Your jumping off point for adventure in southern Laos!
Prepare for the ultimate adventure of climbing, hiking, and exploring the natural beauty of Thailand and Laos. Discover beautiful waterfalls and keep your eyes out for monkeys and birds as you trek through the dense rainforest outside a hill tribe village. Go on a scavenger hunt by bike to temples, walk across a bamboo bridge, zip line in the forest canopy, and enjoy a swim at the beach, rock climbing, and snorkeling in this jam-packed, adrenaline-filled program.
With our No-Stress Travel Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.Read More
Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Before traveling you will receive your pre-departure packet, which includes your Rustic T-shirts, luggage tags, country books, airline tickets, and important contact information.
Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you check-in for your flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader who will escort you all the way to Thailand! Rustic Pathways’ Flight Leaders are most often schoolteachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Thailand!
Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Fear not – you will get this time back on your way home.
Sawat dee and welcome to Thailand! Your Rustic Pathways program leaders will be awaiting your arrival in Suvarnabhumi Airport. From there, you will hop on a quick flight to Ubon Ratchathani, the gateway to the southern Mekong region. From here, you will take a short van ride across the Lao border, a transition that will surely feel like you have gone back decades in time. The pace of life here is slow, and you will enjoy your first taste of Lao cuisine for dinner and rest up for the adventures ahead.
The adventure begins as you board a longtail boat after breakfast and cruise Lao-style on the Mekong river to Champassak. Along the way you will see how life in Laos revolves around the riverside, as fishing and trade boats pass by and children play on the banks. Your boat will arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phou, a Khmer Hindu temple complex dating back to the 5th century. After lunch you will spend the afternoon exploring the ruins, climbing over the stones to discover carvings that adorn the palace walls in the style of Angkor in Cambodia. Walk up to the top of the mountain for which this temple is named for some incredible views before heading back to Pakse for the evening.
Leave the city behind this morning and venture into the Bolaven Plateau, formed long ago by a volcano and home to breathtaking mountain views, extensive coffee plantations, and cascading waterfalls. After trekking into the jungle, you will step into your harness and prepare to soar through the treetops on a zipline! Fly from platform to platform, over towering waterfalls and lush jungle landscape.
**Please note: this trek can be intense, challenging and exhausting! Mud and rain can add to the difficulty.**
Finally zip and trek down to your camp for the night, your very own tree house high up in the canopy! Fall asleep to the peaceful sounds of the jungle from the protection of your mosquito net.
Wake up to the sound of cascading waterfalls and zip line out of your tree house to enjoy a western-style breakfast and fresh, locally-grown Laos coffee. Keep the adrenaline flowing as you master the final ziplines, the longest one reaching 400 meters! After the course is through, you will spend the afternoon hiking out of the jungle, passing through a protected national forest heritage area, and climbing up a well-protected “via ferrata” route.
**Note: This activity requires climbing up ladder style bolted rungs to make your way out of the valley! This day also requires extensive rigorous hiking through thick jungle and sometimes slippery hillsides.**
At the top of your via ferrata climb, don’t forget to look over your shoulder at the breathtaking lush valley view!
On the ride back to Pakse, you will stop at the famous Tad Yuang waterfall for a cool down swim. Sit back, relax and get a sense for how far you’ve traveled. Tonight, enjoy a traditional Lao massage to reward your tired muscles after dinner in Pakse. This will be a day you will never forget!
This morning after breakfast, head to the Pakse morning market. Here you will be able to weave through countless stalls selling produce and spices and see how the local economy operates in this part of the world. Then, drive south in VIP vans to Si Phan Don, the four thousands islands region of southern Laos. The Mekong River widens and the water flow slows to a lazy pace, dotted by beautiful tropical islands. Take a boat ride out to Don Khon, where you will spend the next few days getting into the groove of southern Lao living. Watch the sunset and enjoy some local cuisine before resting up for a big day of adventure tomorrow.
After breakfast, hop on bikes and start to explore the island of Don Khon. Along the dirt path that circles the island you will pass through local a few villages, lots of water buffalo, and waterfalls where the locals do their fishing. Learn about fishing techniques and the different tools they use to catch fish from the mighty Mekong River that supports all life here. After stopping for lunch, climb aboard a longtail boat and head out into the river. You will be spending an hour searching for endangered Irrawaddy dolphins! There is a pod of about five dolphins that remain in this protected area of the Mekong, right on the border between Laos and Cambodia. Keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures and enjoy time out on the water. Continuing by bike, you will come to the gushing Li Phi Waterfalls. Enjoy the view of the cascading falls through a gorge in the middle of the island. Sip on a smoothie and relax by the water to take a break from the sun. The end of your ride passes by a small island temple, and by now the sun will be getting ready to set. Enjoy another delicious meal and relax with your group at your guesthouse this evening.
For your next morning adventure, you will explore the waters of Si Phan Don, kayaking in between the small islands and taking in the gorgeous scenery. After an early lunch, it will be time to pack everything up and head to the Pakse airport. Catch your direct flight north to Luang Prabang, where ancient temples, colonial architecture, rich history, and unmatched beauty have earned the entire town UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Your group will be staying at the incredible Rustic Pathways Mekong Base House right on the banks of the Mekong River. The base is the perfect mix of traditional Lao architecture and immaculate western amenities. You’ll be sleeping under mosquito nets on mats like most Lao people in a village do!
Wake up along the shore of the Mekong river and enjoy some Lao coffee or fresh fruit as you embrace the peaceful atmosphere. This morning you will set off on a photo scavenger hunt around Luang Prabang town by bike! Cycle to temples, walk across a bamboo bridge, visit local markets, and dive deep into the culture and history of Laos. Along the way, you will have the chance to meet friends of Rustic Pathways around town, and gather all of the pieces your team needs to be victorious. After lunch in town, you will visit the Unexploded Ordinances Offices here in Luang Prabang, where you will learn the extent of the impact of the Vietnam War on Laos and it’s continuing effect on life here today. At sunset, climb up the Phosri Mountain in the center of the city for sunset the over the Mekong, and get a Laotian dinner on the riverfront.
This morning you will stop by ‘Big Brother Mouse’, a Laos-operated non-profit organization. Sit down to chat with local teenagers and university students to learn about their lives and exchange stories. Afterwards, leave the city behind and wind through lush green hillsides and rice paddies on the way to the famous Kuang Sri waterfall. Spend the afternoon marveling at the seven-tiered falls complete with beautiful views, turquoise water, a swimming area, and a sun bear preserve. In the evening, you will return to the Rustic Pathways base house before heading into town to explore Luang Prabang’s night market. As you wander through the tented stalls, practice your bargaining skills and collect some hand-woven textiles and souvenirs for your family.
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
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This program visits Pakse, Paksong and the Bolaven Plateau, Vientiane, and Luang Prabang, Laos. The itinerary continues through Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and Krabi in southern Thailand.
All flights departing from and returning to the United States will have flight leaders. In the event a student is connecting from another country, they may or may not have a flight leader. In such instances, we generally have coordinated with the airlines to escort the students from check-in through customs, and delivered to a verified Rustic Pathways staff member.
Students will fly from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, before crossing the border by land to Pakse, Laos. From Pakse, students fly north, stopping briefly in Vientiane en route to Luang Prabang, Laos. Students then fly from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a couple of days before heading south to the beautiful beaches around Krabi. The program finishes with a flight from Krabi to Bangkok, where students can connect to their flight home or to another Rustic Pathways program.
Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.
Students will have access to clean, safe drinking water (pronounced nam) on this trip at all times. Water in faucets can be used to brush your teeth but is not for drinking. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated!
When you join us on this incredible journey we want you to have an as immersive experience as possible and soak it all in. To do that you are encouraged to take a break from technology and engage with the life on the ground in Laos. Leave the lands of social media behind and focus on being present in the moment—don’t worry, it will still be there when you return—we promise!
You will have access to internet in accommodation and some cafes and restaurants throughout your program in all locations. During the day when you are out adventuring wifi will not be available.
Families will be given the phone number to our 24/7 emergency line which is kept open for true emergencies only. One of our awesome staff members in the U.S. will be in charge of this line, and they will pass any necessary information to us on the ground in Laos and Thailand.
If you need an adapter, look for a universal adapter that will accept almost any plug and plug into almost any style of outlet. They cost around twenty dollars and are available at office and travel supply stores.
It is rainy season in Southeast Asia, so be prepared for hot, humid days and cooler nights in the mountains. Daily downpours are short and give way to sunny skies. We recommend bringing synthetic fiber clothes because they dry fast much faster than cotton can.
In Pakse, Chiang Mai, and Krabi students will be staying in well-outfitted guesthouses equipped with western amenities. In Luang Prabang, students will be staying at the Rustic Pathways Base, sleeping on mattresses on the floor in traditional Lao houses under mosquito nets. The Base is also equipped with western toilets and hot showers.
You will be eating a variety of traditional Lao and Thai food, including sticky rice, laarb, fresh fruits, fried rice, and curries. We will most definitely sample local delicacies at the markets and eat at small restaurants, noodle shops, and cafes along the way. Although trying new foods is part of the adventure, there will be a mix of Western cuisine available throughout this program as well.
Cleanliness is a big part of Asian culture, so we keep as clean as we can while traveling. Laundry will be available ONCE A WEEK, approximately $5 per small load.
Yes! This program is designed to challenge adventure-seeking students with activities such as all-day treks to waterfalls, zip-lining, rock-climbing, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. You should feel confident and prepared to participate in these kinds of activities, including bringing the right gear and staying hydrated.
International SOS provides the most up to date recommendations for health in Laos. Since we do not know your child’s medical history, we recommend you reference International SOS’ website at: https://rusticpathways.com/international-sos/ or the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov for more information. We also suggest consulting with your local travel doctor prior to your travels for further information.
Hospitals and clinics are located in Pakse, Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, and Krabi. Students will almost always be within one hour of medical treatment.
Unfortunately, our Laos programs cannot handle seafood or nut allergies. However, vegetarians and gluten-free students are welcome!
Malaria is present throughout Laos. Mosquitos tend to pop up whenever the rain starts, and at night. Please bring 2 bottles of mosquito repellant with the proper amount of DEET (at least 30% DEET is recommended). Packing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants to wear at night for extra protections is also a great idea! Be sure to consult with a travel doctor or your family physician regarding additional precautions to take while in Southeast Asia.
Part of traveling internationally is learning how to be responsible for your belongings. All students are responsible for carrying their own personal spending money on programs. On average, most students require $100-$150 USD per week for incidental expenses (including laundry, any extra snacks, souvenirs, etc.). The night markets have an amazing variety of crafts, clothing, and unbelievable miscellaneous trinkets. Shopping there is a real treat, so budget more if you’re a big time shopper.
ATMs are available throughout Laos and Thailand, and students are encouraged to bring ATM cards to limit the risk of theft as they travel. We suggest bringing $200 USD in cash and then using an ATM if additional money is needed. Don’t forget to call your financial institution beforehand to let them know you’ll be traveling out of the country and ask about any additional fees!
Believe us when we say that you are not going to be ready to go home after two weeks! Time will fly and you’ll feel like your journey is just beginning as you board the plane home. The long flight over to Southeast Asia is the hardest part; once you’re here, why not make the most of it and build an incredible summer?
This trip connects seamlessly with other programs throughout Southeast Asia. Connecting is a great idea if your travel plans allow for it!
Here is a detailed packing list for your trip to Southeast Asia this summer. Remember that you will be responsible for carrying your belongings everywhere you go, so PACK LIGHT! If your bag weigh more than 35 pounds you have probably over-packed!
Weather in Southeast Asia
The summer time is known as the “rainy season” or the “green season” in Southeast Asia–days are generally hot and humid, with brief and refreshing showers that keep everything lush and green. Temperatures cool off once the sun goes down making for pleasant evenings. Because of the heat, you will need to drink a lot more water than you are used to drinking to stay hydrated!
Important Notes About Your Luggage
Everything should fit into one checked bag since you will be moving around and will be traveling by car, boat, bus, etc. A backpacking backpack will work best, but we strongly recommend that you do not use wheeled bags as they are cumbersome when moving around villages, and take up lots of space at homestays. Do not forget to bring a small backpack as a carry-on that you can use to fit your daily gear. The clothing that you bring should be able to get wet, dirty, and/or destroyed during service work and program activities. Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the carry on regulations of the TSA: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm
When visiting temples you will need to dress appropriately. Wearing clean, modest clothes that cover the knees and shoulders is a must. Being respectful is the name of the game!
A Note to Females About Attire in Rural Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian cultures are very conservative. Despite the hot climate, you will almost never see women with their shoulders exposed or wearing low cut shirts or short shorts. As we seek to respect and preserve the culture of the communities we work with, we strongly urge you to dress respectfully. Students and staff must realize that when they dress improperly, they are embarrassing everyone around them. If you are not wearing proper attire, you may need to change your clothes or abstain from the service project of the day.
To dress respectfully in Southeast Asia, please don’t wear short shorts, low cut tops, or tank tops while out in public areas. In most cases, shorts that cover just above the knees are fine. As mentioned above, yoga pants and leggings are not appropriate.
Access to laundry can vary, but you will have access to laundry at least once a week while on the program. Expect to pay between $8-$22 per load.
A school backpack or daypack is ideal as it will be used for hiking/ day trips.
A 50-70 Liter backpack is ideal. Duffle bags and rolling suitcases are not recommended for this program.
Most general toiletries are available throughout the region. We suggest packing all items that could leak in a plastic or ziploc bag
Additional and Optional Items:
Your jumping off point for adventure in southern Laos!
Explore UNESCO World Heritage ancient temple ruins.
Explore this region of souther Laos including a trip to the island of Don Khon.
This UNESCO World Heritage town is an enchanting mix of French-colonial influence and traditional Buddhist life.
World-famous rock climbing, stunning beaches, and water sports await in this slice of paradise!