The roads in the cities are quite Ok. Its the road that links the cities are pretty bad. Laos has really limited roads to ride on. Even if there is one, most are in very bad conditons. Even the newly built road from Boten to Houey Xai which was built by China is deteriorating fast. Hardly any maintennance form the Lao side.
The bikes arn't as good and they often cost more. Most rental step through bikes are Chinese bucket of bolts. Get a Kaolao if you can. Not as good as the Thai bikes but better than the Chinese. That said anything will do for around town.
Luang Prabang doesn't have rentals, too many people having accidents.
Vientiane is more competetive now and you should find bikes.
Luang Namtha has bikes, as does Pakse, and Vang Vien. Enduro 200cc and up, bikes are only available in Vientiane, Vang Vien, Pakse, and mostly people only drive larger bikes between towns. It's certainly possible to drive the smaller bikes everywhere but not many do, the notable exceptions being the loops down south.
As Abg said roads are in poor condition, but I'd add distances are short. Two hundred kilometers a day is often enough for most, if dirt you might think about shorter distances. There is mostly no traffic but the potholes keep you slowed down.
In the towns watch out for other drivers, especially in new pick up trucks. The motor vehical is a new thing in Laos and many of the middle aged rich people buying nice cars have never learned to drive and never will. I'd say the skill level is well below Thailand. Lots of drunks at night.
We rented bicycles in Luang Prabang one day and mototbikes another day - and had no problem. We rode all over LP - in town and out in the country. Found some amazing out of the way places. Also rented in Phonsavahn - the roads there are mostly dirt and some are a bit washed out. We slid out once but were not going fast enough at that point to get hurt. The bikes in Phonsavahn were not as good as in Luang Prabang.
#4 grasshopper322 has been a member since 30/9/2009. Posts: 25
drink driving seems q common, some of my Lao friends in VTE don't like being on the road late at night. people can drive without functioning headlights/brake lights. seems like the only ones who bother to get licences are those who need it for their job (e.g. company driver). most of my Lao friends who've been driving for years have no clue what various traffic signs & lane markings mean. VTE now has a hell lot of traffic, plenty of SUVs, vans & cars. at some intersections police still blow their whistles at motorists to get them to obey traffic lights/signals & to stop at pedestrian crossings.
LPB now allows motorbike rentals again. though like in VTE capital they've banned students (below college level) from riding motorbikes to school (though the kids can still ride them at other times).