Laos, where to go? Despite its small size, getting around in Laos can be a time-consuming affair and, especially for a short one week trip, you're best to limit yourself to just a handful of destinations.
What follows is the type of trip that just about anyone who has been to Laos has done at one time or another. Entering by land from either Vientiane or Huay Xai, this is a quick hop, skip and a jump through the country, that will leave you planning your next, far more comprehensive Laos holiday before you've even left.
This route allows you to take in the spectacular Mekong scenery as you travel down the river by slow boat to the unforgettable Luang Prabang, before pushing on south, first to the backpacker ghetto of Vang Vieng and then onwards to the Lao capital, Vientiane.
This isn't an "off the beaten path adventure", but remember the beaten path is so beaten for a good reason!
One advantage of using a trip like this as a base, is that there's lots of potential for sidetrips, and that one-week stay can easily stretch out into a month.
The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is one week, though two weeks will be a far more comfortable pace.
1) Huay Xai -> Pakbeng (riverside town, stunning scenery)
2) Pakbeng -> Luang Prabang (temples, colonial architecture, trekking, atmospheric town)
3) Luang Prabang -> Vang Vieng (stunning scenery, backpacker scene)
4) Vang Vieng -> Vientiane (capital, temples, riverside setting)
One day: Take a speedboat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang (not recommended)
Two days: fly from Luang Prabang to Vientiane
This trip links in easily with the Northern Thailand Explorer.
View Laos one week in a larger map
To help you work out how you'll get around, we've listed the trip durations for the various forms of transport available. Note that with the exception of flight times, these are average trip times, so no hate mail if you take the slow train.
|LAOS: Snapshot -- one week explorer|
|Huay Xai||Pakbeng||-||-||-||1 day|
|Pakbeng||Luang Prabang||-||-||-||6-10 hours|
|Luang Prabang||Vang Vieng||-||5:00||-||-|
|Luang Prabang||Nong Khiaow||-||3:30||-||-|
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.