Laos in general

Land of temples and Buddhism, where the Mekong flows and nature is abundant. But also land of poverty and less-developed tourism.

Scroll down for our opinion.

Our timing

We traveled through Laos from half February until the beginning of March in about 3,5 weeks and did the whole western part of the country. 

We had warm weather throughout the entire trip, around 32 degrees Celsius and no rain whatsoever. In the north-west, especially in Luang Prabang we started to notice the beginning of 'burning season' as the sun became less visible and you could feel the air quality going down.

Our route

Our journey started on the Thai-Lao border where we were brought by tuktuk. Between the two borders you cross the friendship bridge by bus. After that, getting the visa was pretty straightforward and without hassle. Then onwards by another tuktuk to get to the slowboat dock in Huay Xai.

The slowboat took two 7-hour days to get to Pakbeng first and Luang Prabang on the second day. From Luang Prabang we arranged train tickets via our guesthouse to get to Vang Vieng, a smooth and short ride. Then from Vang Vieng we took another train to Vientiane. For now, the (Chinese-built) train track does not go any further then the capitol so we had to transfer to other modes of transport again. To get to Thakhek, we took a sleeper bus but during the day and I would recommend this as it is a long and uncomfortable drive down the wobbly roads. In Thakhek we had our own rental motorbike to do the loop and then we had a minivan to Savannakhet to break up the route to Pakse. That last part was done by local bus. 

To get from Pakse all the way down south to Don Det, we booked a minivan + ferry combo ticket.
Of course, we also had to get back from the islands so that meant another combo ticket with ferry, minivan to the border and another minivan into Cambodia. 

Conclusion (personal)

Laos pleasantly surprised us! It has some great places, our favorites were Luang Prabang, the Thakhek loop and Don Det. You can definitely notice it is a developing countries and they suffered, and still suffer, greatly from the wars and bombings but it is upcoming. The Chinese built a train track from their border all the way to Vientiane which is a very convenient way to travel as the roads are quite bad in all of the country. The bus rides were therefore less comfortable and took way longer than anticipated.  It can be a very cheap country but they also know how to raise their prices for tourists so beware. 

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7 months ago

Nice summary ! were you impacted by the burning season in Pakse and Don Det or it was fine down there ?

7 months ago

Hi Francois! In Pakse and Don Det you won’t really notice much of the burning season. It was mainly in Luang Prabang that it started to get worse by the day.