dip above the falls or below the falls and theres restaurants and tourist shops that line the parking lot if you’re looking to grab a bite to eat. Keep journeying and check out a coffee and tea plantation. Koffie’s Coffee tour is a unique, highly informative tour with an overload of information about coffee growing, harvesting, processing and quality of coffee around the world and they teach you how roast coffee. If you’re willing to splurge on a experience go zip lining and drink coffee above a waterfall. Bucketlist Goals thats all I have to say.
Check out my post on How to Spend 1Day Exploring the Bolaven Plateau here!
4,000 ISLANDS/ DON DET
The journey from Pakse to Don Det takes a couple hours. Located on a peninsula in the delta of the Mekong and Nam Song River. Don Det is small, easy going, and you travel here to relax and chill out. At this point you’ve been traveling through Laos for almost 2 weeks and you’re probably ready to have a few days to relax. I stayed at Little Eden Guesthouse and Resort when I was here and thats exactly what I got. Located on the sunset side of the island this 3 star resort feels like 5 stars. A beautiful resort with a deck right on the water than offers the best sunset views on the island. And did I mention it’s the only guesthouse on Don Det that has its own pool and it included breakfast! This was my favorite place that I stayed during my whole time in Laos and my definition of budget luxury. Check availability and prices here.
Other Accommodation Recommendations:
- Champa Mekong Bungalows – a quaint, basic room with a double bed, private bath, and hammocks on our deck to seal the deal. The best part, free breakfast and still under $10.
- The Last Resort – Located on the west side of the island features a garden where organic herbs are grown on site. Beds start at $6 a night.
- Mama Leurth Sunset Guesthouse – Clean, simple, and good location. Prices start at $13 a night.
- Paradise riverview resort – Great location next to the ferry drop off. Cozy bungalows right on the river. Prices start at $35 per night.
Grab dinner at Hathim, delicious Indian cuisine at a great price.
Enjoy dessert or an after dinner drink at Little Eden’s deck and watch the sun sink down into the water.
Rent a bike for 10,000 Kip and ride across the island to the bridge that connects you to Don Khon. Take your time and enjoy the rice fields and all the animals you see along the way. You’ll be on your own self guided Laos safari. I saw water buffalo, cows, goats, dogs, chickens and cats along the way. Have Lunch at Seng Ahloune on Don Khon.
If you wanted to stay on Don Khon I recommend Sunset Paradise Guesthouse.
After all that biking you’ll be ready for a dip in the pool and an iced cold beer. If you’re not staying at Little Eden, you can pay 20,000 to use their pool for the day.
Enjoy yet another sunset, try oi’s bar.
Take a tour to see the Irraway Dolphins. These dolphins only 2 places in SouthEast Asia and are almost extinct with there being less than 100 left.
Have lunch at Mama’s, the homemade hummus and the curry baguette are something to write home about.
For more information on Don Det read this article about my experience there.
Other Things to Note:
- VISAS: The USA and most European countries need a visa to travel Laos and you can obtain these at the border. The cost of a visa is $30 USD but varies depending on which passport you are holding. Check hereto find out how much a visa cost for you.
- CURRENCY: Laotian KIP is the currency of Laos. 8,000 KIP is about 1 USD. ATM’s are easy to find in Laos except in the 4,000 Islands in south so plan accordingly.
- WiFi: You can get WiFi in most hostels and guesthouses along with bars and cafes but don’t be surprised if the signal is a bit weak. SIM cards are reasonably priced if it is important to you to be connected all the time. When I first got to Laos I bought a 5 Gig SIM card that was good up to 30 days and it only cost 70,000 KIP which is equivalent to $8.75 USD. I used free WiFi whenever it was available and the 5 Gig SIM card lasted me for the little over 2 weeks that I was in Laos.
- TRANSPORTATION: Bus is the easiest way to transfer between cities in Laos. The roads are filled with pot holes and its not uncommon to have a road destroyed by a land slide especially in monsoon season. It’s not always comfortable but it is the most efficient way to get from point A to point B and my 2 week itinerary relies on bus transportation. It is also possible to travel by boat in Laos. Read my article on Catching the 2 Day Slow Boat to get a detailed breakdown on how to travel from Northern Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos on the slow boat. And if you plan on traveling from Laos to Siem Reap check out my post to get a step by step guide to getting across the border stress free. Tuk Tuks and Sawngthaews ( converted trucks with two benches in the back) are ways to get around town.
- ACCOMODATION: A bed in a dorm room will cost you anywhere from $3-7 dollars. A basic room with private bath and a/c will run you about $15-18 USD and a luxurious budget hotel will cost you $30 USD.
- AVERAGE DAILY COST: The cost of traveling Laos will run you about $40 dollars a day and thats living comfortably and not denying yourself pleasures.
Basic Laos Phrases to Help you on Your Trip:
Sabaidee (suh-bye-dee) – Hello
Sabaidee Bor? (sui-bye-dee baw) – How are you?
Khop jai (khop Chai) – Thank you
Karlunaa – Please
Doi or Men – Yes
Baw – No
Baw mee – Don’t have
Lakorn (lah-corn) – Goodbye
La karthaodai? – How much is this?
Tham Keo! -Cheers