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On this short trip we visit glittering temples, explore vast caves and underground caverns, witness monks collecting alms at sunrise and discover natural blue waterfalls, all inside of eight days.
Explore Tour Leader
2 nights simple guesthouse
5 nights simple hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Located on the banks of the Mekong River, the Laos capital is a relaxed place that has a feel more similar to a provincial town than a capital city. Weathered French Colonial mansions give way to golden temples, and the languid pace of life here makes it an ideal place to explore by bicycle.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Vientiane at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Watty International Airport (VTE) which is 15 minutes from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up in the hotel lobby at 8am on day two.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to see the unique Buddhist stupa of Pha That Luang before enjoying a Beerlao by the river at sunset. This is the best way to end the day, start your adventure and meet your fellow explorers.
New Rose Boutique Hotel (or similar)
This morning we include a sightseeing tour around the city. This is a low-built, red roofed attractive capital city, with a French feel and a relaxed atmosphere. We explore some of the best sights including the Victory Gate which is a Triumphal Arch with good views of the town, the That Luang stupa which is said to contain a hair of the Buddha, and Wat Sisaket, a beautiful temple packed with fine Buddha images.
This afternoon is left free for further exploration. It is possible to visit nearby Buddha Park, a vast green expanse just 30 minutes from the city that houses a beguiling selection of Buddhist and Hindu statues. Alternatively you may choose to visit the COPE Museum, a not-for-profit organisation set up to provide prosthetic limbs to the many victims of the unexploded ordinance (UXO) left behind from the Vietnam war. The museum does an excellent job of giving some of the background to the bombing campaign, along with showcasing the important work the COPE foundation is doing. Most report it to be a sobering, emotive but rewarding experience that enhances one's understanding of this fascinating country.
This morning we make our way to Vientiane railway station to board the newly constructed Boten-Vientiane Railway for the short two hour journey to Vang Vieng. Opened in December 2021, this ambitious collaboration between Laos and China connects the Chinese Railway system at the northern border with the Thai Railway system across the Friendship Bridge in the South. The railway now connects a series of rural villages in Laos and will be a huge booster to trade, in a country that has a poorly connected road network through mountainous terrain. Using a fleet of modern trains that travel at speeds of up to 160 km/h, they have also opened up traveller networks in Laos and made previously challenging journeys much more comfortable.
The first leg of our train journey rolls past lush rice paddies and across a patchwork of farmers' fields, with small pockets of villages visible as we whoosh by towards Vang Vieng. Upon arrival, the afternoon has been left free to explore our new surroundings.
We recommend a short stroll down to the riverbank this evening in time for sunset, where there are a number of areas to sit and take in dramatic scenery. Watch people float down the river as the sun starts to dip behind the mountains and the sky turns a deep burnt-orange, just be sure to bring a camera to catch some sunset snaps.
Vilayvong Guesthouse (or similar)
Vang Vieng enjoys an idyllic setting. Perched on the banks of the Nam Song river it is surrounded by a patchwork of lush rice paddies and set to a backdrop of towering jagged limestone cliffs. Once known as a party-town for backpackers, present-day Vang Vieng has now re-invented itself as the home of adventure travel in Laos, where its setting lends itself to a host of activities for anybody from casual walkers to adrenaline thrill-seekers.
As there is plenty of choice available, today has been left free to choose from a number of optional excursions, such as a guided walk past rice paddies to nearby minority villages, a visit to the 2km underground cave network, or kayaking along the gentle Nam Song river.
We make our way back to the train station this morning for the second leg of our train journey through the heart of Laos. This journey takes us through the mountains in a series of newly constructed tunnels, with some spectacular mountain scenery to take in in-between tunnels. We arrive into Luang Prabang around two hours later, a journey which used to take a full day when travelling by winding mountain road.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is nestled in a valley of lush rolling hills and sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Khan and the mighty Mekong. Influence from its French occupiers is peppered all over the city, with grand white-washed Indochinese villas lining its leafy streets, oddly complementing the golden-tipped wats (temples) found around almost every corner. Time moves so slowly here that it almost stands still, and a must-do is grabbing a Lao coffee, sitting down outside one of the many cafes and just watching the world go by, in traditional Lao-style.
After arriving we transfer to bus and travel to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls, approximately 45 minutes from Luang Prabang. Passing forested hills and several ethnic minority villages we arrive at the limestone falls that cascade into several turquoise pools below. Returning to Luang Prabang, there is an opportunity to take an afternoon bicycle trip to the Lao Loum village at Ban Phanom. Approximately 6 km from Luang Prabang, the road gently undulates through cultivated scenery and arrives at a well-kept scenic village on the banks of the Nam Khan River.
This evening there is chance to walk to nearby Mount Phousi and climb its 328 steps in time for sunset, offering excellent panoramic views over this sleepy city and beyond.
Davita Boutique Hotel (or similar)
Today we'll really get to have a closer look at Luang Prabang. All the main sights of interest are close together and we'll have a chance to walk around the various wats (temples) including the splendid Wat Xieng Thong (the Golden Temple built in 1559), which is strikingly decorated in brilliant red and gold designs, with an imposing tiled roof and mosaic dragon motifs. We'll also visit Wat Sen and the Royal Palace Museum. This afternoon has been left free to further explore this charming city, or to relax at one of the many al-fresco coffee shops that pepper the street sides. A visit the Luang Prabang's bustling night market is highly recommended.
This morning we board a traditional long-tail boat for the short journey up the Mekong River to Pak Ou Caves. There a number of steps to climb here as we make our way up the limestone cliffs to reach the sacred Buddhist shrine. Although now abandoned by the monks, there is an altar for incense burning, flower offerings and numerous rock shelves crammed with thousands of Buddha images of all shapes and sizes.
This afternoon there is an opportunity to take an afternoon bicycle trip to the Lao Loum village at Ban Phanom. Approximately 6 km from Luang Prabang, the road gently undulates through cultivated scenery and arrives at a well-kept scenic village on the banks of the Nam Khan River. We will spend time meeting the locals and learning a little more about the everyday life of rural Lao before returning to Luang Prabang for a well-earned Beer Lao.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Luang Prabang.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Luang Prabang at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Luang Prabang Airport (LPQ), which is 10 minutes from our hotel.
The area of Laos and Thailand is tropical 'cool' from November to February, (15 to 27 Degrees Centigrade); 'hot' from March to May (up to 38 Degrees); 'wet' from June to October (rainy, hot and muggy). Bangkok and lowland areas are sticky all year round, but the northern highlands (Luang Prabang) are more temperate with a drier heat. The so-called 'cool' season can get very cold in the uplands at night and in the morning, bring a fleece.
2 Pin Flat
Vientiane - Half day tour of Buddha Park: $19USD per person Vang Vieng - Half day excursion to Tham Jung Cave: $19USD per person Vang Vieng - Half day cycle to Tham Phoukham Cave: $27 USD per person Vang Vieng - Half day kayaking on Nam Song River: $20 USD per person Vang Vieng - Half day zip wiring experience: $65 USD per person Luang Prabang - Half day cycle to Lao Loum village: $33 USD per person Luang Prabang - Half day cookery class at Tamarind cookery school: $50 USD including lunch Luang Prabang - Half day visit to Ock Pop Tok living craft centre: $16 USD per person Please note prices are based on approximately 4- 6 participants and may vary up or down depending on group sizes.
Lightweight rainwear is advisable all year. Bring a fleece to wear in the highlands as well as a hat and gloves in winter (Dec-Feb).
Walking shoes, trainers & sandals.
Should consist of a main piece of baggage and a daypack (suitcases are not recommended).
Bring a torch, insect repellent, a waterbottle, sun glasses, sun hat and high factor sun cream.
Accommodation in Laos is as varied as the country itself. On this trip we stay in a mixture of simple, well-located hotels. The hotels are all twin-share with en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning, but standards do not equate to standards in the UK and therefore it's best to approach each type of accommodation with an open mind. Service can be slow in places especially when travelling with a group. Breakfasts in Laos are a somewhat simple affair consisting of bread, eggs, fruit and tea/coffee. For the most part hotels do not have heating so in the winter months it can be chilly and if you feel the cold you may wish to ask for extra blankets. Hot water is not always available 24 hours a day in some of the smaller properties, and with a group staying you might find if you are showering last you may miss out on the hottest water. \kerning0
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
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Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
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Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Laos: A single visa is required by UK, New Zealand, Australian, US & Canadian citizens and can be obtained on arrival. The visa on arrival costs 30USD for New Zealand and Australian citizens, 35USD for UK & US citizens and 42USD for Canadian citizens. For other nationalities the price varies between US$30-42. One passport sized photo is required to arrange this.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
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Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Although not compulsory, travellers may wish to immunise themselves against Japanese encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.