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Laos is a country that travelers often omit when visiting Southeast Asia—yet, once visited, it proves impossible to forget. From the mysterious Plain of Jars to rocks infused with dinosaur bones, from the lazy charm of Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) to the soaring eaves of Luang Prabang, every type of traveler will find things to do in Laos. With the exception of Vang Vieng, a tourist-oriented town in the nation’s center, Laos remains largely unspoiled. Fascinating tribal cultures sit alongside fine French restaurants, while simple stilt homes nestle beside gilded stupas.
Like much of Southeast Asia, Laos has two seasons: the dry season, which is hot and sunny, and the rainy season, which is hot, wet, and humid. Patchy road conditions mean travel is generally easiest during the dry season, roughly from October to May. But if you’re hoping to cruise the Mekong, you’ll want to visit during the wet season, when waters are higher. Smoke from agricultural burning can be an issue from March through May.
The Chinese high-speed rail system has transformed transportation in Laos, slashing journey times between Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and beyond. Off the rails, however, travel remains an old-fashioned affair. Cities and countryside feature a bewildering array of tuk-tuks, pickups, and similar vehicles; bus journeys are long and slow; and Mekong river trips are at the mercy of weather conditions. But it’s not all ba:. Limited traffic means Vientiane and Luang Prabang are a delight to walk in.
Eating out mindfully in Laos can mean a taste sensation, too. In Luang Prabang, try Tamarind, run by a husband-and-wife team. The restaurant serves traditional Lao dishes sustainably sourced from small-scale suppliers, and the team even runs a cooking school here, too. In Vientiane, head to Doi Ka Noi, run by Laos’ only Slow Food member, Ponpailin “Noi” Kaewduangdy, who often picks ingredients from her garden.
Yes. Although infrastructure is patchy, Laos is a great destination for travelers with a sense of adventure and no mobility restrictions. The ancient royal city of Luang Prabang is the best known of the nation’s three UNESCO World Heritage sites, while great food, rich tribal traditions, and outstanding hiking charm throughout the nation....More
The UNESCO-listed city of Luang Prabang is Laos’ most famous tourist destination. Positioned at the meeting point of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, it offers gilded temples, alms-seeking monks, vibrant night markets, lush river trips, and tranquil countryside—not to mention a wealth of boutique hotels and fine dining restaurants....More
Beyond Luang Prabang, Laos has something to offer almost every type of traveler, from fascinating cultural experiences to the local and French-influenced food Gordon Ramsay praised. Adventurous travelers can try hiking, ziplining, kayaking, cave tubing, rock climbing, and more; culture vultures can enjoy village stays, handicrafts, and historic temples....More
That depends. If you only want to see Luang Prabang, three days is enough. If you’d like to get a taste of the country’s full diversity, from the mountainous north to the riverine south, you’ll need three weeks. One week is enough to cover Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Vang Vieng....More
Luang Prabang is a better choice for first-time visitors to Laos than Vientiane, though you should really visit both. Vientiane is Laos’ capital, but Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautifully preserved architecture, timeless culture, and a wealth of hotels at all price points....More
Yes. Though not quite as cheap as its low average income would suggest, affordable street food and public transit mean backpackers can travel Laos for around US$35 per day if they stay in hostel dorms. Luxury lovers can splurge over 30 times that amount on 5-star hotels such as Luang Prabang’s Amantaka....More
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