Last Modified: 23 Mar 2016
Trip code: TLAB-O
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2016
Experience the dreamy essence of Laos on this short but enlightening tour. See how colonial mansions, tree-lined boulevards and gilded Buddhist temples impart a unique timelessness to charming Vientiane. Next, head to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang, which never fails to enchant visitors with its abundance of temples, faded French architecture, meditating monks and friendly local inhabitants. Join pilgrims at the sacred Pak Ou Caves and absorb a golden sunset from atop Phu Si Temple. Packed with arresting sights, alluring aromas and wonderful cuisine, this is the perfect introduction to a land seemingly lost in time.
Table of Contents
Short Breaks - Independent Adventures
Is this trip right for you?
- Please note this trip is a Short Breaks Adventure, and can run with a minimum of 1 person. It is possible that you may be the only person on this trip if travelling solo.
- Please note that the flight between Vientuane and Luang Prabang will be unaccompanied. You will also have a different local guide for Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
- The order of the itinerary can change in Vientiane due to the availability of the flight from Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Your local guide will discuss this with you on Day 1 in order to maximise your time in each location.
- We often use different hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, depending on availability. These hotels will be confirmed to you at your time of booking.
Why we love it
- This trip enables you to see the best of Vientiane and Luang Prabang in a short amount of time
- With complimentary airport arrival and departure transfers, your time in Laos will be easy and hassle free
- Draw on the deep knowledge of expert local guides in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, from walking tours to tips on the tastiest food treats
- This trip also includes free time in Luang Prabang, giving you the chance to make your own explorations and discover why UNESCO rate this city so highly
Day 1 Vientiane
Sabaai-dii! Welcome to Laos. You will be met on arrival at Vientiane Airport by your local guide and transferred to your hotel. Please provide your flight arrival details at the time of booking, or at least 14 days before departure, to organise this transfer. If you do not need this arrival transfer, please ensure you are at the joining point hotel by 1pm to meet your local guide. Please note that a morning arrival is required so you have time for afternoon sightseeing. Vientiane is the charming and fascinating capital of Laos, with an intriguing mix of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, American and Soviet influences. Faded colonial mansions, tree-lined boulevards and old temples create an atmosphere of timelessness, particularly in the older part of town along the Mekong River. You’ll get to know the city better today on an afternoon sightseeing tour, including Wat Si Saket. It’s the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane and is home to almost 7,000 Buddha images. You’ll also stop by the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy, Wat Haw Phra Kaew, and Pha That Luang (the Great Sacred Stupa), which is the most important national monument in Laos, a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. Don’t forget to ask your leader where to find the best bakeries today.
- Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
- Sightseeing Tour including Wat Si Saket, Wat Haw Phra Kaew, Pha Taht Luang
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Luang Prabang
You can start the day with an independent visit to Vientiane's vibrant and colourful morning market, before an included afternoon flight to Luang Prabang. Once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom (Lan Xang) and designated a World Heritage site in 1995, Luang Prabang is endowed with a legacy of historic red-roofed temples and French-Indochinese architecture, not to mention some of the country's most refined cuisine, a multi-ethnic population and rich culture. The city and its people retain a refined, yet relaxed, air and it’s a wonderful place to wander the side streets and dusty lanes and seemingly step back into another era. In the late afternoon, you’ll visit the National Museum at the former Royal Palace, a building that combines French colonial and traditional Lao architecture. The collection of treasures and artefacts reflects the richness of Lao culture, dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last sovereign, who was deposed in 1975. A large hill called Mt Phu Si dominates Luang Prabang's skyline, topped by a glittering golden stupa. You’ll climb the 328 zig-zag steps up to the sacred gilled stupa and big drum of the Phu Si Temple for a panoramic view of Luang Prabang and its surrounds at sunset.
Notes: Please note that the flight time today is subject to change, depending on availability. Your local guide will advise you of the pick-up time from your hotel. On arrival in Luang Prabang you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel.
- Luang Prabang - Royal Palace Museum
- Luang Prabang - Mt Phu Si
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 3 Luang Prabang
Travel with your local guide approximately 25 kilometres along the Mekong River to the Pak Ou Caves. On the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at the small village of Ban Xang Hai, which means Jar-Maker Village, so named because this used to be the local cottage industry here. Nowadays, the jars come from elsewhere and the village residents fill them with fiery lao lao (the local rice wine). The Pak Ou Caves consist of two sacred limestone caverns filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes, brought by devoted villagers over the centuries. The lower cave, known as Tham Ting, is entered from the river by a series of steps and can easily be seen in daylight. The higher cave, Tham Phum, is deeper and requires a torch for viewing. You will enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to Luang Prabang, stopping at the silk-weaving village of Ban Phanom on the way. Back in Luang Prabang, maybe sip an evening drink on the veranda of the wonderful colonial-style Villa Santi Hotel. It’s a nice way to spoil yourself and round off the evening.
- Village Visits- Ban Xang Hai and Ban Phanom
- Pak Ou Caves
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is easily explored on foot, and today is free for you to take a closer look at some of the beautiful temples, try one of the many restaurants along the banks of the Mekong River, or simply soak up the enchanting atmosphere. It’s worth getting up in the misty early morning to view the procession of saffron-robed monks on their daily outing collecting alms, a practice that dates back centuries. The people of the town wait out the front of their houses with food for the monks to collect and take back to the temple. It is done early, as the monks cannot eat anything after midday. By giving food to a monk you ‘het bon’ or make merit, which should augur well for your next life. Make sure you don't miss Wat Xieng Thong, the most enchanting of Laos’ monasteries. Inside you'll find monks eager to practice their English with you. Alternatively, you may want to visit the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, 32 kilometres south of town. This picturesque, multi-level cascade that offers fantastically blue pools that are perfect for a mid-afternoon dip. This evening perhaps explore the popular night bazaar, or maybe join your fellow travellers for a celebratory dinner.
- Luang Prabang - Wat Xieng Thong - USD2
- Kuang Si Waterfalls - USD5
Hotel (1 nt)
1 breakfast, 1 lunch
This Classic Laos adventure comes to an end today, and with no activities planned, you’re free until your transfer to the airport for your departure flight. Please advise of your flight departure details at the time of booking. Note that hotel checkout time is normally 12 noon. Speak to you booking agent if you wish to stay on in Luang Prabang.
- Complimentary Airport Departure Transfer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
Sightseeing Tour including Wat Si Saket, Wat Haw Phra Kaew, Pha Taht Luang
Luang Prabang - Royal Palace Museum
Luang Prabang - Mt Phu Si
Village Visits- Ban Xang Hai and Ban Phanom
Pak Ou Caves
Complimentary Airport Departure Transfer
1. A complimentary arrival and departure transfer is included with this trip. Please advise your flight details at time of booking.
2. Please note this trip starts on day one at 1pm.
Maximum of 10 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
Please note many of our Short Break Adventures operate with a minimum of 1 person, so there may be instances where you are the only person on the trip.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
While travelling with us you'll have the opportunity to experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility.
4 breakfasts, 1 lunch
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
We recommend USD100.00 for meals not included.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
The official currency of Laos is the Kip (LAK).
However, USD are also widely used throughout Laos. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change. Visa cash advances are available in major banks, and ATM's are now available in most towns. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: We suggest US$2-3 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-2 per day for drivers.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
This Short Break Adventure is a private group departure. You will not be accompanied by an Intrepid group leader, and instead our experienced English speaking local guide will fill this role. Your local guide will all be to provide information on the places you are travelling, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and where possible, introduce you to our local friends. You can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects.
Many 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 travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Hengboun Rd No 059, Unit 15
Phone: +856 21 241 616
Fax: +856 21 223 761
Joining point description
Centrally located near the National Culture Hall, National Stadium, National Museum, Fountain Center and the banks of the Mekong River. The 28 rooms feature TV, AC and laundry service.
Joining point instructions
A complimentary arrival transfer is included. Please advise your flight details at least 14 days prior to your trip. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid. Intrepid provides one complimentary arrival transfer per booking even if clients are arriving at different times.
Should you experience any difficulties with your pick up - please contact our operator locally on : +856 21 261 870
Please note we sometimes need to use alternative accommodation when Khampiane Hotel is fully booked.
The alternative hotel we use in Vientiane is:
Manorom Boutique Hotel
Hengboun Noy Street, Ban Haysok, Chanthabouly District,
+856 21 250 748
Please check with your booking agent to confirm if you are staying at Khampiane or Manorom Boutique Hotel.
Normal check in time is 2.00pm you are arriving earlier, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
Indigo House Hotel
Finish point description
Centrally located right opposite the night markets, Indigo House Hotel features 12 rooms, each with their own bathroom, TV, mini fridge, and in room safe deposit boxes. The hotel also has a lovely roof top bar and a restaurant with free wifi throughout the hotel.
Finishing point instructions
Please note we sometimes need to use alternative accommodation when the Indigo House Hotel is fully booked
The alternative hotels we use in Luang Prabang are:
Ban Hua Xieng
Phone: +856 71 254881 or +865 71 254708
Luang Prabang River Lodge
Ban Na Duay, Ban Na Duay,
Phone: 856 71213089
Please check with your booking agent to confirm if you are staying at Indigo House, MyLaoHome or Luang Prabang River Lodge.
A complimentary departure transfer is included on the last day of this trip. Please advise your flight details at least 14 days prior to your trip. If you plan to leave later, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid. Intrepid provides one complimentary departure transfer per booking even if clients are departing at different times.
Normal check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
You can get your visa in advance, but a visa can easily be obtained on arrival at most airports from around 35-50USD (dependant on nationality). Please check with the consulate in your country for more details before you travel. If you are planning to get your visa at the airport we recommend bringing 2 passport size photos
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
Climate and seasonal information
FESTIVALS & PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:
During public holidays and festival periods in Laos many businesses may close, transport may be extremely busy and travel times may increase. During these times please be patient and consider these moments as an opportunity to interact with the locals. Particularly worth noting are Laos New Year (3 days in mid April), Pchum Ben (3 days in mid October) and Water Festival (3 days in late November).
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
Thailand is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Thailand or talk to their doctor about possible implications.
Please see further information about the Zika virus (and our current cancellation/change policy) on our safety page of the Intrepid website at http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the trip until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by our local representative.
If you have credit card insurance our local representative will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact telephone number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader or local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.
Dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees by wearing sleeves and long trousers. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Laos include:
* COPE works throughout Laos providing essential services to people with disabilities, more than half of whom have been injured by UXO (unexploded ordnance). They are the only provider of prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services in Laos.
* UXO Lao aims to reduce civilian casualties from land mines and increase the land available for food production and other uses. Intrepid's support for its Community Awareness program allows educational teams to visit villages disseminating safety messages.
* Peuan Mit Street Children Project works with up to 1400 children every month, helping them to reintegrate back into Lao society and to prevent more children from coming to the streets. They support the children to return to school, find employment and return to their families.
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/?projectcountry=laos
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.