Cycle Laos - Lao Lao

Laos Cycling Tour - Mekong River & Luang Prabang to Vientiane

Trip Notes   •   Back to this tour's main page

Introduction

A great trip with wonderful variety. 'Lao lao' is a rice wine distilled locally in villages and while we don't suggest you consume it while cycling it does give a good idea of this trip - local, fun and tasty. Tucked away between its bigger neighbours, Laos is the secret jewel of South East Asia. There is a unique charm to this country that shines through in her people, towns and village, mountains, jungles and the majestic Mekong River that she hugs for the length of the country.
To access Laos we use train and minibuses in Thailand and then a classic riverboat journey down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, one of South-East Asia’s most beautiful towns. All that plus the cycling makes for a trip of perfect variety and balance.

Itinerary

DayActivityAccomMealsKm cycled
1Arrival Day Chiang Khong D
2 Boat- Mekong River. Arrive Pak Beng Pak Beng BLD  
3 Cycle to Udomxai Udomxai BLD 80
4 Cycle to Nong Khiaw Nong Khiaw BLD 103
5 Trekking Muang Ngoai Muang Ngoai BLD  
6 Cycle to Luang Prabang Luang PrabangBLD 70
7Free day Luang Prabang B  
8Cycle – Luang Prabang day ride Luang Prabang BL 62
9 Cycle to Kiew Ka Cham Kiew Ka ChamBLD 78
10 Cycle to Kasi KasiBLD 95
11 Cycle to Vang Vieng Vang Vieng B 58
12 Cycle to Vientiane Vientiane BLD 80
13Departure dayVientiane B  
*Whilst every endeavour will be made to run the itinerary as stated, Bike Asia reserves the right to change any part of the itinerary at any time without notice due to weather, political, health or safety concerns.
Day 1 - Chiang Khong

Meeting at the Bangkok airport we take a short flight to Chiang Rai in the far north and drive out to our rustic wooden guesthouse that sits on the banks of the Mekong River, looking out onto Laos.

Day 2 - Mekong River

After crossing the border we spend the day cruising down the wonderful Mekong River, over nighting in Pak Beng. This is the perfect relaxing introduction to laid back Laos.

Day 3 - 4 Cycling to Nong Khiaw

Our first section of riding takes us along one of the quietest sealed roads in Asia, over a mountain pass, and cruising alongside a river into the stunning town of Nong Khiaw.

Day 5 Trekking Muang Ngoai 

We leave the bikes and take a boat to the remote town of Muang Ngoi where we take a light, but unforgettable trek into the forest to visit the people who call this area home. The lack of road access makes this place something very unusual in our modern world.

Day 6 - 8 Luang Prabang

After a boat then a bike ride, we reach Luang Prabang. You won't want to leave this charming town. Our first day is yours to wander the temples, visit the King's Palace or just relax. The second day will be spent on a ride exploring the local region, wildlife and a waterfall that makes for a perfect place to swim. 

Day 9-13 Cycling to Vientiane

We depart Luang Prabang and take four days to cycle to the Lao capital Vientiane. The first day is the most challenging as we climb up into the mountains but the rewards are unforgettable, mountains all around with small villages clinging to their sides. In Vang Vieng we will have a free afternoon to explore the caves or tube on the river. Our final day of riding brings us to Vientiane, probably the quietest city in Asia to celebrate the end of the ride.

Inclusions

  • 12 nights accommodation
  • Meals: 12 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners
  • Support vehicle
  • Mekong boat trip, Muang Ngoi trekking, Nam Ou kayaking, entry fees 
  • English speaking Lao cycling leader

Bike Asia Travel Style

We think cycling through a region for the first time with a group of like-minded people is a great way to travel in Asia. Our aim is to provide you with the opportunity to meet new people, learn about new cultures, experience different landscapes and most all to have some fun. Cycling is a major part of our trips – they are cycle tours after all. We have designed them so that they are accessible to people with a reasonable level of fitness. Different trips will require varying degrees of physical ability. Each trip dossier has specific details on terrain, cycling conditions, distances covered each day and an altitude profile. All of our trips are fully supported, so should you want or need to take a rest, there will be a seat for you and a place to put your bike. Our trips are also designed to allow you the opportunities and time to appreciate the environment, scenery and culture around you, and to participate in any activities that may be on offer.

Responsible Travel

An integral part of travelling is to have a positive impact on the country that you are visiting. On this trip there are a number of things you can do to have a positive impact on the communities that we visit.

Dress: Laos is still a very conservative region. In rural areas and temples overly revealing clothing is considered offensive. You should make an effort to dress more conservatively in these situations. Walking around a village in bike shorts is not appropriate so if you wish to cycle in just bike shorts you should have something with you, on the bike, to put on over the top (long loose shorts or a skirt/sarong). When visiting temples shorts are acceptable providing they cover the knee. Singlet tops are not acceptable in temples.

Phrase Book: A highly memorable part of your travels will be the local people you meet. In the tourist areas some people will speak English but away from these areas you should learn a few words of Tibetan. We will teach you some of the basics but if you want to really interact we recommend bringing a phrase book.

Donations: Often when coming on trips overseas people like to bring items such as sweets, pens and books for children or old clothing for families. While this is a fantastic idea, if distributed in the wrong way it can actually create more problems. Giving away anything to local people can create an expectation that visiting foreigner equals free give-aways. In some communities in Asia this has created whole villages where the only interaction is the locals asking for things. If you would like to donate anything to the communities that we visit we suggest that you give the items to us and we will then pass them on to development organizations, schools or whole communities. In this way items are distributed to those really in need by those working in the communities.

Poverty: In Laos there is poverty which you may see. If you choose to give something to a beggar you must bear in mind the value of money in the country you are visiting. There are organizations which are working to alleviate this poverty and may be able to do more good with donations that you make. Your Tour Leader will be able to provide more information about this.

Support Organisations There are a number of organizations which we hope you can support in one way or another. Your Tour Leader will provide more information on these as you travel.

For more information about Bike Asia's commitment to ethical and sustainable travel practices, please read our Responsible Travel Policy.

Group Size

Minimum 2
Maximum 14

Accommodation

6 nights comfortable hotel, 4 nights local guesthouse (all have private bathroom), 1 night basic guesthouse.. Due the nature of cycling trips we stay in some towns where the general standard of accommodation is quite low. In these places we have chosen the best possible place to stay - trust us there's nothing better! In the bigger towns we choose hotels with style and location considered. The accommodation on this trip is a roller coaster from basic guesthouses through to 4 star luxury.

Transport

All transport listed is included in the trip price. For the cycling days we will have the backup support of a large songtaew (local style truck for transporting people) which will carry our luggage, snacks and water, and anybody not cycling. We also use boats, minibuses anything else that you might see coming.

Bikes

Bike is not included - bring your own or rent a mountain bike for USD160

Food

Food is a very important part of any travel experience. Most of the meals on this trip are included in the trip cost, with a few exceptions like free days. To see which meals are included, read the itinerary table. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for and should you have any other dietary restrictions, you just need to inform us.

Money

You will need to bring money on the trip to pay for some meals, drinks, activities in the free time, departure tax and of course shopping.

The official currency of Thailand is Thai Baht (THB) which should be used for all transactions. Thailand has a modern banking system where ATMs and money exchanges are widely available. When coming to Thailand it is possible to use Visa/MasterCard or Cirrus/Maestro cards to access cash with an ATM. You should, however, carry traveller’s cheques as a backup. Most international currencies can be exchanged so it is not necessary to bring only US dollars - AUD, EUR, CAD, NZD are all accepted at banks in major centres. To give you an indication of prices:

The amount you bring is going to depend on how much you plan to spend. To give you an indication of prices
Beer would cost around 60
Dinner at local restaurant 100
Dinner at foreign restaurant 200

The official currency of Laos is the Kip (LAK), however, the US dollar serves as a second currency and can be used for larger purchases. If going to Laos it is best to bring some small denomination US dollars cash along with travellers cheques as your main form of money. Thai Baht can also be changed easily. Credit cards are not particularly useful in Laos. To give you an indication of prices:
A big Beer Lao would cost 6,000 – 10,000
Dinner at local restaurant: 10,000
Dinner at foreign restaurant 30,000

Whilst cycling, there will be very few opportunities to spend money so most of your shopping will need to be done in Bangkok, Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

Thai Baht (THB) Exchange rates at the time of writing are approx:
1 AUD = 27
1 USD = 33
1 EUR = 44
1 GBP = 65
1 CAD = 29
1 NZD = 24

Lao Kip (LAK) Exchange rates at the time of writing are approx:
1 AUD = 7,900
1 USD = 9,650
1 EUR = 13,100
1 GBP = 19,200
1 CAD = 8,700
1 NZD = 7,100

We also recommend that you bring US $100 in emergency funds, to be used when circumstances beyond the control of Bike Asia necessitate a change in itinerary.

Insurance

Obtaining your own travel insurance is required in order to participate on a Bike Asia tour. It will need to include a minimum coverage of medical expenses with emergency evacuation, personal liability and accident insurance. Your group leader will need to see a copy of your insurance at the group meeting on the first day.

Two well known travel insurance providers are: World Nomads and Covermore.

Joining Point Instructions

Meeting Point - this trip will begin at the Bangkok Airport.

All flights into Bangkok now arrive at the new Suvarnabumi Airport.

 

Pre/post trip accommodation

If you would like us to organise some extra nights accommodation either before or after the trip at our start or finish point hotel, just let us know when you book the trip. The hotel in Bangkok is located close to Khao San Rd, a famous backpacker street with all services needed by travellers close at hand.

Viengtai Hotel

42 Rambutri Rd Banglumphu Bangkok Thailand Tel: +66 2280 5434-45
www.viengtai.co.th

There is a map included in the print version (PDF).

 

Fitness

You will need to a good level of fitness to participate in this trip. There are seven cycling days in total, with daily distance up to 107 km on sealed surfaces. The first two days are quite challenging but the following days tend downhill. Two of the days involve a lot of hill climbing – one day we have over 1700 metres of ascent.

Cycling Conditions

Road conditions in Laos are good on the main highways which we will be using. Maintenance, however, is not always the best so you must expect random potholes, short sections of terrible road and road works. While this ride does lose altitude over its course, the two days out of Luang Prabang are very challenging with long hills to climb. Traffic is generally light but care must be taken with all those unexpected surprises like chickens, children and dogs running out in front of you. Stay alert.

The half day ride in Bangkok follows a surprising route away from traffic. You will ride quiet back streets, tiny laneways, and along side canals. You'll be surprised by a side of Bangkok that you'd not normally see.

Health

In order to make the most of your holiday, the healthier you are the more you will enjoy it! For a list of vaccinations we recommend that you seek advice at a travel clinic at least six weeks prior to departure. Our group leader will have Senior's Level first aid training and will travel with a first-aid kit, however it is also recommended that individual travellers have a basic first aid kit with any personal medical requirements. Our group leader is not authorised, for legal reasons, to administer any kind of drugs, including pain relief tablets, antibiotics etc so be sure to pack a supply of your favourite pain-killers. Pharmacy products vary in different countries and you may not be able to buy products that are widely available at home. Include the following: plasters, dressings, bandage, calamine lotion (a must for soothing sunburn), oral re-hydration treatment (in case of bouts of diarrhoea), insect repellent, insect sting relief, antiseptic cream and antiseptic wipes.

For more information on travel health, you can click on the links below:

Australia - United States - United Kingdom

Visas

In Thailand, 30 day single entry visas are free on arrival for many nationalities. If you want to stay longer than 30 days, 2 month visas are available from the Thai embassy in your country.

Lao visas can easily be obtained on entry at the immigration point where we enter the country. Visas cost US$30. Make sure that you have one passport photo available for your visa application form.

Luggage / Packing List (Guide Only)

We strongly advise against using a hard shell suitcase for this trip. Tibet is not suitcase or wheelie-bag friendly country. We will be camping most nights and the ground will be grass and earth. A soft backpack would be the most suitable, and the easiest to transfer in/out of the trucks in the morning and evening. Keep in mind when you are packing that often our local crew are lifting our bags before we cycle into camp, so try to pack as lightly as possible. Check our climate charts to assess your clothing requirements, or contact us if you are unsure. Please note if travelling to Laos in December/January it can get very cold on the Mekong boat trip and in the mountains. You should bring a wind breaker and cold weather clothing.

    Personal
  • Long trousers
  • Shorts
  • Shirts
  • Hat
  • Sandals/light shoes
  • Swimming costume
  • Rain/Wind coat
  • Toiletries
  • Small towel
  • First aid kit
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Camera and film
  • Alarm Clock
  • Contact solution
  • Medication (eg. cold tablets, headache tablets, sleeping tablets)
    Travel
  • Passport with 6 months validity and spare pages
  • Passport photo
  • Travel insurance details
  • Flight tickets
  • Money - travellers cheques / cash / credit card
  • Guide/phrase book
  • Money pouch
  • Sleep sheet
    Cycling
  • Optional daypack, bumbag or handlebar bag.
  • Helmet
  • Cycling gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle/bladder
  • 2 x Padded bike shorts with something to put on over the top when off the bike
  • Light wind-proof, rain-proof jacket for cycling
  • Cycle shoes
  • Own pedals, seat, bar ends etc.
  • Optional gel seat cover

Tipping

One of the reasons that our trips run so well, and are so much fun is the effort and energy put in by our local crew. On this trip, we will have a driver and a local guide. Their mix of professionalism, enthusiasm and sense of fun are infectious. We recognise that the wages in an economically developing country are vastly different to ours and ask that if you are satisfied with the service you show your appreciation with a tip. Your group leader will collect this at the end of the trip and organise a small thankyou presentation. As an indication only, we recommend you allocate USD 20. Tipping is NOT compulsory and it is meant to be a reward for good service.

Safety

Our cycling tour leader has the authority to change or cancel all or part of this trip if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. This decision would not be taken lightly, and where possible it would be made in consultation with our local crew, local operator and Bike Asia management. Your leader will be present on all included activities, staying at all the same hotels, guesthouses and of course cycling with you. During free time, should you choose to participate in any optional activities that are not part of our itinerary, please note that we cannot give any representations or guarantees about the safety of the activity, the standard of the operators running them or the equipment that they use.

In the group meeting on day 1, your tour leader will run a session on cycling safety. Whilst some travellers will have had years of touring experience, for others this might be their first cycling trip. We need to cater for a range of abilities and experience and it is in everyone’s interest to learn about the particulars of cycling in this region from someone who has already done it. It goes without saying that by running and participating in a cycling trip, both parties accept an inherent level of risk. However, we take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we ask that you cycle in a safe and responsible manner and that you look out for the well-being of your fellow travellers. Cycling helmets must be worn by all cyclists at all times whilst cycling.

Most national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information before departure. The links for some major travel advisories and updates are listed below

Australia - United Kingdom - Canada - New Zealand - United States

We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling in cities, for the safe keeping of your passport, money, credit cards and traveller's cheques. Utilise the hotel's safety boxes or safe where these are available.

Communication

In Bangkok, Luang Prabang and Vientiane you will be able to access email, phone, fax and post offices. Elsewhere there will be fewer chances to email and the main communication will be phone. You should leave your family or friends the Bike Asia contact details. Our office staff will be able to get in touch with us in an emergency.

Cycling Tour Leader

Our leaders are passionate about Asia and cycling... phew! They love what they do and take their job seriously. They will make every effort to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable trip with as much fun as possible. They bring many qualities and skills to this role; knowledge of group cycling, safety, management, and liasing between you and the local crew. In working for us, they have made a commitment to learning as much about the culture, language and customs of Laos as possible, and they are happy to share any of this knowledge with you. However, please keep in mind that they are not local and will not know everything.

Rules

We don't have many, but the ones we do have are important. We always abide by the laws of the country that we are travelling through. This means you are not to use any illegal drugs or use prostitutes. Any passenger who does so will be asked to leave the tour immediately.

Feedback

After you have completed the trip, we want to know what you thought about it. This is important to us, as it is through your feedback that we monitor our trips and make improvements for the future. Log on to our website and click on the feedback link. It will take you a minimum of 3 minutes, or should you feel like writing in more detail, then a little longer. If you fill in the feedback form, we'll give you an automatic 5% discount on any of our trips in any other region.

Photos

We are always looking for good photos of the regions which we travel through. If you have some that you would like to send us, we would love to have a look.

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