Bicycling in Laos

by Peter
(Sitiawan, Malaysia)

The hills in the north of Laos

The hills in the north of Laos

When I first came to Asia, Laos was said to like Thailand but less touristy. I went to Mukdahan in Thailand and saw Laos at the other side of the river. Little did I know at that moment I would in later years do quite a bit of bicycling in Laos.

Bicycling in Laos started for me in 1999 when I crossed the Pakse border, visited the 1000 islands and Champasakh before continuing north to Vientiane and further to China.

At that time, the road was being upgraded, some parts were pretty bad and bad buses traveled north-south and reverse. I felt lucky being on the bicycle because it not only gave me freedom and experiencing a bumpy road, but I also was able to see parts of the country bus travelers only see flashing by (if they even see it at all).

I went several times back, the last time in October 2010. To my surprise not much had really changed since my first visit except Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. The roads now were all in excellent condition but for the most, the country was still relaxed.

But why would you go bicycling in Laos? Here's a little story that happened to me just 15 km north of Luang Prabang.

I was on the way to Luang Prabang when a man stopped me. He told me there was a little party and asked if I wanted to join. It was midday and hot. I also needed a rest, water and some food so it seemed all fitting in.

The little party happened in a small hut at the roadside. Inside a lot of people drinking Lao beer. When I entered it felt silent for a few moments, a white man had entered! Wow!

I was greeted like an old friend, pushed into drinking Lao Lao, the local made rice whiskey. It's heavy stuff, especially for someone coming out of the heat AND having stopped drinking alcohol for several years!

We had a lot of fun but after some time I had to continue. The guys gave me some food and water for the road. I left but with a shaky head. Not used to alcohol compared with the heat made me dizzy.

I don't really remember well how I made Luang Prabang but I was an experience richer with the local Lao people. And that is what it is all about. That is what can happening bicycling in Laos.

You can read more about my experiences in Laos on my bicycle website, especially on the cycling in Laos pages.

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Sep 12, 2011
Great story
by: D.Phothisane

Thanks Peter for sharing your bicycling in Laos story. It's a great story.

I have to admit that I've never tried bicycling further than a few kilometers outside of Vientiane. It would be a great experience to be able to do one up north to Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang.

I guess Vang Vieng and/or Luang Prabang trial is for experienced cyclists as it will require a lot of strength for sure because the road is up hill. But the view is magnificent and well worth a try.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing. I'm sure others will enjoy reading your story as much as I do.


Sep 13, 2011
Cycling around Vientiane
by: Peter

I can't blame you, we're all different:)

A bicycle is a good way of traveling, as you can experience a lot more than by using buses or trains (not applicable in Laos). Motorbikers have similar experiences as I have on bicycle.

Laos especially is wonderful to use a bicycle. Not only is Laos a beautiful country with amazingly nice people, even nicer outside the tourist areas of Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, but also there's a lot to see many travelers simply skip because "they have limited time".

Your Lao wedding page is a good example of how interesting the country can be if you take the time to go out of the tourist areas.

Specialized tours as I recommend on my own
cycling in Laos
pages can solve that "problem" as such tours can include, if available of course, such events.

For most travelers however, cycling is not an option for 2 reasons: 1. not interested to cycle and 2. no time because they want to see the "highlights" and not "waste" time on a bicycle (in fact it's the same reason as #1).

As for the road to Vang Vieng, yes it's uphill, 2 days required. But the real challenge is the road to Phonsavan or the roads to Luang Prabang and Oudomxai.

That said, last year I did south and central Laos and met several cyclists on the way including a Dutch couple in their late 60's coming from Luang Prabang on a tandem. Cycling in Laos is absolutely possible. It's a matter of mindset, not a matter of age, race, sex or even if you have cycled before.

This November the plan is to cycle again Kunming back to either Chang Mai or Vientiane, not sure yet, but I will do the northern area in Laos. I want to explore the road from Oudomxai to Pang Beng, apparently now new and excellent and... I have never done THAT road. Trust me, Laos is a great country, especially for cycling.

Jul 22, 2012
by: Davis

Hey yeah,

Thanks for sharing that cycling story. I started cycling in China [2008] after almost 20yrs of never cycling at all. I love it now and really look forward to cycling out and about from Vientiane [Aug 2012], and even to Thailand - well i hope.

It's good to hear that it's pretty safe cycling in Laos and that the roads are good.

Good cycling.

Davis [46yrs/from NZ/now in Viet Nam]

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