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Backpacking in Laos

Backpackers who are still looking for the original rucksack experience will still find traces of it in Laos. About 15 years ago, the predominantly Buddhist Laos was still a white spot on the backpacker travel map. But quickly the country became an in-travel destination because of its then still ridiculously cheap prices. There were hardly any overnight accommodations and everything was still quite rustic. Simply because the scene was still going wild in neighbouring Thailand.

Today Laos is an integral part of every Southeast Asian backpacker trip. Of course this also has an effect on the prices. But don’t panic! It is not expensive in the country, which is surrounded by China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. You should know a few geographical facts about the entrance. The country is about as big as Great Britain. However, only about 6.5 million inhabitants live in Laos on an area of 236,800 km². In England at least well over 56 million. A lot of space to let off steam.

Backpacking in Laos - Landschaft und Kultur

Backpacking in Laos – Landscape and Culture

The capital is called Vientiane. It is considered to be the most rural of all capitals in the region. Not very busy, but still interesting. To come back to the prices again. With a daily rate of 15 to 20 Euros you can easily get through. Sure, you can treat yourself to something and spend more. Even less goes. For a few cents, put a rich rice or pasta dish in your stomach and the day is over. You also save a lot of money because you hardly have to resort to public transport. There are not many. As already said, the country is quaint, contemplative and in terms of traffic infrastructure not exactly comparable to Berlin or New York. But you feel just like at home. Simply because everything is so pleasantly stress-free.

What is there to experience backpacking in Laos?

You won’t encounter salty water during your backpacker trip through Laos, because Laos is a landlocked country. You can’t party on the seashore, but you can party in Vang Vieng, a small town surrounded by karst formations and dense rainforest. There is a lot going on at the local market, where you can buy all kinds of local delicacies. However, the party fun has diminished a bit due to strong controls.

Enjoy a sunset on the mighty Mekong River or stroll through the tranquil Vientiane and take a look at the mighty temple complexes. A must for every backpacker trip through Laos is a visit to the old royal capital Luang Prabang, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Those who like Buddha figures will discover in the caves Pak Ou a few thousand of them 4.000 Buddha figures. It is worth visiting the border town Muang Xing, which is known for its festivals. And from Pakse you can plan tours to various highlights in the interior of the country.

Backpacking in Laos - Natur und Berge

Backpacking in Laos – Nature and Mountains

Culture in Laos

Anyone looking for the roots of Laotian culture must be a true connoisseur of etymology. Because even the professionals have been arguing for decades about which ethnic groups are really resident in the country and where they come from. But this should not necessarily confuse you. What is certain is that you will meet a race of people who are bursting with friendliness. Enjoy your stay in the country and take something with you.

Everywhere in Laos you’ll still meet a lot of contemporary witnesses of the old colonial power of France, which once had the say here. But fortunately the Laotians could keep their, albeit somewhat opaque roots, and did not take over too much culture of the former occupiers like in other countries. It is easy to watch again and again, when next to a golden Buddhist temple a triumphal arch rises like in Paris. It doesn’t have to be, but it is so.

The confusion of languages of at least four main languages will anyway only be able to keep the trained ear apart. If you know Thai, you already have a few advantages, but with rudimentary English you should get through without problems.

Keep away from the drugs. In Laos many are already sunken. Even if the Laotians are used to the poppy culture, no drug user enjoys a high reputation in society. For drug offences the death penalty threatens. On your backpacker trip through Laos prepare yourselves for simple sanitary facilities, hard road conditions and a charming geography.

Backpacker Route in Laos

Laos has something else. If you ask what, it means originality. Corners where you can still find the true Asia in its original form. Of course you won’t find these places if you run after the herd. However, you can’t get around some of the best spots without encountering a bunch of other backpackers.

However, get off the beaten path and explore the country and its cultural and geographical diversity intensively on your backpacker trip. This also means that you should take your time. You can certainly check Laos off in two weeks. This is not recommendable as you will miss a lot of interesting spots. What can you see on the backpacker trip through Laos?

2 weeks Laos short trip

  • 2 Days Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) Kayak Tour
  • 2 days Vintaine, explore the capital with the French touch
  • 2 Days Discover Luang Prabang
  • 1 day Khmer Temple Wat Phu in Champasak
  • 1 day rock climbing adventure in Nong Kiau
  • 1 day exploring Tham Kong cave by boat
  • 2 Days 100 Waterfalls Trekking Tour – Start in f Nong Khiaw
  • 2 days exploring the Vieng Xai cave system
  • 1 day elephant trekking near Luang Prabang
  • Experience 2 days of indigenous Katang villages in the protected Dong Phu Vieng National Park

Laos 4 weeks intensive

  • The start is the same as for the short tour
  • 2 Days Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) Kayak Tour
  • 2 days Vintaine, explore the capital with the French touch
  • 2 Days Discover Luang Prabang
  • 1 day Khmer Temple Wat Phu in Champasak
  • 1 day rock climbing adventure in Nong Kiau
  • 1 day exploring Tham Kong cave by boat
  • 2 Days 100 Waterfalls Trekking Tour – Start in f Nong Khiaw
  • 2 days exploring the Vieng Xai cave system
  • 1 day elephant trekking near Luang Prabang.
  • 2 days indigenous Katang villages in the protected Dong Phu Vieng National Park.
  • 1 day by boat down the Mekong River
  • 1 day rice cultivation in the remote Phongsali observe
  • 1 day old tombs visit Plain of the Jars
  • 1 day waterfalls in Bolaven
  • 1 day Van Vieng nightlife and tubing
  • 3 days trekking to the north
  • 1 Visit Nam Ou
  • 2 days visiting Mekong shore towns such as Savannakhet
  • 1 day temple in Tat Luang

Travel times in Laos

You can travel all year round in Laos. It never gets really cold, although it can get 0 degrees in the north at night. Otherwise Laos is more in the tropical zone and that means monsoon, rain, hot and sweating. 90 percent humidity and 34 degrees heat, that’s what the Backpacker Trip is all about. Especially near the capital Vientiane it is warmest.

In April you can expect almost 40 degrees. In the north and east it is cooler, but it pisses more. Up to 300 mm rain go down there in the month. Further up it is twice as much. So without rain protection it becomes really uncomfortable. The rainy season lasts from May to October. The temperature never falls below 20 degrees in the middle of the country. Starting from the European late autumn it becomes then somewhat colder – speak more pleasant with on the average 5 to 8 degrees less.

Backpacker Budget in Laos

One of the front. Laos is no cheaper than Thailand or Vietnam, although the tourist infrastructure is worse. This has a lot to do with the economic situation, which forces the country to import a lot. There is nothing to shake about it, so close your eyes and accept. But it is worth it. Especially because the country is still so original in many corners. Money is best drawn at the machines in the big cities.

There are more and more of them now. Get cash in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Savannekhet, Tha Khaek, Pakse or Luang Namtha. With Visa and MasterCard/Maestro you get your money’s worth. Despite the somewhat higher prices you don’t need much. Calculates between 20 and 40 dollars. A bed in a dorm should be available for 5 Euro. Food costs the same – for 2 meals mind you. It is nice that the entrance to most temples is free of charge.

  • However, not all sights are free.
  • Climbing Phou Si hill costs 1,7 Euro
  • Royal Palace Museum admission 2,7 Euro
  • Kuang Si Falls with the Tuk-Tuk 2,5 Euro
  • Pak Ou caves 2 Euro, but there is also the 2 hour boat trip.

Let’s have a look at the food prices – Backpacker Budget Prices

  • Simple meal 1,5
  • Food in the middle class restaurant for 2 persons 30 Euro
  • McDonalds 3,6 Euro
  • Local beer half litre 1 Euro
  • Import beer (0.33l) 1,4 Euro
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 l) 0.6 Euro
  • Water (0.33 l) 0,2 Euro

Bus fares and domestic fares in Laos for backpackers

The bus ride from Vientiane to Vang Vieng with the local bus costs about 6 Euro. And for a boat trip from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai you have to pay about 20 Euro.

  • Taxi from airport to City 5 Euro
  • 3 km tuk-tuk depending on face 2 – 3 Euro
  • Boat to Huay Xai 20 Euro

You can find out what a domestic flight costs on your backpacker trip on the Laos Airlines website. There you will find flights Luang Prabang – Pakse – Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang – Xieng Khouang – Luang Prabang, Vientiane – Savannakhet – Vientiane and many others. Bus travel is much cheaper.

Backpacker Unterkünfte in Laos

If there’s something cheap in Laos, it’s the accommodation. With a few Euros you have a bed. No matter where in the country. The question almost arises whether you better stay overnight in a hotel or hostel. Those who can spend 10 to 15 Euro per night should stay in a hotel. The service is usually much better than in a hostel.

You won’t find small hostels everywhere. Most of them are located in Luang Prabang, in the capital Vientiane and in the backpacker metropolis Vang Vieng. A bed in a dorm in Laos costs between 3 and 5 euros. As I said, only a little more a room in a hotel. If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Laos, don’t look for hostels but for guesthouses. The offer is much more comprehensive.

In the Mae Thoa Hotel, which is only a few minutes by car from the centre of the capital, you pay 10 Euro. WLAN is still free of charge. If you are travelling together, then this option is certainly worth considering. Other hotels like the Avalon Hotel, Geen Park Boutique Hotel, the Mali Namphu Hotel, the Salana Boutique Hotel, the Settha Palace Hotel or the Chandara Boutique Hotel are a little more expensive, but much more comfortable. More expensive means here: not priceless. You can also use the Bed and Breakfast variant. But you won’t save on the prices there. Be prepared for hotel prices.

Camping in Laos

Backpackers who prefer to camp will not find many organized campsites in the country. Some can be found in national parks, for example. One, for example, is in the Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area. You can reach it on a tour from Vang Vieng. It is also worth spending the night in simple bamboo huts. In the middle of the jungle you will find the Nam Ha Forest Camp in the National Park Luang Namtha’s Nam Ha. Luang Prabang Province. There is also a camping site in the protected region of the Xe Pian. Another site is at the Tad Leuk Waterfalls.

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in Laos

On your backpacker tour through Laos you won’t be travelling through a land of contrasts. At least not in the sense that it’s modern here and original there again. Because it is rustic and original everywhere, even in the capital Vitiane. Rich in contrast, however, in the sense that you’ll come across an incredibly charming geography.

Suck Laos into you and enjoy the backpacker trip to the fullest with slow traveln. What you absolutely must have seen, even if these are parts of the main tourist spots, is Luang Namtha. From there, in the north, you’ll be hitting the bushes. Sure, you can’t get past Luang Prabang with its lively night market, the colonial buildings and the quite multifaceted nightlife for Laos.

If you want to get to know ethnic Laos, head to Muang Xay, also known as Oudomxay. You’ll stop in Pakbeng for a two-day Slow Boat Tour across the Mekong. And from Pakse you start to the Wat Phu ruins and the “four thousand islands” (Si Phan Don). The Phou Hin Boun National Park and the Konglor Caves are best reached from Tha Khaek. You can discover the plain of the jugs from Phonsavan.

And if you want to go on tour by mountain bike, you start in Nong Khiaw. The journey to Muang Ngoi Neua is a bit more adventurous as you can only go there by longtail boat. Trekkers have to do the Ban Nalan Trail and Nong Khiaw, which is surrounded by bizarre karst cliffs, you shouldn’t leave it at all. In Vang Vieng you do tubing in the Nam Song River during the day and at night you party in the pubs.

Backpacking in Laos - Waesche waschen

Backpacking in Laos – Laundry in the river

Backpacker Highlights in Laos

You have to try the delicious noodle soup. It is tasty and costs a button and an egg on every street corner. The same goes for the French-style baguettes. The speedboat rides over the Mekong are definitely an absolute highlight for speed freaks. But beware! These things make a hell of a noise and are often overloaded, which damages the water situation. Better you take the Slow Boat. You’ll get more out of it anyway. Your body will have a great experience if you visit a herbal sauna in the typical Laotian style. Usually you will find the bathhouses near temples. Driving a tuk tuk is part of the Laos backpacker trip like butter on bread.

Backpacker insider tips in Laos

A still little visited highlight in Laos is Viangxai in the northeast of the country. Here you will find a whole series of underground dwellings of the former communist resistance fighters. The Khmer ruins in Champasak leave almost all backpackers on their Laos journey on the left. Laos does not have too many backpacker secrets to offer. The secret to exploring the land in a special way is to slowly discover it. All you have to do to see more than the others is slow traveln. 200 km by bus can take 10 hours. With the taxi it goes faster. Slow Boat, instead of Speedboat. Hire a personal guide in Muang Sing and spend two days in the bushes. If you’re creative, you’ll get other ideas.

Backpacking in Laos - Wasserfaelle

Backpacking in Laos – Water falls

Food & Drinks in Laos

If you have been to Vietnam or Thailand before your Laos backpacker trip, you already know some of the Laotian cuisine. Nevertheless, the cuisine in Laos is not quite comparable to the other two. This is in the nature of things. Laos has no access to the sea. And freshwater fish is not just saltwater fish. Especially as there are completely different animals in the salt water than in the Mekong or other waters in Laos.

In return, you get an extravagant mixture of French and Asian cuisine in Laos. And the fact that the French know something about food is not unknown. Try the delicious baguettes in Vientiane. The classic is the Khao Jee sandwich, which is offered on every street corner. You feel like you’re in Paris. If you’re more into local specialities, you can go for Kaipen (Fried Seaweed) with Jaew Bong. Algae are wrapped in puff pastry and served with a hot sauce.

Khao Poon, a Vermicelli soup, is simple, cheap and tasty. Another classic of the local cuisine are the Laos sausages. These consist of pork and are mixed with herbs. The sausages are air-dried. khao khua is the basis for a delicious Larb salad. You have to try it. Pho is a soup that you can find all over Laos. Offal can be a component in some regions. The spicy papaya salad Tam Mak Hoong tastes really cool. Otherwise, there are in some big cities also the usual international fast food chains. But you don’t have to go there.

Drinking in Laos

You should know that the serving of alcohol to minors under the age of 18 is forbidden. The alcoholic racer in Laos is the very tasty Lao beer. The basis for this is jasmine rice from Laos. The beer is even an export hit. You can see one or more 640 ml bottles in green colour in every convivial backpacker round on the table. The price is between 10,000 and 15,000 kip in pubs for a beer. There are several versions available.

The original (5%), dark (6.5%) and light beer (2.9%). However, those who want to beam themselves away properly can grab the rice schnapps lao-lao. For little money there is a thick head.
Try the tasty strong Lao coffee (kaafeh), which is grown in the mountains around the Bolaven Plateau. You should also try the really good fresh fruit juices. Ice cooled papaya juice in a humid hot climate is a pleasure.

Backpacking in Laos - Landwirtschaft

Backpacking in Laos – Agrar culture

Backpacker Visa and Vaccinations in Laos

What about the entry regulations for Germans? You need a visa. More about that. The necessary travel documents that will allow you to enter Laos as a backpacker:

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: Yes
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Children’s passport: Yes
  • Still valid child ID card according to old model: No

You know for sure that all travel documents you want to take with you must be valid for at least six months. Your children need their own identity document, no matter how old they are.

Vaccination and medical advice

You should have the standard vaccinations when you travel to Laos. If you come from a yellow fever region, you must also be vaccinated against it. Dengue fever is common in Laos. Malaria occurs all year round in Laos. Other health risks include rabies, Japanese encephalitis, melioidosis and leptospirosis. Snake bites are also not uncommon.

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