Use the quicklinks below to jump to the desired section regarding transport in and around Champasak.
Pakse International Airport is located 36 km north of Champasak and is served by Lao Airlines.
Lao Airlines: http://www.laoairlines.com/
Despite the fact that an excellent paved road between Champasak and Pakse has existed since 2014, there is no regular bus service between the two. Instead, one songthaew departs when full to Pakse’s km-8 bus station.
When we visited in November 2016, there were efforts to introduce a regular public between Pakse and Champasak. Ask around for the current situation, and you may want to verify this information with a few people like the tourism centre or Champasak Spa because a guesthouse/travel agent may want to steer you to a private bus company they make commission on instead.
For now, the long method of crossing the Mekong and getting transport travelling along Route 13 remains the most common way. Your accommodation or the tourist office can sell you through tickets to destinations, price including transport to the pier, boat across the river and bus.
Most destinations are serviced by Green Paradise Travel, a bus company with routes covering all tourist destinations south of Pakse including the Cambodian border and through tickets to Siem Reap. The air-con bus will detour off Route 13 to pick passengers up at Ban Muang pier. Sample destinations:
Pakse: departs at 13:30. Costs 60,000 kip and takes 1 hr.
Si Phan Don (Don Det or Don Khone) and Cambodian border: departs at 09:30. Costs 70,000 kip.
Ban Hat Xay Khoune (Don Khong): departs at 08:00. Costs 70,000 kip.
Ban Muang village boat landing is on the east bank, 4 km west off of Route 13, and it remains the most common way to reach Champasak. Boats can be hired privately—try for 20,000 kip, though going from east to west, they know you have no choice so they may charge 30,000 kip. Another option is to join a shared boat; it departs when there are enough passengers—confirm the price before getting on—or hop onto the car ferry, which is less frequent. For either, count on 10,000 kip per person, 20,000 kip if you have a motorbike.
On the Champasak side, the boat arrives at Ban Phapin, 2 km north of the town centre. There is usually a tuk tuk waiting. Try for 10,000 kip per person to the roundabout, more if going further south. If travelling by motorbike, note that it’s a steep sandy/muddy path up the riverbank.
There was once a daily boat between Champasak and Pakse, but bus companies in collusion with travel agents have undercut it so well that there is no longer regular boat service between Champasak and Pakse. Ask the tourism office or your accommodation if it’s running on your chosen day. The cost should be 60,000 kip per person.
From Phapin pier, boats can be hired to take you to Don Daeng island’s northern tip, 50,000 kip per boat. There’s a lesser known, almost impossible to find secondary landing south of town on the way to Wat Phu. Heading south along the Mekong road, before the second bridge (which is just before the road curves west at Wat Louang Kao) there is concrete building with an orange metal roof and a dirt drive leading past a shop to a parking area/junk yard at the back. A dirt path leads down to a small boat landing. Ask the people for a boat (heua) to Don Daeng and they’ll call someone. It’s 20,000-25,000 kip for you and your motorbike, depositing you on the southwestern end of the island.
To journey the Mekong in style, high-end Vat Phou Mekong Cruises’ 3-day, 2-night itinerary includes a day in Champasak. In contrast to Mekong cruises in northern Laos, Vat Phou is live-aboard with 12 cabins. Trip begins and ends in Pakse. Sample price per person, based on shared occupancy: high season US$739, low season US$518. T: (071) 252 553; http://www.vatphou.com/
The town centre is easily managed by foot or by bicycle. Some guesthouses have bicycles and motorbikes available to rent. The ones we saw all looked like they were on their last gasp. There’s not much choice but do your best to shop around, especially if you plan on exploring Don Daeng’s dirt tracks. This makes the option of renting a bike in Pakse and driving down all the more attractive.
Champasak’s main attraction Wat Phou is 10 km southwest of town, reachable by bicycle, motorbike or tuk tuk. The roads are sleepy, and in Laos, the sleepier the roads, the sleepier the drivers. Drive defensively.