Solo Travel in Laos
Types of Girl about the Globe (GatG) – Cultural GatG, Nature GatG, Party GatG
If you are planning on visiting Laos in Southeast Asia, below is my Laos travel guide on how to travel solo in Laos including places to visit in Laos, what to do in Laos, how to get around Laos, and the best Laos tour companies. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place.
All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article for Laos solo female travel.
N.b. For every booking made through this article, I donate money to projects helping vulnerable girls about the globe. Thank you for helping to make a difference to their lives.
- About Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Laos Tours
- Accommodation in Laos
- Getting Around Laos
- How Long Do I Need in Laos?
- From The Airport
- Travelling Overland From Laos
- Conscious Travel in Laos
- Plan a Trip to Laos
- Map of Laos
Solo Travel in Laos
Is Laos safe for tourists? As a woman alone in Laos it is really safe to travel solo and an ideal Asian country for independent travellers. That's why we've given it 4 out of 5 stars. The main Laos religion is Buddhism in the country, therefore, the Laos people are kind and hospitable and can be shy. You will encounter other travellers here but there aren't as many people backpacking Laos as there is in Thailand, for example.
For Laos nightlife, get yourself to Vang Vieng, known as the party spot for travellers. There are bars and clubs in Luang Prabang and you can find plenty of travellers at the free Happy Hours.
The country of Laos is well connected by buses, the only downfall of travelling Laos are the long journeys but you’re likely to meet others on the buses. Laos is a wonderful country to explore independently but if you are unsure where to go in Laos or what to visit in Laos, you may feel more comfortable in a group tour.
About Lao People's Democratic Republic
It may not be as popular as its neighbours Thailand or Cambodia but this land-locked country in South East Asia is rich in Asian culture and shouldn’t be overlooked. Still a developing country, solo travel Laos for a laid back vibe, UNESCO World Heritage and plenty to see and do.
There appears to be a “tourist loop” when traveling Laos of three main areas: Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Some may miss Vientiane when visiting for a second time, some may miss Vang Vieng for its backpacker image (it's on the Laos backpacking route), but no one will miss out on the French bread to be scoffed in the chic Luang Prabang.
Vientiane is the ultra cosmopolitan capital of Laos and the largest of Laos cities, with its tree shaded streets hiding an abundance of cafes, restaurants and bars. It is where the Mekong lazily ripples past in a brown creamy haze like the cream of a good coffee, of which there are plenty to be had in this laid back ambient environment, as you leisurely stroll around the things to see in Vientiane.
It is little wonder that Vientiane was the haven for many a spy during the Cold War years, with its French influences and steamy tropical heat inducing an almost sleepy utopia.
The city appears to be disguised as a small town of bicycle riding coolie hatted locals, badgering tuk tuk drivers, aromatic roadside Laos food carts, ice cream vendors riding their carts playing music and night markets on the banks of the river where the tourists and locals flock together. Golden frescoed temple after temple proudly adorn the streets, whilst motor scooters buzz around in a hectic frenzy.
The major sites in the town and things to do in Vientiane, is the Golden Stupa, “Phra That Luang” and the Victory Monument, “Patuxai” with its elaborately adorned roof. Sunset cocktails for tourists is a must do overlooking the Mekong River, and one of the best vantage points is the ‘Spirit House’, where you can watch pop-up restaurants appear each evening on the esplanade.
Just 25 kms from the capital is Xieng Khuan, one of the Vientiane tourist attractions. The impressive Buddha Park has giant sculptures including a reclining 40-metre long Buddha, Buddhist temples, and Hindu gods. This open-air sculpture park known by the locals as the ‘Spirit City’, was founded in 1958 by a sculpture artist and a monk, and has more than 200 stone statues to see.
Sitting on the Nam Song (Song River), Vang Vieng Laos, is renowned as a backpackers' and extreme sport hunters' haunt and is one of the places to go in Laos if you are looking to meet others. A mere four-hour bus ride from Vientiane, its limestone karst rock hill formations create a landscape that is breathtaking in its beauty. Known for its river tubing, kayaking, trekking and rock climbing, the backpacker market has held this town firmly in its grasp for years.
It is only recently that the appearance of upmarket boutique accommodation is attracting a different tourist, and the abundance of Laos hostels and “bed bug” homes are declining in number.
The edgy ramshackle bars where you can buy a “bucket” of alcohol with numerous straws for mass enjoyment, still dominate the town's nightlife in Laos, but the addition of a cute coffee place named “Caff Man”, represents the change that is imminent. The streets, quite empty during the day, become a throbbing space once the sun goes down, when street side stalls appear everywhere, selling the most delectable nutella or banana pancakes.
Many come here to swim in the Blue Lagoon, but there is more than one of these turquoise-pools (hence the name) to cool off in. The lagoons are near Tham Phu Kham Cave, a popular Laos Attraction so expect there to be many tourists here. Hike the steep forest trail to the entrance of the cave for stalactites, stalagmites and a labyrinth of chambers in which lies a bronze reclining Buddha, considered sacred by Lao.
The beauty of this area in its tapestry of greens from Laos jungle to the rice paddies, the amazing blue water hole and the awesome power of the Kaeng Nyui Waterfall where you can swim and picnic on local delicacies like barbecued bat, are now being appreciated in their own right.
The best way to experience this natural world and one of the adventurous things to do in Laos is to take a hot air balloon ride and failing this, if you are not comfortable renting your own motorbike, rent a driver for the motorbike as well.
Get out into the countryside and watch the kids playing or fishing, the farmers tending their crops and aged wooden teak houses on stilts slip by. Finish your day swinging in a hammock on the banks of the river watching the passing flotilla of people in the rapids, as you sip a cocktail cocooned in your own peaceful haven.
From Vang Vieng it is another scenic four-hour bus ride to Luang Prabang (another of the cities to visit in Laos), going past numerous hillside towns that cling precariously to the cliff face with roadside stalls selling whatever produce the area is known for. Row upon row of thatched open shelters sell only pumpkins in one town, in another they all sell pineapples, then there are some with only bananas and corn.
Thatched houses sit right on the roadside curb as the bus twists and turns, up mountains in Laos and back down, through virgin dense jungle areas. The bus negotiates tortuous potholed roads meandering past vibrant lime green rice paddies with rustic bamboo fences; cattle, dogs and chooks wondering the roads as misty mountains loom around.
Luang Prabang is a gastronomist’s dream and one of the must see places in Laos, with its many bars, restaurants and cafes of differing cuisines such as Lao cuisine, Thai, French, Indian and Italian. It is the town of monks and markets; each morning the saffron clad monks play follow the leader through the streets collecting their food for the day.
Whilst in the local fresh produce market, the hill tribes descend to sell their bountiful fresh fruit, vegetables, butchered meat, freshly caught river fish and eels.
It is a riot of colour, bustling with cultural delights and booming Laos voices. These markets are an age-old Laos tradition; they began as a convenience for the King and the Queen, so that they could do their morning food shopping close to their residence.
Sitting at the confluence of both the Mekong River and the Nam Khan, where boats ply the river in a daily parade, Luang Prabang is rich in Laos culture and Laos history. The town itself is a World Heritage Site due to its artistic heritage and traditional Lao architecture. For a more cultural immersion, you can take one of the Luang Prabang tours to the local villages to learn more about the Hmong traditions and stay overnight in a homestay.
The main Laos tourist attractions in the area are the beautiful waterfalls, Kuang Si Falls and Tat Sae Waterfalls, with the Pak Ou Caves coming a close second. Wats or temples line numerous town streets adorned with intricate artworks and as always, shimmering gold elaborate details.
Here you can learn more about the country’s past at the UXO Museum, enjoy a leisurely Mekong River cruise at sunset or a sunrise hike up Mount Phousi. One of the unusual things to do in Luang Prabang is learning how to weave.
On the peninsula of Luang Prabang is the beautifully decorated Buddhist monastery of Wat Xieng Thong. Beautifully designed, this “monastery of the golden city” is one of the country’s most important and historic monasteries and a must see in Laos.
Travel by boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai and you’ll stop in Pak Beng along the way. This is where you can take the slow boat along the Mekong River, admiring the Laos landscape from the river banks. If you have two days to spare it’s an authentic way of travelling between the two cities.
Travel further north from Luang Prabang to reach the province of Luang Namtha, a popular destination for trekking and the gateway to Nam Ha National Protected Area. For the eco solo you can book a Laos local tour at one of the eco-trekking companies located here to hike through the rainforest and see surrounding ethnic villages.
Si Phan Don
Another of the best places to visit in Laos is also along the Mekong River, and way down in southern Laos on the Si Phan Don archipelago (known as the 4000 islands). Don Det is the place to get a river-side bungalow and relax whilst mingling with the other backpackers. For somewhere less touristy, you can walk across the bridge to Don Khong, where you can visit the Tat Somphamit Waterfall, and spot Irrawaddy doplhins on the southern tip.
Khone Phapheng Falls is also in the 4000 islands. As the largest waterfall along the Mekong River this is one of the things to see in Laos. There are several places to get a good view of the falls.
Other Places To Visit in Laos
Other places to visit in Laos include: Nong Khiaw, one of the tourist spots in Laos for rock climbing. It’s also fast-becoming a spot for hiking too. For wildlife solos, Nam Kan National Park is the place to see gibbons from high up in a treehouse before zip lining their way through the forest, but it is a trek to get here. And don’t miss the Bokeo Nature Reserve off your Laos visit. This national protected area was formed to protect the rainforest and the habitat of the black-cheeked gibbon that you can spot from the observatory at the canopy treehouse of this conservation project.
If the heat gets too much, you can head to the Bolaven Plateau Region for a cooler climate. This elevated lush region is home to ethnic villages, waterfalls and coffee farms and is one of the best areas for coffee lovers.
If you make it as far as the Kong Lor Cave (also known as Tham Kong Lo), this karst limestone cave is one of the unique places in Laos. It isn’t on the typical tourist trail and you have to take a boat to reach it but once you’re there, you’ll be rewarded by a spectacular cavern full of stalagmites and stalactites.
When you visit Laos, Laos money does not have coins in its currency, so be prepared to be an instant millionaire with the wad of notes you will have to carry. It is where the locals ride around in the rain holding umbrellas, and motorbikes get parked inside the home. Birds hang in bamboo cages of random trees and monks in saffron robes do manual labor repairing their temples. It is a land of subsistence survival for many inhabitants and stark raw natural beauty.
When traveling to Laos, remember the saying “barefoot and fancy free.” Leave your shoes at the door. Just remember to put the right pair back on when leaving.
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or all of your Laos holiday, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Their trips to Laos start from a 9 day Laos on a Shoestring taking you to the best places in Laos, to a 41 day Indochina In-Depth trip travelling through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear more costly than G Adventures.
Trips in Laos start from a 5 day Classic Laos tour experiencing the best of Lao culture, a 2 week Laos tour including northern Thailand, to a 35 Indochina Unplugged, an epic journey through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room. Read our Intrepid Travel Reviews
For the backpacker solo, TruTravels offers two Laos trips. Whether you have 7 days or 11 days to spare, you can travel through the country seeing the highlights of Laos with a group of like-minded others. The trips are a combination of adventure, culture, beaches and partying. Over one week you’ll see the Blue Lagoon, visit rice fields and go tubing down a river. On the 11-day tour you’ll be cycling around islands and kayaking with dolphins! Trips have a maximum of 20 people with most travellers between the ages of 18 and mid 30’s. Prices start from £995 based on a twin share.
Green Discovery Adventure & Eco-Tourism This company offers land adventures in Vientiane and beyond such as trekking and cycling and discovering the ancient Laos art of textile dyeing.
White Elephant Adventures – This Laos responsible tour company offers all types of eco tourism in Laos, from hiking and kayaking to homestays.
Community-based Laos Tourism in Central Laos with Phou Khao Khouay
Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated activities and tours in worldwide destinations including Laos destinations. Choose from a visit to the Oak Ou Caves, Whisky Village and Kuang Si Falls, a Mekong River sunset cruise, or cave tubing in Vang Vieng. There are several to choose from and it’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews, price and availability then book online. *Check all tours and prices here
For a day out of the ordinary on a motorbike in Vang Vieng, ask for Hoi or email him at email@example.com
For a day out of the ordinary on a motorbike in Luang Prabang, ask for Net.
Kamu Lodge in Luang Prabang offers an opportunity to see first-hand the rural life in Laos.
Accommodation in Laos
Although Laos is a budget destination, it does offer both comfort and luxury accommodation. Stay in an expensive hotel, a rustic guesthouse, boutique hotel, or even a hostel in the main tourist areas.
Stay along the Mekong River in a colonial hotel or villa, or treat yourself to a higher-end hotel in the Laos capital or Luang Prabang. If you do want to experience an old colonial-style hotel pre-book as soon as you can so they don’t get booked up.
If you are planning to stay in the centre of Vientiane Laos, pre-book your accommodation in case of limited availability. The same applies to Luang Prabang which can be more expensive than the rural villages. If you turn up at a destination outside of the peak season you may find local touts greeting you offering you available accommodation.
If you are paying for one of the luxury hotels, you may even find a gym to work out in but you don’t have to spend a fortune to experience some comfort as mid-range Laos hotels have en-suite bathrooms and are usually spacious. However, for air conditioning and hot water you will need to splurge.
If you are on a budget look into dorm rooms in hostels but be prepared that for budget accommodation some of the bathrooms may have a squat toilet instead of a flushing one. Local villagers may also offer rooms if there is a lack of accommodation.
You can also stay with a local through Airbnb, a platform where you can rent a local’s spare room or even the whole accommodation for the duration of your stay. You can save $20 off your first stay with this link
Getting Around Laos
There are a few ways to get around Laos. There are flights from Vientiane to Luang Prabang with Lao Airlines but they can be expensive. so opt for road travel if you are on a budget. Inter city connections throughout Laos are available by local bus, the Laos VIP bus, mini-vans and even pick up trucks. The only downfall with buses is that this type of Laos transportation may not stop for toilet breaks so be prepared to hold on for the toilet. The bus from Vientiane to Savannakhet will take 8 hours for example. Find the timetables for each destination's bus station here.
If you’re wondering how to get from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, the quickest way is to fly as it only takes 1.5 hours. But flights can be costly compared to buses which cost £17. Be prepared to be on the bus for 12 hours.
Other transportation in Laos are taxis and tuk tuks which can usually be found at any bus or train station. You can hire a motorcycle but just be aware of the other drivers on roads without the best infrastructure. Cycling is also an option too.
How to get around Vientiane – There are several ways of getting around Vientiane. You can walk, hire a bike and cycle or take a tuk tuk or a jumbo (a bigger tuk tuk that is shared). There are buses that will take you to the Buddha Park and Friendship Bridge but if you don’t mind pedalling then it’s really cheap to hire a bike to get around. Your accommodation may even rent them.
For the adventurous solo, you may prefer to hire a motorbike and ride around the country instead. The Thakhek Motorbike Loop is a popular route that begins in Thakhek and takes 4 days around the western region of southern Laos.
How Long Do I Need in Laos?
When you are travelling to Laos and want to see the Laos attractions, one week equals one town, whereas in two weeks, you can do the three most popular ones with ease. There is a bit of a tourist loop going from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and on to Luang Prabang, or the other way around if you are looking to spend 2 weeks in Laos. Many people leave out Vang Vieng as it is more of an adventure sports playground area, but it does have the most stunning scenery.
From Laos Airport
Laos has two main international airports but the main one, Laos International Airport is called Vientiane Wattay Airport and is situated near Vientiane (this is where most flights to Laos land). From Vientiane a taxi costs $10 for the 5 minute drive into the city. Vientiane Capital Bus Enterprise is a bus service that runs hourly. It takes just under 20 minutes and costs $8. Before you leave the airport, go to the Airport Taxi counter and order a taxi coupon.
Before you go to Laos, you can always ask your hotel to arrange transportation for you such as a tuk tuk or taxi but this will cost more than organising your own.
There is another international airport in Luang Prabang, reachable from the old town. You can either walk 45 minutes or take a taxi which costs approx $10 for the 6 minute ride.
* When you are traveling in Laos, use Rome2Rio for getting to and from the airports.
Travelling overland from Laos
If you decide to see more than one country when you travel to Laos, you could combine your Laos trip with Cambodia or Thailand. Ensure that you carry spare passport photographs at all times and beware of touts “helping” you in exchange for your transport custom once you cross over. If you wait until you are over the other side, normally you can negotiate a much lower price than what the touts are asking of you.
Laos to Cambodia
There is only one crossing from Laos to Cambodia. Take a ferry and bus ticket to the Four Thousand Islands (4000 islands) to Stung Treng which goes through Don Khon. From Don Khon it’s approx $20. You can then get a bus from there to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Kratie.
To Vietnam – There are so many border crossings into Vietnam. From Vientiane there is a bus to Hanoi and also a VIP bus from Savannakhet. The most popular crossing is Nam Phao to Cau Treo where you catch a bus to the border. Other crossings are: Xieng Khuang to Nam Can, Phong Sa Ly to Tay Trang, Donsavanh to Lao Bao.
Laos to Thailand
There are several border crossings to Thailand with the most popular from Vientiane to Nong Khai (the crossing is 20 km from Vientaine) and Huay Xai to Chiang Khong which has includes a five minute boat ride. Other crossings are: Chong Mek / Vang Tao, Tha Khaek / Nakhon Phanom, Savannakhet / Mukdahan, Thai Li / Nam Hueng, Vientiane / Ban Mo, Paksan / Bueng Kan.
Laos to China
If you’re heading onto China, cross on the border north of Luang Nam Tha at Boten to Mengla in China.
* N.b. It’s not possible for foreigners to cross the border into Myanmar.
Where can I fly from here?
- Vietnam – 1 hour 20 minutes
- Thailand – 1 hour 15 minutes
- Malaysia – 3 hours
Conscious Travel in Laos
Social Impact Programs
Saffron Coffee, Luang Prabang – This café not only serves the highest quality Arabica coffee, but supports small farmers in North Laos. Saffron Coffee is a “profit for purpose” business, thus their profits are reinvested for the benefit of the local community. The café also offers tours to “where the journey begins”, meaning a full day at the plot and processing facility, eating coffee cherries straight from the tree or having a go at pulping the beans.
Joma Bakery, Vientiane and Luang Prabang – Providing a little slice of North American café culture is not all that Joma Bakery has to offer. According to their profit plan, 10% of their profits go to charitable organisations that benefit the communities around their multiple locations. Moreover, they work with several NGOs providing training for disadvantaged people.
Stay Eco in Laos
The Boat Landing, Luang Namtha
This family-owned guest house and restaurant is located in the North of Laos and offers amazing views, delicious locally sourced food, and fun adventures. The bungalows are constructed using local materials, the restaurant offers a vast array of vegetarian dishes, there is solar-powered hot water, and they invest in community-based tourism. What is there not to love? (https://theboatlanding.com/)
Vulnerable Girls in Laos
Child marriage is quite prevalent in Laos, with 33% of girls marrying before they turn 18, according to a 2017 survey. Some reasons for such a high percentage of child marriages are gender inequality (especially in education and overall role in society) and a traditional practice known as Tshoob nii, known otherwise as “bride theft”.
Marriage is also seen as a tool that can be used for economic survival or to resolve disputes. Moreover, underage Laotian girls and women are trafficked into China and forced to marry Chinese men, due to the one-child policy of China resulting in a male-female population imbalance. Read more…
- Can I drink the water? No, buy bottled water or take a water filter with you.
- Is tipping expected? As in all undeveloped countries, tipping is appreciated due to low wages.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed prices in shops, but barter your heart out in the markets.
- Any ATMs? It seems to be the land of ATMs in the tourist areas of Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right-hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? You can find vegetarian stir fries and vegetarian options in the capital but Laos solo travel as a vegetarian or vegan is not as easy as other Asian countries.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No
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Plan a Trip to Laos
If you are planning your Laos travel, below are useful facts and things to know about Laos to help you to plan your Laos trips.
Budget – £15 a day
Capital – Vientiane
Laos Population – 6.7 million
Laos Language – Lao is the Loatian language (French is a recognised language).
Flying Time to Laos – 17 hrs from UK (not direct)
Weather in Laos – Below is an annual weather chart showing the Laos climate from January to December. Laos does have a wet season from May to September but the Laos temperature is always warm. Expect more rainfall in August and September.
Lingo – Useful Lao phrases
Did you know? Laos is tagged as the world's most bombed country because during the Vietnam War, over two billion tons of bombs were dropped in the country.
If you are planing on responsible travel in Laos, there is the opportunity to volunteer with rescued wildlife with Globalteer
Teach English in Laos and find other opportunities such as a Cambodia & Laos Volunteer tour with One World 365
Mind Body & Soul
Yoga retreats at Mandala Ou Resort
Yoga retreats at Zen Namkham Boutique Resort
Spa Treatments At Amansara
Makphet Restaurant in Vientiane is a training restaurant for Lao disadvantaged youth (former street kids) a member of “Friends International” and “Tree Alliance” (Global group).
The Lao People's Democratic Republic is more rural in character than any other country in South-East Asia. Social isolation is a particular problem for upland ethnic peoples. Read more…