Photo: Don Dhet sunset.

Southern Laos sees far few backpackers and independent travellers than the north of the country, so if you're looking for less touristed destinations and a more "authentic" experience, then this trip could be for you. Many choose to visit the south on their second trip to Laos, as the single month visa doesn't really allow sufficient time to do the north and the south justice.

Starting in Vientiane, this trip takes you down the panhandle of Laos, stopping at most of the larger towns on the way down. Many opt to do the Vientiane to Pakse run in one hit, but unless you've got very limited time, we'd say this is a mistake -- allow a bit more time to slowly work your way through the south.

You can do this trip in either direction, and with international border crossings -- to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam -- this can be easily combined with other trips.

Suggest trip length

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

Sample plan

1) Vientiane -> Tha Khaek (stunning scenery, caves)
2) Tha Khaek -> Savannakhet (National parks, colonial architecture)
3) Savannakhet -> Pakse (riverside town, day-trips)
4) Pakse -> Champasak (Ruins, riverside town)
5) Champasak -> Don Khong, Don Dhet and Don Khon (waterfalls, islands, boat trips, backpacker scene)

Save some time

Two days: Skip Savannakhet of Tha Khaek (not recommended)

Take a side trip

Four days: Head inland from Pakse to investugate the remote southern provinces of Salavan, Sekong and Attapeu.

Combine trip plans

This trip links in easily with the Cambodia one month adventure.

Map


View Southern Laos in two weeks in a larger map

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: Southern explorer -- experience laid back southern Laos
FromToAirBusTrainBoat
Vientiane Tha Khaek - 6:00 - -
Tha Khaek Savannakhet - 2:30 - -
Savannakhet Pakse - 6:00 - -
Pakse Champasak - 2:00 - 3:30
Champasak Don Khong - 4:00 - 5:00-8:00
Don Khong Don Khon & Don Dhet - 1:00 - 1:30
Pakse Salavan - 3:00 - -
Salavan Sekong - 2:00 - -
Sekong Attapeu - 2:30 - -

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More itineraries

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

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.


Cambodia

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.


Indonesia

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.


Laos

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.


Malaysia

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.


Thailand

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.


Vietnam

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.


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.