Travelling with children in Laos can be a lot of fun as long as you come prepared with the right attitude. The Lao people adore children and will shower attention on your offspring, who will find playmates and a temporary nanny service at practically every stop.
Best Regions for Kids
- Luang Prabang
Beyond the beautiful old town are family-oriented eco-resorts, waterfalls, boat trips, farm visits and, for older kids, mountain biking and ziplining.
- Vientiane, Vang Vieng & Around
The capital offers some good accommodation with swimming pools. However, Vang Vieng is the real draw with stunning scenery and some soft adventures in the countryside beyond, including scenic natural pools among the karsts.
- Northern Laos
Nong Khiaw is popular thanks to its striking scenery and close proximity to Luang Prabang. The boat journey from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is also a relaxing option.
- Central Laos
Tham Kong Lor is memorable for older children, but long journeys and fewer child-friendly sites means this is one region that could be skipped.
- Southern Laos
This is a rewarding area for adventurous families to explore thanks to waterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau and relaxing riverside fun among the many islands of Si Phan Don.
Laos for Kids
The Great Outdoors
If boredom sets in for kids when travelling in Laos, the best cure is always the outdoors. Waterfalls in Luang Prabang and on the Bolaven Plateau are a big draw. And both Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang have emerged as big adventure centres where it is possible for older children to try anything from rock climbing to ziplining, not forgetting more commonplace activities such as mountain biking and kayaking. Boat trips are usually well received too.
Children's menus are pretty rare beyond the main tourist centres of Luang Prabang and Vientiane, but most restaurants, cafes and bars are very welcoming to children of all ages. There are some good supermarkets in Vientiane for stocking up on snacks and comfort food, but the options thin out very quickly once in the provinces.
Moving little ones around in Laos can be a challenge. In the cities, footpaths can be crowded with vendors, making it tricky to navigate a larger pushchair or pram, so something more compact is smarter. In smaller towns and villages, there probably won't be a pavement (sidewalk) so prepare to walk along the roadside and consider a more durable style with sturdy wheels. Portability is the key, as it is handy to be able to carry pushchairs around easily and fold them away when necessary, for example if you want to hop in a tuk-tuk.
A baby pack is also useful, but not necessarily the full-on high carries that some hikers prefer, as these leave the child's head higher than yours and there are lots of hanging obstacles poised at forehead level.
For the most part parents needn't worry too much about health concerns, although it pays to lay down a few ground rules – such as regular hand-washing or using hand-cleansing gel – to head off potential medical problems. Children should be warned not to play with animals encountered along the way, as rabies is disturbingly common in Laos.
Do not let children stray from the path in remote areas of Laos that were heavily bombed during the Second Indochina War. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) remains an everyday threat in some regions and children are usually the most common victims, as the the small cluster bombs known as 'bombies' resemble tennis balls and could look like toys.
Child-safety seats for cars, high chairs in restaurants or nappy-changing facilities in public restrooms are few and far between in Laos, pretty much limited to a handful of places in Vientiane or Luang Prabang.
Tham Kong Lor Journey to the centre of the earth with a boat trip through this 7km river cave system.
Vang Vieng Kayak or tube down the Nam Song River taking in the stunning karst scenery along the way.
Nong Khiaw Jungle Fly Try the 'Tarzan swings' or glide over the bamboo forests around Nong Khiaw.
Gibbon Experience This iconic zipline adventure includes a night in a treehouse in this protected area.
Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, Luang Prabang Meet Sun and Moon Bears in this wildlife protection centre at the beautiful Kuang Si Falls.
Laos Buffalo Dairy, Luang Prabang Learn to milk a buffalo, help feed and wash buffaloes and meet the resident rabbits at this working farm.
Elephant Conservation Center, Sainyabuli Stay overnight at the leading elephant conservation centre in Laos where you learn all about these noble creatures.
Tat Kuang Si, Luang Prabang The most iconic (and photographed) waterfall in Laos thanks to its turquoise waters with plenty of small swimming holes for relaxation.
Nahm Dong Park, Luang Prabang This spectacular series of waterfalls in the jungle is also a base for lots of fun activities like mulberry paper-making and dream catcher classes.
Khon Phapheng, Si Phan Don The largest waterfall in Southeast Asia should impress the kids providing you haven't already visited Victoria, Iguazu or Niagara falls.
Tat Somphamit, Si Phan Don Older kids can literally fly over the Mekong on this zipline that crosses a Mekong waterfall.
Tat Lo, Bolaven Plateau A popular waterfall with some good swimming holes under the falls.
What to Bring
- A supply of nappies if your child wears size 3 or larger; available sizes at Laos supermarkets tend to be small.
- A sufficient supply of any specialised baby products, such as nappy rash cream to combat the humidity, when travelling in rural areas.
- Adaptors for charging devices for older children on the road, as there will be some long drives on a journey through Laos.
- Luang Prabang's old town is good for couples and independent travellers, but there are not many heritage hotels with swimming pools, so consider staying a little further out to cool off after a long day.
- Extra beds are not that common outside of the smarter hotels in the main centres, so prepare to share double or twin beds or plan ahead for rooms with connecting doors or adjacent rooms.