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How to Plan a Trip to Laos

How to Plan a Trip to Laos

By Mike HoUpdated Jul. 28, 2022

Some of the words most frequently used to describe Laos are ancient and tranquil: much of Laos remains untouched and not frequently visited.

Travelers to Laos will find endless UNESCO World Heritage sites to discover, beautiful old towns, stunning natural landscapes, lots of adventure and outdoor activities for everybody to enjoy, as well as a unique window into many diverse ethnic arts and cultures.

Laos is great to visit on its own, but can also be easily added onto a trip to its neighboring countries of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, or Myanmar.

Laos Visas and Travel Restrictions

how to plan a trip to Laos

Entry policy: Laos now is fully reopened to travelers. From January 1st, 2022, international travelers can enter Laos without quarantine.

Visa policy: Nationalities that can obtain a 30-day visa on arrival for Laos include: Australia, Canada, EU citizens, the UK, and the US. You can also apply for an eVisa online in advance if you prefer.

To find out more information about how to apply for an eVisa, check out our guide to getting a visa for Laos here.

Recommended Itinerary

Best Times to Visit Laos

best time to Laos

Laos is a great destination all year round. It has two seasons that make up its tropical monsoon climate: the dry season from November to April, and the rainy season from May to October.

The best time to visit Laos is between November to April, during the dry season. The weather is comfortable for outdoor activities, including trekking, kayaking, rock climbing, and river rafting. Because it is the high season of tourism in Laos, more people can be seen in the top attractions, but there won’t be as large crowds as in Thailand. Trip costs during high season are a bit higher than normal.

During the rainy season, you can expect much more rain in Laos, and few people choose this time to visit Laos. It is a good chance to save money and enjoy a less crowded trip if you are on a tight budget.

Similar to Songkran Festival celebrations in Thailand, Laos people celebrate their New Year between April 14th and April 16th. If you want to experience the Lao New Year, visit Laos during that time. Read more about the best time to visit Laos

Best Places to Visit in Laos

Although a beautiful landlocked country, Laos is the least-visited destination in Southeast Asia. Travelers who visit Laos are impressed by the various limestone mountains, spectacular waterfalls, and historical buildings as well as the delicious Thai and Indian flavors of local Laos food.

1. Luang Prabang: History, Culture, Temples

Luang Prabang

Your (likely) entry and exit point to Laos, Luang Prabang, is one of the most popular spots to visit in Laos! Walk through the old town, visit the morning market, and explore Xieng Thong Temple and the Royal Palace Museum. Luang Prabang is also a great place to sample Laotian cuisine, and a starting point for bike rides into the countryside, trips to waterfalls, and boat rides up the Mekong.

Spend some hours to visit the Elephant Village Sanctuary if you have seen the highlights of Luang Prabang. The Village mainly functions as a center for conservation of elephants. There you can see the elephants in a peaceful, natural living environment. It is a fun activity to feed and wash the elephants, especially if you are traveling with kids.

2. Vientiane: Capital, Temples, Night life

Vientiane

As the capital of Laos, the city displays an interesting combination of ornate Buddhist temples and interesting French colonial architecture. Recommended sights to visit include Wat Si Saket temple, Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan), and Pha That Luang, a massive golden temple. There is enough to keep you exploring for a few days.

3. Vang Vieng: Karst Landscapes, Trekking

Vang Vieng

Often referred to as a backpackers’ paradise, Vang Vieng is a small town halfway between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. You’ll find beautiful karst landscapes and plenty of outdoor activities to do there that range from rock climbing to trekking, kayaking, and rafting.

4. Pakse: Khmer Ruins, Waterfall, Temples

Pakse

Located near the Thai border, Pakse is a charming town that is a wonderful base to explore the Laotian north from. Some people stay a day to visit the town and head off to Thailand, but you can also go on many beautiful trips into the local area to visit, for example, the amazing Khmer ruins at Wat Phu and the stunning islands near the Cambodian border called Si Phan Don.

Recommended Itinerary

How Long to Stay in Laos — Sample Laos Tour Itinerary

How to plan a trip to Laos

How many days to spend in Laos? It really depends on your travel budget and your vacation times. Most of our clients spend 3–5 days in Laos, covering Luang Prabang and one of Vang Vieng or Vientiane. The following are some of the most popular tour arrangements in Laos.

3-Day Luang Prabang Trip

Day 1: Visit the Royal Palace and its museum. Then explore Wat Mai Palace and walk the scenic and character-filed Sisavangvong Peninsula Road.

Day 2: Take part in one of Luang Prabang’s most ancient rituals, and explore the morning market. Cycle out to Ban Xong Kong Village and visit the Elephant Village Sanctuary.

Day 3: Explore the Kuang Si Waterfalls and Kuang Si Butterfly Park as well as the Free the Bears rescued bear sanctuary.

If you want to explore Laos more deeply, you can add the following tour itineraries into your trip to makes it an 8-day tour.

A Typical 8-Day Trip Itinerary in Laos: Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane

Days 1–3: Luang Prabang (see above for the 3-day Luang Prabang itinerary)

Days 4 to 5: Vang Vieng

Explore tranquil Vang Vieng and all the natural beauty it has to offer. Featured activities in Vang Vieng include kayaking, tubing, rafting, and rock climbing.

Days 6 to 8: Vientiane

Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket temple, the Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan), and Pha That Luang (a massive golden temple). Explore the Vientiane night market one night to sample some of the local delicacies and pick up your souvenirs to take back home!

Top Southeast Asia Tour Itineraries Including Laos

Laos is a small country in Southeast Asia. If you are visiting Southeast Asia for the first time, we recommend you cover some of the other countries in your trip. Most of our clients prefer 2 to 3 weeks for their first Southeast Asia trip. The most popular tour itineraries usually include Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. Get some inspiration from our 14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos Tour — Sync with Indochina's Heartbeat.

Sync with Indochina's Heartbeat

For a trip of 20–30 days, you can enjoy an in-depth tour of the whole peninsula area (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos). Check out our 28-Day Grand Indochina Tour for more info. The above sample itineraries are just for your information. You are welcomed to contact our experienced 1:1 tour consultant for a tailor-made itinerary.

Travel Costs for Laos

Travel Costs for Laos

Travel costs in Laos are lower than in other Southeast Asian countries. For the price of a mediocre restaurant in Western countries, you can enjoy a good meal at a high-quality restaurant in Laos.

  • For backpackers, the budget is around 30–50 USD/day per person (hostels, street food, local public transportation).
  • For a medium budget, it will cost around 50–80 USD/day per person (3-star hotels, sit-down restaurants, tuk-tuks, taxies sometimes).
  • For a higher standard and a more comfortable experience, US$150–200/day per person is needed (4/5-star hotels, nice meals, private guide, and transfers).

How to Get To and Around Laos

How to Get To and Around Laos

Getting to Laos: Flights via Bangkok

The best way to get to Laos is by flight. There are airports in the major cities of Laos, including Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Pakse.

There are no direct flights outside of Asia. Most travelers come to Laos via Bangkok, Thailand. There are flights between Bangkok and Vientiane or Luang Prabang. It takes about 1 hour to fly from Bangkok to Vientiane and 2 hours from Bangkok to Luang Prabang.

Getting Around in Laos

When you are in Laos, the main ways to get from one place to another are buses, trains, private car/taxi, and a tour with a travel agency. Traveling by bus can be challenging in Laos, as the roads are not maintained well and it is hard to drive in the rainy season. The newly built high-speed railway, which runs through Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane is another option for long distance transport. The most comfortable way is by hire car or booking a tour with a travel agency.

Connecting to Other Southeast Asian Countries

For travelers who want to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar, you can easily book a flight from Laos’ capital city Vientiane or Luang Prabang. Contact us if you want to book a multi-destinations tour in Southeast Asia.

Traveling with Asia Highlights

As one of the leading tour companies in Asia, we have been providing travel services for more than 20 years to thousands of satisfied customers. Let us know your requirements and interests for a tailor-made tour of Laos to fulfill your holiday dreams. Contact us now.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights During the Pandemic

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Your 1:1 travel consultant in Asia will take all the uncertainty out of your planning, helping you navigate any travel restrictions. 
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