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I'm thinking of hitchhiking from Vientiane to the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. The first big city will be Savannakhet.

It's apparently a distance of 466 km (290 miles) so I have no idea whether I'd make it in a single day or not. I have a tent but apparently it's not legal to sleep "outside" in Laos and I'd prefer cheap local guesthouses intended for Lao travellers and I don't mind the language barrier.

Google Maps doesn't seem to show any large towns between the cities but I'm sure there must be villages. Is there a known place that's good to stop on the way or does anyone know if there are guesthouses in pretty much every other village along the way?

The longest stretch seems to be between Paksan and Savannakhet, 300 km / 4 hours.

(Please don't answer "just take the bus". To me such answers are as dumb as "just stay at home and watch a documentary about Laos on TV".)

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Google Maps coverage of Laos is not great (we're working on it...), but Route 13 from Vientiane to Savannakhet and beyond to the Cambodian border is the main highway in Laos and there's plenty of facilities en route. Not much of it up to Western standards, mind you, but I gather you're fine with this ;)

The main cities/points of interest along the way, with distances from Vientiane:

  • Paksan, 147 km, pop. ~20k. A few basic guesthouses. Not to be confused with the far larger Pakse further down south!
  • Ban Nahin, 232 km from Vientiane plus ~50 km detour along Rte 8. Small village, but with half a dozen guesthouses catering for visitors to Kong Lor Cave nearby.
  • Tha Khaek (Thakhek), 338 km, pop. 85000. Largest city en route, with a bridge across the Mekong to Nakhon Phanom, Thailand and plenty of accommodation.
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There are many more villages along route 13 that don't show up on Google Maps and most of them seem to have at least one guesthouse. Not all have a sign in English so it helps if you can spot the signs with the Lao word for guesthouse: ເຮືອນພັກ (hư̄an phak).

The two places we stayed in so far both charged 90,000 kip for three people and no aircon but varied in terms of comfort and ammenities. The first had hot water and Wi-Fi and was in a quiet location off the street, the second had neither and lots of roosters (-:

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