Laos, a land of endless rice fields, enchanting waterfalls, serene Buddhist temples, and pristine natural landscapes. Unlike its bustling neighbors, Vietnam and Thailand, Laos remains relatively untouched by mass tourism, offering the perfect escape for an authentic experience. While it remains off the mainstream radar, Laos is accessible and welcoming to travelers seeking genuine experiences. In just 10 days, our Laos itinerary lets you uncover the country’s most iconic highlights, allowing you to immerse yourself in Southeast Asia’s splendor without the hustle and bustle.
Even if you have a brief stay – perhaps as a side trip from Thailand – Laos offers a treasure trove of experiences, from awe-inspiring temples to breathtaking natural wonders. We’ve put together a detailed 10-day Laos itinerary to help you navigate all the must-see spots, where to stay, how to get around, and what awesome activities are in store. Plus, we’ve included handy travel tips to make your trip planning a breeze.
Keep reading to discover the ultimate Laos itinerary that helps you make the most of your time and experience all the incredible places this country has to offer. So, if your time is limited and you’re seeking an easy-to-follow route that encompasses the essence of Laos, this itinerary is tailored just for you.
* Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. We will receive a small commission if you book through our links. This is at no extra cost to you. This way you’re helping us write awesome travel guides and keep providing you with free content. We only recommend products we like and trust ourselves.
Things to know before visiting Laos
Currency and Money Matters
The official currency of Laos is the Laotian KIP. Roughly, 20,000 KIP equates to 1 USD or 1 EUR. You can check the current currency rates on xe.com. While ATMs are readily available in the northern cities, they might be less common in the southern regions. It’s important to note that ATMs can sometimes run out of cash, so it’s advisable to always carry some USD, EUR, or Thai Baht on hand for exchange, as favorable rates are often found.
Language and Communication
The official language spoken in Laos is Lao. However, finding English-speaking locals won’t be too challenging, making communication easier for travelers.
Shopping and Bargaining
When shopping for souvenirs or exploring local markets, bargaining is a common practice. Engaging in this friendly exchange can not only lead to great deals but also provide an authentic cultural experience.
Local Ride-Hailing Service
LOCA, a ride-hailing service based in Laos, functions much like Uber, making transportation convenient and accessible for travelers.
Transportation and Booking
For convenient onward travel within Laos, you can rely on 12go.asia for booking various modes of transportation.
City Tours and Experiences
For an enriching travel experience, you can enhance your journey by booking city tours, day trips, food explorations, and engaging cooking classes through platforms like GetYourGuide or Viator. These resources offer a range of options to make the most of your time in Laos.
The best platform to search for a range of lodging options in Laos is Booking.com, spanning budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels.
Planning Your 10-Day Laos Itinerary
How to get to Laos
Getting to Laos might require a bit of planning due to its unique access. Currently, direct flights from outside of Asia are unavailable. If you’re in Southeast Asia, reaching Laos is more straightforward. Consider flying into major travel hubs like Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Hanoi, which offer direct flights to Luang Prabang or Vientiane. From there, a quick regional flight will take you to Laos. We recommend checking Skyscanner for flights for optimal prices.
Many travelers incorporate Laos into a broader Asian journey, often combining it with Thailand or following the famous Banana Pancake route. Our own experience involved an overland journey from Northern Thailand to Northern Laos for 10 days, followed by travel to Vietnam.
For overland travelers, entry points are typically the Thai borders near Vientiane or Houayxai in the north. An adventurous alternative to taking the bus from North Thailand to Luang Prabang is the 2-day slow boat journey departing from Chiang Khong, close to Chiang Rai. This leisurely cruise along the Mekong River includes a stopover in Pakbeng, a quaint country town. While longer than a bus ride, it’s an enjoyable introduction to Laos, demanding extra time on your Laos Itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Laos
The optimal time for a visit to Laos is during the dry season, spanning from November to April. This period promises predominantly dry and warm weather, with cooler nights in the mountains between November and February. However, from April, the heat escalates significantly, especially in southern Laos.
Laos experiences its rainy season from May to October, characterized by frequent, intense downpours lasting a few hours each day. Despite the rain, you can still bask under blue skies and sun, relishing fewer crowds and cost-effective options. Just remember to pack a rain jacket. Keep in mind that Laos’ infrastructure is less developed compared to neighboring countries, leading to muddy roads during this season.
For river explorations, plan your expedition between November and January, when water levels are lower. To witness the country’s lush greenery, consider a visit right at the tail end of the rainy season in November.
Be aware that the late dry season, March to April, coincides with burning season. During this time, farmers conduct significant field preparation fires, resulting in atmospheric smoke that might hinder views and occasionally affect breathing comfort. In 2023 they already started burning earlier in February unfortunately.
Laos Visa Requirements
When planning a visit to Laos, securing a tourist visa is crucial. Generally valid for a 30-day stay, there are two main options: the visa on arrival and the e-visa.
Before your trip, it’s wise to check specific visa requirements based on your country of origin. Some countries, including ASEAN nations, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Switzerland, have visa-free access to Laos. Conversely, citizens from certain African and Middle Eastern countries must apply for a visa in advance to avoid border denial.
Laos Visa On Arrival
For most nationalities, a 30-day tourist visa can be obtained upon arrival at Lao land borders and international airports. The cost for this visa is now standardized at $40 per passport holder, regardless of nationality.
Arriving in Laos, the visa-on-arrival process is straightforward. For air travel, you’ll acquire the visa upon landing at the airport. Upon disembarking, follow the visa-on-arrival process, paying the visa fee and a $2 processing charge. Provide 1-2 passport photos. Crossing overland, you can complete a visa form on the spot and provide a passport photo. In case you forget one, photos can be made on-site for an additional fee. The cash payment is expected in crisp, new US dollar bills due to rigorous bill inspection. Depending on timing and arrival conditions, queues for this process can be lengthy.
Essentials for Laos Tourist Visa on Arrival:
- Minimum of 2 passport photos
- At least $45 in cash, preferably in US dollars (crisp new bills!)
- Passport valid for 6 months beyond travel dates with at least 2 full pages, as the visa occupies an entire page.
Introduced in mid-2019, the 30-day e-visa provides a pre-application option. Priced at $50 for most nationalities, it’s costlier than the visa-on-arrival but offers potential time savings by bypassing the visa-on-arrival queues. The e-visa grants entry through 8 international ports.
E-Visa Application Process:
- Complete the online form on the official Laos e-visa government website
- Upload a passport photo and the bio page of your passport.
- Within three working days, receive an official e-visa approval letter via email, valid for 60 days.
- Print two copies of the letter: one for entry, one for departure.
What to pack for a 10-day Laos Itinerary
- Lightweight cotton scarf for covering up when visiting temples.
- Having a quality daypack for your day-to-day adventures is essential. We personally recommend light daypacks from Deuter.
- Lightweight everyday shoes (we personally enjoy the ones from Adidas) or Birkenstocks are always a comfy option to explore a town!
- Bring a reusable water bottle or consider bringing a Life Straw or GRAYL for safe drinking water.
- Action Camera for capturing all your adventures, we have been enjoying the Go Pro Hero 10 on our latest travels.
- Personal belonging safety can be ensured with luggage and locker locks, along with anti-theft gear like those from Pacsafe.
- Don’t forget to pack a universal adaptor to ensure you can charge all your electronic devices during your trip.
- A reliable power bank is highly recommended for on-the-go charging, particularly during long bus rides or full days of exploration when you may not have access to power outlets.
- Mosquito spray is essential, especially during the wet season.
- Bring sunscreen because a lot of the ones you’ll find there have whitening agents in them and the prices are outrageous.
- Entertainment for on the journeys, we never travel without bringing our e-reader for passing the time, as well as our headphones for listening to podcasts.
Overview of your 10-Day Laos Itinerary
This 10-day Laos itinerary, focused on the northern part of the country, is a popular segment within a larger Asian adventure often known as the banana pancake trail. This trail is favored by backpackers who cross the Laos border from North Thailand and then continue their journey to Vietnam or Cambodia. This leisurely 10-day plan lets you uncover the top highlights of Laos while maintaining a relaxed pace, ensuring you experience all the must-do activities. For those with limited time, the route can be condensed into 7-8 days. Additionally, the itinerary can be reversed based on your point of entry. Below is the detailed day-to-day plan for your travel to Laos.
10-Day Laos Itinerary
Day 1 | Arrival in Luang Prabang
Days 2 – 3 | Explore Luang Prabang
Day 4 | Explore Scenic Landscapes around Luang Prabang
Day 5 | Travel from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
Days 6-7 | Explore Vang Vieng
Day 8 | Travel from Vang Vieng to Vientiane
Day 9 | Explore Vientiane
On Day 10 | Departure from Vientiane
This Laos itinerary focuses on regional experiences, allowing you to customize your days according to your interests. For each city, we also provide recommendations on accommodations, eating options, and activities. As well as practical information on how to get around and travel between the different destinations.
Refer to the customized map below, which highlights all the locations covered in this Laos itinerary.
Laos Itinerary Day 1 – 4 | Luang Prabang
Your Laos itinerary kicks off in the charming town of Luang Prabang, situated right where the Mekong and Nam Song Rivers meet. Surrounded by majestic mountains, this city is hands down one of our favorite places in all of Asia. It’s got this unique mix of elegant French-colonial buildings and a relaxed riverside vibe that just pulls you in.
Luang Prabang is the cultural heart of Laos, and it’s often the very first place travelers land when they start their Lao adventure. Many folks, including us, choose the two-day slow boat from Thailand to get here. The entire city center is even recognized as a UNESCO Heritage site, and honestly, the best way to take it all in is simply by wandering around. Those beautifully restored colonial buildings? You’ll find them everywhere you look. And don’t miss the enchanting little temples scattered throughout the historic area. It’s a city that likes to take it easy, where life moves at a more relaxed pace.
Best things to do in Luang Prabang
For the best experience, we recommend spending at least 3 days here. That gives you enough time to explore, check out those stunning temples covered in gold, and enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the local cafés. Don’t miss the magic of Morning Alms at sunrise and watch the sunset from the top of Mount Phousi – both are definitely worth setting your alarm for. And the Mekong River? It’s like the city’s lifeline, so taking a leisurely walk along its banks is a must. Or, if you’re up for something different, hop on a boat for a sunset cruise – it’s a great way to see things from a new angle.
Once you’ve soaked up all the urban awesomeness, venture a bit out of town. Discover the stunning Kuang Si Falls and the kind of countryside that seems like it’s straight out of a picture postcard. In the evening, Luang Prabang comes alive in a whole new way. The streets light up, and this big market takes over – trust me, it’s something you won’t want to miss.
Explore Colonial Charm
The real star of the show in Luang Prabang is its Old Quarter, where traditional Lao and colonial French styles come together in a beautiful mix.
We spent a good few days just wandering around this historic area, taking in the colorful buildings, stunning temples, and cool roadside bars where we could relax and watch the lively street life.
If you’re interested in the history, you can also join a half-day walking tour with a knowledgeable guide who can give you a deeper insight into the city’s past.
Go temple hopping
Explore the charming temples scattered throughout the historic center to catch a glimpse of the local spiritual essence.
With a grand total of 34 temples gracing Luang Prabang, you’re in for a treat. Beautifully adorned Buddhist temples, also known as Wats, are all around. Among them, make sure not to overlook the most sacred one, Wat Xieng Thong. Its remarkable Tree of Life mosaic and depictions of everyday life are an absolute must-see – truly an enchanting sight!
Observe the Alms Giving Ceremony
Witness the serene Morning Alms ceremony, where monks collect offerings from locals. Every day at dawn, you can witness this age-old ritual in Luang Prabang, a tradition stretching back to the 14th century and deeply ingrained in Laotian culture. Picture this: a long procession of monks gracefully walking along the streets, while both locals and a few tourists offer food like rice and biscuits as a gesture of respect.
As a visitor, you’re invited to observe this ritual, but it’s essential to do so respectfully from a distance. It’s a moment to appreciate without disrupting the solemn procession of the monks.
Watch the sunset at Mount Phousi
Adding a touch of enchantment to your 10-day Laos itinerary, don’t miss the opportunity to witness the sun setting over the city from the peak of Mount Phousi.
Nestled right at the heart of Luang Prabang, Mount Phu Si, or the ‘sacred hill’ as it translates, stands as a central landmark. Climbing over 300 steps takes you to the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with a captivating view of the golden stupa at Wat Chom Si and the breathtaking landscape that surrounds it. For an exquisite sight, time your visit just before sunset and witness the city bathed in warm hues of orange. Keep in mind that this spot is quite popular for sunset views, attracting many tourists, which might be a tad overwhelming. The entrance fee is 20,000 KIP (~ $1 USD).
Experience Luang Prabang’s night market
Discover the bustling night market that comes alive at 5 pm, offering a delightful array of local crafts, charming souvenirs, and mouthwatering street food. Unlike the typical markets you might encounter in Southeast Asia, this one has a distinct flair. Think handwoven textiles, intricate jewelry, and one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods that give it an authentic touch. Despite the presence of tourists, there’s still a genuine atmosphere to soak in. And don’t miss the chance to grab a satisfying dinner from the variety of street food stalls set up in the main square.
Dive into the captivating beauty of Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si Falls is a natural marvel and is an essential stop on your Laos itinerary. The cascading turquoise pools and breathtaking waterfalls form a mesmerizing landscape, offering an idyllic setting for swimming, relaxation, and embracing the wonders of nature. Spend your day here leisurely swimming in the pools, leaping from trees, and channeling your inner Jane or Tarzan.
Situated a mere 45-minute drive from Luang Prabang, the waterfalls are easily accessible. You can join one of the organized tours or opt for an independent adventure by renting a motorbike and following the marked route – just as we did. For the best experience, consider arriving early to relish the tranquility and avoid the crowds.
Venture out to Pak Ou Caves
Embark on a journey to the Pak Ou Caves, nestled alongside the majestic Mekong River. These hallowed caves are adorned with an array of Buddha statues, a testament to the devotion of pilgrims over generations. Carved into dramatic limestone cliffs, the caves create a remarkable sight against the Mekong’s backdrop.
Situated approximately 45-60 minutes north of Luang Prabang, reaching the caves is convenient. Renting a scooter or hiring a tuk-tuk allows for independent exploration. Upon arrival at the small town of Pak Ou, a short ferry ride takes you to the caves. Alternatively, for a more picturesque journey, opt for a 2-hour boat ride along the Mekong River. Another possibility is to join a tour of the caves, often including a visit to the famed Kuang Si Falls and a whisky village.
Tour the countryside
Discover the peaceful outskirts of Luang Prabang, where expansive rice fields paint the landscape in lush green. Here, you’ll immerse yourself in the genuine rural life of Laos, observing dedicated farmers tending to their fields, passing through charming villages, and relishing the beauty of the surroundings.
One of our most cherished ways to uncover hidden treasures is by renting a motorbike (or scooter) and venturing off the beaten path. With the freedom to pause for snapshots, indulge in fresh fruits from roadside stalls, or savor the panoramic views, renting a motorbike becomes an absolute pleasure. It’s a chance to connect with the essence of the countryside and embrace the slower pace of authentic local life.
Where to stay in Luang Prabang
It’s a good idea to stay right in the center to make the most of the town’s attractions and ensure you can kickstart your 10-day Laos itinerary with early mornings. Plus, going on foot helps you keep some money in your pocket. To help you decide, here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Luang Prabang, catering to different budgets.
LUXURY | Maison Dalabua
Nestled amidst serene lotus ponds and lush tropical greenery, Maison Dalabua offers a serene and stunning retreat. Their generously sized, air-conditioned rooms come equipped with all the essentials, while the swimming pool and spa services promise relaxation. With a prime spot merely a brief stroll away from the Night Market and Royal Palace, it’s an excellent launching pad for city exploration. The welcoming and helpful staff ensures a tranquil and pleasant stay and complimentary bicycle rentals open up avenues for discovering local gems.
MID-RANGE | Sadakham Hotel
Indulge in a cozy and hassle-free stay at Sadakham Hotel, where you can relish mountain vistas and take advantage of complimentary bikes and a charming garden. The hotel presents well-appointed air-conditioned rooms complete with essential conveniences and top-notch room service. Begin your day with a delectable breakfast featuring a variety of choices, including American, Asian, and vegetarian options. The warm and accommodating staff strives to make your stay memorable, going the extra mile to provide a welcoming and supportive atmosphere.
BUDGET | Mali House
Mali House is a charming guest house boasting an ideal setting and immaculate, inviting rooms. Situated conveniently near shops, markets, and popular tourist spots, it makes exploration effortless. The hospitable owner adds a personal touch, ensuring your stay is pleasant and serene. You’ll find convenience in airport transfers and bicycle rentals. Notably, a coffee shop right on the premises adds to the excellent value for money.
Where to eat in Luang Prabang
Khaiphaen – Beyond serving authentic Lao cuisine, they also champion a noble cause by aiding street children.
Bouang – For a hip fusion of Asian and Western fare, including enticing vegetarian options.
Yuni Yupoun Restaurant – Discover a cozy ambiance and an eclectic menu offering culinary delights from around the globe.
Two Little Birds Cafe – Craving a nourishing breakfast? Delight in their fantastic breakfast bowls.
Saffron Coffee – Begin your day with a morning coffee while gazing at the serene Mekong landscape. Their menu features all-day breakfast and light lunch options.
How to get around Luang Prabang
When you arrive in Luang Prabang, whether it’s at the airport, bus station, or slow boat terminal, you can easily catch a Songthaew (pickup trucks with benches at the back) or tuk-tuks to take you into the town.
Luang Prabang’s main sites and attractions are conveniently close to each other, making it feasible to explore everything on foot.
If walking isn’t your preference, you can negotiate with tuk-tuk drivers or use the Loca app (similar to Uber) to hail a cab.
For independent travel beyond the city, consider renting a scooter. However, keep in mind that Lao roads can be a bit challenging due to potholes and gravel. To ensure a smooth experience, opt for a reputable motorbike rental. Read reviews thoroughly or ask your hotel for recommendations. We suggest booking a scooter with discoverlaostoday for a reliable choice.
How to get from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
Navigating through Northern Laos is a breeze, thanks to a variety of transportation choices such as shared minivans, local buses, and trains. For your safety, it’s advisable to opt for daytime travel. A shared minivan ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng typically spans around 6 hours due to road conditions.
An even more appealing option is the state-of-the-art high-speed train, a recent addition that seamlessly connects major cities like Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane. This offers a swift and convenient travel experience. To secure your spot, make sure to pre-book your train seats through 12GoAsia, as these seats tend to fill up quickly. Remarkably, the train journey takes only about an hour, and the fare matches that of the minivan. The choice is clear – a comfortable train ride for me!
Laos Itinerary Day 5 – 8 | Vang Vieng
Heading south of Luang Prabang, we arrive in Vang Vieng, the adventure capital of Laos. Surrounded by impressive karst mountains, it’s a great place to enjoy nature, explore blue lagoons and caves, go on excursions, or leisurely float down the river in a canoe or tube.
Once known for its lively backpacker parties, Vang Vieng has cleaned up its act and now presents itself as an outdoor and adventure destination. The main draw here is the stunning limestone formations that create some of the most amazing views in Laos. Don’t miss out on the incredible viewpoints, even if it means enduring a bit of heat to reach them.
Vang Vieng became famous among backpackers for its wild river tubing scene. While it’s tamer now, the picturesque Nam Song River offers a perfect setting for tubing or kayaking.
Consider renting a motorbike to explore the area more extensively, including the turquoise lagoons and nearby caves. Your days can be filled with exciting activities, capped off by leisurely walks through stunning rice fields at sunset.
If you’re a nature lover, Vang Vieng is definitely worth a visit during your 10-day Laos Itinerary. There’s so much to do in Vang Vieng that you can easily spend two to four days enjoying all the experiences it offers.
Best things to do in Vang Vieng
As mentioned earlier, Vang Vieng is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The next few days on your Laos Itinerary are packed with thrilling activities to keep your adrenaline flowing. Here’s a rundown of the best things to experience in Vang Vieng on your 10-day Laos Itinerary.
Hike to one of the many viewpoints
To fully embrace the awe-inspiring beauty of Vang Vieng, consider embarking on a hike to one of the nearby viewpoints.
Nam Xay viewpoint
Among the most popular viewpoints is the renowned Nam Xay viewpoint. Once you reach the top, get ready for that classic photo op with a motorbike – it’s become quite the icon. Yet, be aware, this hike isn’t a walk in the park. The paths can be uneven, those rocks a bit spiky, and some parts can get pretty steep. So, definitely gear up with some sturdy shoes, keep your hands free for balance, and don’t forget to bring along plenty of water. Depending on how fast you go, the hike usually takes about 30 minutes or so. The entrance fee is 10,000 LAK (roughly €0.50 cents). The best time for this spot is during sunset – it’s no secret, so it can get a tad crowded up there. To beat the rush and make your way down safely before darkness falls, we’d recommend heading up a bit earlier.
Pha Ngern viewpoint
If you are up for another challenge, head out for a captivating hike to the Pha Ngern viewpoint. Just a heads-up, there are three viewpoints with the same name on Google; we’re referring to the following Pha Ngern Viewpoint. You’ll need a ticket for this one too, costing around 10,000 kip (~€0.50 cents). This trail kicks it up a notch from the Nam Xay route, with a more rugged terrain, but we had so much fun doing this one!
We’d suggest kicking off your hike early in the morning to beat the heat and get the most out of it. The climb usually takes around 30 minutes to reach the top, depending on how speedy you are. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to hit the second and third viewpoints, add about 45 more minutes to your journey. Trust me, the view from the summit is an absolute stunner – a full-on 360-degree panorama that makes all the effort so worth it.
Swim in the turquoise Blue Lagoons
Let’s talk about one of Vang Vieng’s shining stars – its captivating blue lagoons! There’s a total of six lagoons (they go by the names Blue Lagoon 1, 2, 3, and so on), all just a short drive from the town. They’re like little natural pools with inviting turquoise water where you can take a dip and relax.
Blue Lagoon 1 is the most popular, especially on weekends when both tourists and locals gather there. This one is easy to combine with those nice viewpoints we talked about earlier. Blue Lagoon 2 is cute, with a wooden footbridge – a nice spot for a picnic. If you’re looking for a quieter time, go for Blue Lagoon 3 – it’s a bit of a drive from Vang Vieng, but the calm atmosphere and beautiful blue water make it worth it. There’s more to enjoy – like zip lines, rope swings, diving spots, and even a climb to a viewpoint that’s worth the effort. Some people also combine this with a visit to the Phapoungkham cave. For each lagoon, you’ll pay around 10,000 kip per person as an entrance fee.
There are multiple options on how to get to these lagoons – you can rent a bike, grab a scooter, or even ride in a buggy. But keep in mind, the roads leading to the lagoons can be a bit rough, so biking might not be the smoothest ride. Even riding a scooter had its moments, and we saw quite a few folks choosing those dirt buggies instead.
Quick heads up! – be cautious around the lagoons, especially with parking. Some people might try to act like “parking officers” and ask for money. And watch out for toll collectors on the roads and bridges – they can be a bit persistent about getting cash from you.
Explore Vang Vieng’s caves
Vang Vieng is a treasure trove of caves, each offering its own style and level of challenge. From the easily accessible and well-lit Tham Chang to the more mysterious nameless caves, there’s something for every type of adventurer. Some caves are breathtakingly beautiful, some less impressive, and a few might even give you a thrill (remember to bring a flashlight!).
Tham Chang is a natural marvel that guarantees an unforgettable experience for anyone who enters. After climbing a set of stairs, you’ll journey into the heart of the cave. Inside, you’ll encounter an array of mesmerizing rock formations and intricate limestone structures, shaped by nature over countless years. The cool and mysterious atmosphere inside the cave provides a refreshing escape from the world outside.
Another popular choice is the well-known Tham Phu Kham Cave, conveniently situated near Blue Lagoon 1. While we didn’t have the chance to explore Tham Nam (Water Cave), located approximately 15km north of Vang Vieng, it promises a unique adventure of tubing through its passages. This blend of walking and swimming adds an extra layer of fun and excitement to the exploration.
Tour the Nam Song River by Tube or Kayak
Vang Vieng’s claim to fame (or perhaps notoriety) was none other than tubing! Despite a stricter approach by the government towards river tubing and riverside bars, tubing remains a popular and exciting way to experience the river. Now focused more on the adventure itself than the wild parties, tubing offers a safer but no less thrilling ride down the waterway.
Slide into a tube, let the gentle current guide you along, and take in the scenic beauty as you sip on a refreshing beer. Although some riverside bars remain, the emphasis is on relaxation and enjoyment rather than partying. These stops offer a chance for refreshments and games before you continue your journey down the river. The entire tubing experience takes a couple of hours, depending on water levels and currents, giving you ample time to take in the picturesque landscape. Just remember to bring a dry bag to keep your belongings safe!
To join in the tubing excitement, you can rent a tube from the designated rental spot for around 60,000 Kip (approximately €3). A refundable deposit of the same amount is required upon rental, to be returned when you bring back the tube unscathed. The tube rental fee also covers a short tuk-tuk ride to the tubing starting point.
If tubing doesn’t pique your interest, there are alternative options available. You can opt for a leisurely kayak ride down the river or embark on a tranquil longtail boat journey, offering a more relaxed yet equally scenic experience.
Rent a scooter or dune buggy to cruise the countryside
If you’re eager to get out of Vang Vieng and see the beautiful countryside, renting a scooter is a great idea. It’s the best way to reach viewpoints, blue lagoons, and rice fields. With your own scooter, you can go off the main roads and really enjoy the natural beauty of the area. You’ll ride through charming villages, see lush rice fields, and feel the excitement of riding on the open road. The terrain might be a bit rough and the roads aren’t as good as in Thailand, so keep that in mind. Depending on the time of year, a buggy might be better for navigating muddy roads.
Soar High with a Hot Air Balloon Adventure
If you’ve always dreamt of taking a hot air balloon ride, Vang Vieng offers one of the most budget-friendly opportunities in the world. These rides are available both in the morning and evening, allowing you to experience the sunrise or sunset from above (depending on weather conditions). The cost is approximately €95 per person for a 30-minute flight over the city, and €119 for a one-hour flight amidst the mountains. While the idea of seeing Vang Vieng from the sky sounds enchanting, it’s important to note that the hot air balloon rides here have gained a reputation for falling short of expectations. Many balloons don’t venture far, only ascending to about 600-800 meters before descending back to their starting point. Additionally, the flights are relatively brief.
Where to stay in Vang Vieng
Similar to Luang Prabang, the heart of Vang Vieng is conveniently compact and easily navigable by foot. Nowadays, Vang Vieng offers a wide range of accommodation choices. While upscale hotels have been popping up, catering more to Korean and Chinese tourists than budget backpackers, there are still numerous affordable options to choose from.
LUXURY | Riverside Boutique Resort
Situated along the picturesque Nam Song River, the exquisite Riverside Boutique Resort boasts elegant French colonial architecture and a tasteful ethnic design. Guests can unwind by the poolside or savor a cocktail on the terrace, watching the sun gracefully dip behind the breathtaking mountains.
MID-RANGE | Bearlinbungalow
Vang Vieng’s uniqueness truly shines through in places like Bearlinbungalow. Nestled amidst rice fields and surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, this set of bungalows offers an unmatched experience. Wake up to an awe-inspiring view and enjoy the convenience of an onsite restaurant and swimming pool. The attentive staff can arrange bike and moped rentals as well as laundry services, ensuring a comfortable stay.
BUDGET | Domon Riverside Hotel
For budget-conscious travelers, Domon Riverside Hotel is a great find. This centrally located hotel provides air-conditioned rooms, often with balconies offering city views, all at a reasonable price. Guests can also enjoy the property’s garden and indulge in an Asian breakfast. The helpful staff adds to the overall positive experience.
Where to eat in Vang Vieng
When compared to Luang Prabang, the dining scene in Vang Vieng is relatively modest, with a limited selection of standout eateries. Nonetheless, we did manage to discover a handful of delightful places to satisfy your taste buds during your stay:
Lotus restaurant – Just a short walk outside the main city, across the bridge, lies Lotus Restaurant. We were pleasantly surprised by the incredible food here. The chicken steak and duck laap (larb) were both exceptionally delicious. This charming little eatery exudes a cozy atmosphere and is run by lovely owners who make the experience even better.
Kiwi Kitchen – Whether it’s a scrumptious breakfast or a hearty Sunday roast, Kiwi Restaurant has you covered. The perfect spot to unwind and indulge in fantastic food, all while soaking in the serene riverside view. With an extensive menu offering a variety of dishes, there’s something for every palate.
Kapphet-Vegan – If you’re seeking a delectable vegan experience, look no further than Kapphet-Vegan. A charming family-owned establishment with a genuine passion for its food. The delightful smoothies, teas, and vegan dishes were a true delight.
Namfonh restaurant – For some of the best culinary delights in Laos, we highly recommend Namfonh Restaurant. The mango sticky rice left a lasting impression, prompting us to return for more and sample the equally delightful fried chicken and Papaya salad. The fruit shakes were a refreshing treat too.
Happy Mango Thai restaurant – This popular Thai eatery offers a range of authentic Thai dishes that are sure to satisfy your cravings. While prices might be a bit higher than local joints, the quality of the fresh and piping hot food, along with generous portions, make it a worthwhile choice.
How to get around Vang Vieng
The main part of Vang Vieng is centered on a single long street and a few smaller ones branching off. It’s not a huge area, and you can easily walk around the town itself. However, if you want to explore the surrounding countryside, you’ll need some way to get around.
The best way to see the sights in and around Vang Vieng is by renting a scooter. Having a scooter gives you the freedom to go beyond the town and enjoy the beautiful landscapes around you. We recommend checking out Discoverlaos.today for renting an E-scooter. It’s a practical option because finding gas stations can be a bit tricky, and the battery of an E-scooter usually lasts for a full day of exploring. If you’re visiting during the rainy season or want to go off the usual paths, you might consider renting a dirt buggy, especially since the roads in Laos can be a bit challenging at times.
To get to or from the train or bus station, the most efficient and budget-friendly option is to take one of the songthaews. They’re always around and provide a convenient way to get where you need to go.
How to get from Vang Vieng to Vientiane
Once again, the most recommended way to continue your journey is by taking a minivan or train. If you opt for a minivan, the ride to Vientiane usually takes about 2 hours on the new highway. You can easily secure your tickets through a local travel agent or conveniently online via 12GoAsia. Alternatively, you can choose the train option, which typically takes around 1-2 hours to reach Vientiane, depending on the type of train you select. The new high-speed trains offer a smooth travel experience. To ensure you have a seat, it’s a good idea to book your train tickets in advance through 12GoAsia, as these seats tend to fill up quickly.
Laos Itinerary Day 9 – 10 | Vientiane
The next stop on our 10-day Laos itinerary brings us to Vientiane, the capital and largest city of Laos. While some online reviews might be mixed, we were pleasantly surprised by what this city had in store. While Vientiane doesn’t boast the same bustling energy as Bangkok or Hanoi, it offers a unique charm and hidden gems for those who approach it with an open mind. We relished in leisurely strolls through its quaint streets, engaging with warm and friendly locals, and embracing the unhurried rhythm of life. The city’s food and cafe scene also impressed us, featuring chic French-style cafes nestled amidst the urban landscape.
Vientiane’s position along the Mekong Delta offers stunning vistas and a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Walking along the riverbank promenade became a favorite pastime, allowing us to unwind and savor the tranquil ambiance. While Vientiane offers some cool must-do activities, you won’t need to dedicate too much time to this mellow capital on your 10-day Laos itinerary. Instead, consider saving your exploration for the final 24 hours before departing from Laos, especially if your flight takes off from Vientiane.
Best things to do in Vientiane
While Vientiane may not be filled with numerous well-known tourist spots, it still boasts significant landmarks, temples, and shrines that hold their own importance. You definitely shouldn’t miss the iconic Patuxai Victory Monument and a visit to the COPE Visitor Centre, shedding light on Laos’ role in the Vietnam War. For a more unique experience, venture to Buddha Park, a bit farther from the city center, where a curious assortment of statues from Hindu and Buddhist mythology awaits—some even large enough to step inside!
Marvel at the Patuxay Monument
The Patuxay Victory Monument, often referred to as the “Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane,” stands as a notable landmark in the capital city of Laos. Constructed during the 1960s, it serves as a symbol of national pride, commemorating Laos’ struggle for independence from colonial rule. The name “Patuxay” translates to the “Gate of Triumph,” carrying inscriptions that honor the courage of those who fought for the nation’s sovereignty.
As you pass by this towering archway, a hint of Europe may cross your mind. While inspired by the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, a closer look reveals intricate Lao motifs, a blend that mirrors Vientiane’s rich cultural fusion. Its architecture harmoniously merges traditional Lao elements with French colonial design, boasting detailed carvings and exquisite sculptures.
In the past, ascending the monument’s staircases led to a rewarding panorama atop the observation deck, offering a captivating view of Vientiane’s layout and the surrounding landscape. Regrettably, due to inadequate maintenance, access to the observation deck is no longer available.
Roam around the artistic Buddha Park
Located roughly an hour away from the city, Buddha Park (or Laos Xieng Khuan) is a captivating destination featuring a diverse array of statues from both Buddhist and Hindu mythology. A visit to this quirky open-air sculpture park reveals a collection of over 200 massive concrete sculptures, depicting Buddha, Hindu deities, as well as a mix of unique human figures to divine beings and even some more unconventional depictions like demons. One of the highlights is a towering dome that offers an excellent panoramic view of the entire park when climbed. Created in the 1950s by a priest-shaman, the park carries an intriguing blend of ancient-looking artistry and modern craftsmanship.
For art and sculpture enthusiasts, this park stands as one of the most captivating tourist spots in Vientiane. During our visit, we found the park to be a picturesque and serene haven, exuding a sense of uniqueness at every turn. The backdrop of vibrant flowers and lush greenery adds to its photogenic charm.
Entrance to the park is approximately 40,000 kip for foreign visitors (about €2), and you can expect to spend around two hours exploring. Arriving early is advisable to avoid both the scorching heat and the crowds that start to gather around 11 am when tour buses arrive. To reach the park, you can opt for a private car or take the budget-friendly route by catching local bus no.14 from Talat Sao Bus station, costing around 6,000 kip (about €0.30) per person for a one-way trip, with buses departing every 20 minutes.
COPE visitor center
If you want to learn about Laos’ devastating history, a visit to COPE is highly recommended. As foreigners, we were unaware of the significant impact that Laos endured during the secret war of the 1960s and 70s. Throughout the Vietnam War, the USA dropped a staggering 2 million tonnes of bombs on Laos, earning it the grim distinction of being the most heavily bombed country on the planet. This relentless assault left a profound mark on the local population, resulting in numerous tragic amputations and casualties. To this day, many unexploded bombs still litter the Laotian landscape, posing an ongoing threat to the people.
COPE plays a crucial role in providing prosthetic limbs to the victims of these devastating bombings. The lasting consequences of unexploded cluster bombs continue to haunt and harm the Laotian community, underscoring the urgent need for support and awareness. The COPE Visitor Centre serves as an eye-opening experience, featuring exhibits that shed light on the bombings, the process of prosthetic care, rehabilitation efforts, and the ongoing mission to clear the land of dangerous remnants. It’s a profoundly moving encounter that offers essential insights into the resilience of this nation.
While confronting the somber aspects of Laos’ war-ravaged past, a visit to COPE parallels our educational experiences like our exploration of the S21 prison and Killing Fields in Cambodia. These encounters, while emotionally challenging, provide a deeper understanding of the region’s history and the indomitable spirit of its people.
Tour the temples of Vientiane
While it might not boast the same cultural allure as Luang Prabang or the natural charm of Vang Vieng, Vientiane offers a respectable array of temples that can make for a delightful morning exploration. Scattered throughout the central city area, you’ll come across numerous quaint Wats on your Laos Itinerary.
Pha That Luang – Standing tall at 45 meters, this gold-covered Buddhist stupa is truly iconic. Regarded as Laos’ national symbol, its dazzling golden dome is a sight to behold, symbolizing both Buddhist faith and the sovereignty of the Lao people.
Haw Phra Kaew – Once a regal temple, this meticulously restored structure has been transformed into a museum housing a captivating collection of Buddhist artifacts and statues.
Wat Si Muang – A sanctuary believed to harbor the guardian spirit of Vientiane, Wat Si Muang holds profound significance as a spiritual hub for the locals.
Wat SiSaket – Renowned for its cloister walls adorned with an abundance of petite Buddha images, Wat Si Saket stands as one of Vientiane’s oldest and most splendid temples.
That Dam (Black stupa) – While not as ornate as its counterparts, the enigmatic That Dam carries an aura of legend, casting an intriguing veil over the cityscape.
Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan – This temple is home to a captivating reclining Buddha statue, serving as a showcase of intricate architectural details and captivating interior designs.
Stroll around the riverside promenade
The riverside promenade in Vientiane provides a peaceful escape along the Mekong River. You can enjoy scenic views during sunset, engage in outdoor activities like jogging and cycling, try local snacks from food stalls, and explore monuments. It’s a popular spot for river cruises, offering a glimpse into local life and culture. The promenade is a relaxing place to unwind, interact with locals, and take in the beauty of the river and surroundings.
Where to stay in Vientiane
Since you’ve got only a single day on your Laos itinerary for Vientiane, it’s wise to pick a hotel near the city center. There are plenty of reasonably priced accommodations available. Opting for a central location will make it convenient to explore all the main attractions by walking, biking, taking the public bus, or using the Loca rideshare app for taxis.
LUXURY | Lao Poet Hotel
The Lao Poet Hotel offers beautifully decorated rooms with essential amenities. The rooftop provides stunning city views, and there’s an outdoor pool with a terrace. The hotel features a bar, restaurant, and a 24-hour front desk with exceptionally helpful staff. Enjoy a continental, American, or Asian breakfast each morning. The hotel’s interior design is thoughtfully curated, and the price-to-quality ratio is impressive. If you prefer a more colonial style, try Settha Palace Hotel.
MID-RANGE | Salana Boutique Hotel
Salana Hotel offers beautifully designed rooms adorned with rich dark wood furnishings. After a day of adventure, unwind at Sarila Spa with pampering beauty treatments and massages. The hotel also boasts a business corner and a cozy library. Head to The Living Room sky bar to sip refreshing cocktails and enjoy fine wines while taking in mesmerizing views of the Mekong River and the city’s vibrant nightlife. Conveniently located amidst a variety of eateries, Salana Hotel’s in-house dining is exceptional and the staff is known for their warm and friendly service.
BUDGET | Nana Backpacker Hostel
Discover the ultimate backpacker haven in Vientiane – Nana Backpacker Hostel. Connect with fellow travelers in dorms or private rooms. Dive into the pool, enjoy the riverside view, and shoot pool. Stay social with outdoor spaces, a small gym, and evening music. Bike rentals, friendly staff, and a cool vibe await. Unwind with a free drink during happy hour.
Where to eat in Vientiane
Cafe Vanille – Step into a serene oasis at Cafe Vanille. Indulge in delightful and light dishes or savor wonderful croissants and viennoiseries. Their espresso is a treat. The laid-back and chic ambiance, along with the spaciousness, creates the perfect setting to unwind.
Le Trio café – Coffee enthusiasts will find their haven here. Dive into a variety of healthy and tasty food and drinks. The coffee is exceptional, and the service is top-notch. Arrive before 9:00 am to relish fresh-baked croissants. With friendly staff and a relaxing atmosphere, it’s a great spot for a hot drink.
Foodhouse Laos – We stumbled upon this awesome spot just around the corner from our hotel. The place looks modern and stylish. Seriously, everything here is top-notch, from their Lao sausage to the zesty papaya salad. The staff is absolutely friendly, making it a welcoming spot for great Thai/Lao food and coffee. Try their iced dalgona!
ຕຳປາກຫມາ – You want a taste of local goodness? This spot is as local as it gets! We noticed it was packed with locals, and that’s always a good sign. The next day, we tried their signature noodle dish, and it was out-of-this-world amazing.
Noy’s Fruit Heaven – Need a refreshing juice or a light breakfast? Noy’s Fruit Heaven has your back. Fresh and healthy stuff all around. Perfect for a quick pick-me-up.
Roti House – Craving some real Indian food? Roti House is where it’s at. The food is seriously delicious, and the staff is super helpful. Savor a diverse range of flavorful Indian dishes from the menu, including satisfying options for vegetarians.
How to get around Vientiane
When you arrive at Vientiane’s train station, make your way directly to the buses stationed there. These buses are usually ready for passengers arriving by train and depart once they’re filled up. Opting for the bus is both economical and efficient for reaching the city center, especially since the train station is slightly outside that area. To find specific routes and bus details, refer to the official lao.busnavi.asia website.
Navigating Vientiane’s city center on foot is entirely feasible, given its relatively compact size. Another viable option is bike rental, allowing you to explore at your own pace.
For longer distances within larger cities like Vientiane, convenient and budget-friendly travel options include tuk-tuks and taxis. Consider downloading the Loca app for hassle-free arrangements or haggling with a tuk-tuk driver for a reasonable fare.
Extending your Laos Itinerary
If you’re looking to pick up the pace or have more than 10 days to spare on your Laos itinerary, consider incorporating these additional destinations into your journey. Should you only have a couple of extra days, we suggest extending your stay in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang to avoid overwhelming your Laos itinerary.
Nestled three hours north of Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw is a quaint village along the Ou River in Northern Laos, surrounded by breathtaking limestone mountains. Adventurers seeking a rustic experience can explore caves, embark on hikes, or simply unwind in hammocks. The Pha Tok Caves, situated within a limestone cliff, offer a unique exploration opportunity. Hiking through jungle terrain, rice terraces, and waterfalls is an option, along with immersive homestay treks. The laid-back town is famed for its herbal steam baths, while independent hikes to scenic viewpoints above the town provide panoramic vistas.
Pakse & Bolaven Plateau
Pakse, the capital of the Champassak region, serves as Southern Laos’ gateway, most people take the overnight train to get there. Offering a mix of urban charm and convenient access to the Bolaven Plateau, Pakse is a launchpad for further exploration. The Bolaven Plateau boasts stunning waterfalls, cooler climates, and verdant forests. This region also showcases numerous coffee plantations and opportunities for waterfall swims. Organized tours or self-guided motorbike adventures can lead you to these natural wonders. Experience Pakse’s tranquility, ascend Phousalao temple for panoramic sunsets and dedicate a day to uncovering the ancient ruins of Wat Phu, reminiscent of Angkor Wat’s architecture.
Si Phan Don, comprises a collection of 4,000 islands, both large and small, this captivating expanse materialized through the Mekong River’s intricate fragmentation.
Don Det is a captivating island within the Si Phan Don archipelago, situated at Laos’ southern tip along the Cambodian border. This lush haven is a sanctuary for backpackers seeking relaxation on their Laos itinerary. Life here unfolds at a leisurely pace, offering hammock-bound riverside moments and casual riverside dining. While Don Det lacks extreme activities, you can savor sunsets during a river cruise or spot Irrawaddy dolphins on a Mekong riverboat excursion.
Laos Itinerary Essential Resources
FLIGHTS | Find the best deals for flights to Laos with Skyscanner.
TRANSFERS | Ready to travel to your next destination in Laos? Book your bus or train tickets via 12go.
HOTELS | Browse Booking.com for accommodations in Laos, from budget hostels to luxury hotels.
We hope this 10-day Laos Itinerary Guide helps you out planning for your exciting upcoming trip. You can show some ❤ and support for the blog and help us share more adventures! Our travels are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated. It allows us to keep writing helpful travel guides and gather information to make it easier for people to discover the world.