Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Planes and motorbikes

Posted by busylizzy on 27/4/2011 at 18:53

Finally - my turn to start asking questions for my upcoming trip to Laos in late Sept - Late Oct!

I only have 4 weeks in Laos, so want to make the best use of my time by flying some of the longer journeys - in particular:

- VTE - XKH (Plain of Jars)
- XKH - Luang Prabang (although I suspect this route may no longer be flown)
- Pakse - Bangkok

1. Is the XKH - Luang Prabang flight a seasonal one? I've seen references to it on TF and it looks like a valid route on the website, but I can't get an actual flight to show up. Either they are sold out already, or they are not flying that route any more. (I'm using rather then the other French-run one.)

2. Do Laos Air ever run promos like Air Asia, etc? Not sure if I should just secure the flights now or wait for a better deal? (Alternatively, I'll look into the Discovery Pass).

3. How tricky is it to get flights at that time of year (Oct) if you leave them til the last minute. I see they don't run flights everyday as it is.

4. OK, this one isn't related to the airlines, but it's my next burning question. I plan to hire a motorbike/scooter for a 9-10 day trip around southern Laos (Bolaven Plateau in particular), but I don't have a motorbike licence. Will I have trouble hiring a bike with only an international car licence? (Easy in some countries, not so easy in others...). And will I be stopped constantly by the local constabulary looking for donations to their evening bar tab like happens in some neighbouring countries....

#1 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by tinoh on 27/4/2011 at 20:12


I can only say something about 4. We did the Bolaven tour last year on a scooter/motorbike. We both had an internationel car drivers license with us, no motorbike license. We had no trouble with hiring a semi automatic scooter in Pakse. On the 4 days of the the tour we weren't stopped at all by local police or something.

Greetings Tino

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Posted by caseyprich on 27/4/2011 at 20:23

Lizzy - i don't think they even asked to see a drivers license when we rented, but if you go through Lankham Hotel they will require one passport left. This didn't matter for us for two reasons - 1, we were two people so one of us still had his passport and 2, nobody asked to see my passport the entire time I was in the plateau. I did have a photocopy of it on me though and made sure to write down my visa number before I left because I knew some guest houses would ask me to write it down when I checked it.

Also - it is a lot cheaper to fly Air Asia from Ubon Ratchathani than to fly from Pakse to BKK. My buddy caught an early mini-van from Pakse to UR and still caught a flight that night back to BKK - saved a lot. (pre-booked the flight on the internet).

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Posted by Rufus on 28/4/2011 at 09:00

In Lao you need to have an International Driving Permit, endorsed for motorcycle, OR a mc licence from your own country. You will probably not be asked for it, bit your insurance will not cover you without it.
Lao Airlines does run promotions sometimes, but not like Air Asia. AA is a budget airline, Lao Airlines is not.
I don't think the XKH - Luang Prabang flight exists any more.
October is ok for flights - Nov onwards you are running into the high season.

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Posted by busylizzy on 28/4/2011 at 14:36

Thanks for the info guys.

Rufus, I was aware of the insurance coverage issue - and it's a risk that I've been weighing up. That's a hard one give that my heart is set on doing this tour. I can still get my learners permit in NZ although I don't have time for a full licence now. I think I"ll check with my insurance company and see what they say about that.

Good point about flying out of Ubon Ratchathani, Casey, thanks. I had thought about that originally, then dsicovered they had an airport in Pakse and promptly forgot about Ubon! I guess I will have to weigh up the cost difference versus time travelling that extra distance and look into flight times for suitability. I only have a total of 6 weeks off so time is more of an issue than money this time around (with time to be spent in Indo on the way home)!

Sigh.. planning (or lack of!) on my last trip was so much easier when I had 5+ months to play with!

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Posted by busylizzy on 28/4/2011 at 14:37

PS I guess my risk mitigation could be to not travel over 30km an hour. Now if only all the other drivers on the road would work with that too!

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Posted by SBE on 28/4/2011 at 16:53

Sounds like it's going to be a great trip busylizzy! My driving license says I can ride a motorbike but I know better.... I've tried and always go straight into a ditch. Not being able to ride a motorbike is like being without legs in SE Asia so I was thinking of learning this summer.

All the other learners will probably be 14 year olds but even if I get some funny looks from them (and the instructor when he sees my innate inability to steer) I still think it's worth the toe-curling embarrassment. There are loads of places I can't go because I can't drive a motorbike.

Are you doing this bike trip on your own?

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Posted by busylizzy on 28/4/2011 at 17:32

I did a Basic Handling Skills course a couple of months ago. I could steer without any problem - I aced the cone challenge. But could I change gears? Not a chance! I went quadbiking a month or so later and after an hour and half it all clicked into place. Now I need to get back out and practice. I think I'll go for another couple of rounds of lessons and then head over to a local island to hire a scooter for the weekend and get lots of practice.

Yep, planning on going on my own. Caseyprich warned me that it might get a bit lonely around parts of the Plateau area, so thank goodness I'm OK with my own company. I'm sure I'll meet up with people somewhere along the way. And I've just downloaded some Laos language MP3's so will start trying to learn some of lingo - that should help to mix and mingle with the locals.

I might have company once I land in Bali but that's yet to be confirmed. I have no definite plans there other than to go back to Lembongan for a few days, and maybe check out a secret snorkle place in the west that Somtam mentioned awhile back.

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