Real Thailand & Laos
from $1894
Duration: 14 Days
This 14-day exploration of the South East Asian countryside is sure to keep you guessing at every turn. Kick off in old Bangkok, wind through northern Thailand with some fun times Chiang Mai, then cross the border into Laos where you’ll be able to see the authentic side to this landlocked country. Cruise on the mighty Mekong, laze in Laos' beauty queen Luang Prabang, love on nature in Vang Vieng and finish up in sleepy Vientiane. You know they’re a welcoming bunch when you cross something called the Friendship Bridge. Take a leaf out of the Laotians book and make a few new friends in this part of the world.
  • To get you ready for the Laotian lifestyle, make your way through northern Thailand and through charming Chiang Mai – the true temple city.
  • Laos equals laidback. This is one of the most chilled-out countries going around, and you’ll have heaps of free time to explore at your own pace.
  • Two days of cruising down the Mekong River in a traditional-style boat is one Southeast Asia's classic trips, with more photo-ops than you can shake a bamboo cane at.
  • The UNESCO-listed city of Luang Prabang is a serious slice of history. Between the French villas and the blazing sunsets over the Mekong, you won't know which way to look.
  • You know those pictures of that Laos lagoon, the ones of cascading pools drenched in gorgeous rays of sun? That's Kuang Si Waterfalls, and you’ll have the chance to swim there!
  • Bangkok - Chinatown walking tour
  • Chiang Mai - Muay Thai Class (Thai boxing)
  • Mekong River - 2 day boat cruise
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Caves
  • Luang Prabang - Alms giving ceremony
  • Luang Prabang - orientation walk
  • Luang Prabang - Wat Xieng Thong
  • Vang Vieng - Tham Jung Cave
  • Vientiane - Wat Si Saket
  • Vientiane - Leader orientation walk
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Day 1 Location: Bangkok
    Sawasdee! Welcome to Bangkok. Arrive in this bustling hub and get to grips with this awesome city. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early perhaps take a walk around Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or head to the magnificent Grand Palace. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces, Chatuchak Market is also a great place to practise your haggling and pick up some bargains.
    Day 2 Location: Bangkok - Overnight Train
    Today, explore some of Bangkok's oldest neighbourhoods on a walking tour with your leader. Begin after breakfast and head to Wat Tri Mit temple – the site of the world’s largest solid gold seated Buddha from the Sukhothai era, measuring nearly 5 metres tall and weighing 5.5 tonnes. Here you will learn about the history behind the Buddha, as well as visit the Chinatown Heritage Museum. Along the way, you’ll be able to stop by some food stalls on Sukorn Alley for some snacks. Onto the Odien Circle intersection and the Chinese Temple and finishing with a walk through the bustling daytime Sampeng wholesales market. You’ll have an included lunch at the famous Labour Egg Noodle (or similar), so tuck into some Fish Ball Noodles or Tom Yam Pork Noodles – they’re to die for. Finish in the Chinatown area and the rest of the day is yours to do what you like: shop and haggle for bargains or check out Chinatown. Head north to Chiang Mai in the evening on an overnight train (approximately 13 hours), sleeping in an air-conditioned berth.
    Day 3 Location: Chiang Mai
    Arrive in Chiang Mai in the morning. The day is yours – see how many (or how little) activities you want to pack into your stay. You will be staying in a centrally located Hostel in Chiang Mai so you will be close to all the action. There are over 120 temples in the city centre alone. You can set off on an excursion to the top of Doi Suthep. There are a few hundred steps to climb, but the views are well worth it. Maybe treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage, or even partake in a cooking class so you can impress your friends in the kitchen when you get home. The night bazaar is a great chance to practice those ever-important bargaining skills. Your group leader will also be available to take you and the gang on a bar hopping adventure around town. The Nimman area is where it’s at – a trendy neighbourhood full of jazz bars and lounges to relax in and grab a few drinks.
    Day 4 Location: Chiang Mai
    Another day, another chance to get your fill of Chiang Mai. In the morning, you’ll have the chance to learn one of the legendary martial arts, Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). Spend around 2 hours exercising and learning the basics with professional trainers. You’ll be shown how to adapt yourself to be the ‘weapon’ and to guard. Seriously cool. Then, the rest of the afternoon is yours. To really get the blood pumping, perhaps head to the Jungle Flight and negotiate the zipline and canopy course within the treetops.
    Day 5 Location: Chiang Mai
    Have you realised how thai-riffic Chiang Mai is? Well, you’ve got another day to explore. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventures, such as the 'Mind and Soul' or 'Mae Ping River Experience' day tours. For more info, go and visit urbanadventures.com/destination/chiang-mai-tours. You could also visit a great elephant sanctuary at Elephant Nature Park, where you can learn all about these gentle giants. Otherwise, go visit one of the temples you haven’t made it to yet, or head into town and grab a bowl of khao soi (crunchy and soft noodles in a creamy coconut curry broth). If you want some more ideas, go ahead and ask your group leader – they know the best spots to go.
    Day 6 Location: Chiang Khong
    Take a public bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong via Chiang Rai (approximately 6.5 hours). Explore this quiet town that sits on the Thai side of the Thailand-Laos border. Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang are both beautifully ornate temples well worth a visit while you are here. Perhaps rent a bicycle to explore the surrounding countryside and Hmong villages along the banks of the Mekong. Live like the locals with accommodation tonight being a basic guesthouse with all the creature comforts you’ll need.
    Day 7 Location: Mekong River - Pakbeng
    This morning you will complete border formalities at Huay Xai before boarding a slow boat for a calming trip down the Mekong River (approximately 7 hours). This is where the real relaxation starts, as you ease into Laos. Read a book, play cards, swap travel stories or just watch the amazing scenery pass by. Arrive in Pakbeng late in the afternoon and have a wander around this colourful village. This place is at the junction of the Mekong and Beng rivers. Quick note: 'nam' means river, so if you say 'Nam Beng River', you're saying river too many times (just like we have).
    Day 8 Location: Luang Prabang
    Get back on your private boat, stopping to stretch your legs and explore the Pak Ou Caves, which contain hundreds of Buddha statues. Arrive in Luang Prabang in the evening and wander the streets of ‘the best-preserved city in South East Asia’ (it's the local government that started using this phrase, but it has caught on for a reason). Get a load of those French villas. And that sunset over the Mekong – damn. Tonight, something special is planned for you. Think Korean BBQ, but Laotian style. ‘Sindad’ is the art of grilling meat on a hot pan, a type of traditional BBQ set on a charcoal stove and has a surrounding rim full of boiling water for blanching vegetables. Veggies on the outside, meat cooking in the middle. It’s a hands-on experience, barbecuing all different types of meat cut into bite-sized pieces, and dunking them in some seriously addictive spicy, salty and sweet dipping sauces. Your group leader will take you to one of the best all-you-can-eat places in Luang Prabang, where you may be treated to some live music or a show while you’re cooking.
    Day 9 Location: Luang Prabang
    It’s worth getting up early morning to view the procession of saffron-robed monks on their daily outing collecting alms, a practice that dates back centuries. The people of the town wait out the front of their houses with food for the monks to collect and take back to the temple. It is done early, as the monks cannot eat anything after midday. By giving food to a monk you ‘het bon’ or make merit, which should augur well for your next life. Your leader will guide you through the do’s and don’ts and help you to take part in this alms giving tradition. Next take tuk tuks to visit Wat Xieng Thong. This temple was built in the 16th century under the patronage of the royal family, and the Laotian kings were crowned here. The main viharn (assembly hall) and buildings have carved gilded wooden doors depicting scenes from Buddha's life. Afterwards, enjoy some free time for optional activities! A trip to Kuang Si Falls is highly recommended if you feel like a swim in nature (and when you see these waterfalls, you probably will). Otherwise, take a rest. Find a herbal steam room or maybe play some pentanque with the locals (it's a bit like bocce). Don’t expect them to go easy on you.
    Day 10 Location: Luang Prabang
    Today you can do whatever you choose. Whether it's cruising around town or heading to those waterfalls that even an Instagram filter couldn't make more pretty, this is another day in the middle of Laos. By now you may have discovered the delicious (and amazingly inexpensive) night market food, which is always a great excuse to mingle with locals and dine with other travellers. For lunch, before the market opens, you might want to try some delicious noodle soup at one of the top-notch French cafes along the main drag. If you feel like learning, drop into the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre.
    Day 11 Location: Vang Vieng
    Transfer in a private minivan to the village of Vang Vieng (approximately 6–7 hours). This beautifully located adventure gateway lies on a bend in the Nam Song (that's a river, remember). Take in the views of mountains, rivers and big limestone cliffs that are so close you'll feel like you could reach out and touch them. Cross the river and explore the huge caves that line the West Bank. There will be plenty of time to make your own discoveries.
    Day 12 Location: Vang Vieng
    This morning, take a leader-led walking tour around Vang Vieng on your way to Tham Jung and the caves. It’s about 147 steps to the upper caves system (yes, we’ve counted). Spend your morning checking out the caves and maybe stop by the crystal-clear lagoon for a swim! Up top, you can see a great view of Vang Vieng, and there’s also a lot of Buddha iconography around to take a look at. Take some free time in the afternoon to spend as you wish – there’s some beautiful countryside around, so maybe hire a bike or kayak down the Mekong River to take it all in.
    Day 13 Location: Vientiane
    Finish up in Laos’ classy capital of Vientiane by catching a public bus from Vang Vieng (about 5 hours). Swap your instant coffee for a latte and white rice for a baguette before snapping a few pics at Wat Sri Saket – the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane, and home to almost 7000 Buddha images. Your tour leader will show you around this chic, French-influenced city, and take you to COPE – an organisation dedicated to assisting those who have been injured or affected by the shocking number of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) in the countryside. UXOs are explosive weapons, such as bombs and grenades that still pose a risk after they were used. About 30% of Laos remains contaminated with UXOs from the Vietnam War and pose a serious risk to residents. COPE provides prosthetics and other assistance to people affected by this devastating war history still present around the country. Grab some dinner with your travel mates tonight, and explore what Vientiane has to offer on Quai Fa Ngum Road.
    Day 14 Location: Vientiane
    After breakfast, there are no activities planned, so you are free to depart at any time. If you’d like to spend more time in Laos, we don’t blame you! If you would like to stay in Vientiane longer, we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation (subject to availability).
    Dates
    Prices
    Availability
    Departure Date:
    02NOV2020
    Return Date:
    15NOV2020
    2130NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    15MAR2021
    Return Date:
    28MAR2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    05APR2021
    Return Date:
    18APR2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    10MAY2021
    Return Date:
    23MAY2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    07JUN2021
    Return Date:
    20JUN2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    05JUL2021
    Return Date:
    18JUL2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    16AUG2021
    Return Date:
    29AUG2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    13SEP2021
    Return Date:
    26SEP2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    18OCT2021
    Return Date:
    31OCT2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    15NOV2021
    Return Date:
    28NOV2021
    2170NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    17 Sep 2020

    Trip title

    Real Thailand & Laos

    Trip code

    TLYS

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2021

    Introduction

    This 14-day exploration of the South East Asian countryside is sure to keep you guessing at every turn. Kick off in old Bangkok, wind through northern Thailand with some fun times Chiang Mai, then cross the border into Laos where you’ll be able to see the authentic side to this landlocked country. Cruise on the mighty Mekong, laze in Laos' beauty queen Luang Prabang, love on nature in Vang Vieng and finish up in sleepy Vientiane. You know they’re a welcoming bunch when you cross something called the Friendship Bridge. Take a leaf out of the Laotians book and make a few new friends in this part of the world.

    Style

    Basix

    Themes

    18 to 29s

    Transport

    Public bus,Slow boat,Private vehicle,Songthaew,Tuk-tuk

    Physical Rating

    2

    Joining point

    W22 Hotel

    422 Mittphan Road, Pomprab

    Pomprabsattrupai

    Bangkok

    10100

    THAILAND

    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.

    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. 1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is bookable on this trip, subject to availability and excludes Day 2 (Overnight train) Days 3, 4 & 5 Chiang Mai (hostel) and Day 7 Pakbeng where you will be in shared facilities

    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: We ask all our travellers to obtain their Laos visas at the border, and NOT in their home country prior to travel. When the whole group does this together it allows us to cross the border more efficiently and to minimise delays. Please ensure that you have at least 1 passport photo and up to US$45 cash for your application. Please provide your sales agent with accurate passport details prior to the departure of your trip as these details will be passed on to your leader to help speed up the process. Those without a photo, or who are arriving on a weekend, holiday or after hours, will have to pay an additional one or two dollars. All visa fees are payable in cash only. BORDER CROSSINGS: Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip: On day 6 Exit Thailand at Chiang Khong Enter Laos at Houy Xai

    Why we love it

    To get you ready for the Laotian lifestyle, make your way through northern Thailand and through charming Chiang Mai – the true temple city.

    Laos equals laidback. This is one of the most chilled-out countries going around, and you’ll have heaps of free time to explore at your own pace.

    Two days of cruising down the Mekong River in a traditional-style boat is one Southeast Asia's classic trips, with more photo-ops than you can shake a bamboo cane at.

    The UNESCO-listed city of Luang Prabang is a serious slice of history. Between the French villas and the blazing sunsets over the Mekong, you won't know which way to look.

    You know those pictures of that Laos lagoon, the ones of cascading pools drenched in gorgeous rays of sun? That's Kuang Si Waterfalls, and you’ll have the chance to swim there!

    Is this trip right for you

    Accommodation is basic, but clean and comfortable. The simplicity of life in Laos is one of its many, many charms. There's a lot of travelling on local transport, with some long travel days. Things take time in Laos. But you're on holidays, right? Some activities and meals are included, but most are optional. The good thing about this is you have loads of free time and can choose how to spend it.

    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 The safety and wellbeing of our travellers, leaders, crew, staff, and suppliers continues to remain our highest priority as we travel. 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 follow the advice of local health authorities to determine whether medical assistance, isolation or further action is required. 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. 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. We recommend USD240 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. The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs are now available in most towns and visa cash advances are available in major banks. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange; clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change. TIPPING Tipping can be an appropriate way to recognise great service when travelling. While it may not be customary in your home country, it is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many of our destinations and is greatly appreciated by the people who take care of you during your travels. It is always best to avoid tipping with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes, as this can be regarded as an insult rather than the goodwill gesture it is intended to be. OPTIONAL TIPPING KITTY On Day 1 of your trip, your tour leader may discuss with you the idea of operating a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and your tour leader distributes tips for drivers, local guides, hotel staff and other services included on your trip. This excludes restaurant tips for meals not included in your itinerary. The leader will keep a running record of all monies spent which can be checked at any time, and any funds remaining at the end of the tour will be returned to group members. We have found that this is 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 is 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. YOUR TOUR LEADER You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$3-6 per person (in a currency relevant for your destination), 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 and involvement of your leader on your trip. 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 540 per person The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye to this unavoidable issue in some areas, we have established a centralised fund whereby contributions from recommended suppliers are collected and distributed back into the business. We aim to provide the best value trips in the market, and this fund assists in keeping operating costs and trip prices low to you. A priority in establishing this fund is that the experience of our traveller - you - is not compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective. DEPARTURE TAX All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.

    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

    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.

    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 and seasonal

    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.

    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

    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. 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. For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local operator on the number below. 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 http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller 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

    OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on a different Intrepid trip than your own. CHECK-IN TIME Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (subject to availability), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

    Transport notes

    TRANSPORT VARIATIONS: Occasionally the road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng may be closed due to road conditions in which case we will have to fly between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. This will be at your expense, but we will endeavour to notify you of the road situation as early as possible. In this situation we would spend an extra night in Vientiane or Luang Prabang.

    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 (8 nights),Hotel (1 nights),Hostel (3 nights),Overnight sleeper train (1 night)

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