Population: 6,7 Million
Lao people speak a good level of English
Currency: Lao Kip (LAK) // 10 198 LAK = 1€.
Getting around: The best way to get around in cities is renting a scooter (make sure to carry an international driving licence), you can also use taxis or tuk-tuks.
Internet: Wifi is okay good and available almost everywhere (hostels/hotels, bars, restaurants…) for free.
Best time to go: Thailand has a tropical, warm and humid climate all year long. Seasons are divided in two, dry season (October to late April) and a rainy season (May to late September).
I personally travelled in late August/beginning September and had a nice and warm sunny weather with rain from time to time (1-2 hours a day max).
Safety: Laos is a safe place, just casual awareness of pickpockets and some common sense.
Pak Beng – Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane
Getting to Laos:
==> From Thailand with the Slow Boat cruise on the Mekong river.
One of the most popular, cheapest and nicest ways is by slow boat cruise on the Mekong river.
You can book your journey from any travel agency or hostels/hotels.
The slow boat will a wooden bench with pillows, not the best comfort but totally okay if you are young, wild and free 😉
You’ll cross the border from Chiang Khong (Thailand) to Huay Xai (Laos), there you’ll be picked up at the airport by a guide who will drive you to the pier (after a quick stop at his office to buy supplies and sell you out an accommodation). There will be food stores at the pier but I recommend you to get everything even before the whole journey.
Once at the pier, you will be boarding on a slow boat and leave for your first-day journey to Pak Beng. I recommend you to book your accommodation at Pak Ben online or walk in over there to check out the state of the rooms.
Do not fall into the scam accommodation from the guide in Huay Xai. It will be crap and won’t look like the picture. I personally had to walk to another one and then pay for a new room.
The second day, in the morning, you will leave Pak Beng for another full day of cruising the Mekong river, destination Luang Prabang.
Once there, the boat will drop you off outside of the city (of course), and you’ll have no other option than taking an expensive Tuk-Tuk to the city center.
Be aware that this part of the trip is mafia handled (nothing to worry about, it is like most touristic activities in South East Asia) and they are far to be as friendly as in Thailand. Yes, they’ll rip you off with their methods and prices but keep your smile up, negotiate everything and remember that they are just trying to survive. In the end, it’s a very nice experience and totally worth it.
Pak Beng is a very small and poor village, popular only for being a halfway stop from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang.
If you are not going on the Slow Boat cruise from Thailand to Laos, I don’t recommend you to go all the way there, it’s not worth it.
You’ll stay 1 night if you took the slow-boat to Luang Prabang.
Most accommodations are not in good conditions. I had to switch (without getting a refund) and walk into something that was actually very nice.
I can recommend you the “Mekong Riverside Lodge” (I paid around 20€ on site, including breakfast).
– They will be a bit “aggressive” at the pier on your arrival to sell you accommodations. I recommend you to either book in advance or walk into the hotels by yourself and check the rooms before booking.
– From the pier, the town is like 5min walk, there are only 2 streets (the one in front of you on arrival is the main street). No need to take a taxi at the pier, google map is your best friend.
– For food, I recommend you “Hasan Restaurant”, a very good Indian place. I didn’t trust any other place I’ve seen.
Stylish and authentic, the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Prabang is by far my favourite place in Laos.
Offering a unique vibe, mixing traditional vendors and elegant cafes, tiny streets and busy squares, every corner is a surprise.
I recommend spending 3/4 days.
==> I stayed at the “DownTown Backpackers hostel”, awesome place, very social, perfect location and very nice staff. Price: 5€ a night, including breakfast.
– The night market (300m from the hostel).
– The food market in the evening (same street), absolutely fantastic. You pay for a plate (super cheap), and you can fill it up as much as you want.
– Utopia bar, amazing place by the river. Good cocktails, pillows, candles and great music. The hotspot in Luang Prabang.
– Kuang Si Waterfall. Amazing three levelled waterfall in the jungle, very touristic ver really nice.
– La Pistoche, swimming pool close to the city center and very convenient if it gets warm.
– Bars are closing at 23h30 so if you want to keep partying, the hotspot (and I think the only one) is the bowling. Tuk-tuks will be waiting outside the bars and will drive you there. Enjoy a nice local cocktail while trying to strike.
Well know in the Backpacker community for its tubing experience on the Mekong river, Vang Vieng is a small rural town surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
I recommend spending 3/4 days.
==> I stayed at the “Real Backpackers Hostel”, chilled place, right in the middle of town and very social.
You can either get a VIP bus or a minivan. I would recommend the bus, it’s a (little) less uncomfortable.
The trip will take 7-8 hours and costs around 120 000 – 150 000 KIP (10-15€).
You can book from any travel agency, hotel, hostels and even just the day before.
– Tubing on the Mekong River.
The tubing experience consists in deriving on an inflated tire tube from bar to bar. Each bar will throw you a rope for you to grab and get on the ground. Then all you need to do is join the party and have fun.
– Exploring the surroundings.
The landscapes are amazing all around the town, so rent a scooter and drive around to discover the beauty of it.
– Blue Lagoons.
There are a few blue lagoons in the area, perfect on a hot sunny day. Check out “Blue Lagoon 2”, the other one is crap.
I also discovered one while driving around and getting lost in the lands, completely empty of people, but I have no idea how to locate it. You’ll have to explore and go deep off-road to find it.
– Renting a scooter to get around.
Be extra careful when renting a scooter, take pictures of it and show the guy any potential damages when you pick it up. They may try to screw you when handing it back, remain calm, be confident and it’ll be fine.
Also, be extra careful of dogs, they jump in front of you so drive slowly.
– Vang Vieng is a party town, travellers have a tiny tendency to behave in a disrespectful way which affects very negatively the locals. You can party like an animal, no problem, just behave.
Vientiane is the Capital of Laos and was the city I liked the less during my trip.
Very few tourists compare to Luang Prabang and Van Vieng, which can be appreciated, but locals are not really welcoming and there is not much to do.
The city looks great but you’ll see around pretty quickly.
I recommend staying 2 days.
==> I stayed at the “Dream Home Hostel”, nice place but don’t expect anything social in Vientiane, it’s very quiet.
You can get a Bus/VIP Bus from Vang Vieng.
The trip is 160km but will take around 3-4 hours and costs around 50 000 – 70 000 KIP (5-7€).
You can book from any travel agency or hotels/hostels.
– The waterfront and its night market.
Beautiful part of the city and very vibrant.
– Cafes and restaurants.
Vientiane has a lot of very nice French-style cafes and restaurants.
– Getting a scooter and driving around is the best way to explore the city and its surroundings.
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