Cycling the south of Laos

by tkos on March 30, 2013

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Laos is reported to be some of the best cycling in the world, but it is a country of two halves. The south offers solid highways, good distance and quality roads. With a couple of mountain ranges in there for some altitude, cycling south Laos is a great way to get from Cambodia to northern Thailand or Vientiane.

Everything north of Vientiane is a bit of a different world. We decided not to venture north but to dip into Thailand instead. However, there is an abundance of information re the Vientiane to Luang Prubang route. Most famous for it’s inclines, the route will take you from 400m above sea level to 1800m in no time at all. Finding ourselves on a bit of a time limit, we had no choice but to leave the north of Laos for another time.

Overall, the cycling in Laos is pretty straightforward. Guesthouses line to highway every 50-60km and there is a place to stop for food (usually soup) every 5-10km. The people are super friendly and many cyclists opt to camp either on the side of the road or in a temple (where they usually get  a shower).

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 What we loved the most:

  • We entered Laos through the south east border with Vietnam. There is not a lot about on the Vietnamese side (Po Y) and nothing for the first 120km once you cross the border. This means you get to camp in the beautiful outdoors amongst the mountains, waking up above the cloud line and enjoying some great hills to the town of Attapue. This was one of the best (and most challenging at times) cycles of the trip so far. Absolute scenic beauty!
  • can provide a wealth of information and help. From finding the closest thing to a bike shop in Savannakhet to hanging out with the racing community in Vientiane. If you’ve tried couchsurfing before and spend most of your time on a bicycle, then Warmshowers is definitely for you.

What was like a broken spoke:

  • If you’re a big fan of noodle soup, then you will have no problems in Laos. The larger towns of Pakse, Savannakhet and Vientiane have a fantastic selection of food, both local and international. However, in between these towns, the villages quite often offer a range of grilled meats on a stick, including skewered rat, and other unidentifiable chewy meaty treats or of course, noodle soup. 
  • The road is in good condition along Highway 13, as is the road from Vietnam to Pakse. However, the trucks and buses can sometimes get a little close and we only hope that they see us to gauge how close they are actually getting!

Top tips:

  • You can find some absolutely amazing, creative yet authentic Lao food in Makphet restaurant in Vientiane. Founded by Friends International, the restaurant is also set up to address the needs of street children and young people in Lao also. But quite simply, the quality of the food is incentive enough! Absolutely fantastic and many dishes come in half serving portions so you can try twice as many!!

What’s it cost:

  • The local currency is Kip. For US$1 you get about 7,800 LAK or GBP£1 will get you about 11,800 LAK. Laos is a little more expensive than it’s neighburs, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
  • A guesthouse  with a fan is about 50,000, 80,000 for a basic room with air conditioning and you can easily pay up to 150,000+ in the bigger towns.
  • A basic meal (noodle soup) is 25,000-35,000. Water is 5,000 but you can quite often find restaurants with 20L bottles that will let you fill up your bottle for free.
TownKM'sNightsWhere we slept
Po Y (Border)01Wild Camp
Attapue1161Guest House
Ban Thateng1231Guest House
Pakse871Guest House
Lak Honsi1081Guest House
Savannakhet1302Warm Showers
Thakek1301Guest House
Ban Na Hine1031Guest House
Thabok1421Guest House
Vientiane942Warm Showers


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