Laos, a country where you can zipline through the jungle and sleep in a treehouse, swim in idyllic turquoise waterfalls and float down a river in a tyre tube!
Laos isn’t as touristy as it’s neighbours but moving around the country is still super easy. Top Tip: I found it to be around 3$ cheaper when buying direct from the bus station. For some locations you can take a public bus which is the cheapest way to travel and you do not need to book in advance. The main problem is knowing which bus station you would be leaving from and also the fact that a lot of them are far from the centre. So generally it’s just easier to book from your hotel or an agency.
The night buses in Laos are actual sleeping ones with narrow beds. Be warned that if you’re travelling solo you will probably end up sharing a sleeping bus bed with a stranger.
Now you know how to get around but what about where to go?! Here are my top 8 things to do!
8) Chill out in Luang Prabang
Easily my favourite city in Laos, Luang Prabang is oozing with character and charm. From the community made bamboo bridge that crosses the Nam Khan river, to the market and cute restaurants along Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang is a great place to chill for a few days.
Spend the morning exploring temples (make sure you check our Wat Xiengthong) and the afternoon with a drink at Utopia overlooking the river, before climbing Mount Phousi to watch the sunset!
7) Go tubing in Vang Vieng
Around a decade ago tubing in Vang Vieng won Laos a bad reputation, due to backpacker party animals over indulging. As I’m sure you can imagine alcohol, chemicals and water don’t mix.
Since then the Laos government has taking steps to shut down most of the bars along the river and also the “death slides”.
Now, tubing has a super fun vibe, for only 60000kip (6$) you can hire a tube for the day. They will take you upstream in a tuktuk (included in the price) and you will finish at Smile Bar in the centre.
You can ofcourse bring a beer with you, or stop at the bar right at the beginning of the river if you wish.
It’s a great chilled way to spend your day, and something different from the conventional kayak!
Top tip: go with the yellow tube company so you can finish in the centre. The red tubes head south out of the town so you need to get a tuktuk back at the end.
6) Check out the Buddha Park near Vientiane
Just outside of Vientiane is Buddha park. It was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism, so you can find quite an interesting mix of statues, including an enormous sleeping buddha!
The park itself is pretty small but as there isn’t that much to do in Vientiane it’s a fun and cheap trip. You can take the number 14 bus from Khau Din Bus Station, it costs only 6000 Kip each way (60 cents) and takes about an hour. Then tickets to the park are 15000 kip (1.5$).
5) Tour the 4000 islands by kayak
The name 4000 islands might confuse you a bit as Laos is of course, landlocked. The islands are separated by the Mekong which flows wide and turquoise in this area! There are even dolphins here! Unfortunately though there are only 3 left in the wild so it’s unlikely that you will spot them.
The best way (in my opinion!) to explore the islands, waterfalls and river is by kayak. For 25$ we had guides, equipment, water, breakfast, lunch and entry to SE Asia’s largest waterfall (which is 7$ in itself).
The day starts with breakfast in a little café on Don Det and then you start kayaking around 10am. We then kayaked back to the island whilst the sun was setting around 6pm! Highlights included kayaking between the Laos and Cambodia border, navigating the rapids and admiring the largest waterfall in SE Asia.
4) Discover the reason for the Plain of Jars
The most random thing to see in Laos! As no one knows the actual reason for the jars being there.
Of course there are many theories!
– They were used to store the Kings rice wine
– Giants used to live in these parts and the jars were their tea cups (totally this one 😂)
– Bones were discovered in a few of the jars so it is now believed that they were burial jars.
There are a total of 90 sites but only 7 are accessible to tourists due to unexploded bombs from the Vietnam war. Laos is, per capita, the most heavily bombed country on earth. Nearly 600,000 bombing runs delivered a staggering amount of explosives: the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every eight minutes for nine years, or a ton of bombs for every person in the country.
By the end of the campaign in 1973 nearly a 1/10th of Laos population had been killed. Thousands more accidental deaths would occur due to unexploded bombs.
When you visit jar site 1 you’ll be able to see the impact of the bombs with all the craters scattered about and you can also visit the cave where the locals hid.
The most common (and easiest) jar sites to visit are site 1, 2 and 3. We booked a tour through our hotel in Phonsavanh which was 17$ each to visit these 3 sites and the ancient capital (the latter was not very interesting in my opinion).
Jar site 2 is located within a forest and is so magical! It’s definitely worth visiting both these sites (some tours only do site 1). Jar site 3 is surrounded by rice paddies and located on a hill with a few trees, it wasn’t as spectacular as the first 2 but then it’s right next to jar site 2.
Jar site 1 is 15000 kip entrance fee ($2) and site 2 and 3 are 10000 kip each ($1.50).
The sites close at 17h so unfortunately you can’t watch the sunset there.
3) Go Cycling and hiking around Vang Vieng
Due to it’s party reputation I nearly didn’t stop in Vang Vieng, but I’m so glad I did! It is way more than just back packers getting drunk! The landscape is just magical, lots of cattle roaming around miles of fields bordered with sharp rocky mountains!
Lots of little shops rent out good quality mountain bikes for $3 a day, and these are the perfect way to explore the surrounding area.
Head to the east to check out one of the blue lagoons ($1.50 entrance fee). Then climb up one of the many viewpoints located at the top of the rocky cliffs (also ($1.50 entrance fee). These give a great vantage point over the fields of Laos. It is quite a climb though so I recommend wearing trainers and bringing a full bottle of water with you!
2) Zipline through the jungle with the Gibbon experience
Ever since those lazy childhood summers spent building dens in the woods and swimming in lakes, I have always dreamt of sleeping in a treehouse.
Thanks to the Gibbon Experience in Laos, I was finally able to realise that dream in the most awesome way. Not only is the treehouse located in the middle of the jungle but you have to zipline from mountain to mountain to get there!
Being immersed in the sites and sounds of nature was just amazing! Ziplines are around 300 to 500m long and our 2 guides were so nice to hang out with.
I would totally do this again! Check out my blog “Childhood dream come true -the gibbon experience” for more information on what to expect!
1) Swim in Kuang Si Waterfalls near Luang Prabang
The most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen! The turquoise water and various levels of the cascades were just breath taking.
I got a tuktuk from Luang Prabang for the morning for 200000 kip ($25). The drive takes about an hour and I got there for 9am which was perfect as there weren’t many people but then it was also super cold to swim!
In terms of photo opportunities not all of of the waterfalls are open for swimming so no matter what time you come you’ll be able to get a pic of pool 4 and 5 with no one in 🙌.
There are 6 pools in total, which I’ve numbered in sequence of which ones you see when walking from the car park. You can swim in pool 1, 2, 3 and 6. Pool 6 you’ll need to climb up the stairs to get to the top of the large waterfall.
I loved the waterfalls so much that I actually visited twice! (Second time in a minivan in the afternoon for 40000kip each – $5). It was a lot more pleasant to swim in the afternoon but still the water is freezing!
Another way to get to the falls is by scooter, which then gives you more freedom to spend the day there. The only problem is that the road has a lot of pot holes and dodgy turns!
TOP TIP: The waterfalls are less crowded from 8 to 10am and 4 to 5pm. The afternoon is probably the best time to go though as it’s warmer outside if you want to swim!
Entrance fee is only 20000 kip ($2.50) and there are changing rooms and toilets provided.
Laos is a less touristy but highly under rated country, with plenty of different things to see and do for reasonable prices! The perfect country for a budget back packer! If you’re interested in learning more about my spendings for my 7 month trip, check out my blog “How to Travel on a Budget in Asia“.
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