Thakhek Loop and Pakse Loop: The Most Complete Guide to Laos’ Motorcycle Loops with Itinerary (Updated 2019)

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Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop Pakse Loop
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop Pakse Loop
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop Pakse Loop
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop Pakse Loop

The wind is blowing in your neck, your favorite road trip tunes are blasting in your ear as you pass one rice-paddy after the other. Giving your bike that extra bit of speed, you realize these Asian bikes do not have any speed limitations. You have a little fun…70, 80, 90 km’s an hour, oops that might have been a bit too much. Every now and again a beaten old truck passes you, honking because you’re one of the few tourists coming this way. Same goes for the kids living in the local villages, running to the side of the road and waving wildly. Waving back at them, you try to keep the bike straight. Why did they put the throttle on the right side of the steering wheel? That doesn’t matter though because you’re on one of the greatest motorcycle loops in Laos!

Sunset during the thakhek loop on a motorcycle
Stunning Sunsets during the Thakhek Loop

Note: This article is a very detailed itinerary for both completing both Laos’ motorcyle loops: the Thakhek Loop and the Pakse Loop.  It contains the most important stops on both of the loops, several accommodation options and A LOT of photos. If you are only looking for information on  either the Thakhek loop or the Pakse Loop, click on the tabel of content below and jump ahead!

Click here to jump ahead

The Thakhek Loop and Pakse Loop: Everything you need to know about Laos’ Motorcycle Loops with Itinerary

How to Choose Between Pakse Loop or the Thakhek Loop?

The best way to see Laos (or most of South East Asia) is through the famous motorcycle loops. Based out of either Thakhek or Pakse, the Thakhek Loop and the Pakse Loop are either 2 or 4 days long. While the Thakhek loop is located in Central Laos, the Pakse loop is much closer to the very famous Si Phan Don (aka Four Thousand Islands) in Southern Laos.

Both motorcycle loops are blessed with long and windy roads but have vastly different landscapes. The Thakhek loop is filled with endless mountains and caves plus an eerie looking lake. Prefer to see spectacular waterfalls and rainforest? The Pakse Loop is your go-to. Do you have enough time? Do both!

 Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
on the Motorcycle on the Thakhek loop, Laos

The Thakhek Loop: Two or Four-day Motorcycle Tour

Thakhek: The Practical Stuff

How to Get to Thakhek?

The easiest way to get to Thakhek is via bus. Find more information, with average bus times, on the available bus routes below.

  • Vang Vieng to Thakhek (potentially needing to transfer in Vientiane): 10 hours in total, expect a cost between roughly ₭125.000 (21AUD/14USD/13EUR) and ₭200.000 (33AUD/23USD/21EUR)
  • Vientiane to Thakhek: 5,5 hours of travel, prices between roughly ₭66.000 (11AUD/8USD/7EUR) and ₭130.000 (22AUD/15USD/13EUR)
  • Pakse to Thakhek: little over 5 hours of travel

Note: There are online retailers selling the tickets for these busses, but I would always recommend asking around before buying anything online in countries such as Laos.

Motorcycles on the side of the road during the thakhek loop

Tips for traveling by bus in SEA:
  • There are often different companies doing the same bus route. Ask around with other tourists to see which bus company they took and what they thought.
  • Consider the number of stops (cheaper bus tickets often have more stops), the safety checks done on the bus (there are many bus accidents in South East Asia) and the comfort of the seats.
  • There is a difference between ‘tourist’ buses and local buses. The tourist buses are more expensive, but you’re likely to get more safety and comfort in return. Also, don’t be surprised if locals jump on the bus in the middle of the night and sleep in the aisle.
  • Expect price differences between day-time buses and overnight sleeper buses.

Things to do in Thakhek

Thakhek is located in the Khammoune province of Central Laos, on the border of Thailand and Laos. The Mekong river, which divides the countries, separates Thakhek from the Thai town of Nakhon Phanom (reachable by bus).

While Thakhek might not be a famous tourist destination (we didn’t see any tourists), the Thakhek loop is becoming more and more popular. We couldn’t find much to do in the town itself and decided to leave straight after completing the loop.

Important note: Thakhek did not have any cheap massage places upon our visit. DO NOT go to the massage/sauna/karaoke spot (if it still exists) on the strip next to the water. If you want to hear the story about my first and only visit to a brothel, feel free to slide into my DM’s!

Where to stay in Thakhek

There is a growing amount of accommodation in Thakhek, from guesthouses to hotels. We stayed at the Xailuedy Hotel, which was good enough for us. If I were to go back, I would book Inthira Thakhek instead.

The Thakhek Loop: Two to Four Days – 450km

The Thakhek Loop is famous for its karst mountains and caves. Taking off on this loop, you will be driving between 200 to 450km, depending on whether you choose the two or four-day loop. The two-day loop goes as far as Lake Thalang while the Kong Lor Cave is located past the paved roads. If it is your first time on a motorcycle, it is a good idea to stick to the paved roads. If the Kong Lor Cave is on your wishlist, you have to complete the full 450km loop.

Getting lost on the Thakhek Loop is hard as there is literally one road. Paying close attention to the map will guide you perfectly. If you still worry about getting lost, plot your journey on an offline map such as Maps.Me.

The map to thakhek motorcycle loop in Laos

Day 1: Thakhek to Lake Thalang: Buddha Cave, Tham Pha Nya Cave, Tha Falang Swimming Hole, and Lake Thalang

Day one will take you alongside the beautiful karst mountain lined roads on Route 12 to 23km long the lake of Thalang. Here, you will see plenty of small eateries with fuel stations. There are also many caves to visit. On day one you can choose between (in order if you are driving from Thakhek to Thalang) Elephant Cave or Tham Xang, Tham Pha Fa or Buddha Cave, Xieng Liab and Tham Pha Nya Inh Cave.

Getting fuel during the motorcycle loops:

There are plenty of fuel stops along the way. Often next to a guesthouse, an eatery or a small shop. You can try to negotiate on the price of fuel, but it might not work. Some people will try and sell it at a set high price. Try to get fuel before you get too low. In this way, you can always drive to the next fuel station.

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Stop 1: Buddha Cave

Your first cave of the day is Buddha Cave. It is a small detour from the road, but it is well marked. If you are looking on Google, search for Tham Pa Fa. The cave is filled with up to 229 Buddha statues! Buddha Cave is one of the more popular caves in the area and therefore there is an entrance fee to be paid. Note that it is not allowed to take photos inside the cave.

Stop 2: Tham Pha Nya Inh Cave

The second cave on your list is the biggest cave on day one, Tham Pha Nya Inh Cave. The cave has staircase built inside the cave (so strange) and for an extra fee of KIP 20.000, you can take a boat through the cave. The usual entrance fee for the cave is another KIP 30.000. Walking in the cave you can sense the immediate change of temperature and we had a good time discovering all the nooks and crannies.

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Stop 3: Tha Falang swimming hole

Enough caves for today, your next stop is Tha Falang, a pristine swimming hole. The road to the swimming hole is dusty and corrugated, but totally worth it. After spending a day on the road, a refreshing swim is just what the doctor ordered.

Stop 4: Lake Thalang

Congratulations, you’ve made it to your first stop along the Thakhek Loop, Lake Thalang. Lake Thalang has a super eerie vibe as it is covered with dead trees. It used to be dry land before it was flooded due to the closeby dam. A large part of the trees died off while other trees are making it work. A very strange landscape to see!

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Sunset on Lake Thalang
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
The dam that caused the area of Lake Thalang to flood

Lake Thalang during Thakhek loop in laos
Eerie trees, dead and alive, along Lake Thalang
Day 1 Thakhek Loop Accommodation

You have two options to stay on the Thakhek loop during your first evening:

  • Phosy Thalang Guesthouse: We enjoyed our personal bungalows by the lake here. They were cheap and very tranquil to rest after a full day on the road. The views were amazing and I loved the balcony! Don’t expect the most outstanding food out, but it did the trick. The nightly rate is around 77.000KIP (13AUD/9USD/8EUR) for 2 adults in a double bed, Fill in your dates to get a more exact price. It got pretty cold at night, so make sure to pack some extra clothes!
  • Sabaidee Guesthouse: A little bit further down the road of Phosy Thalang, Sabaidee Guesthouse offers a more lively atmosphere, perfect if you want to meet fellow backpackers. The coolest thing about this place is that they offer an outdoor BBQ (50.000 KIP) which many travelers call a must, even if you are not overnighting here.

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Day 2: Lake Thalang to Kong Lor Caves and back to Thakhek

Here, you have the option of heading back to Thakhek and staying on the (safe) paved roads. Make sure that you drive on a little bit further up anyway before heading back. The immediate area around Lake Thalang is as haunting as it is gorgeous! Or you can choose to continue to Kong Lor Cave. Either way, don’t forget to fuel up before you leave!

The route from Lake Thalang to Kong Lor Caves

Leaving either guesthouse, you will hit dirt roads quickly and they will last more or less up to LakSao. Tread carefully, follow the tracks already made and go slowly! Along this drive, you might spot one of the few Buddha statues that are carved out of the rocks on the side of the road.

Your only stop today is Cool Springs/Cool Pool, another crystal clear swimming hole. You can find signs about 30km from LakSao and down another dirt road. Totally refreshed it’s time to go to the next town, Nahin. You can either overnight in Nahin or continue on another 40km down the road to the Kong Lor Caves, depending on how late you arrive. Most people find it too hard to visit Kong Lor Caves on day two and leave it for the morning of day three.

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
A popular roadside product: watermelons
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Little piglets living with together with a family on the side of the Thakhek Loop
Day 2 Thakhek Loop Accommodation

Your accommodation on day two will depend on how far you get by bike. Since you are traversing dirt roads, your speed will often depend on the condition of the roads.

If overnight in Nahin, you have two excellently rated guesthouses:

  • Sanhak Guest House: with dorm options and private rooms, Sanhak Guest House is a steal. A single bed in the dorm will only cost you around LAK42.000 (7AUD/5USD/4EUR). Fill in your dates for an exact price.
  • Phamarnview Guesthouse: More expensive than the previous option, but also very well rated. I would head here if Sanhak Guesthouse is full.

If you’ve been a good little road tripper and are able to make it all the way to Kong Lor village, there are a few options for accommodation:

  • Thongdam Guesthouse: Ask for a bungalow and enjoy the view. Expect to pay LAK77.500 (13AUD/9USD/8EUR), but fill in your dates for an exact price.
  • SpringRiver Resort: SpringRiver resort is based next to the river and only offers bungalows. The river view bungalows are very expensive online, but I assume they will be cheaper if you rock up. If you want to be sure, you can book a garden view bungalow for LAK131.300 (22AUD/15USD/13.5EUR). Prices will vary depending on when you’re booking.
  • Kong Klor Cave Guesthouse: According to, this is the best place to stay during your visit to Kong Lor Cave. It’s very close to the location and the price is super affordable at LAK60.000 (10AUD/7USD/6EUR). Don’t quote me on these prices guys, always check your dates or negotiate.
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Day 3: Kong Lor Caves to Thakhek

Kong Lor Caves

The Kong Lor Cave is so famous due to its size. Visitors describe it as going inside a mountain, others as a real-life ‘Space Mountain. Most visitors come here for the 7km long boat tour you can take inside the cave.

It’s no secret that the cave will be your most expensive attraction along the Thakhek Loop. Expect to pay to park your motorcycle, to enter the cave and for the boat tour. For LAK 65.000 (11AUD/7USD/8EUR) you can enter the cave and take part in one of the boat tours.

The route from Kong Lor Caves to Thakhek

Most people will be keen to head back to Thakhek after several days on the motorcycle. After all, most of this journey will be spent on busy Highway 13.

If you do desire a quick stop over and a dip in another swimming hole, mark Khun Kong Leng Lake on your map. It looks idyllic on some photos and a lot less on other photos, but it looks worth having a look for yourself.

Thakhek loop in Laos with motorcycle
Endless roads of the Thakhek Loop alongside karst mountains
Thakhek loop in Laos with motorcycle
Thakhek loop in Laos with motorcycle
Not the sexiest outfit, but wearing a windproof jacket saved my life on the motorcycle

Where to rent a motorcycle in Thakhek?

There are three options for renting a motorcycle in Thakhek. Make sure to read my tips on riding a motorcycle at the bottom of the article first though!

  • Your first option Mad Monkey Motorbike, which we chose. This local shop is run by a German who knows a lot about the area and bikes. Expect to pay KIP150.000 (25AUD/17USD/15,5EUR) per day. This price is higher than what you expect to spend in Laos or what you can find in other stores. We chose safety over budget.

While I was perfectly happy with my Mad Monkey rental, I have seen that they are getting some bad reviews due to their customer service. Therefore I wanted to add a few other options for you:

  • Wang Wang: Getting good reviews, Wang Wang is one of the budget options in town. It looks like they could be a safe bet, but I cannot stress enough to be careful when renting a motorcycle in South East Asia.
  • Pokemon Go: This rental is associated with the Thakhek Travel Lodge. The internet is littered with negative reviews of Pokemon Go’s bikes. Sadly, you will always find people renting out broken motorcycles that are bad quality, so make sure to test drive before you head out!
Motorcycle on the Thakhek loop, Laos
I love random objects on the side of the road, anyone up for a little swan ride?

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

rice-paddies on the thakhek loop in Laos with motorcycle
Funeral of an Army official on the Thakhek Loop in Laos
Witnessing the funeral of an Army official

The Pakse Loop: Two or Four-Day Motorcycle Loop to Tad Lo

Traveling south from Thakhek, we arrive in the town of Pakse. Pakse is the second biggest city in Laos after Vientiane, the capital. The landscape is also dramatically different, say goodbye to the karst mountains and say hello to coffee, rainforest, and waterfalls!

Pakse: What to Do, Where to Stay, What to Eat

How to Get to Pakse?

Being the second biggest city in Laos, Pakse is well connected via public transport.

  • Vientiane to Pakse: Coming in from Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang, you will pass through Vientiane first and then go onwards to Pakse. The trip will be between 9.5h and 11h and will cost between 25AUD and 37AUD.
  • Don Det/Si Phan Don to Pakse: The travel time up north between Si Phan Don and Pakse (excluding time on the boat from Don Det) is around 2.5h and is around 10AUD.
  • Thakhek to Pakse: 5.5 hour travel time on a local bus
Tad Yuan waterfall on the Pakse Loop
Tad Yuan waterfall on the Pakse Loop

Things to do in Pakse

Pakse is the perfect stop on your way through Laos. It is surrounded by the most beautiful waterfalls, has coffee plantations and is well connected to other tourist areas such as Thakhek, Vientiane and Si Phan Don (4000 Islands). That doesn’t make Pakse a very big place though, but there are a few things to explore:

  • Wat Luang: Regarded as the prettiest temple in Pakse, Wat Luang is a mix between colorful architecture and historic buildings. Built in 1935, the temple serves as a school for Buddist monks and is admired by many visitors each year.
  • The Golden Buddha: Wat Phou Salao is home of a giant Golden Buddha overlooking the city and the Mekong river. Worth a stop.
  • Wat Phu: A Kmer temple that reminds me of the Angkor Wat temples, yet much smaller. What a surprise it was to discover that it is even older! Recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, you will have to drive an hour south to find the temple in the town of Champasak.
  • Bolaven Plateau: While most people will say that the Pakse Loop or the tour around the Bolaven Plateau is the ultimate reason to visit Pakse. It is, however, located outside of the town. That being said, Pakse is the perfect base to explore it from. A full recap of what to expect on the Pakse Loop here below.
Where to eat in Pakse Laos
Tom Yum on the daily

Where to eat in Pakse

  • Daolin Restaurant and coffee shop: On the corner of Thanon 24 and No. 13 S Road, Daolin is a favorite amongst many backpackers and by far the best Lao food that we ate in Pakse. Try the passionfruit juice! Boy, do I miss that drink!
  • Le Panorama: Offering a rooftop view of the city, this place arguably has the best bar in the city. Expect to pay tourist prices.
  • Vida Bakery Cafe: You cannot ignore the French Colonial history in Laos which results in excellent bakeries all around the country. Vida Bakery is one of those cafes. Check it out for a great Western-style breakfast.
  • La Boulange: Another bakery that makes French-style baked goods. I did not go here, but from the pics, I would have to say this place would definitely be on my list.
  • Dok Mai Lao Caffe Restaurant: Dok Mai Lao is an Italian restaurant. I’m always wary of European cuisine restaurants in Asia as they tend to be much higher priced and the food is often not very good. Dok Mai Lao, however, gets lots of love for its dishes so it’s worth trying it out!
  • 124 Thaluang Coffee: 124 Thaluang Coffee is one of those places I love. Small, undiscovered and beautifully decorated. Comes with high praise on their coffee as well.

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Where to stay in Pakse

The popularity of Pakse has grown significantly over the last few years, which means more accommodation popped up. Below you will find the hostel I stayed in and a few that would be amongst my favorites if I were to go back. Click on the name of the hostel for exact prices on the dates you are staying.

  • Sabaidi 2 Guesthouse (where I stayed): Basic hostel with a good location and clean. It is also pretty sociable. The Wifi didn’t work during our visit due to the receptionist who was downloading music on his own account.
  • 1918’s Hostel: If I were to go back now, I would book 1918’s Hostel. I love just bunk beds with curtains for privacy.
  • Sanga Hostel: Sanga also has curtains on their individual bed and scores higher on the ratings than 1918’s. They come in second place due to the fact that they only offer mixed dorms (personal preference).
  • You Empire Hostel & Bar: If you are looking for a hostel that is very lively, You Empire hostel is a favorite. It offers private rooms, which 1918’s and Sanga Hostel do not.
Wondering what I look for when choosing a hostel? After trying many, I made a list of what you should look for when choosing a hostel

The Pakse Loop: Two or Four Days

Similar to the Thakhek Loop, you can also choose between a two-day and a four-day loop during the Pakse Loop. The scenery of the Pakse Loop through the Bolaven Plateau is completely different from the Thakhek Loop and will be filled with waterfalls, coffee, rainforest and small villages rather than karst mountains.

The Bolaven Plateau, also known as Phu Phieng Bolaven, is a volcanic landscape which results in very fertile ground for the surrounding coffee plantations. Most of the loop is based around visiting the villages, the Arabica coffee plantations and a ton of waterfalls.

The most famous waterfall of them all is Tad Lo and therefore this loop is also often referred to as the Tad Lo loop. If you struggle reading the below maps, you should plot your trip on an offline map such as Maps.Me.

maps Pakse Loop for motorcycles in Laos
The Map to the Pakse Loop

Day 1: Tad Pha Suam and Tad Lo

Start by heading north from Pakse. Our first stop was Tad Pha Suam. Easy to find and lovely to look at. While riding, keep your eyes open for coffee drying by the side of the road. The coffee berry sure does not look like the coffee as we know it.

Looking to visit a coffee plantation? Mr Vieng’s Organic Coffee Plantation in the Katu Homestay and Café is the most popular coffee plantation along the way. Learn more about the perils of growing organic coffee and pick up a few bags to bring home. Mr. Vieng also has a homestay, but I recommend to keep going until the town of Tad Lo and stay where we stayed.

Your final destination of the day is Tad Lo village. The Tad Lo village and waterfall are famous mostly due to its location on the loop. It’s not just one waterfall you can visit here though, there are actually three different waterfalls: Tad Suong, Tad Lo, and Tad Hang.

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Tad Pasuam waterfall

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Coffee drying on the side of the road on the Thakhek Loop, Laos
Coffee drying on the side of the road on the Thakhek Loop, Laos
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Day 2: More waterfalls than you can count and JHAI coffee shop

Start your morning by driving to Bane Beng (or simply “Beng” in Google) first and then turning right to drive back south from Bane Beng to Thateng. In Thateng, you have to choose between the big loop and the small loop. To continue onwards on the small loop, drive straight ahead. To choose the big loop, turn left to Sekong.

Choosing between the Two-Day and Four-Day Pakse Loop: Tad Tayicseau & Tad Katamtok

The main difference between the two-day and four-day loop around Pakse is the additional amount of waterfalls that you can see. Both loops are centered around Tad Lo waterfall so don’t worry about missing out on that one.

So why do people choose the big loop? Because it has the loops’ biggest waterfalls on it. I have to admit that they do look very picturesque. Tad Tayicseua is the major attraction and reminds me of a bigger version of the famous Milaa Milaa Falls in Cairns, Australia. Tad Katamtok, Laos’ largest waterfall is also on the big loop but is not the easiest to find. Some people also say the most beautiful part of the loop is between Tad Tayicseau and Paksong, where both loops merge once again.

Kids on the Thakhek Loop, Laos

The best coffee shop on the Bolaven Plateau: JHAI Coffee House in Paksong

Paksong is where the big and the small loop merge on the way back West to Pakse. Here you can find one of my favorite stops of the day. Yes, you read that right, it’s not a waterfall, but a coffee shop. Needless to say, I’m highly recommending you stop here too.

JHAI Coffee House is located somewhere on the road in Pakxong and is indicated on the map as well. Why is it so awesome? It’s an organic coffee shop with a bohemian flair. It only serves and supports local products, which I love. I honestly could have hung out in the cafe all day if we didn’t have to keep driving. Have a rest on their rooftop terras as well!

Jhai coffee house on to the Thakhek Loop, Laos

Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Pakse Loop

Waterfall Hopping: Tad Fan, Tad Yuang

While the road might be leading back to the end of the loop, the party is not over yet! Today you are passing a few of the prettiest waterfalls: Tad Fan, Tad Champee, Tad E-Tu, and Tad Yuang (signed as Tad Gneuang). My personal favorites are Tad Fan and Tad Yuang, for which there is an entrance fee. I would suggest looking at the photos on the blog and doing a bit of extra Googling to decided which ones you want to see. After all, the amount of the waterfalls on the Pakse Loop are endless.

Tad Fan on the Pakse Loop, Laos
Tad Fan

Accommodation during the Pakse Loop

There is plenty of accommodation all along the Pakse Loop with the major points of the loop perfectly coordinated with the availability of accommodation.

We stayed in the most lovely guesthouse, Sailom Yen Guesthouse, which is a basic bamboo hut with an awesome view over the river. I can’t give you a link, but it’s on your right side before you cross the bridge in Tat Lo.

Accommodation Pakse Loop, Laos

accommodation Pakse Loop, Laos

Where to rent a Motorcycle on the Pakse Loop

We rented our motorbikes at Miss Noy’s. We had heard that a Belgian, Yves, was running it and I had to check it out. They turned out to be the most popular and reputable company renting out motorcycles in Pakse. It is recommended to book your bike as soon as you arrive in Pakse rather than showing up the morning of your loop.

It’s only little store attached to a hotel on the main drag. Go right from Daolin restaurant and you’ll find it on your left. We noticed a big quality difference between our bikes in Thakhek and here, but from what I’m reading online, they are still the best you can get in this area. Just in case, always ask around and don’t forget to negotiate!

Accommodation on pakse loop, Laos
Our hut on the Pakse Loop, one of my favorite accommodations to date

When to visit Laos and do the Loops?

The best time to visit Laos and complete the Thakhek Loop and the Pakse Loop is during the dry season. While you could go out during the wet season as the dirt roads will be much harder to navigate.

Below you will find an overview of what to expect during different times of the year:

  • October – April: Dry season, warm days with cold nights, perfect for the motorcycle loops. It is more touristy, but because Central and Southern Laos is not super touristy, you won’t be smothered in tourists.
  • March – June: Warmest months of the year
  • May to September: Wet season, you can still go on the motorcycle loops, but you might not be able to the dirt tracks. Waterfalls will be more impressive during the wet and the Mekong river may overflow.
  • August & September: Heaviest rainfall, I would avoid Laos in these months.
Rainforest on Pakse Loop, Laos
Rainforest everywhere during the Pakse Loop

What to pack for your Thakhek and Pakse Loops?

Pack as light as you possibly can, but definitely include these things:

  • Headtorch for the caves
  • Windproof rain jacket, it gets cold on the bike!
  • Glasses for on the bike (bugs)
  • Mosquito repellent (I always find it best to buy the local products as they work better for the local bugs)
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet paper
  • Jeans to protect your legs
  • two-three t-shirts/tops depending on how many days you are going to be on the bike
  • Underwear
  • A sweater/something warm to wear on the bike and during the cold nights
  • Solid shoes such as sneakers or boots, do not wear flip flops on a motorbike. Bring flips flops for when you’re not on the bike and are too hot.
  • Swimwear: both the Pakse and the Thakhek loop have swimming holes so this is essential
  • Travel towel: Sea To Summit has my favorite travel towels
  • Basic hygienic products
  • Camera & other desired electronics
Thakhek loop in Laos with motorcycle
Everything you pack should pit on the bike easily, leave your big bag in the guesthouse

13 Tips for Renting and Driving a Motorcycle in Laos

Driving a motorcycle in South East Asia can be daunting. Coming from Europe, we are so used to traffic rules. In South East Asia, things are different. Here are my best tips for renting and driving a motorcycle in Laos:

Before you pay for your bike and leave the rental place, you should pay attention to the following:

  1. Check whether the fuel meter still works. It’s a massive headache if you have to guess how full your fuel tank is!
  2. Test the brakes extensively! Drive around the corner and brake as hard as you can a few times.
  3. Do your indicators work? Don’t expect people around you to use it, but every bit of safety helps.
  4. Do the lights work? I would never recommend driving at night, but in case you make a miscalculation and HAVE TO drive in the dark, make sure the lights work!
  5. Take a video of your bike before you agree to pay for it, highlighting/take photos all of the defects. In this manner, the owner cannot charge you for something that was not broken before. SEA is notorious for motorcycle rip-offs.

Ok, you’ve determined you’re riding a safe motorbike, awesome! Now you have to figure out how to drive it. Follow these tips and you should be fine!

  1. Try to stay calm and steady, the traffic might seem hectic but it will drive around you.
  2. Most drivers do not have a license, therefore it’s important that you drive defensively. This means looking around you at all times and not taking any unnecessary risks.
  3. Traffic rules exist but are ignored. Drive slowly at all times to see what’s happening around you and navigate around it.
  4. If you hear someone honking, look around and make sure they are not just about to flatten you. Most of the time, they are just saying “hello”. You see, honking replaces most of our traffic rules we have in western countries, honking works for it all. Passing someone on the street, going left or right, seeing someone you know, crossing intersections, it is just so versatile!
  5. Never drive a scooter or motorcycle in flip flops. Always wear a solid shoe that will protect your feet if anything does happen.
  6. Most tourists’ accidents in South East Asia are related to scooter accidents. I’ve seen some horrible injuries during my time in SEA, therefore NEVER ride a motorcycle without travel insurance. Most likely you will need a valid motorcycle license at home for your insurance to be valid. If you do have a license back home, make sure that you double check whether you need to have a local license as well. You will not be checked when you rent a motorbike as most people drive without it. Please do keep this into account when making your decision. World Nomads for example only covers motorcycle accidents if you have a valid driving license for the country you are riding in.
  7. ALWAYS wear a helmet. “But nobody is wearing one”… not worth it… wear a helmet.
  8. Always lock your bike, preferably to something. You do not want to deal with the drama of a stolen bike.
Kids on the Pakse Loop, Laos
The cheeky kids that asked for money for their ‘guidance’

Giving Money to Kids in Laos

Laos is one of the poorest countries in South East Asia. Keep in mind that the education rates are low across the board and you will see many kids living in poverty. We had one incident with kids following (or as they said ‘guiding’) us to a waterfall and demanding money afterward.

Personally, I found this very hard to witness because we had to be very firm with them. I don’t believe in giving money to children as I don’t think it helps them. I will also never buy anything from children and don’t think you should either.

Selling tourist gadgets or begging is often child labor. Yes, some kids might be begging for themselves, but chances are much higher that an adult is pushing them to do so. Remember that, as long as these kids are making money, they will want to keep them on the street rather than in school. Some schools have even started paying parents to keep their children in school to combat this problem.

So what can you do to help these children?

  • Read these 7 tips on how to be a ChildSafe traveler
  • Donate to a local charity, but do your research first!
  • If you really want to give something, donate supplies directly to the local school or hospital. It is strongly discouraged to give anything to the kids directly. Some people say it is ok to give hygiene products such as soap and toothbrushes (definitely not sweets or anything they could resell). I would recommend you doing your own research and deciding for yourself.
Kids on the Pakse Loop, Laos
The kids stole my heart in Laos

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Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop
Discover Laos on Motorbike: A complete guide to the Thakhek Loop & Pakse Loop

Disclaimer: This post was first published on May 9th, 2016 and has been republished after completely re-doing the whole article to give you even more information. This post contains affiliate links which means that I will earn a small commission if you buy something or book a hotel. This comes at zero extra cost for you and is a way to support me and the blog. Thank you!

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