Laos Backpacking Guide - Crafting Your Perfect Laos Itinerary

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Laos is undoubtedly the most underrated country in Southeast Asia. Living under the shadow of backpackers’ paradise, Thailand, the street food heaven, Vietnam, and the land of ancient ruins, Cambodia, Laos is often overlooked by travelers who’re backpacking Southeast Asia. Today, let’s full a stop on that and plan your Laos backpacking itinerary together!

If you’re still wondering whether backpacking Laos is a great choice, let me assure you that you’ll have a great time in Laos. In fact, Laos is not much on the losing side compared to its neighboring countries. You’ll also find great street foods, majestic hills, and a whole bunch of intriguing things to do here.

Laos is a comparatively small country, so 2 weeks will be just enough to visit all the interesting points of the country. Continue reading as I explain further on whether 2 weeks are enough for backpacking in Laos.

Without further due, let’s plan your Laos itinerary with this Laos Backpacking Guide!

Backpacking Laos Itinerary Landscape

Getting Your Visa to Laos

Getting a visa is always the most troublesome part when planning a trip. But for Laos, you could save the frustration because most of the countries in the world can apply for the visa on arrival in Laos airport.

With that being said, there are some countries that can visit Laos without a visa for a certain amount of time. So do you need a visa to visit Laos? Refer to the list below, depicting the maximum length of stay for the citizens of countries who don’t require a visa.

  • Length of stay of not more than 30 days: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Length of stay of not more than 15 days: Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.
  • Length of stay of not more than 14 days: Brunei and Myanmar.

Visitors from North America, most countries in South America, Europe, and Oceania are eligible to apply for the visa on arrival for a fee. To check your eligibility, visit here for more information.

Do you need a visa to enter Laos? Check it and apply your Laos visa online here in just 5 minutes!

laos luang prabang international airport airplane

Currency

The official currency used in Laos is Lao Kip, but occasionally, some merchants do accept US Dollars, but rarely.

1 US Dollar is around 8,600 Kip. If there are no money changers in your place who have Lao Kip, bring US Dollars to Laos, and you’ll find plenty of money changers in tourist-friendly towns like Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, etc.

The best way is to bring slightly more than enough US Dollars to Laos, and exchange them with the money changer there. Yep, I know it sounds risky, but it’s fine as long as you keep the money close to yourself.

ATM machines are extremely rare outside these mentioned towns so it’s better to not depend on them. Even if there are ATM machines, they might not be working.

Language

The official language in Laos is, of course, Lao. You might think English is widely understood here since tourism has been stepping up in recent years, but nope. Most Laotian people do not understand English.

There’s a good chance that you’ll find young Laotians who speak English, but almost all adults and elders don’t.

But like usual, body language works best whenever you’re backpacking in Laos. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to learn some of the Lao phrases before stepping into the country.

Here are some Lao phrases you should know:

  • Hello – Sa bai dee
  • How are you? – Jao sabaidee baw?
  • Goodbye – La Gon
  • Thank you – Khop Jai
  • You’re welcome – Than nyin ditonhab
  • Excuse me – Khaw Toot
  • Yes – Doi
  • No – Baw
  • I don’t understand – Khoy Baw Khao Jai
  • Don’t have – Baw Mee
  • Water – Nam
  • Beer – Bia Lao
  • Where is the toilet? – Hong nam yu sai
  • Have a nice day – mi van thidi
  • How much is this? – Laka tao dai?

Best Time to Visit Laos

Like other countries in South East Asia, Laos also has the wet season and the dry season.

According to many travelers and magazines, the best time to go backpacking Laos would be in the dry season. And that means between October and April.

Personally, I found that that’s true because you’ll get to avoid being soaked by rain in the middle of your hiking trip. If you’re looking for a specific month to go backpacking in Laos, I would recommend doing so in January.

The weather is much cooler and drier in January compared to other months. However, the cool weather is very comfortable, you’re not going to shiver and giggle your teeth, but instead walking around for hours and never sweat.

The cool weather made everything pleasant. Hiking under such weather can be fun, as well as riding motorcycles, or simply biking around the town.

The only downside is that I’m very afraid of the cold. Swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng got me shivering the moment I dip myself in. So, damn, cold. But I’ve seen other travelers swimming comfortably, so I think that’s personal.

The wet season in Laos runs from May to October. If by any chance you’re not able to plan your trip to Laos in the dry season, the wet season isn’t that bad after all.

In Laos, the rains, or rather showers don’t last as long as in other countries like Malaysia. The showers are very short-lived, and therefore have little to no impact on your trip in Laos. During this season, you’ll be able to enjoy the lush green wildlife and waterfalls with massive water flow.

laos si phan don 4000 islands paddy fields buffalo

Best SIM Cards in Laos

Information regarding SIM cards in Laos is very confusing because we found different packages and rates for the same provider at different websites. It’s like the packages and rates are always changing from time to time.

When I got to Luang Prabang airport in January 2019, I bought my SIM Card there after comparing several providers. I got myself Beeline and never tried other providers so I wouldn’t give any comments about them. But I was super satisfied with the Beeline’s coverage.

The internet speed is fast throughout Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Pakse, and Si Phan Don. It’s also working on most parts of the highway, much better than I ever expected.

So, if you’re not sure which one to pick, I would say go for Beeline. Unitel is yet another large provider so you probably wouldn’t go wrong for picking either one.

There are two types of SIM cards – one with data-only and another one with calls and SMS available. I got myself the former one because I don’t think I need to call anybody. It was USD8 for a 10GB Data 10-day SIM Card for Beeline, and USD10 for a 15-days SIM Card for 10GB data.

The rates are not cheaper outside the airport so get yours at the airport after the arrival.

Getting Around in Laos

Do you know that Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world? The US dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on the land of Laos during the so-called Secret War, leaving large parts of the country to be inhabitable due to the bomb hazards.

This is why all the cities and towns in Laos are located on the western side because there are millions of bombs left undetonated on the eastern side.

This has nothing to do with getting around in Laos, but I thought it’s fun to learn something about a country you’re going to visit. Cheers!

Anyway, the largest city in Laos is Vientiane, followed by Pakse. Vientiane is very well-developed, as it seems like the government decided to pour all their efforts into prospering Vientiane. In fact, Vientiane is the only city in Laos that offers public bus services. I mean ‘reliable’ public transport service.

In Laos, the two main ways to get around are tuk-tuk and motorcycles.

Tuk-Tuk

Like Thailand, tuk-tuk is the main transportation for foreigners, especially travelers who’re in larger groups. During my Laos backpacking trip, I realized there are several types of tuk-tuks, some can carry 10 or more passengers, some can do 6 or 4 passengers.

To further categorize the tuk-tuk, I divide them into 3 types: the lorry tuk-tuk, car tuk-tuk, and motorcycle tuk-tuk.

A lorry tuk-tuk is basically a lorry with seats attached to the cargo and tents covering the top for passengers to sit in.

For car tuk-tuk and motorcycle tuk-tuk, it’s basically the same thing, but different vehicles operating the service.

In larger towns like Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, lorry tuk-tuks and car tuk-tuks are very common. While in smaller towns like Si Phan Don, motorcycle tuk-tuks are most seen.

Nevertheless, the prices for all of them are very similar after dividing among the passengers. If you have a larger group, take the larger tuk-tuk.

If you want a brief idea of how much it costs, it takes us 100,000 Kip per person to go back and forth between Luang Prabang town and Kuang Si Falls. The journey takes 40 minutes one-way.

Motorcycle

Renting and riding a motorcycle in Laos is probably one of the best things to do for travelers backpacking in Laos. Because most parts of the country, even the outskirt of towns are quite rural, you’ll get to experience the untouched natural beauty of mother earth in Laos.

The roads in Laos (except Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Pakse) are mostly poorly constructed. Therefore it’s quite common to stumble upon bumps and holes all along your ride in the outskirts.

If you’re riding one, make sure you’re paying attention to the road at all times. It’s easy to get distracted by the sceneries, totally understandable, but be careful whenever you’re on the road.

Also, never ride too fast in rural towns like Vang Vieng. That’s because the roads are full of dust, which could be very slippery when you’re doing an emergency brake. Villagers in Laos also tend to let their children roam freely outside the house, so watch the speed and don’t put them in danger.

Here is what you need to know while renting a motorcycle in Laos:

  • Some towns have a higher rental fee than others. For example, renting a motorcycle in Luang Prabang costs around 80,000 Kip ($10) per day, while renting from 7 am to 8 pm in Vang Vieng costs only 40,000 Kip ($5).
  • Your passport will be withheld by the rental company to ensure that you’ll return the motorcycle. This is a common practice in Laos and Vietnam, so try not to make a fuss when you’re demanded to do so.
  • Helmets are included at no additional charge. If you have two passengers, just ask for 2 helmets, you don’t have to pay extra.
  • Remember to check the brake the moment you got your motorbike. Some of the motorbikes are pirated (like Honga instead of Honda), so the quality is compromised.
  • Most rental companies provide options for manual motorbikes and automatic motorbikes. If you’re not familiar with riding a manual motorbike, please don’t go for it just to save a few pennies.
  • Traffic police in Laos literally don’t care whether riders have helmets on or not, but for your own safety, better put them on.
  • Also, traffic police are very rare in Laos, especially in smaller towns.
  • You have to pay for your own fuel, but they don’t care how full the tank is when you return the motorbike. Calculate carefully if you’re tight on budget. You probably don’t want to pay the half-tank for the next customer.

In short, renting a motorcycle can be intriguing but be sure to pay attention to your safety!

Laos Vang Vieng Riding Rented Motorbike Around City

Cost of Traveling in Laos

The cost to travel Laos is comparatively more expensive than Vietnam and Thailand. Here, I’ll give a rundown on how much you’ll need to budget for your backpacking trip in Laos.

Food & Drinks

Eating in Laos is even more expensive than in Malaysia. In the local restaurants, you’ll need to pay around 20,000 Kip for one meal. But it could be more, mostly between 20,000 Kip to 35,000 Kip depending on what you order.

But no matter how rural the restaurant is, you’ll still have to expect around 15,000 Kip or 20,000 Kip for lunch.

Expect to pay more if you’re dining in a more proper or high-end restaurant, with the main course hitting up to around 40,000 Kip.

The great thing is that, in Laos, most of the time, your food portion will be big enough to make you full so you probably don’t need to order snacks as side dishes.

You’ll find it rare to see locals dining in the local restaurants because they usually don’t. Lao people tend to cook their own meals every single day, and almost never eats out. That explains why the price tags on the restaurants’ dishes are so high despite the lower standard of living there.

Milkshakes are abundant in every corner of Laos towns. Each of them costs around 10,000 Kip to 15,000 Kip.

And if you’re a fan of beer, Laos has one of the best beers in Asia – Beer Lao (Bia Lao). A big bottle costs around 8,000 Kip and a small bottle around 5,000 Kip. Prices will be more in restaurants and bars.

laos beer lao

Accommodation

Since this post is about backpacking Laos, I’ll only talk about budget travel options and mid-range choices only. Each town in Laos has a slightly different price range when it comes to hostels.

For example, you’ll find that the hostels in Luang Prabang are slightly more expensive than Vang Vieng.

But if you’re going for a bunk bed in a dorm room, it will cost you around $5-7 per night for a bed in a decent backpacker hostel. Lockers are usually provided for backpackers in Laos, but just ask to make sure.

If you’re traveling as a couple, a double room will typically cost around $12-15. Not much of a difference compared to dorm beds if you multiply by 2.

The advantage of traveling during the off-peak season is that most of the hostels are not occupied. So, you have the flexibility to book your hostel a day earlier, and still left with plenty of good choices.

Transportation

Tuk-tuks and motorcycles are the main transportation for backpackers in Laos. The fare for a tuk-tuk could vary widely depending on which town you’re in.

In Vientiane, expect to pay a whole lot more for a tuk-tuk. And it seems like there are no negotiation cultures in Vientiane because I noticed the drivers took the same fare from us and the locals.

A 30-minutes return journey will cost you around 50,000 Kip to 75,000 Kip per person. Negotiation sure helps here, but if you’re feeling to contribute to the local economy, feel free to pay the quoted price.

For motorcycles, it will be around 40,000 Kip for a half-day rental (7 am to 8 pm) or 80,000 Kip for a full day rental. The latter option is usually for those who’re planning to ride out of town for several days.

In some towns, there are no half-day-rental options so tuk-tuk might be a better option there.

In smaller villages, like Don Det and Don Khon in Si Phan Don (4000 Islands), bicycles are often the preferred choice because it’s cheap and able to get you to every corner of the island. Full-day rental of a bicycle is around 10,000 Kip, you can return the bike any time of the day.

laos bridge mountain limestone karsts

2 Weeks in Laos Itinerary

In this section, I’ll introduce every recommend town, along with the things to do in those towns. Note that the recommended length of stay is based on a 2 weeks Laos itinerary. So feel free to amend them according to your length of stay in Laos.

Excited? Let’s dive in!

Backpacking Luang Prabang

Recommended length of stay in Luang Prabang: 4 days

Luang Prabang is often the starting point for travelers backpacking through Laos. The airport is one of the two international airports in Laos, the other one would be in Vientiane.

The airport is interestingly small, receiving flights from neighboring countries, like Thailand, Vietnam and some others.

It will take you around an hour to walk all the way from the airport to the town center, so tuk-tuks are always waiting outside the airport for passengers. It’ll take around 50,000 Kip per person for the trip.

Luang Prabang is, in my opinion, the cleanest town in Laos. The air is fresh, the weather is pleasant, the roads are clean, and the people are nice. Plus, they have my favorite night market with a variety of mouth-watering food choices.

Do you know Luang Prabang is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site? It used to be Laos’ capital centuries ago. Buddhism flourished in Luang Prabang, giving the best experience for those who’re interested in religion and history.

If you’re deciding where to start your Laos backpacking trip, I’ll recommend Luang Prabang as the first point in your Laos itinerary. It’s less hectic there, and there is a whole bunch of interesting and fun things to do in Luang Prabang as compared to Vientiane.

If you have extra days to spend there, ride or take a tuk-tuk and pay a visit to Nong Khiaw Village!

Things to do in Luang Prabang

Admire Kuang Si Falls

Kuang Si Falls is one of the most well-known waterfalls in Laos, and probably the most-visited among all. Kuang Si Falls is quite developed due to tourism but rest assured that you’ll still be able to enjoy the attraction without feeling uncomfortable.

Swimming is allowed in the waterfall, which is amazing because the tiffany-blue water is very tempting for those who’re looking forward to cooling their body down after a hike.

Yep, there’s a hiking trail that takes you to the top of the waterfall.

Changing rooms are provided on-site, so you need not change beforehand.

At the entrance, you’ll pass through a bear sanctuary. The bears there are rescued from bile farms after years of torturing for the bile juice. Feel free to contribute by donating there.

The entrance fee is 20,000 Kip per person. A tuk-tuk return trip costs around 50,000 Kip per person after splitting.

laos luang prabang kuang si falls january

Watch Morning Alms Giving Ceremony (Tak Bat)

One of the highlights in Luang Prabang is the morning alms giving ceremony. It’s a holy Buddhist ceremony commenced every morning as soon as the sun rises.

Every morning, the locals will kneel at the street and contribute some food of the day to the monks from the temples. A ceremony well-respected by the locals, so if you’re planning to be involved, make sure you know the rules well.

Ask your hostel manager or any locals who speak English. And if possible, do it alongside them.

Visit this page if you wanna learn more about Tak Bat.

laos luang prabang morning alms giving ceremony monks

Enjoy Sunset in Mount Phousi

Mount Phousi is the only hill inside Luang Prabang town. Although it sounds like a mountain, it’s not.

There’s a temple located on the peak of Mount Phousi, which makes a perfect spot to watch the sun dips into the horizon in the evening.

However, you’ll have to expect a huge number of tourist crowds up there because it’s the best place for sunset. Go up early to secure yourself a good spot if you will.

After visiting, head down and enjoy the night market, which operates every night at 6 pm. In this Luang Prabang Night Market, you’ll find a ‘streetful’ of stalls, selling gifts, souvenirs, handicrafts, foods, and beverages.

I’ll recommend having your dinner in the night market, especially for your first night in your Laos itinerary!

The entrance fee is 20,000 Kip per person.

Editor’s Note: Want more things to do in Luang Prabang? Visit this page!

laos luang prabang sunset at mount phousi

Adventures in Vang Vieng

Recommended length of stay in Vang Vieng: 3 days

Getting from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng will definitely open your mind. From the cleanest town in Laos to a town heavily polluted with dust, and poorly maintained roads, Vang Vieng will change your impressions to Laos in a shockingly short amount of time.

We were wondering if we got to the right place when we got dropped off at Vang Vieng. From what we heard, Vang Vieng is the best place for backpackers, filled with adventurous things to do. It wasn’t close to what I imagined.

But that’s the fun part. After checking into our hostel (Faraway Suites, one of the best hostels ever), we immediately planned our itinerary for the day.

We noticed that as soon as you got out of the town, the dusty atmosphere just disappears because there are no vehicles passing by every second. Renting a motorcycle is the best way to explore around Vang Vieng.

I would recommend motorcycles for getting around Vang Vieng for travelers backpacking in Laos. Attractions in Vang Vieng are often far away from the town center, therefore it will be expensive and troublesome if you take tuk-tuks. Most of the time, you’ll be out of town the whole day until the sun sets.

Nevertheless, here are several fun things to do in Vang Vieng.

Things to Do in Vang Vieng

Hike to Pha Poung Kham Cliff Viewpoint

Forget Nam Xay Viewpoint and Pha Poak Viewpoint, Pha Poung Kham Cliff Viewpoint is the only viewpoint that you should never miss in Vang Vieng.

Even though it offers a similar view with Nam Xay Viewpoint (both are the peak of different limestone hills), Pha Poung Kham Cliff Viewpoint offers much fewer crowds. Therefore, you might get to have everything to yourself.

There’s a hut on the peak of the 35-minute steep hike up the limestone karst. On the viewpoint, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding limestone hills and farms, which definitely makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.

You could literally hear the ‘moo’ sounds from the cows on the farm hundreds of meters of altitude below.

The hike itself is quite physically-challenging though, but you’ll still make it if you take it slowly.

During our visit, we stayed on the hut for more than 30 minutes and never see any hikers throughout the visit.

laos vang vieng pha poung kham cliff viewpoint

Swimming in Blue Lagoon 3

There had been a lot of arguments when it comes to choosing between Blue Lagoon 1 and Blue Lagoon 3. But you know what, I’ll go for Blue Lagoon 3 any time of the day. Check out the full comparison here!

Having visited both, I’ve found that Blue Lagoon 3 has much fewer crowds, better facilities, cheaper equipment rental rates, better zip-lines, and swings. Both of them have the same entrance fee at 10,000 Kip per person. An additional 5,000 Kip will be charged to park your motorbike.

Blue Lagoon 3 is located right beside limestone karst, so you’ll enjoy yourself in the shades. The cold is cold for some though, I was shivering all the time there and eventually caught fever right after.

There’s a swing to play with, bamboo rafts to float on, kayaks to rent, and small restaurants to satisfy your sudden ‘food-lust’. Did I mention there are spots for campfires as well? And several huts for you to have a picnic in?

Bring your own food there and enjoy your picnic after the swim!

laos vang vieng blue lagoon 3 zip line bamboo raft swimming

Tubing in Vang Vieng

Tubing is the most popular activity in Vang Vieng, and it’s also the pioneer of Vang Vieng tourism. The tourism in Vang Vieng started with some operators renting out tubes for backpackers to have fun along the Nam Song River.

Now, it’s a must-do activity in Vang Vieng. Due to the competition, it’s rather easy to find cheap packages to go tubing in Vang Vieng. In fact, I have a blog post dedicated to tubing in Vang Vieng here.

Most of the packages offer free zip-lines, a free whiskey bucket, and free tuk-tuk transport. So there’s nothing much to prepare on your side. Remember to bring sunscreen if you don’t want to get scorched and sunburnt as I did.

Editor’s Note: Check out this 3 days Vang Vieng itinerary & plan your visit!

laos tubing in vang vieng

Quick Visit to Vientiane

Recommended length of stay in Vientiane: 1 day

Located by Mekong River, Vientiane is often used as a transit point to other cities or towns by backpackers in Laos. There are not as many things to do in Vientiane, other than some sightseeing attractions and the biggest night market in Laos.

That explains why the recommended length of stay in Vientiane above is 1 day, or 2 days and 1 night.

Vientiane is basically a developed and busy city with hectic traffic. But you might get surprised by seeing how developed the city is. I was shocked to find out because I thought Vientiane is just another city like Hanoi, but it’s not.

Vientiane is around 8 hours from Luang Prabang and 4 hours from Vang Vieng. 12-14 hours in a sleeper bus will get you from Vientiane to Pakse.

Planning to take some time to explore this capital city? Let’s look at what you can do in Vientiane.

Things to Do in Vientiane

Visit Patuxai Monument

Patuxai Monument, along with Wat That Luang (which we’ll get into later) are the two main attractions in Vientiane. Although the information board said that the construction wasn’t complete, I enjoyed the architecture all across the monument.

There are a water-sprouting pond and dozens of benches for visitors. Other than sightseeing, there is nothing more to do in Patuxai Monument. Make this attraction a transit point on your way to Pha That Luang.

It’s free of charge for entrance.

laos vientiane patuxai monument landmark

Photograph Pha That Luang

Pha That Luang is probably the most picturesque temples in Laos. The gold-covered Buddhist stupa has been around since the 3rd century, and often regarded as the nation’s most important monument and national symbol.

Walking from the town center to Pha That Luang takes around an hour.

It has been reconstructed several times due to war, especially by the Thai armies’ raids in the past centuries. Likewise, expect huge crowds of visitors here, both foreigners and locals, especially during weekends.

laos vientiane pha that luang golden stupa buddhist temple

Learn History at COPE Visitor Centre

COPE Visitor Centre is the most highly recommended place to visit in Vientiane, at least if you’d ask me. Here, you’ll learn about the history of Laos, and how heavily this nation got bombed by the US army during the Secret War.

It’s one of my top 5 most recommended places for your Laos backpacking trip.

You’ll also learn about how people lost their limbs due to the remains of the bombs, by accidentally triggering it. And how the organization fixes the problem by making customized and affordable artificial limbs to help them.

They show documentary films throughout the day and are happy to assist those who’re interested to know more about the collections and artifacts. They do not collect admission fees, so feel free to contribute to the fund by donating into the donation box.

Check out this 1-day Vientiane itinerary to plan your visit!

Sightseeing in Pakse

Recommended length of stay in Pakse: 3 days

When it comes to Pakse, I would recommend you plan your length of stay here at least 2 nights or at least 1 full day. Why? Because the only interesting attraction in Pakse is Bolaven Plateau, which you can spend days exploring around.

Pakse is the largest city at Southern Laos, around 12-14 hours away from Vientiane by sleeper bus.

Renting a motorbike here never got any easier because it’s the main backpackers’ activity in Pakse. On the main street, there are dozens of motorbike rental shops, but the best one would be Miss Noy Motorbikes.

Every evening at 6 pm, there will be a briefing on riding the Bolaven Plateau Loop. If you’re interested, be sure to turn up on time to plan your itinerary in Pakse.

What I did was spending 1 night in Pakse, and rented a motorbike to explore around Bolaven Plateau the next day until an hour before the sunset. After a shower, I got up the sleeper bus to go back to Vientiane.

For your information, I visited 4000 Islands before Pakse, I’ll get into that destination after this.

Things to Do in Pakse

Ride Around Bolaven Plateau Loop

Bolaven Plateau is the only attraction you should never miss in Pakse. Unlike your usual attraction, Bolaven Plateau is actually a hundreds-of-kilometers loop outside of Pakse, taking you through a variety of stunning waterfalls.

There are several options to explore the plateau, one-day or multi-day, all done by motorcycles. That explains the abundance of motorcycle rental shops in Pakse.

For one day, you’ll not able to complete the whole loop because it’s simply too long, and you need time to truly enjoy and admire the waterfall. But spending a day exploring Bolaven Plateau can take you to several nearer impressive waterfalls like Tad Fane, Tad Yuang, E-Tu Waterfall, and more.

My one-day ride in Bolaven Plateau was very pleasant and eye-opening. If you couldn’t make a multi-day trip there, you could really see a lot in one day too.

There are resorts right by almost every waterfall there. I’ve heard of a guy who spent a night at every waterfall and stayed weeks in Bolaven Plateau. Can’t blame him for that.

Most of the waterfalls here are more jaw-dropping than Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang.

laos pakse bolaven plateau tad yuang waterfall

Take A  Tour to Vat Phou (Wat Phu)

Vat Phou, also known as Wat Phu is yet another famous attraction in Pakse. Well, technically it’s not really in Pakse but close to it.

In Pakse, whether you’re dining in restaurants or checking in hostels, you’ll find tour packages that bring you to Vat Phou for sightseeing. So what is it anyway that’s worth the fuss?

Vat Phou is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex that has been around for more than a millennium. It was constructed as early as the 5th century and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

The site remains as a center of Theravada Buddhist worship.

If you have a motorcycle and an extra half-day to spend, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to Vat Phou. It might be the most ancient and historic temple you’ll ever come across.

The entrance fee is 35,000 Kip per person.laos pakse vat phu wat phou khmer hindu temple ancient history

Visit Wat Luang

Wat Luang is the most colorful Buddhist temple in Pakse, with a school for the monks inside the compound.

Though it’s not as impressive as those you find in Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Wat Luang is worth a visit for those who have some extra time to spend after exploring the previous two attractions.

The temple was constructed right by Xe Don River, facing west. So, if you’re bored in the evening, watch the sunset in Wat Luang and enjoy the peaceful vibe there.

There is no entrance fee, but there are not many things to do in particular.

Enjoy Life in 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don)

Recommended length of stay in Four Thousand Islands: 3 days

4000 Islands, also known as Si Phan Don is the place I wish I had spent more time in after my Laos backpacking trip. The way of life there is so peaceful and quiet, rewinding you back to the era without technologies and corporate jobs.

Farms are everywhere on the island, the young villagers having fun chasing around, buffaloes grazing the field, dogs sleeping in the middle of the street, that’s how Si Phan Don is like. I saw a young girl around 10 years old riding a motorbike tuk-tuk!

There are two main islands for backpackers in Si Phan Don, which are Don Khon and Don Det. Don’t confuse Don Khon and Don Khong, they’re entirely different islands.

Don Det is slightly smaller than Don Khon but has more bars and restaurants, as well as bungalows. Youngsters often prefer Don Det more because there are more parties going on at night here.

Electric became available to 4000 Islands for no longer than 10 years. Backpackers have been adoring this destination so much that most villagers built bungalows and homestays to accommodate them.

Bars and restaurants are found in the main street of each island, but the street in Don Det is always more happening. So if you’re looking for a quiet place to refresh and unwind yourself, Don Khon is the place you should stay.

Bicycles are the main transportation here, more than enough to bring you to every corner of the 2 islands. The rental price is fixed at 10,000 Kip for a whole day.

Crossing between the two islands used to cost some toll fees, but not anymore. It’s free now.

If you have been backpacking South East Asia for some time and is looking for a place to rest before moving on, never miss this. Let’s look at the things to do in 4000 Islands!

Check out these 7 Reasons You Should Visit 4000 Islands!

Things to Do in Si Phan Don (4000 Islands)

Khone Pha Pheng Waterfall

Do you know Laos is home to the largest waterfall in South East Asia? Yep, Khone Pha Pheng Waterfall in Mekong River is the largest waterfall in South East Asia. And when we talk about the largest, we’re talking about the width and length of the waterfall, not the height of it.

The waterfall will be a huge disappointment for you if you’re expecting to see a waterfall taller than Tad Fane in Bolaven Plateau.

The waterfall has been developed into a decent tourist destination, with many information boards, benches, buggy rides, restaurants, and signboards around. The facilities are very well-maintained, so are the observation deck.

There’s also the Manikhoth Temple inside the compound, preserving the holy tree of Manikhoth. It’s a sacred tree that is worshipped by the Buddhist Lao people. So, when it collapsed in 2012, it shook the whole nation.

Read my post about everything you need to know for visiting Khone Pha Pheng Waterfall here! Definitely add this to your Laos itinerary!

laos si phan don 4000 islands khone pha pheng waterfall

Watch Sunset in Khongyai Beach

Khongyai Beach is an extremely underrated destination in Si Phan Don. I never read about it anywhere on the internet. Instead, I stumbled upon it while dragging my Google Map around on my smartphone. I was like, “Well, I’ve got nothing to do anyway, let’s visit this.”

We didn’t regret the decision despite the steep downslope to get to the beach from the road.

Psst… Grab a coconut from the local vendor right at the entrance of the beach. The beach itself is free of charge but free of the crowd.

The rocks on the river, together with the rainforest on the other side makes a perfect background for a sunset photo. You’ll also see some fishermen docking their boat at the beach to call it a day.

A beer would be perfect here too!

laos si phan don khongyai beach sunset with fisherman boat

Explore The Islands on Bike

One of the best things to do in 4000 Islands is renting a bike after breakfast and just cycling around. Cycle through the paddy fields, the neighborhoods, temples, schools, bungalows far away from the main street, and more.

It’s a great way to relax, especially when the weather is on your side. But unlike Northern Laos, Southern Laos tends to have a warmer temperature all year round, so be sure to bring a lot of water to hydrate yourself!

Beautiful sceneries are everywhere on these islands, grab your camera and get shooting!

laos si phan don cycling paddy fields

Check out this article for more things to do in 4000 Islands!

Are 2 Weeks Enough to Go Backpacking Laos?

During my 2 weeks in Laos, I’ve basically traveled to every destination I included in my Laos itinerary. So, I would say 2 weeks is enough to explore the major destinations in Laos. But sometimes, I still wish I could stay a little longer at some destinations.

If you have 3 weeks in Laos or more, I would suggest staying for a longer time in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, or Bolaven Plateau. Vang Vieng is worth a longer visit if you love hiking. There are plenty of hikes there waiting for you to challenge.

Consider traveling to Luang Namtha too. Like Vang Vieng, it’s like a base for different hikes and close to several hill tribe villages which you can cycle to. It’s located northwest of Luang Prabang.

Anyway, I enjoyed my 2 weeks in Laos and was very grateful that my trip went smooth… Well, I messed up a little but I enjoyed the process and learned something.

What to Pack For Your Laos Backpacking Trip?

Like its neighbor countries, Laos has the wet and the dry season. However, during my visit in January, which is the dry season, mosquitoes can still be found everywhere. So, I’ve summarized a list of essentials things to pack to Laos during your backpacking trip.

  • Insect Repellent
    It’s important to protect yourself from insect bites because cases like dengue fever are quite common in Southeast Asia. You don’t want it to ruin your Laos travel.
  • Sunscreen
    Sunscreen is essential because, during your backpacking trip in Laos, you’re very likely to spend most of your time outdoors. Tubing, for example, exposes you to direct sunlight for hours. Apply sunscreen to avoid getting sunburnt.
  • Baseball Cap / Hat
    I don’t know about you but for me, I hated the sunshine at noon hours because it’s so bright that it makes me dizzy. Having a baseball cap helps me a lot by blocking the sunshine striking at my eyes directly.
  • Ponchos
    Even though Laos is drier than other Southeast Asia countries, rains can still happen in Laos. So it’s best to prepare an umbrella or ponchos so that you can keep on having your adventure!

Safety Tips For Traveling in Laos

Staying safe is the most important while traveling, don’t you agree?

While Laos is generally safe for travelers and backpackers, there are still some things that you should know before booking the flight ticket for your Laos backpacking trip. Let’s dive into it.

Travel Scams

Tourism has been picking up its pace in Laos. Yep, it might still be the most underrated country in Southeast Asia, but the number of foreign visitors has been increasing these past years.

This also signifies that travel scams are more common than ever.

Whether you’re booking a hostel, tour, or bus ticket, make sure to do it with the proper agency. The only hostel booking website I use in Laos is Booking.com, because it’s the most reliable and always gives the best deals to customers.


Booking.com

Never accept the tour package from a random stranger on the street. Always book one with a proper agency with a store, or with your hostel manager.

For bus tickets, I will recommend booking with your hostel manager, because you’ll be picked up right at the doorstep.

Robberies & Crimes

Laos is one of the poorer countries in the world, so don’t expect it to be a country without crimes.

Always keep your belongings in the locker in your hostel if you were to leave it in the room. Never expose valuable things when you’re outside walking around, and see a close eye on your belongings while dining outside. Please don’t leave your things unattended or ask others to take care of it for you.

There was some news about the conflict between the Chinese and Lao people at Northern Laos several years ago. I’m not exactly sure about what happened back then, but from what I see, it’s not something you should be worrying about.

Food Hygiene

The food hygiene level has always been a concern for backpackers in Southeast Asia. Most of the foods in smaller restaurants are prepared in their kitchen, which is not as clean as you might expect.

I’ve never seen any locals dining in restaurants in Laos, so it’s cool to assume that most of the restaurants are open for foreign visitors only. That explains the expensive price for dishes in Laos. Personally, I found that the hygiene level in restaurants and street food stalls are acceptable during my Laos backpacking trip.

Unlike Nepal or India, food hygiene is considered pretty decent here, from my perspective.

laos luang prabang night market fruit juice stalls

Ready For Your 2 Weeks in Laos Backpacking Itinerary?

So I guess that wraps up everything I’ve got to offer for you to prepare for your Laos backpacking trip. Do you find this article useful? Did I miss anything out? Feel free to let me know in the comment section below! I appreciate your feedback, and let’s make this guide more detailed and helpful than ever! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great time backpacking in Laos! Don’t forget to grab your travel insurance from World Nomads below!

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Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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