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Cycling in south Laos

Cycling in south Laos is not very difficult as long as you stay on the main roads. The Bolovens plateau is different with upgraded roads and hard though never long climbs. Compared to north Laos, the south is less visited. On this page we will travel from south to north, meaning from Pakse to Vientiane.

Crossing the border

In south Laos there are two crossings most travelers use:

  • Chong Mek with Thailand
  • Veun Kham with Cambodia.

At both borders you can get a Lao visa, US $35, with US $2 for "overtime" (which is always). Should you travel to Cambodia, you can get a Cambodian visa (US $20) at Veun Kham too.

From Chong Mek, it's 40km to Pakse and around 70 directly to Champasak.

Road in South Laos

From the Veun Kham border, it's 20 km to Don Det and 30km to Khong Island. Remember when you come from Cambodia, there's no sign for Don Det, instead look for the junction to the Phapheing waterfalls.

There is a border crossing with Vietnam east of Pakse. Should you desire to use this one, you need to arrange your Vietnamese visa in advance. There's no possibility to do this in Pakse.


Pakse is a small provincial town. The town has a big and busy market just outside the town which is the central market for the whole south of Laos. If you cycle from (or to) Thailand you will pass it.

Main street in Pakse at around 5PM
Main street in Pakse at around 5PM

Pakse does not have much to offer but it's a convenient overnight stop for going into any further direction.


Although Champasak is one of the main tourist destinations in south Laos, it's not a big town. It's no more then a village with some guest houses. Nearby you can find the well preserved and still in service Wat Phu.

Wat Phu South Laos, a Khmer outpost
View from Wat Phu to the south and the surrounding flat lands.

4000 islands, Don Det and Khong Island

The 4000 islands in south Laos are a long way cycling. It's a popular travelers destination. At Don Det you will find plenty of guesthouses but personally I preferred Khong Island.

4000 Islands South Laos
4000 Islands, south Laos

Going north: Savannakhet

Cycling in south Laos means basically cycling on highway 13. From Pakse it's a two days ride north to Savannakhet the second biggest town in Laos.

Pakse to Savannakhet

Savannakhet is a nice city with wide open streets at the Mekong river. You can cross the river here to Mukdahan (a much smaller town on the Thai side). If Vietnam is your next destination, you have to follow highway 9 from here which leads you east to Vietnam. Don't expect excellent road conditions but it's not too bad.

Savannakhet has some excellent and cheap guesthouses and hotels. The town is in Laos quite famous for it's French pate. Together with the Lao (French) banquettes it is an excellent breakfast. The city breathes a French atmosphere, much more then for example Vientiane. Here you can still feel a bit of the French colonial history.

Savannakhet to Thakhek Thakhek to Vientiane

The journey from Savannakhet to Vientiane can take as little as 4 but can be done in more days as you will find further north every 50 or so km a guesthouse. Do not expect luxury though.

Road 13 from Champask to Pakse

Thakhek to Vientiane

The last few days of your journey in south and central Laos go from Thakhek to Vientiane, a mostly pleasant journey through rolling hills and small villages. About every 50km or so you find guesthouses, should you not want to do too many km a day.

Other pages about Laos:

North Laos Central Laos South Laos

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