Shannon Bros Guide to Laos

Below is our guide to Laos, written from the viewpoint of what we “wish we had known” before arriving in each city.  We’ve tried to keep it concise so that each city can be browsed in less than a minute.  Make the adventure your own… but trust these suggestions when in doubt.  We guarantee a great time!

Also check out our guides to Vietnam and Cambodia – please share with anyone that might benefit 🙂

After 29 days in Laos, here is the best of the best and everything we’ve learned in between:

Na Meo (Border Crossing by Motorbike – Feb. 17th, 2016)

  • Park outside the main building on the right side.
  • First go to the Passport Office where an agent will sign off on your Visa.
  • Next go to the Customs Office.  When asked for your “motorbike papers” hand over your Blue Card.  Fill out the small green Export Form that will be provided to you.  Pay the $10 USD Export Fee.
  • Ride your motorbike through the main gate, across “No Man’s Land,” and up to the Laos checkpoint.
  • Park outside the main building on the right side.
  • Hand over your Passport and fill out the Laos Visa Form at the Passport Office (first main window).
  • Pay the Laos Visa fee ($30-60 USD depending on the passport you hold) in CRISP UNMARKED bills.  You can purchase USD in Hanoi from Hang Bac Street (we used shop No. 10).  Refuse any bills that aren’t perfect.
  • Walk around the corner to the Laos Customs Office.  Fill out the large green Import Form that will be provided to you.  Pay the 25k Kip or $3 USD Import Fee.
  • Return to your motorbike and WALK it across the border.
  • You’re FREE!

Vieng Xai (Viengxay)

  • Stay at Sailomyen Guesthouse (first right towards the lake on your way into town from the highway).  Unique place overlooking the lake with friendly owners and good food.
  • MUST do The Caves of Vieng Xai tour, purchased at the Vieng Xai Visitor Center at the far end of town.  Tours start at 9am and 1pm and take 2-3 hours.
  • MUST eat at the Indian/Laos restaurant at the corner of the main intersection (here).  (Also the best place to purchase a SIM card.)

Sam Neua (Xam Neua)

  • Stay at Khamxam Guesthouse (first right after crossing the main bridge into town).  Simple, clean, and cheap with strong wifi.

Vieng Thong (Muang Hiam)

  • Stay at the guesthouse directly in front of the “T” intersection (here) when you hit Vieng Thong.  Nice rooms, big beds, hot water, and free instant coffee in the morning.
  • There are hot springs and an expensive, but well-reviewed trek in the area (Nam Nern Night Safari and Eco Lodge), but we skipped both.
  • No wifi in this town!

Nong Khiaw (Nong Kiau)

  • The most underrated village in all of Laos – this place is a hidden gem!
  • MUST MUST stay at Delilah’s Place on the West side of the Nam Ou River.  Amazing atmosphere, specialty desserts, and free movie showings every day.
  • MUST hike to The Viewpoint.  Short walk from town, followed by a steep 1-2 hour hike with incredible views of Nong Khiaw village and Nam Ou river.
  • MUST do the 100 Waterfalls day trip and hike.  Bring bug spray and shoes that can get wet.  Book the whole trip through any travel agency in town (Tiger Trails at Delilah’s Place is reputable) OR save some money and do it yourself:
    • 1. Head to the riverfront under the bridge and hire a boat to “100 Waterfalls.”  2. Upon arrival at the minority village hire a local guide for the hike.  3. Return to Nong Khiaw the same way via boat.
    • Total cost will be under 100K Kip versus 200K+ Kip when booked through a travel agency.
  • Patok Cave is a fun little exploration through 3 caves in a scenic valley, but can be skipped if short on time.
  • MUST eat at Mackara Restaurant on the Eastern outskirt of town.  Possibly the best (and healthiest!) breakfast we’ve ever had for $2.50.
  • Deen’s Indian Food is also worth a visit.
  • The best nightlife in town is at Delilah’s Place for the free nightly movie showing at 8pm.  Have a home-made dessert and make some new friends among Delilah’s amazing travel community.

Muang La

  • The highlight is
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