I just heard a traveller report that last October, he was unable to rent a motorcycle anywhere in Pakse. I was hoping to do 'the loop' by cycle or scooter from Pakse based on Travelfish and various guidebook reports. Is it true that one can no longer rent cycles? Or was this a temporary condition based on transient security issues? Or something else?
Am planning to be there in May.
#1 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33
I was in Pakse late November and at least then there were many places to rent from. The basic models go for 7-8 $ / day. I heartily recommend riding around the Southern provinces, it was one of the highlights of my latest trip.
One word of caution though, the more direct jungle road from Pak Song to Attapeu (via Bang Bengkhua Kham) is a bit of a challenge if you're not experienced, especially in this direction. Magnificient views and interesting ride though, but maybe better in the other direction. For some strange reason the Travelfish map on http://www.travelfish.org/feature/83 doesn't show the other better but less interesting road from Pak Song to Tha Teng.
We arrived in Pakse on January 21. 2008. We had to wait til the next day for a motorcycle to become available. We rented from Lankham Hotel- an almost new scooter in perfect condition (Their helmets are pretty useless though, except for not getting a sunburn.) 8$ a day when renting for more than 3 days. 9$ a day for less than 4 days. We didn't do the Bolaven loop. Instead we rode to Champasak and on to Ban Khiet Ngong. We also visited Ban Saphai on Don Kho. The best way to get around!
#4 regina5 has been a member since 24/9/2007. Posts: 32
#5 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33
Another question about the motorcycle rentals in Pakse.
Did you find it necessary to leave your passports with the rental agency? I've read on a couple of older travel blog entries that this was done. I've always balked at the prospect of parting with my passport.
#6 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33
Yes, renting from Lankham Hotel, we had to leave a passport. We didn't try to argue the point because we were 2 people, so we still had one passport for checking into guesthouses, changing money etc. I can see where the problem lies when travelling alone. Perhaps a photo copy will do for those situations. But most rental agencies are probably going to want to keep their hands on your passport as long as you have their bike. Maybe someone else has had a different experience??
#7 regina5 has been a member since 24/9/2007. Posts: 32
Update on motorbikes from Lankham Hotel in Pakse: We're back from Laos and we did use the motorbikes from the Lankham Hotel. Be sure to check out that everything works on the bike, such as the headlight and turn signals, because they don't check the bikes out thoroughly after each rental. And check the fuel level! These motorbikes are very durable.
Traveling to Champassak by motorbike was no trouble at all. Very enjoyable to stop at innumerable places along the way.
#8 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33
When did u get back? How was the weather then? Thanx
#10 regina5 has been a member since 24/9/2007. Posts: 32
It was a great trip. Getting around by motorbike is the way to go. Especially liked Don Khong... very quiet and slow paced. Muang Khong's restaurants delivered meal after meal of fresh ingredients and some distinctive twists on Lao/Thai standards.
About Don Khong and the southern islands: We decided to take a minivan to Hat Sai Khun and take a boat across to Muang Khong, the biggest settlement on Don Khong. The air conditioned minivan service arranged by Lane Xang travel (next to the Lankham Hotel in Pakse) was a dissappointment... the van did not possess sufficient a/c to keep the passengers cool and was filthy. A gentle protest among the youngish British passengers caused that driver and his buddy/assistant from persisting with overfilling the van at the Champasak stop. Fortunately, there is at least one ready alternative: Pakse Travel also arranges minivan service between Pakse and points south all the way to the Cambodian border... it is new, cool and I wish I'd booked with them.
Southern Laos was searingly hot... much hotter than I'd expected. Next time I'll bring more sunscreen, a good idea if your fair skinned anyway, and especially if you're taking doxacycline as malaria profalaxis. (The stuff causes greater sun sensitivity.)
I'll go back...
#11 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33
this thread has been inactive since a long time, but I was wondering whether you need a driving license to ride a motorbike there. I have no motorbike experience whatsoever, but would like to do the 2day/1night Bolaven route suggested in the Travelfish feature story. Is this ok, or do you need serous motor driving skills? (don't know how heavy these bikers are, maybe they're more like light scooters?)
#12 Seba has been a member since 28/4/2009. Posts: 54
Essentially, you'll be dealing with light scooters.
The newer smaller bikes (scooters) aren't too heavy: at least not when they are moving. If you respect the fact that when stationary, the bike has 2 wheels and a 'rest' peg, and these can be used to reposition the bike, you won't have many worries.
If you look at the 'official' pages (as I did once), you'll see that you need an active and current drivers licence in your home nation, and an 'International Drivers Licence' (generally procurable from your nations' motoring association).
While I initially did all that, in SE Asia I've never been asked for either!!
I suppose people in SE Asia don't comprehend anyone not knowing how to use a motorbike.
May I offer some words of encouragement...
Initially rent an automatic bike. They are generally around 110cc to 125cc. The 100cc are a little gutless.
The reasons for an automatic bike are that:
a. it is easier that you first get to 'handle' the idea of braking, steering, expecting what the other driver does, if you only have to worry about (1) steering, (2) driving, and (3) braking.
b. the auto bikes tend not to go too fast, and if you need to change speed downwards, can be quicker to achieve than manuals.
When about to decide to rent a bike, first check out the brakes. If either the rear (most important brake) or the front appear spongy, or the handle lever comes too close to the handle bar (meaning the braking cable needs adjusting), ask to 'check' another bike.
Look also for any obvious scratches, dents, etc. as if the bike has been mishandled.
Check out the lights, the horn, the indicator light switch, and (oddly, but importantly) whether the ignition key is easy to turn on / turn to lock / (and if applicable, unlocks the seat carraige to enable fuel filling access).
Make sure the helmet's are OK (no cracks, etc) and that the straps and click connectors are easy to use.
Some auto's have a largish area under the seat to store a helmet. Others don't. Check out what to do to 'protect' the helmet when you're off the bike. Is there a lock and padlock (rarely, but sometimes available). Is there a way to locate the helment click connectors under the seat (leaving the helmet exposed) so that if someone stole, the helmet would be useless.
Make sure the bike is registered. If not, and if anything happens, you'll pay big time.
Some places offer additional insurance, but not all. Check out as it may be worthwhile if available.
When beginning to drive around, try doing the first hour or two outside the city centre.
I'm sure you'll get the hang of steering, braking, sussing out what other drivers are going to do (everyone else does), but it's much less nerve wracking if you can do it in a less crowded place than a city centre.
When driving, keep an eye on your fuel. Many beginners forget that these smaller bikes really only travel around 100k before needing to be refuelled. Some bikes have smallish tanks - and auto's are more inclined to be among that list.
Auto bikes have smaller wheels, so the steering turning circle is much greater. If you want to do a U-turn. Stop, back the bike against the turn, and then go.
Similarly, learner riders tend to lean against the turn, thus putting the centre of gravity out (and making the turn more difficult).
When driving along, if you find the bike doesn't turn into a bend as fast as you'd like (meaning you'll want to brake to 'recover' your line), try just applying the rear brake and maintaining the speed. This has the effect of 'pushing' the bike into the turn.
When you have the 'hang' of an automatic bike, the next 'step' is a semi auto. Here, you don't have a clutch, but you must change gears.
The greatest advantage of a semi-auto is that they have bigger wheels and so steering is a lot easier.
Yes you can rent a motor-bike without proof of an international driver's license but be careful, especially since you'll just be learning. And if you're going during the rainy season, the all the more so if you're going on dirt roads which can get quite muddy and sometimes even impassable.
Here's a post that might interest you:
Have a great time and use your helmet to be safe.
#14 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
thanks guys, much appreciated!
#15 Seba has been a member since 28/4/2009. Posts: 54
I looked at the link offered by 'seagypsy'. It is very instructive.
While I haven't felt the need to do it in Thailand or Laos, in Vietnam I ALWAYS take a series of digital photos of the bike I'm about to rent. And, I ALWAYS do it in front of the rental vendor. I learnt this from another traveller, and have only had to use the 'evidence' once. On that occasion, it ended any further 'discussion' (in my favour).
- - - -
On another note, I hope you do go ahead and rent a bike. Once you do, and if you are like most others, you'll feel compelled to want to do the rental bit again and again. Not for the biking fun (though that's part of it). Rather, a bike gives you so much freedom to explore when foot/transport is tiring. And, you tend to then go where other tourists don't (with all the enjoyments that that offers).
As you know, I advocate travelling through SE Asia slowly. I suppose that having the motorbike option has reinforced this belief. It has allowed me to enjoyably 'be' in non-capital cities (ie use the place as a base, and venture further afield).
I'm always bemused by this one. Why would you suddenly want to go off on a two day motorbike adventure when you have no idea what riding a bike is like?
Advanced countries have licence requirements for a number of reasons, one of which is safety. For this reason I think brucemoon's rather blase attitude to non-licensed riding is pretty irresponsible. Why not learn how to ride before you go?
Also, I presume that if you're not licensed, insurance is worthless.
I'm an Australian. I'd NEVER ride a bike in Australia. It's just far too dangerous. Motorists in Australia seem to not see bike-riders and too many bike-riders die needlessly.
I learnt to ride a motor scooter (110cc auto) when in Vietnam.
The points I outlined above were intended to help Seba.
As for a licence, I wonder how many motorbike riders are licensed in SE Asia. But, it's not about a licence as such (although you are right in saying that a driver with a licence will presumably have to have satisfied a driving test), rather, that no one has ever asked me to show my licence.
In Australia, our car drivers licence is OK for smaller bikes. It's only when one wants to drive a more powerful bike that a special bike licence is required. So, what sort of licence is exactly needed?
I don't know where Seba comes from, nor how much [if any] driving experience s/he has. But, given his/her other posts, it appears s/he comes from a place where one generally knows how to drive a car. For that reason, I offered (what I considered to be) helpful advice.
You'll note that seagypsy (rightly) pointed to potential hurdles that needed to also be considered.
- - - -
The things about bike riding in SE Asia that I like are that:
1/. most riders travel no more than 30kph, and often at a lesser speed. Given this, other vehicle drivers accept a slow bike in front of them, and
2/. In most SE Asian nations, vehicle drivers (whether trucks, cars, or bikes) give a little beep before passing.
Hope you can also enjoy the 'fun' (and liberation) of bike riding someday.
well it just all depends on the speed I guess. I'm from Belgium and here we are allowed to drive small bikes (speed< 25km/h)as from 16 years of age on without any license. So if these bikes are travelling around 30km/h it should be fine... I've never riden on such a bike, but have my car driver's license for over 3 years, so should be allright...
#20 Seba has been a member since 28/4/2009. Posts: 54
Obviously the concerns of 'fondo' ought not be dismissed. If you can get to try out a small moto (or scooter) before you leave Belgium it would clearly help you prepare.
In fact, the speed limit on the open road in Vn is 50kph for ANY motorcycle, and 40kph within the city area.
That said, within the city areas of non-capital's, most moto drivers rarely get to 25kph. 30kph is typical of the open road.
That drivers can go fast doesn't mean you have to!
Is it possible to hire a car in pakse and can you get around the main bolaven plateau roads with one?
#22 lwieland has been a member since 18/3/2009. Posts: 3
Just to jump in on scomoore1's original post :) - what kind of bikes has anyone seen for rent in Pakse and what are their general condition? I'm looking for a 200-250cc road bike (ideally) but would 'make do' with a 110-250cc automatic scooter if it meant I could see the Bolaven Plateau. I'm also wondering about availabilty of bikes other than from the Lankham Hotel?
Info on my bike experience: some scrambling, automatic scooters, CBT, 125-250cc road experience.
Thanks for your help.
#24 bitpiece has been a member since 10/11/2009. Posts: 2
The entire time I was in Southern Laos, I did not see a bike with a bigger engine than a 125cc. I am told they are not permitted, but I did see one in Luang Prabang a couple of years ago, but not for rent. I have seen photos of 250cc dirt bikes on segments of the HoChiMinh highway, in some pretty rugged, washed out terrain. I beleive that these bikes are used by motorcycle tour outfits in Vietnam, permitted to come over to Lao.
My observations for Pakse are over a year old, so please bear that in mind: At the Lankham Hotel the selection varied... some clunkers and some newer bikes. Be sure to test everything -- brakes, brake lights, headlamp, etc before you depart for your trip. The street around the Lankham are sufficiently light in traffic to perambulate a bit to test them. Next time, I'm bringing my own helmet or will buy one there. The usual motorbike rental places have lousy helmets.
I had a fantastic time motoring south on my rented bike.
#25 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33
Bitpiece #24, yes at the Lankham, I think they're called Honda Enduros, not a road bike but 200cc or maybe bigger, I forget the price. Also you can have Green Discovery ship one down from Vientian to rent. Many place rent but the bike might well not be thiers anyway, might as well go to the source.
Thanks scomoore1 and somsai: thats some of the most detailed information I've managed to get yet! Straight from the horses mouth!
Scomoore: good advice about checking the bikes over before use - simple but I bet a lot of people don't do this as thoroughly as they should. I've compiled my own checklist and hope this serves me ok. A test ride is a good idea, and I was also thinking of taking some photographs of the bike's condition before I took it as proof. Interesting what you say about bike helmets: i too would like a full face design so I don't break my jaw if I come off or loose some teeth or something :s
Somsai: will look into the Honda Enduros so thanks. Also, will try Green Discovery - have tried another similar company but they said it wasn't worth shipping a bike down for 3-4days riding and I tend to agree. Will look into this though. Was Green discovery the 'source' you talk of?
#27 bitpiece has been a member since 10/11/2009. Posts: 2