Photo: Don't forget your passport.

Many travellers to Laos are drawn to the country by its more peaceful pace of life. With improving facilities — and the party scene in Vang Vieng hushed — an increasing number of family-friendly activities are available, making Laos a great relaxed place to travel with children.

For older children, kayaking, climbing and zip-lining in Vang Vieng are among the many things to do there that can fill a few action-packed days. If they’re strong swimmers, tubing down the river together can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Jungle treks are available through a number of tour operators, although most of them will require relatively sure-footed hikers — the trails, if any, aren’t always easy to walk along. An elephant ride can be fun for even the youngest family members, and some of the elephant camps provide more interactive experiences with the animals. The elephant festival in Sayaboury, in mid-February lasts three days and would offer a great experience for the whole family.

A pretty spot for a sunset walk.

A pretty spot for a sunset walk.

Vientiane used to have a water park, but this has been shut down for a number of years. If the kids are looking to cool off, there are several swimming pools,with the Vientiane public swimming pool being the cheapest, biggest and most child-friendly.

For little ones needing to burn off steam, the park at the Vientiane waterfront has a playground for small children and lots of space for running around. Buddha Park could be a fun excursion, although younger children might find some of the statues large and possibly terrifying. The museums in Vientiane generally aren’t too impressive, but a trip up to the top of Patuxai to enjoy the view of the city might be fun, as long as climbing stairs isn’t a problem. Some of the wats in Vientiane and most all of those in Luang Prabang are majestic and interesting to explore — just please be mindful of visitors who are praying. If you’re in Luang Prabang, a visit to Tad Sae waterfall is a great trip.

Play Time at Common Grounds

Play time at Common Grounds

Lao food is spicy, and many dishes will contain chillies. Fried rice or grilled chicken are easy options for the unaccustomed palate. Around Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, you’ll find plenty of more familiar Western dishes served up. Food is generally safe, although stomach upsets aren’t entirely uncommon.

If you’re in Vientiane and looking for a family-friendly restaurant, Kong Khao has a play area and on some days, staff that look after the children. Common Grounds has an excellent shaded outdoor children’s play area and a lot of pleasing menu items. The Phonthan branch of JOMA, near the water tower, also has a good play area and is a popular place for families, so it can get a little crowded on weekends.

Laotians love children. Babies are adored nationwide and if you’re travelling with a small child, expect some attention. It’s perfectly acceptable in Laos to go up to someone’s child and pinch their cheeks, tickle their belly or give them something to eat. The attention won’t be excessive or bombarding, but don’t be surprised at how familiar people may be. They may find you getting upset about this puzzling — embrace their interest and make some new friends!

Health and safety concerns here may take some getting used to as well. Barriers and seatbelts are markedly absent, and driving is often reckless. Bus trips should be safe, but motion sickness is common — and you’ll need to supply your own bag. In case of sickness the Vientiane French Medical Centre has a paediatrician who speaks English and French. Note that even the smallest wounds are very easily infected due to the heat, dust and poor quality of tap water, so keep cuts cleaned and bandaged. Be wary of mosquitoes — while malaria is very rare outside of remote areas, dengue fever affects a notable number of people and has no preventative treatment other than avoiding bites — mosquito nets, coils and repellents are especially important during the rainy season.

By
Last updated on 5th June, 2013.

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Further reading

Planning well is an integral part of getting the most out of your trip. Be it picking the right backpack, the right vaccinations or the right country, the simple decisions are often the most important.


Getting started

Put your hand up if you just have no idea what you're doing. No idea where to go, when to go or even how to go. Should you be travelling independently, or is an organised tour the better way to go. Where are some of our favourites? Read on.


How to plan

You know when you're going and you know when you're coming back. In between there is a big gap. How do you fill it? Here are some quick pointers.


Insurance

Please let us make this very clear. If you can't afford adequate insurance cover, you can't afford to travel. Period. Read on to find out why.


Health & safety

Despite all the thought that goes into packing, one of the most common things forgotten is common sense. Here are some pointers to keep in mind if you'd like to stay healthy during your trip.


Money & costs

So what is this trip actually going to cost you? More then the bus to the airport and the flight ticket, that's for sure. Read on for some handy budgeting tips.


Travel with kids

People travel with children? Really? Are you one of them? Are you mad?


Accommodation

When someone tells you the accommodation is a bit basic, what does that actually mean?


Food & drink

Useful for staying alive. Also delicious and occasionally sickening. Read on for the skinny.


Transport

Southeast Asia has planes, trains and automobiles. It also has ojeks, xe-oms, songtheaws and horse carts.


Volunteering & work

Volunteering and paid employment may well be a bit more complicated than back home, and, especially with volunteering, may not be as helpful as you thought.


What to pack & gear advice

Packing is like an all you can eat buffet. You may want to eat it all, but that is rarely a good idea.


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