Photo: Kayaking Vang Vieng.

One week in Laos

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.

Itinerary map


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.

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Suggest trip length

The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is one week, though two weeks will be a far more comfortable pace.

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Sample plan

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)

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Save some time

One day: Take a speedboat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang (not recommended)
Two days: fly from Luang Prabang to Vientiane

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Take a side trip

Two days: Strike north from Luang Prabang to Nong Kiaow.
Two day: Head east to the Plain of Jars and Phonsavan

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Combine trip plans

This trip links in easily with the Northern Thailand Explorer.

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Sample Trip Times (in hours)

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 - -
Vang Vieng Vientiane - 4:00 - -
Luang Prabang Nong Khiaow - 3:30 - -
Luang Prabang Phonsavan 0:30 9:00 - -
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More itineraries

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The region

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.