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Pakse Loop: 13 Important Things You Should Know

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In the city of Pakse, amid the Bolaven plateau of southern Laos, lies the popular motorcycle/scooter route, Pakse Loop. Known for its pristine waterfalls, lavish coffee plantations, and ethnic minority villages, surrounded by lush greenery, as far as the eye can see, this elevated plateau is a wonder to behold and a dream to many. Since this ride entails riding through and exploring some remote regions, proper planning and preparations are needed to experience the best and not miss out on important attractions. Luckily, this blog details everything you need to know before you go on this Pakse Bolaven or Waterfall Loop in Laos.

Things to Know About the Pakse Loop

1. Best Time to do the Pakse Loop

The ideal time for the Pakse Loop is from October to February, after the monsoon season, when the weather is favorable, and the waterfalls are at their best. Trust us, you do not want to miss seeing the water flowing down. The hottest months are from March to May, with less water in the waterfalls during the dry season. Pakse experiences rain from June to September, so the ride will be challenging due to poor road conditions and visibility during the monsoon season.

2. Bike Rentals

Several bike rental shops in the city and hostels also provide rental services in Pakse. You can choose from automatic or semi-automatic bikes. For the Pakse loop, it’s possible to have a passenger as the terrain is mostly flat. You should exercise caution and rent the motorbike from a reputable shop, as we have seen people facing trouble with the bike. Miss Noy motorbike rental and Peter Pan Bikes Rental are some of the best.

We suggest taking a test drive to check the vehicle’s condition. To avoid being charged for any damage later, take photos or videos of the bike. Make sure to get the shop’s contact number for emergencies.

Semi-automatic bikes cost 120,000 KIP or 6 USD per day, while automatic ones cost 160,000 KIP or 8 USD. You’ll also need to refill the petrol tank. A passport or cash deposit is required for the bike rental, as local ID cards are not accepted in Pakse.

3. Road Conditions & Speed

Road conditions on the Pakse loop

The roads along most of the loop are decent, but watch out for unpaved sections in remote areas. Expect heavy trucks along the way, so keep your speed between 40-60 km/h, even on empty stretches, to dodge surprise bumps. When heading to Tad Tayicseua and Tad Koo Waterfall, take it slow at 10-20 km/h since there are no proper roads, just red sand and gravel.

As you ride, you’ll encounter several bridges along the way. They’re not always properly connected to the road, and some are narrow, with only wooden logs for passage. Take it slow when crossing these bridges. Avoid driving at night since there are no streetlights, and you might encounter a flurry of insects flying straight at your face.

4. Road Signs & Tourist Attraction Signs

Scenic ride to Sekong

The road signs are easy to spot, with clear markings like warnings for children crossing near schools, steep slopes, sharp turns, and road dividers. Some signs also indicate the distance to the next city.

You’ll find tourist attraction signs in both English and Lao in some places, while others may only be in Lao. Look out for large pictures or sudden clusters of shops indicating nearby attractions as you pass by.

5. Police Checkpoints

Police checkpoints along the loop are like road barricades where vehicles pass one by one. Police officers stand by the road to observe passing vehicles. You’ll encounter several checkpoints, usually twice a day. Wearing a helmet means they won’t stop you.

Technically, you need an International driving license to ride a motorbike in Laos, but the police aren’t strict about it, and rental companies don’t usually ask for one. We didn’t encounter any police stops or hear of others having the same experience.

6. Google Maps and Offline Map Navigation

Google Maps isn’t always reliable on the Pakse loop. Sometimes, the route ends before reaching your destination, even if there’s a good road. We recommend downloading offline maps in apps like Maps.me or OSMAND for accurate navigation. We used both since the signal can be spotty. Keep location pins handy and follow this Pakse loop itinerary for navigation. Offline maps will be useful when you’re close to your destination but have trouble finding it.

7. Parking and Entry Fees

Parking Fee in Pakse loop, Loas

Entry fees vary depending on the attraction, and you’ll usually receive a small token of receipt when paying. Additionally, parking fees are often collected at various places along the loop.

While theft of two-wheelers was a concern before COVID-19, the situation has improved, and no recent incidents have been reported. Still, better safe than sorry, and we suggest locking your vehicle and using paid parking areas for added security and peace of mind.

8. Cost Breakdown

The cost breakdown of the Pakse loop provided here is just for your information. Expenses may vary depending on the food you choose to eat and the accommodation you choose.

  • Attraction (Entry fee & Parking): 200000 KIP (10 USD), excluding the zip lining at Tad Fane
  • Accommodation for 3 nights: 400000 KIP (20 USD)
  • Food: 500000 KIP (25 USD)
  • Petrol: 200000 KIP (10 USD)
  • Motorbike rent for 4 days (semi-automatic): 480000 KIP (24 USD)

9. ATMs and Gas Stations

You can find ATMs in Tad Lo, Sekong, Paksong, and Pakse. Since you’ll mostly be using cash, having enough on hand is a good idea before beginning the loop. Around 150,000 KIP or 75 USD should suffice. Money exchange services are only available in Paksong and Pakse. Gas stations are scattered along the loop, but some may be closed. To be safe, filling up your tank each morning is best before setting out for the day’s ride.

10. Where to Eat?

Along the way, you’ll find many small eateries with picture boards outside to help you choose. Stop by for a quick bite whenever you’re hungry, and consider picking up some snacks and fruits for the road. Most accommodations are happy to refill your water bottles, or you can easily purchase water from local shops.

11. Where to Stay?

 

Many accommodations in the area aren’t listed online, so feel free to walk in and check out the options firsthand. Accommodations in remote villages tend to be basic, but we’ve shared our daily recommendations in the blog. Be sure to take a look!

12. What to Pack?

Rental companies only provide helmets, unlike the Ha Giang Loop, where you get a plastic cover or rope to secure your belongings at the back, shielding you from rain and dust. The storage space under your seat is limited, so pack only the essentials efficiently.

  • A reusable water bottle
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Raincoat for you and rain cover for your bag
  • Toiletries 
  • A swimsuit and a towel
  • Clothes (1-2 sets)
  • Mobile Charger and universal adapter
  • Sandals are enough. No shoes are needed.
  • Snacks or fruits
  • A waterproof mobile cover
  • Head torch for emergencies
  • Camera and accessories (optional)

Since the waterfalls in the region are located in remote villages, be sure to dress conservatively while swimming in them. We do not recommend wearing a bikini.

13. Pakse Loop Itinerary

Cassava cultivation

We completed the big Pakse loop over 4 days and 3 nights. Our blog provides a comprehensive guide to all the attractions along the loop, including distances and other essential information. Be sure to check out our detailed itinerary for both the big and small Pakse loops!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Pakse loop different from the Thakhek loop?

Yes, the Pakse Loop and the Thakhek Loop offer different experiences. While the Pakse loop focuses on waterfalls and remote villages, the Thakhek loop is more about enjoying the journey through hills and exploring caves in the area.

Is it possible to do the big loop in 3 days?

While it is possible to combine Day 2 and Day 3 of the Pakse loop into one day, it would be exhausting and lengthy, covering about 200 km. For a more relaxed and enjoyable experience, we suggest avoiding this and opting for a more relaxed itinerary. If you’re set on a 3-day trip, consider exploring the smaller loop instead.

How crowded are the Waterfalls?

The Pakse loop isn’t usually crowded. In fact, we often find ourselves alone at many waterfalls. However, on weekends and public holidays, you might encounter some crowds, especially at Tad Lo Waterfall and the Tad Fane area, since they’re close to Pakse.

If you have any questions, comment below. We’ll do our best to answer them. Also, if you’ve found this blog helpful, comment below! And if you’re eager for more extensive hiking guides and travel tips, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and give us a follow on social media – find us on Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!

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