Family holidays in Laos take you off the average tourist trail for exciting yet accessible adventures in Asia’s gentle hidden gem.
Get hands-on with daily Lao life on a working rice farm and trek to treehouse nests deep in the jungle. Discover dedicated elephant conservation, or visit picturesque waterfalls where the skies are full of butterflies. Play petanque with locals in Luang Prabang and wander in wonder through the city’s gleaming temples.
Laos is an outside the box option for family travel, combining the excitement of new experiences with the space to really savour your time together away from the crowds.
Lionel - Indonesia specialist
Laos is a quiet diamond of a destination for a family break, with just the right balance of restful and dynamic.
Luang Prabang is a city of gilded temples, rainbow colours, green hills and chilled out cafe culture - perfect for laid-back family relaxation and small city exploration. Get into the Lao rhythm and rise early to see the city wake-up as saffron-robed monks receive alms and the markets begin to bustle. Scout out the best bakery for a breakfast baguette and coffee before exploring the temples, or cycle across the Mekong to discover a different angle on riverside life. In Laos’ elegant capital, Vientiane, explore the big(ger) city vibes with a tuk-tuk street food tour through the night markets, make an event of family dinner with a traditional Sin Dat bbq, and laugh along with the locals as you play petanque.
Family holidays in Laos can offer a different depth of rural immersion, away from the usual digital distractions. Head up river from Luang Prabang by boat, then kayak back downstream with the flow of the river. Take a daytrip to the gorgeous Kuang Si Falls for picnics, followed by a visit to the Bear Rescue centre, and taste buffalo milk ice cream from an organic buffalo dairy with sustainability at heart. Get knee-deep in a working rice paddy at one of our favourite Laos family experiences, the Living Lands Organic Farm, explore the megalithic cylinders on the Plain of Jars, or simply wander between wats in Champasak.
If you thought that family beach time was off the cards because Laos doesn’t have a coastline, then think again! Riverside ‘beach’ bliss, and peaceful island vibes await in Si Phan Don, also known as the 4,000 islands: the perfect spot for a little essential downtime beside the mighty Mekong. Cycle across several of these inland islands, hopping by ferry across the water and pedalling together through fishing villages and along the shoreline. It’s the perfect place to take time out together and unwind in a cosy riverside lodge, with the option of waterfall hikes, kayaking, boat trips and a little light adventure on the doorstep.
The overall vibe in Laos is definitely gentle, and the top focus for family holidays is slowing the pace and taking time to relax together, but there are a few more unusual experiences to be had if your family are keen on adventure. Head inside the depths of Kong Lor Cave by boat to see the stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations, take a 1960s army jeep off piste on the Bolaven Plateau to see places that are normally out of reach, and swim in remote waterfall pools. In Phonsavan, take older teens to learn about Laos’ sobering wartime legacy at the Mines Advisory Group visitor centre, and get inspired by the community-based projects of Lone Buffalo.
Prioritise. Laos has loads of amazing experiences for families, but they’re often long drives apart, and the last thing kids want to be doing every couple of days is spending 8 hours plus on the road, however scenic the route might be. Select a few key destinations to focus on, and make use of short internal flights for speedy transfers.
Laos is still a developing destination for tourism, which is one of its appealing aspects, but this does mean it can be tricky to get hold of things you might need when travelling with little ones. Make sure you take your own supply of any essentials like nappies or formula.
Without the complication of a coastline, Laos’ weather is relatively straight-forward compared with much of Asia, with distinct dry and wet seasons. The best of the weather is on the cards between October and April, making Laos a particularly top choice for a bit of family winter sun or a refreshing spring break. Although things generally get wetter from May to September, thanks to its elongated outline and differing altitudes Laos can be great for family travel all year round. Temperatures throughout the country are greatly affected by altitude, with higher altitudes in the north, central and eastern regions reducing the average temperatures by several °C, bringing the hottest weather between March and June down to a more comfortable level.
Having an experienced, knowledgeable and welcoming local guide on hand during your trip is absolutely invaluable. They’ll be able to meet you upon arrival, act as translator, transfer you between locations, and generally make everything go as smoothly as possible. They’ll leave you to your own devices as much or as little as you wish, but we think a good guide is essential for a successful family holiday. We pride ourselves on using only the best guides in a given region. All our guides are trained to the highest level, and fully certified and licensed. The feedback we get from our clients is that the guides make a great trip into an outstanding one.
Several of our Destination Specialists have travelled around Laos, and found it welcoming, supportive and reassuring. It’s still a developing destination, so some aspects of life are at different standards to what you’re likely to be used to, but these differences are easy to factor in. If at any time you’re unsure of anything, our fantastic guides and specialists are always on hand to help.
When planning a trip to Asia, it’s important to consider the possible requirements for vaccinations and immunisations. Most importantly, we stress that you should contact your doctor or medical practitioner well before you depart to get their advice on any vaccinations you may need for your trip. If you’ve travelled recently and believe that you are already up-to-date, it’s still worth checking as vaccinations have a varying life span. Japan has been designated as ‘not at risk’ for malaria on the NHS Fit For Travel map, and it’s worth checking out the NHS Travel Vaccinations site for extra health travel information.
Yes. Citizens of the UK, EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and almost all other nationalities will require a visa to visit Laos. Other nationalities should check with their Selective Asia consultant for the most up-to-date information. Laos does not have an embassy or consular office in the UK, but you can obtain visas on arrival at all international airports or at your land border crossing. It costs $35 for UK passport holders, to be paid in good condition USD notes, and you’ll need two up-to-date passport photos. A handful of nationalities cannot arrange a visa on arrival and must obtain it in advance, including almost all African and some Middle Eastern countries, as well as Turkey, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The standard tourist visa is a single entry visa that allows you to travel in Laos for 30 days from the date of your entry. The Laos Immigration Department has recently (July 2019) introduced an online e-visa service that can be used by visitors arriving into Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The system is still in a developmental phase and is experiencing some teething issues, so at this stage we’re not recommending this option for Selective Asia clients. However we will be monitoring the development closely.
Light, long sleeved shirts, a light scarf or two, and long trousers or skirts will mean that you’re prepared for any eventuality, including modest dress codes at sites of religious significance. They’ll also help provide valuable protection against strong sunlight and mosquitoes. We’d recommend bringing your own supplies of any essentials, such as nappies, formula etc., as well as your preferred brand of sunscreen and a good insect repellent, as it might be tricky to get hold of things once you’re away from the major airport hubs. If you’re travelling with tinies, consider taking a really good baby carrier, as push-chairs might be a pain to get around with.
You can’t obtain Kip outside of Laos, however both US$ and Kip are widely accepted. It is essential to travel with some US$ in cash in order to obtain your entry visa upon arrival, and the notes need to be in good condition. It can also be beneficial to have some extra cash on arrival for immediate use until you locate an ATM. ATM machines are available in Luang Prabang, Pakse and Vientiane and usually offer as good, if not better, rates of exchange than any currency exchange bureau or hotel. ATMs only dispense Kip.