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Is Laos really doable with young children ?
Doing research on Laos and now wondering if travelling there with small children is a smart thing ?
The overland travel seems 'primitive' which we are ok with but with 3 small children in tow may be another story.
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Where in Laos were you thinking of going? We spent 2 weeks in Laos two years ago when our children were 2 and 4. Out of everywhere we have visited in SEAsia, Laos has been our favourite country. The people were incredibly friendly, the landscape amazingly beautiful and the culture fascinating. We're going back later this year for three weeks. Wish we had of booked for longer. The transport in Laos was actually quite OK. The roads were better than we were expecting and the buses, whilst old, were clean and we had no problems with breakdowns. The mini-buses were ridiculously over-crammed but that seems to be typical of Asia. On our first trip we stuck to Vientiane - Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang and then flew back to Vang Vieng (the range between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng is intense if your kids get car sick at all. You really only want to do it once if you can!). We wanted to go further afield but the travel distances to the east seemed too long with kids that young. Any bus trip we looked at took days not hours. If we had longer we would have gone back to Vientiane and made our way south stopping along the way until we reached Cambodia. That's the plan for another trip! I know a few families with young children that travelled all throughout Laos from top to bottom with young kids, some even with toddlers. So I definitely think it's doable and the transport isn't that primitive, nor are the roads. But the travel distances are the killer. You either need a lot of time or to carefully pick your route.
Our family fell in love with Laos and can't wait to return. My youngest was ten when we were there, so I've not done it with very young kids. Everyone has different opinions on this issue, but I appreciated having some basic supplies and antibiotics while we were in SE Asia -- which I did end up needing and using. I agree with another post about the slow boat, but the roads aren't so bad. We loved Luang Prabang!
Thanks for the replies so far. Our kids are will be about 5,3 and 18 months by the time we get to Laos. So it's really the baby that concerns me the most. The slow boat was the option that concerned me but perhaps the bus is doable as airfares are way too $$$ to consider. (Where I looked anyone, if anyone can steer me in another direction for cheap air travel that would be great). Looking to see as much as we can in a month but happy to settle on 2 locations if that will make it easier for kids etc..... It was really the slow boat ride that had me really concerned, didn't know about the bus option prior to your responses. Thank you again.
We were in Laos about 4 years ago, before we had kids. I hope to return with the little ones, as I think it would be great! The buses there were fine. The people are unbelievably friendly. It made everything in Laos easy. The landscape is spectacular. We did the overnight bus from Vietnam, which I would NOT recommend for anyone who wishes to remain alive, children or adults. I've done a lot of adventurous and even dangerous things, and that bus trip is one to avoid at all costs. Leaving Laos, we flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand and it was fabulous. The flight was short and beautiful, and they even served a full hot meal (with only about an hour in the air)!
We have just gotten off the slow boat in Luang Prabang from Thailand. It was great!! We had 6 hours on a minibus to Chiang Mai then an overnight in Chiang Khong. Then up at 7 for breakfast and onto a little skinny speed boat for a 1 minute trip to the other side of the river and through immigration. That was the worst part! Almost 2 hours to get through. But only 1 has to stand in line so u could sit down with small kids if there were 2 of you. Then a tuk tuk to the slow boat. The boats don't leave until everyone is on! You will need to make sure you get a seat with kids, but I certainly would take littlies on the boat. My youngest is 10 and none of my kids have ever been ones to try to jump into the water!! Some boats have seats on either side facing each other so kids could sit on the floor and play. It can be very long and it's a little difficult getting in and off the boats at the one night stop and at luang prabang. But just bat your eyelashes at one of the men or a fellow passenger. Someone will give you a hand!!! Make sure to take enough supplies (food/milk) as the trip can be longer than advertised. Our second day was 9 hours due to a breakdown. There's a toilet on board and u can buy basic drinks, chips and two minute noodles. We saw elephants, water buffalo, cows, goats, fishermen and lots of kids waving! Even some bush fires! We've spent tonight in the market. Fed all 5 of us for 150000 kip (huge plates!!) including cans of cokes and fruit shakes!!
How old are your kids? We just arrived in Luang Prabang by slow boat and I would not recommend that for kids under 7 or 8 who can spend 6-8 hours entertaining themselves in a chair since you can't really get up or move around. If you are not comfortable traveling by bus it is very simple albeit more expensive to travel around the major sites of Laos by plane. Laos itself it fabulous place for kids.
We have a three year old and decided to opt out of Laos. This was our first trip to southeast Asia and we were a bit concerned with some health concerns in Laos including Dengue and/or Malaria in some areas. As it has a substandard health care system, we decided to opt out this time. We will visit for sure when Niko is older and does not experiment by placing stuff in his mouth:) Mind you, we still visited Thailand, Malaysia, Bali and China...and he was perfectly fine.