Laos Traveller: Bangkok to Vientiane
from $2095
Duration: 14 Days
Explore the best sights, sounds, cuisine and local communities in Thailand and Laos on a 14-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. In Thailand, see ancient and modern collide in chaotic Bangkok and be charmed by the highland haven of Chiang Mai. In Laos, revel in the simple traditions that are alive in small cottage industries and villages, and where the leisurely pace of life is contagious. Explore, relax and absorb the distinct atmosphere of these two fascinating countries that sit either side of the mighty Mekong River. With a local leader on hand to show you behind the hotspots, take a journey through these gems in the South East Asian crown.
  • Experience a good taste of Thailand with stops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nan and Chiang Klang. The South East Asian neighbours work hand in hand, so discover the regional food specialties and the local hospitality.
  • This is a no-fuss, no-hurry holiday. Laos is a very relaxed country, and the pace of this trip is the same, with plenty of free time to choose your own options in each destination.
  • A slow boat down the Mekong River is one of South East Asia's most classic journeys. You’ll spend a day meandering down the river to Luang Prabang – a relaxing way to discover the region’s natural splendour.
  • Participate in workshops run by local artisans, including an indigo dyeing demonstration in Baan Thung Hong Village, and an ancient pottery class in Bo Suak Cultural Place.
  • Explore what may be Asia’s most laidback capital, Vientiane, and visit the community organisation COPE – dedicated to supporting victims of the unexploded ordnance scattered across the countryside.
  • Bangkok - Thonburi tour
  • Phrae Province - Organics Indigo Dyeing Center
  • Nan Province - Ban Cha Manut Ancient Kiln & Huan Ban Suak Saen Chuen Museum
  • Nan Province - Bo Suak Cultural Place (Pottery Workshop)
  • Nan Province - Nan Art Gallery
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Caves
  • Luang Prabang - Walking tour
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Vientiane - Walking tour
  • Day 1 Location: Bangkok
    Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Bangkok has much to offer those with time to explore, so we recommend you arrive a day or two earlier to see its wondrous sights. You can sample some world-class street food, visit the Grand Palace, wander down the bustling tourist mecca of Khao San Road or indulge in a Thai massage. If you would like to spend more time in Bangkok, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability). After your group meeting, why not get some of the crew together and head to one of Bangkok’s renowned street food markets for some delicious food. Sitting on a roadside plastic stool never felt so good when you’re eating a curry or khao soi (chicken noodle soup).
    Day 2 Location: Bangkok – Overnight Train
    Start the morning by jumping on a public ferry to Wat Kalayanamit and enjoy an included walking tour around the fascinating Thonburi area. See the mixture of cultures with Buddhist temples and Catholic churches as you stroll around. Away from the usual tourist trail, you will experience untouched local villages living by the waterways and visit quaint local markets that have plenty of interesting snacks waiting for you to try. Finish the walking tour at Amulet market and be lured into a shopping frenzy. Enjoy some free time in the afternoon for optional activities. This evening, board your overnight train to Chiang Mai (approximately 13 hours). You will travel by 2nd class and your carriage will be air-conditioned.
    Day 3 Location: Chiang Mai
    Wake up on the train and glimpse the northern scenery as you arrive in Chiang Mai, then transfer to your hotel. Get out and explore this 'Rose of the North', which boasts spectacular temples, delicious food, an enormous night market, a picturesque riverfront and excellent shopping. Hiring a bike to get around town is a great activity or venturing to the Doi Suthep temple is a great choice too. There is so much to do in Chiang Mai and you’ll have two full free days to do as much or little as you like.
    Day 4 Location: Chiang Mai
    Adventure seekers, ask your leader about white-water rafting or flying like a bird with Jungle Flight ziplining. Today is a free day and there are many optional activities your leader can help you organise. You could also participate in a Thai cooking course or see those amazing Asian Elephants in an ethical way with a visit to the Elephant Nature Park. It’s totally up to you, and your group leader knows all the best people in the right places, so ask them for their recommendations.
    Day 5 Location: Nan
    Take a private minivan to Nan (approximately 5 hours, not including stops). On the way, stop by the town of Phrae, which is very well-known for their production of indigo fabrics – some of the best in Asia. Head straight to the Baan Thung Hong Village, where you’ll get shown the ‘hom’ (indigo) plantation and participate in a traditional workshop. You’ll get a small handkerchief and will be able to try the dying process yourself. Have lunch nearby at a local restaurant, then continue on to Nan. Once arrived, your leader will take you on an orientation walk of the town, then you’ll have the rest of the evening to do as you please.
    Day 6 Location: Chiang Klang
    Make tracks for Chiang Klang today with a couple of stops along the way. Just outside of Nan is Ban Cha Manut Ancient Kiln and Huan Ban Suak Saen Chuen Museum, where you’ll learn about the ancient art of pottery in the region. The Ban Cha Manut kiln has been used in this house for over 800 years; you’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. Take a visit to the nearby museum, and afterwards, head to the Bo Suak Cultural Place for a pottery workshop and get a chance to whip up a creation of your own. Enjoy lunch with your group at an open-air community restaurant with expansive views over the surrounding countryside. Relax with an included meal and be sure to have your camera handy. You may also have time to visit the Nan Art Gallery, set beside the river, showcasing work from modern Thai artists. Onwards to Chang Klang – it's approximately a 2.5-hour journey between towns, and upon arrival, freshen up and join your group leader on a visit to the local food markets, where you may like to taste some regional specialties. Enjoy a dinner with your leader and the group.
    Day 7 Location: Thailand/Laos Border Crossing – Pakbeng
    Leave your accommodation after breakfast and make your way to the Thailand–Laos border. Your group leader will help you complete immigration and border formalities, and then you’ll continue on to the Laos town of Pakbeng. If there is no holdup at the border, you will reach Pakbeng just in time for lunch, so tuck into some good food, and have a chilled-out afternoon. Perhaps rent a bicycle to explore the surrounding countryside and the banks of the Mekong. Your accommodation tonight is a basic guesthouse.
    Day 8 Location: Mekong River – Luang Prabang
    Get on the water this morning and cruise downriver at a nice leisurely pace on your way to Luang Prabang (6–7 hours). This way of ‘slow travel’ is popular among travellers to the region, as you’ll wind down the Mekong River, passing riverside villages and lush forests on the banks. Arriving late afternoon, you'll have time to hit the highly recommended night market food stalls, a great place to mingle with the locals and enjoy a meal with fellow travellers. With temples and French colonial villas lining the Mekong under blazing orange skies, you can see why this city has a reputation for exotic beauty.
    Day 9 Location: Luang Prabang
    Join your guide for a walk around the local area, learning more about Lao culture at the temple of Wat Phra Mahathat. Today and tomorrow are then yours to spend as you please. Take the time to explore the local market by day, where the textiles made by local women will amaze. You can also make the steep climb up Mount Phousi, the spiritual and geographical heart of the city and a prime location to see the sunset over the Mekong.
    Day 10 Location: Luang Prabang
    Your leader can help you organise many optional activities today. Kuang Si Falls, a spectacular spot to swim, is well worth a visit. Also, at the gate entrance to the waterfalls you will have the chance to stop by the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre where you can see the wonderful work being done to rescue bears from poachers and captivity, and provide them with a home. If you want to learn more about the local cuisine you can enjoy a cooking demonstration in the heart of town. Today is all yours to choose your own adventure.
    Day 11 Location: Vang Vieng
    Take a private minibus through dusty villages and winding mountain roads to Vang Vieng (approximately 7 hours). The mountain scenery en route is as impressive as that of your destination. Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is surrounded by towering limestone karsts. Please note that the standard of accommodation in Vang Vieng tonight and tomorrow is a little more basic than in some of our destinations.
    Day 12 Location: Vang Vieng
    Vang Vieng is known as an adventure town, thanks to its unique and varied surrounding countryside. Its many local caves are easily accessible and make for great day trips or half-day trips. Notably, Tham Chang, with its beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring, is an interesting swimming hole. Those looking to relax or perhaps learn more about local niche industry can visit the organic mulberry farm just outside town and enjoy a meal there (guided tours of the farm are available).
    Day 13 Location: Vientiane
    Take a beautiful local bus ride through small villages to Vientiane (approximately 4 hours). Enjoy the slow pace of what is possibly Asia's most laid-back capital city. On a guided walk you will visit the key Buddhist sites Wat Si Saket and Haw Phra Kaew and continue on to Patuxai (Victory Gate) for sweeping views over the city. You will also visit COPE, an organisation dedicated to assisting those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded ordnance across the country.
    Day 14 Location: Vientiane
    With no activities included for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you adhere to the hotel’s internal check-out times. If you would like to spend more time in Vientiane, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
    Dates
    Prices
    Availability
    Departure Date:
    10DEC2020
    Return Date:
    23DEC2020
    2095NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    13 Aug 2020

    Trip title

    Laos Traveller: Bangkok to Vientiane

    Trip code

    TLRC

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    Explore the best sights, sounds, cuisine and local communities in Thailand and Laos on a 14-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. In Thailand, see ancient and modern collide in chaotic Bangkok and be charmed by the highland haven of Chiang Mai. In Laos, revel in the simple traditions that are alive in small cottage industries and villages, and where the leisurely pace of life is contagious. Explore, relax and absorb the distinct atmosphere of these two fascinating countries that sit either side of the mighty Mekong River. With a local leader on hand to show you behind the hotspots, take a journey through these gems in the South East Asian crown.

    Style

    Basix

    Themes

    Lonely Planet Experience

    Transport

    Taxi,Minivan,Overnight train,Songthaew,Boat,Tuk tuk,Private bus,Public bus

    Physical Rating

    2

    Joining point

    Astera Sathorn Hotel

    143 South Sathorn Rd., Yannawa, Sathorn

    Bangkok

    10120

    THAILAND

    Phone: 22127090

    Fax: 22123610

    Joining point description

    Situated in the centre of Bangkok's business area, Astera Sathorn is a cozy hotel close to many of the area's main attractions. Situated within walking distance to Silom Road and Sathorn Pier, guests can easily access the riverfront, and Chinatown is only two kilometers away. Hotel services include outdoor pool, separate sauna and steam room, fitness center, free wireless internet in the room, satellite TV and laundry service.

    Joining point instructions

    Intrepid can assist with pre-booking an arrival transfer from the airport - enquire with your agent. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you have pre-booked an arrival transfer you will be met after exiting the Customs Hall. A transfer representative holding an Intrepid sign will meet you at Exit Door 4. If you cannot find your transfer representative, please go to the ATTA Counter (Association of Thai Travel Agents) near Exit Door 6. Ask them to call our transfer provider, World Travel Idea, on +66 81 658 2727 or +66 81 566 9324. Please note that neither the driver nor any representative should ask you for additional payment. Metered taxis are available outside the airport entrance on the 1st floor. Exit the Customs Hall, go down to the 1st floor and leave the airport at Gate 3, 4, 7 or 8. You will find a table with a “metred taxis” sign. The taxi fare will be the metred fare plus a surcharge of THB50-THB75 (depending on the driver’s use of toll roads). The total fare will be approx. THB400. Pre-paid taxis are also available, where you will be given a docket to pay the driver a set price of THB700. Please avoid taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.

    Alternate Joining point

    For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.

    10 Dec 2020 (TLRC201210), 24 Sep 2021 (TLRC210924)

    W22 Hotel

    422 Mittphan Road, Pomprab

    Pomprabsattrupai

    Bangkok

    10100

    THAILAND

    Alternate Joining point description

    Located in Bangkok, 2 km from Temple of the Golden Mount, W22 by Burasari provides air-conditioned rooms and a bar. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is situated 3.3 km from Temple of the Emerald Buddha. All rooms in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with a shower, a hair dryer and free toiletries. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge.

    Alternate Joining point instructions

    Intrepid can assist with pre-booking an arrival transfer from the airport - enquire with your agent. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you have pre-booked an arrival transfer you will be met after exiting the Customs Hall. A transfer representative holding an Intrepid sign will meet you at Exit Door 4. If you cannot find your transfer representative, please go to the ATTA Counter (Association of Thai Travel Agents) near Exit Door 6. Ask them to call our transfer provider, World Travel Idea, on +66 81 658 2727 or +66 81 566 9324. Please note that neither the driver nor any representative should ask you for additional payment. Metered taxis are available outside the airport entrance on the 1st floor. Exit the Customs Hall, go down to the 1st floor and leave the airport at Gate 3, 4, 7 or 8. You will find a table with a “metred taxis” sign. The taxi fare will be the metred fare plus a surcharge of THB50-THB75 (depending on the driver’s use of toll roads). The total fare will be approx. THB400. Pre-paid taxis are also available, where you will be given a docket to pay the driver a set price of THB700. Please avoid taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.

    Finish point

    Manorom Chateau Hotel

    Ban Sithan Neua, Sikodtabong District

    Vientiane

    LAO PDR

    Important information

    1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip excluding Day 2 (overnight train) and Day 7 Pakbeng. 2. A visa for Laos is required for this trip and must be obtained prior to arrival. Please see Visa section of the Essential Trip Information for more details.

    Group leader

    All group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

    Safety

    Most national governments provide regularly updated foreign travel advice on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all destinations and activities on your trip. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/travel-alerts We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however, during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Intrepid's operational safety policies can be viewed on our website at the link below. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how safety is being managed on our trips.

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety-guidelines

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms. SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts. PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing. MOTORBIKE BAG SNATCHING: Be particularly aware of motorbike bag snatching, especially in the bigger cities.

    BICYCLE HELMETS Bicycle helmets are not provided on the optional cycling activity in Vang Vieng. If you wish to wear a bike helmet we recommend you bring one from home.

    Visas

    As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required. Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends. PASSPORT You will need a valid passport to travel internationally. As a general rule, most countries require that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets exactly and contact us immediately if there are any errors. We recommend taking copies of the main passport pages and other important documents with you as well as leave copies at home with family or friends. VISAS Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time. It is important that you check your government's foreign travel advisories along with the consular website of the country or countries you are travelling to for the most up to date information specific to your nationality and circumstances. Please be aware that not all visa information found online from other sources may be valid while COVID-19 restrictions are in place. Visas can take several weeks to process, so make sure you research the requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for obtaining any necessary documents as well as the application and processing time. Your booking consultant can advise on a visa processing service or you can apply yourself directly through a consulate. Below you will find general visa advice about the destinations on your trip. Due to constantly evolving COVID-19 requirements and restrictions, please refer to your government's foreign travel advice for most up to date information. THAILAND: If entering by air most nationalities will be granted a 30 day stay on arrival. If entering by a land border, you will be granted a 15 day stay only (some exceptions are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan who are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders). A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB or alternatively you can apply for a Thailand visa in advance from your embassy or consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border. If planning to enter Thailand via a land border multiple times during your travels, we recommend you pre-obtain a 60 day multiple entry visa from you embassy or consulate before you travel rather than attempting to obtain a visa at the border on multiple occasions which may result in being denied re-entry into the country. LAOS: Most travellers require a visa to Laos. On this trip we cross between Thailand and Laos at the Huey Kone – Naam Ngeun border crossing on Day 7. This border crossing recently discontinued their Visa on Arrival facility and also does not permit crossing into Laos with an e-visa. For these reasons, all travellers must obtain a visa for Laos in their passport from a consulate prior to joining this trip. If you have extra days before your trip you may be able to obtain your visa at the consulate in Bangkok, otherwise you will need to apply in your home country. Please ensure you check opening hours and processing times to ensure you will receive your visa in time.

    Why we love it

    Experience a good taste of Thailand with stops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nan and Chiang Klang. The South East Asian neighbours work hand in hand, so discover the regional food specialties and the local hospitality.

    This is a no-fuss, no-hurry holiday. Laos is a very relaxed country, and the pace of this trip is the same, with plenty of free time to choose your own options in each destination.

    A slow boat down the Mekong River is one of South East Asia's most classic journeys. You’ll spend a day meandering down the river to Luang Prabang – a relaxing way to discover the region’s natural splendour.

    Participate in workshops run by local artisans, including an indigo dyeing demonstration in Baan Thung Hong Village, and an ancient pottery class in Bo Suak Cultural Place.

    Explore what may be Asia’s most laidback capital, Vientiane, and visit the community organisation COPE – dedicated to supporting victims of the unexploded ordnance scattered across the countryside.

    Is this trip right for you

    This is a Lonely Planet Experience powered by Intrepid, made for travellers who value their independence but also want the benefit of a local leader and a group of like-minded travellers. The itinerary has a mix of included activities and free time when your leader will offer suggestions. Please budget spending money for optional activities you want to partake in. Lots of time allocated for optional activities means freedom and flexibility, but it does require a level of independence. Only are few meals are included, so mostly you'll find your own (with plenty of suggestions from your leader of course). This is a great way to mingle with locals and discover unexpected delights! It's hard to give a guide on how much you will need, as everyone is different. But even if you are on a tight budget, there are plenty of free or inexpensive activities, such as temple visits, tuk-tuk transport, river and countryside walks and local markets to explore. The unhurried pace of Laos can be frustrating to travellers used to more urgency. It can also mean things don't always go to plan or aren't in a rush to get done! Buses can break down, journeys can take longer than expected, and guesthouse rooms are sometimes not ready on arrival. The key to enjoying Lao's laid-back atmosphere is plenty of patience and going with the flow. It can get colder than you might expect in northern Laos in January, with an average temperature of 16° C, so you'll need some warm clothes if travelling at that time. The roads between Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang offer breathtaking views, but the catch is that there are a lot of twists and turns. Past travellers recommend those prone to motion sickness to bring some medication with them from home.

    Health

    GENERAL HEALTH All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to manage and enjoy our style of travel. Please note that if in the opinion of our group leader or local guide any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, we reserve the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained while travelling. Below you can find some further information about health issues relevant to the destinations visited on this trip. COVID-19 As we start planning our return to running trips, the safety and wellbeing of our travellers, leaders, crew, staff, and suppliers will remain our priority and our return to operations will be done in a safe and responsible way. You can read more about how we will keep you safe on our trips, including our COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safe-travels We will not require a negative COVID-19 test before joining a trip unless it is a requirement of entry for the country. If you are unwell prior to travelling, please stay at home and contact us to make alternative arrangements. At the group meeting, you will be asked to complete a self-screening health form and report any COVID-19 symptoms as well as any close contact with someone who has suspected or confirmed COVID-19. If you are displaying any symptoms or have any health concerns at this time, we will assist you to seek medical advice and you will not be permitted to join the trip. We ask all travellers to continue to monitor their health throughout their travels and report any relevant symptoms to their tour leader. MOSQUITO-BORNE ILLNESSES: Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are widespread in South East Asia. Malaria is also prevalent in some regions, particularly along the borders in mountainous regions. Take preventative measures such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn. Seek medical advice prior to travel for medication or vaccination advice. ZIKA VIRUS: There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip. AIR POLLUTION AND SMOKE HAZE: Bangkok and other Thai cities experience high levels of air pollution, which may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. These can be particularly high between the months of December and February. Smoke haze, which usually occurs across parts of north and north-east Thailand during March to April, can also aggravate these conditions. Regular air quality reports are available from the following website http://aqicn.org/city/bangkok/

    Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company.

    Money matters

    SPENDING MONEY When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget an appropriate amount for things like optional meals, drinks, shopping, optional activities, and laundry. Make sure you have read the itinerary and inclusions thoroughly so you know what is included in the trip price and what you may need to pay for while travelling. We recommend USD280.00 for meals not included. The official currency of Thailand is the baht (THB). The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency is via ATMs which are available in most towns and cities. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange. Clean bills in small denominations are most useful. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels and more upmarket shops and shopping centres. LAOS: The official currency of Laos is the Kip (LAK), however, USD are also widely used throughout Laos. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Visa cash advances are available in major banks, and ATMs are present in most towns. The use of credit cards is restricted mainly to major hotels, more upmarket shops and shopping centres. TIPPING If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Optional Tipping Kitty: On Day 1 your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips for drivers, local guides, and hotel staff (excludes restaurant tips). The leader will keep a running record of all monies spent which can be checked at any time, and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Participation in this kitty at your own discretion, and you are welcome to manage your own tipping separately if you prefer. Please note the tipping kitty excludes tips for your tour leader. Optional tipping kitty for this trip: THB 550 per person Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult CONTINGENCY FUNDS We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. We reserve the right to change an itinerary after departure due to local circumstances or a Force Majeure Event. In such emergency circumstances, the additional cost of any necessary itinerary alterations will be covered by you. Please note we are not responsible for any incidental expenses that may be incurred as a result of the change of itineraries including but not limited to visas, vaccinations or non-refundable flights. Make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last-minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result, there may be some extra costs involved. The recommended amount is listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however, local currency may be needed once in the country to cover these costs.

    What to take

    What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances or up or down a flight of stairs. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg. Many travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller suitcases or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps or handles. If you are taking overnight trains, or primarily using public transport then the smaller your luggage the easier it will be to store under or above bunks. A lockable bag or small padlock will be useful especially when travelling on public transportation as well. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water, camera, and jacket etc. when you’re exploring during the day. Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/packing-list

    LOCAL DRESS: When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.

    WATER BOTTLE: This trip includes one or more sections in a private vehicle with a water dispenser. We encourage all our travellers to bring a refillable water bottle on your trip to help reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles.

    CLIMATE & CLOTHING: The average temperature in Northern Laos in January is just 16 degrees Celsius. Colder than you might expect for South East Asia! Bring a warm light weight jumper and trousers when travelling in the winter months (Nov to Feb), and a jacket too if you tend to feel the cold.

    Climate and seasonal

    SONGKRAN: The Songkran Festival is celebrated to mark the Lao New Year. The festival runs from the 13-15 April 2019. Traditionally houses and villages are properly cleaned in preparation for the New Year, flowers are gathered to decorate Buddha images and young people pour water over the elders for good luck. Songkran Festival is often referred to as the “water festival” as it is also common to throw water over each other during the festival period. Our advice is to be prepared to get wet! Your leader will discuss the festival activities upon day one at the group meeting. The following departures will be operated during Songkran: 12th of April 2018 SONGKRAN FESTIVAL The Songkran Festival is celebrated to mark the New Year. The festival runs from the 13th to the 16th of April. Traditionally houses and villages are properly cleaned in preparation for the New Year, flowers are gathered to decorate Buddha images, young people pour water over the elders for good luck. Songkran Festival is often referred to as the “water festival” as it is now common to throw water over each other during the festival period. Our advice is to be prepared to get wet! Your leader will discuss the festival activities upon day one at the group meeting. LAOS FLOODING & LANDSLIDES: The rainy season in Laos normally runs from May to October, coinciding with the typhoon season in South East Asia. Mountain areas are particularly vulnerable to landslides in the rainy season and flooding may occur along the Mekong river basins and elsewhere. Occasionally roads between Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane may be closed suddenly due to road conditions. Should this occur, your itinerary may be rerouted to fly between destinations and you will need to use your contingency funds to cover the cost of this change.

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. You must at all times comply with the laws, customs, foreign exchange and drug regulations of all countries visited, and you also agree to travel in accordance with our Responsible Travel Guidelines. The decision of the group leader is final on all matters likely to affect the safety or well-being of any traveller or staff member participating in the trip. If you fail to comply with a decision made by a group leader, or interfere with the well-being or mobility of the group, the group leader may direct you to leave the trip immediately, with no right of refund. We may also elect not to carry you on any future trips booked. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

    Feedback

    Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time. Intrepid's local Operator: +66 898 103 722

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable, and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers, and staff are trained on these principles and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING: While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including World Animal Protection, advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately, many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive-bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/elephants-welfare

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/ Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Laos include: * Mandalao Elephant Conservation Promoting ethical elephant care and creating jobs in the community. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/mandalao-elephant-conservation

    Accommodation notes

    HOTELS: Most of the accommodation on this trip is in hotels (mostly 2 to 3-star). Facilities are often basic, with some properties not having a continuous supply of hot water on occasion. All rooms are either fan cooled or with air conditioning and twin share with private facilities unless stated otherwise in the daily itinerary. Double beds are not widely available in South East Asia. WINDOWLESS ROOMS: Some hotels in South East Asia have windowless rooms, or windows that don't necessarily have a view. This is often due to high population density in large cities, however local building standards also do not require rooms to have windows. We do request rooms with windows, however they aren't always available.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all our trips for those travelling internationally. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. Travellers who reside within the European Union or Switzerland receive basic international health insurance, so travel insurance is not mandatory under European Union Law. However, as this does not cover situations such as emergency rescues, private health care, or repatriation to their home country, comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended. European Union or Swiss travellers who decline travel insurance when travelling outside of their home region must sign a Travel Insurance Waiver Form at the Group Meeting. For assistance with travel insurance or other services, please visit the link below: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/booking-resources/our-services

    Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons, we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SOLO TRAVELLERS This is the beauty of our style of travel: many of our travellers join because they are travelling solo and want to meet and share experiences with like-minded people. As a solo traveller, you will be paired up with another traveller of the same gender as per your passport information. Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour. Pre-trip and post-trip accommodation booked through us will on a single room basis. If you’re not comfortable sharing a room with someone of the same gender, you also have the choice to pay for a single supplement (available on the majority of our trips). If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on an open gender, multi-share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any such changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested in the Group Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

    Accommodation

    Guesthouse (4 nights),Hotel (7 nights),Overnight train (1 night),Resort (1 night)

    Banner Image
    Hero Images

    Make an Enquiry