Paved Roads in Laos

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by davidmc, Feb 5, 2006.

  1. davidmc

    davidmc Member

    Greetings folks, we will be in Laos in a couple of weeks (Feb/March) as part of a RTW trip. We are on a Honda Transalp with Tourance (90% road, 10% off road) tires, fully loaded and two-up.

    I was originally planning on entering Laos in the far north from Thailand and continuing south through Laos and back into Thailand. However, it looks like Route 3 from the Thai border into Laos is a real nightmare. According to David, a boat is an option from this border, but maybe I should enter by land elsewhere like Vientiane?

    So I am looking for alternatives for a good easy route through Laos from Thailand and back into Thailand. Can anyone tell me which highways in Laos are paved and are suitable for a big bike, two-up? Hard packed gravel may be ok too, but I am trying to avoid mud, sand, bulldust and anything too treacherous...the bike and pillion are just too heavy. We have about 3-4 weeks scheduled for Laos.

    Any advice and/or route recommendations are welcomed. I have seen a few things on previous posts, but I am looking for the most up to date info as I know things are fast changing in Laos. Thanks!

    David McMillan & Erika Tunick
    Paris to Sydney 2005-2006
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  3. Mingh

    Mingh Active Member

    Hi there,

    Get the GT-rider map and start dreaming. We did this road 3 2-up on a 125cc without any trouble. So you should be okay. The 'easy' way through Laos would be to go from Luang prabang via the highway to Vientiane and further down to paxe of cambodia, all via good highway. But as much as you can: try to side track on these roads, as Laos tends to be more beautiful off the highway (doesn't every country?) our highlights were Phonsali, Kong Lo, the southeast and the road from luang prabang to Vang vieng. An africa twin can get you on any of those places,

    there are a few reports on this site of people who seemed to have made a sport out of crossing laos without using the highway once, plenty of inspiration methinks
  4. davidmc

    davidmc Member


    To my knowledge the entire Route 13 is paved and in good condition?

    I am trying to find out which of the "side" highways you mentioned will be suitable for my bike. But there will be no possible way that I can take my heavy bike with street biased tires in the same places as a 125cc bike. My bike is just under 300 kilos, loaded with bike, gear and passenger. So I am limited to where I can go. Route 3 from Thailand sounds like a really bad idea for me.

    Since I am on the road now, I don't think I will be able to get the GT rider map you mentioned. And the map for Laos appears to be dated 2002? I am guessing there is some more current info by now...

    Some more suggestions???

    David McMillan & Erika Tunick
    Paris to Sydney 2005-2006
  5. robinowyong

    robinowyong Member

    We have riden from Pak Beng to OudomXai-Luang Prabang-Phonsavan-Ventiene-Pakxe and it is paved roads all the way south. Exit at Chong Mek to Thailand. No river ferry crossing except from Huayxai to Pak Beng where we chartered a boat USD300 to bring 5 bikes (2 Dakars, 2 Fundaro and 1 GS 1150) to Pak Beng. Landing the bike at Pak Beng is a nightmare but we made it with the help of 11 porters!!
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    R13 is basically all asphalt from Udom Xai - Veun Kham.
    R3 Houei Xai - Luang Nam is under construction. Take a look at the reports & photos at
    and would not be much fun two-up. Probably guaranteed you'll drop it on a heavily laden bike, unless you’re Mr Universe or the Governor of California.

    That leaves the border options of
    1. Nong Khai (T) / Friendship Bridge, Vientiane (L)
    2. Mukdahan (T) / Savannakhet (L)
    3. Nakhon Phanom (T) / Tha Khek (L)
    4. Chong Mek (T) / Vang Tao, Pakse (L)
    5. Thai Li (T) / Nam Hueng (L) Exit from Laos only.
    Nong Khai is your bests bet, but that puts your right in the middle so if you wanna do Laos, then you have to back track at least once. R13 in the North is worth back tracking & my vote for S E Asia’s greatest motorcycle ride – one that you can enjoy & “really ride.”
    But there's nothing wrong with the boat option, as the Mekong boat trip is gorgeous. It just costs you a bit of money if you want to charter one, or you can go in with the back packers on the "cattle boat."

    From off R13 you don’t have many options.
    R7 to Phonsavan (the Plain of Jars) & Xam Neua. In & out the same way.
    from Xam Neua head north-west to Pak Mong & back down to Luang Prabang. But R1 is a bit rough two up & you might not like this.
    DOWN SOUTH, there is good info already on this board about what is & is not good.

    Your main problem is a good map - you don't have one unless you have the latest GT Rider Laos map, fresh out on Nov 2005. Like most RTW bikers you're probably trying to save money & avoid buying maps as you go, but for the price of a couple of big beers you will have all the right info in your hot little hands. It's only 200 baht & well worth it. (You’ll also be supporting the GT Rider in return for all the free info you’ve been getting on & off the board). Pick one up in Vientiane / Houei Xai going into Laos, or in Chiang Mai & Chiang Khong in North Thailand.

    Sounds like you must have had a good trip. But you guys must have been a bit unlucky with the unusual weather at the time = rain in the cold season .
    Any chance of a trip report for the GT Rider board? It must have been a real interesting & exciting ride Singapore return.

    Keep The Power On
  7. robinowyong

    robinowyong Member

    Sure, I will post a trip report here once it is ready.
  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good on you & welcome to the GT Riders.

    Keep The Power On
  9. Mingh

    Mingh Active Member

    I can definately confirm this. The map is the best money we spent in Laos. We had seemingly good maps, until we found out about roads that didn't exist, ended up somewhere completely different or weren't mentioned. If you're in the north of Laos, they have them in the Boat landing near Luang Nam Tha. While you're there, try their rice krispies for breakfast!
  10. davidmc

    davidmc Member

    Wow, thanks everyone for the advice!

    Sounds like I have two options, either begin from Vientiane, head up and back the same direction, or take the boat down the Mekong to Pakbeng and start from there.

    Loading my bike on a little boat down the Mekong makes me a bit nervous though, should I be concerned about this?

    Robin, you mentioned that it cost $300 to take 5 bikes down the Mekong from the Thai border, any idea on what it would cost for just one bike?

    I will try to pick up the Laos map somewhere in the area, I didn't realize the new one came out. I am never too cheap to buy a good map!

    David McMillan & Erika Tunick
    Paris to Sydney 2005-2006
  11. BobS

    BobS Ol'Timer


    The Mekong boats are pretty large - about 20 meters long. But, they don't have loading ramps. You bike must be loaded and unloaded over the side of the boat.

    Go here, and look at the "Unloading" photo. ... BBI_hp1kvG
    Photo courtesy of Silverhawk


    "The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right."
  12. robinowyong

    robinowyong Member

    Hi David
    You can also get your bike on the "cattle boat" cost about 800bht (excluding helpers loading and unloading your bike) at Huay xai vehicle ferry pier. Do note you have squeeze with other paid passengers as well. I guess it could as many as 100 passengers during peak season.
    Avoid riding at night. Don't make the same mistake we do. After unloading the bike at Pak Beng at almost 4pm afternoon, we continue to ride to Oudomxai. It was nightfall and the road is very dark and curvy. We almost hit the gantry pole at bridge crossing section. It is best advisable to stay at Pak Beng for the night and ride the next morning.

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