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Cycling through Central Laos: Lao Bao to Savannakhet


One of the roads I never traveled I did in November 2011: I went cycling through Central Laos from Lao Bao (Vietnam) to Savannakhet. The journey is 239 km long and takes 2-3 days depending on your speed.

Lao Bao Vietnam to Savannakhet

Cycling through central Laos started in Lao Bao, where I stayed at the Vietnamese side. You can stay at the Lao border too. Both parts of the border are very uninteresting but I think the Vietnamese Lao Bao town has better accommodation.

The Vietnamese-Lao border is easy. You can get a Lao visa here but it's pricey. I paid US $42 (no additional "stamp fee").  Both Lao and Vietnamese parts of the town are practically build on the border.

Lao Bao Vietnam to Savannakhet

The Vietnamese town was a bit weird, I had some trouble to find a meal, even at night time. And it seemed the market was for a large part filled with soap and washing products although there were fruits available too.

Lao Bao Vietnam to Savannakhet
Cycling through central Laos where most of Highway 9 is like this, empty ...

Once in Laos road Highway 9 is in excellent condition, at least for the first 100 or so km's. After that, you will have to face a partly pothole and partly bad surface road. But in general it's fine cycling.

I was cycling through central Laos to Savannakhet in 2 days but I think it's better to do in 3 days as the total distance is 239km.

Fisherman in central Laos

When I arrived in Lao Bao after some climbing to Khe San, I was expecting a lot of hills on the Lao side. Nothing was further from the truth. Most of the road was flat with a few short lazy ascending here and there. It's easy cycling, even if you have not much experience.

Accommodation when cycling through central Laos

The first few km's from the Vietnamese border show several guesthouses though you are better off staying in the border town itself, where you can find a few restaurants and shops.

Typical Lao village on highway 9 Laos

You will find guesthouses all along Highway 9. Convenient places are Sephon. The next is in Muang Phin and useful should you decide to go south to Saravan (I couldn't do that due to a loose crank).

The next guesthouses are to be found around Muang Phalan, around 60km further. There are guesthouses in Donghen too. Seno is located at the junction of Highway 13 and if you plan going south to Pakse and have no desire to visit Savannakhet (still 35 km) you can stay here.

Junction Savannakhet-Friendship Bridge II

Junction Savannakhet-Friendship Bridge II

For accommodation in Savannakhet, see my Savannakhet page.

The Lao-Thai border

Just north of Savannakhet there is a second Friendship Bridge. Do not make the mistake, as I did, to try to cycle across it. The bridge is for cars, buses and trucks only. Should you still want to pass here, you have to put your bike on a pickup truck. There is no way cycling across but you CAN cross here.

The Lao-Thai border, here at the Second Friendship bridge
I had a ride on the back of pickup truck and made a
few photos on the Friendship Bridge II

Instead it is easy to take the ferry in Savannakhet town center to Mukdahan. It's shorter too.

More about Lao Bao and the road to Dong Hoi and Vin in Vietnam

Other pages about Laos:

North Laos Central Laos South Laos

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Map of Laos


Our Laos map, click here to enlarge



Visa for Laos
 

How to obtain a visa for Laos? Travelers coming from China need a visa in advance, get one at the Carmelia Hotel in Kunming Yunnan, Those coming from Thailand can obtain in Vientiane or Huay Xai a visa on the spot.

Laos visa regulations

 

North East Thailand

Another part of Thailand which is much ignored  by travelers is the north east. Admitted, there's not a whole lot to see but it's great cycling here:

North East Thailand, from Mukdahan to Ubon Ratchathani