Pakse (Pakxe) is a city in the Champasak province of Southern Laos. It's one of the biggest towns in Laos and a major transportation hub for southern Laos. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau, Wat Phou or Si Phan Don you will probably have to spend some time here.
Pakse International Airport is kilometres north of town and offers scheduled flights to Vientiane and Siem Reap.
Lao Arlines offer direct flights from Bangkok, Thailand, and shall operate direct flights from/to Hochiminh city.
A tuk-tuk or moto into the town costs US$1-3.
There are flights from Vientiane and Luang Prabang to Pakse on Lao Airlines. Tickets can be booked online or through a travel agent.
Visa extensions are possible at the police station on Th. 10, just down the road from the Salachampa Hotel and Restaurant. The cost is US$2 per day plus a 5,000 kip “form fee.” The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo, fill in a form, and come back in the afternoon for your extension.
There is a regular slow-boat service to Si Phan Don. Departure is around 8 a.m., but check the day before. The boat landing is near the mouth of the Xe Don river. The service is reported to no longer be operating, but you can ask for a private boat, which is of course very expensive on your own but can be shared with others to lower the individual cost.
Pakse has two bus stations that mainly serve the locals. One serves traffic to the north and one to the south. (This information needs to be verified as these locations can’t be spotted on the map. It may mean wrong orientation.) The first is located about 10 kilometres north of the city center (15.1700 105.7600). The latter is located 8 kilometres to the south (30,000 kip by moto from the center, or 10,000 kip in shared tuk-tuk). Getting to right station with tuk-tuk is easy if you just tell the driver which place you are heading.
“VIP” buses from and to Vientiane operate from near the Champasak shopping center in the town center. The journey takes about 10 hours and should cost 170,000 to 190,000 Kip depending on whether you buy the ticket in the bus station or at tour agencies.
There are a couple of VIP bus companies; two of the popular ones are Chitprasom and Kriang Kai. Chitprasom (all sleeper buses) operate out of a station close to the shopping center near the town center. Kriang Kai (all sleeper buses) operate from a private bus station 2 kilometres from the town center near the afternoon food market. As of April 2011, a ticket to and from Vientiane cost 210,000 kip per person when a one-seater bus is available, 170,000 kip to share a double with another stranger or 250,000 kip for double to be ridden alone if a one-seater/sleeper is not available. If a single seater (210,000 kip) is available, 340,000 kip for a double-seater/sleeper for either one or two person occupancy. Chitprasom buses tend to be newer as Kriang Kai has been around longer and has not updated its buses. When traveling from Pakse to Vientiane, take the Kriang Kai buses, as they will drop you off in the Vientiane town center where their corporate office is located—a 2-minute walk from the Cultural Hall. All northbound buses, however, do stop at the Vientiane bus station, which is 9 kilometres from the town center. If you are coming from Don Det and have not bought a through ticket, you can either get off at the Kriang Kai terminal and buy ticket there, or wait and get dropped in town and buy your ticket for Chitprasom.
WARNING TO FEMALE TRAVELERS: there is a report of harassment on an overnight sleeping bus from Pakse to Vientiane.
VIP buses from and to Thailand via the Chong Mek border crossing take about 2 hours and charge US$5 (200 baht) to Ubon. There are also minibuses to the border only.
There are also direct services from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, (and points north) leaving 6.45 a.m. and arriving Pakse around 8.00 p.m. in a best-case scenario. Phnom Penh Soriya Transport advertises this service, but sometimes its agents will sell tickets on Lao-based Sengchaluean VIP Bus (which is nicer but still has no toilet). Sengchaleuan services can connect with a night bus to Vientiane, for those with a masochistic streak.
Minibuses head to and from Si Phan Don for 55–60 kip. Shop around. For Si Phan Don it’s also possible to go to the main bus terminal outside of town and take a songtheaw for 40,000 kip per person. Expect chickens and fish as your companions.
This is a small town so walk around. Otherwise there are enough tuk-tuks around. A trip to the market will cost around 5,000 kip and US$1 to the bus station.
Wat Luang, the biggest and most beautiful temple of Pakxe, and home of Buddhist Monk School. This is also the best place to see the monk alm giving rituals often seen in Luang Prabang. You might just be one of a handful of tourists there to behold the sight without feeling guilty, as Luang Prabang is now in the spotlight.
Wat Phabad is the oldest and largest temple of Pakxe. It is believed to have a Buddha Footprint, from which its name is derived .
Ban Keosamphanh, a former French army camp, has the most beautiful green rice field of Pakxe and is home to the oldest market of Pakse.
Mekong Bank is the most popular place and night center point of Pakxe.
- Big Buddha. In Aug 2011 a 'Big Buddha' temple complex was built across the river, adjacent to the Japanese bridge. More than a few steps to the top, a great view of the river and city.
There's not so much to do in Pakse itself; however, it is a good base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don. But Pakse should be considered a staging point for archeological tourists in this part of Laos for two reasons: 1) it is where the Champasak Provincial Museum is located as an introductory to local archeology, and 2) it is an alternative to Champasak city as a staging point for those wanting to see Wat Phou. Wat Phou is a designated UNESCO site and boasts of as Laos’s counterpart to Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom. It’s got the finest of its type outside Cambodia.
The museum is located close to the new market, 500 metres north of the banks of the Mekong.
It’s possible to organize a day trip to Wat Phou near Champasak, where you can also stay easily.
Rent a motorbike and head east toward Pak Song (Paxxong). The ride is pretty, and there are heaps of waterfalls to stop by near Pak Song. The Champasak Provincial Tourism Department puts out a nice few nice brochures including one on the Bolaven Plateau that details these including Tad Fane, Tad Champee, Tad Ueang, and Tad Pha Suam. Admission tends to be the same at every place: 5,000 kip per person and 3,000 kip for a bike.
One waterfall not mentioned is Tad Sae, which is located off of Route 13 at a fairly large T-junction with a bunch of fruit sellers lining the road. Not as large as some of the others, it nonetheless offers a beautiful place to stop and eat or hang out for a while. (Note that if you search for Tad Sae on the Internet you will be directed to the one near Luang Prabang which is not the same one here.)
These are several Internet cafés on the corner near Nazim’s Indian restaurant. They charge around 6,000 kip per hour. The smart new Tour Lao Café on the southern end of the market plaza has WiFi.
As in Vientiane, there is also a proper bowling alley located in town. A 15- to 20-minute walk away from the center or a short tuk-tuk ride away head down the main road and turn right toward the big white building in the distance. It is not far away from the river, so if you are over there already you can walk along there to find it. Be warned, though, that if you want a ride home you should negotiate a tuk-tuk to stay since you won’t find many patroling there, especially later in the evening.
- BCEL Bank (on Th 11, just next to Wat Luang in the town center) changes money, casehs travelers cheques, and does cash advance on credit cards. There is also an ATM in front of the building that now accepts most foreign cards. There are a lot more ATMs in Southern Laos these days. When heading south this used to be the last ATM until Stung Treng in Cambodia although food stalls on the Cambodian side of the border will gladly change dollars,kip, and Baht at unfavorable rates. There is now an ATM in Attapeu. All ATMs charge a 20,000-kip fee per withdrawal with a 1,000,000 kip per transaction maximum.
- The Lao Development Bank to the north of the city can exchange kip to dollars, vital if traveling onward overland to Vietnam. Across the road, directly opposite the bank is an ATM that accepts international cards such as Cirrus. There is a limit of 700,000 kip per transaction, although you can withdraw numerous times. Those who are heading to Cambodia should gather a few riels to tide you over for your first few hours in Cambodia from the Lao Development Bank at No.13 Rd. They close at 3:30 pm.
- There is a Morning Market that lasts most of the day. It can be found 500 metres south of the town center near the Sedone River.
- The huge Talat Dao Heuang (New Market) is about 2 kilometres southeast out of town on Road 13 near the Japanese bridge over the Mekong.
The restaurants are concentrated on the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge. The variety is diverse for the size of the town. For a more genuine Lao eating experience have a look in the streets south of the main one.
- Jaidee Bar and Restaurant, Road no. 11 (in front of the Sleeping Bus Station for the bus to Vientiane). They serve dinner, sandwiches, and fruit shakes. An Italian and a laotian chef prepare the dishes. Free WiFi.
- Delta Coffee is on the main road No. 13 across the street from the Champasak Palace Hotel. It is one of the best Western food options in town, although it also has good Lao food, with a full range of pastas (20,000–30,000 kip), pizzas (35,000–50,000 kip), sandwiches, hamburgers (15,000–20,000 kip), and desserts baked onsite, in addition the their fine coffee; prices are reasonable and the staff friendly.
- Dornsokdee Restaurant, on the main road No. 13 south opposite to the museum and between IndoChina Bank and ANZ Bank. This restaurant is No.1 in the locale; it serves a variety of food, including Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese. However, the menu that makes this restaurant popular is Korean barbecue and sukiyaki, which is “cook it yourself” style.
- Jasmin Restaurant is next door to Nazim and serves exactly the same dishes at the same price.
- Baguette stalls can be found along the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge. A small paté baguette costs 5,000–6,000kip.
- Lan Kham Noodle House, directly below Lan Kham Hotel, serves enormous bowls of noodle soup with fresh herbs and salad. Price from 15,000 to 17,000 kip. Open from approximately 10 a.m., closes early. Used to be very popular with the locals, especially government workers, but is now more popular with foreign visitors.
- Royal Pakse Hotel Across the street and opposite corner from Nazim has a fairly extensive Lao–Thai and Indian menu also featuring Thai style sukiyaki with an a la carte selection of options.
- Korean BBQ(not real name) Walk down the main street past the BCEL ATM and turn right, walk down one block and turn left and you will find another “cook it yourself” Korean barbecue-style place on the corner. It features a more economical option than the hot pot above, though the atmosphere inside can be overpoweringly smokey when busy. Try to grab one of the few outside tables or come early or late.
- Cafe Sinouk (Cafe Sinouk), No. 11 Rd (Very close to the Champasak shopping center). Cafe has free wifi for patrons and fancy frappe drinks, cakes, and basic restaurant menu.
- Bolaven Cafe, South Rd 13 (opp. Sang Aroun Hotel), ☎ 020 9787 4632, . 08.00-20.30. Classy and comfortable, with a blue theme. Western and Thai/Lao menu, many locals come in for a cappuccino. Free WiFi. Excellent service and local coffee. Fair trade and organic labelled option.. 20,00–-30,000 for most dishes, and all come with a complimentary coffee.. (15.1219,105.8)
- Pizza Boy, Th. 13 (Next to the Lan Kham Noodle House). Italian restaurant with pasta from 30,000 kip, pizzas 45,000–60,000 kip, espresso coffee at 7,000 kip and ice cream at 5,000 kip for a large scoop. . 30,000-60,000.
- Hasan Indian Restaurant, Thanon 24 (Just north of main Road 13), ☎ 020 5555 5624. The Indian cook–owner, Hasan, offers a standard but tasty menu. Vegetarian dishes 13,000–15,000 kip, meat and seafood 28,000–35,000 kip, breads 5,000–10,000 kip. UPDATE January 2013: Hasan is now working in Vientiane, and the cook is a local Lao lady... (+15° 7.19',+105° 48.6')
- Nazim Restaurant (Indian Food), Alley from road 12 (About 100 m from sign on main road 13 opposite Royal Pakse Hotel), ☎ 030 956 0809. Nazim has reopened in September 2012.
- Enjoy the sunset with a beer Lao at the Mekong River. Go to the French bridge and then head south along the Mekong. After having passed the wat you come across countless places to have a drink.
- Lotty is a nightclub
- Katuad cafe, NE corner of Rt13 and 24th street. 7AM-9PM. Good cafe in the centre of town, and one of the only places in town with free WiFi. Coffee is local and good. They have no qualms about customers staying for a few hours, and may give you a free tea if you stay long enough. 8-12000 kip.
- Le Panorama (Pakse Hotel), Bane Watlouang, Street N°4, ☎ +856 31 21 21 31, . 16.30h - 23.30h. The only rooftop restaurant in Pakse. On the 7th floor of Pakse Hotel, with a beautiful view over the town and the Mekong. Western, Asian, and fusion dishes, especially created for the restaurant by the new French chef. Not cheap, but the view makes up for it, and you'll find probably the best pizza and western dishes in town. 40,000–85,000 kip.
- Victory Hi Tech. Loud and dark local night clubs a couple of kilometres out of town down route 13. Packed with locals most nights and is about the only place in town you can kick on at until midnight. Beer Lao is 15,000 kip
- Jaidee Bar and Reastaurant, Street 11 (Front of VIP sleeping bus station). Italian and Laotian dishes, fresh Italian sandwich, fruit shakes, cocktail, and good info. Free WiFi
- Jaidee Bar and Restaurant, Street 11 ((Front of VIP sleeping bus station)), . An Italian and a laotian chef for the best of both cooking. Free WiFi
Most hotels and guesthouses in Pakse can be found along the main street between the French bridge and the roundabout or a short way into its side streets. Prices in Pakse are high compared with the rest of the country, even with Vientiane.
- Arawan Hotel, Salakiew St (turn right at the Mekong Bridge, 500 metres down the road next to secondary school), ☎ (856)3126034550 (email@example.com), . Good location, right on the banks of the Mekong River. Stunning views from the outdoor pool. Cheaper rooms are US$35, but the deluxe rooms are worth the money.
- Daovieng hotel 2, 13 & 35 Road phonesay village, ☎ (031)214331, . Good clean rooms with air-con, fridge, and cable TV, all of which only work when your room key is in the power slot. Single rooms are quite small. Wifi is available in the lobby. Single/Double/Twin rooms were 100,000/130,000/150,000 kip as of 1/1/2013 100,000–150,000 kip.
- Champasak Palace hotel, the former royal palace on road 13 is probably the most upmarket option in town.
- Lan Kham Hotel, on road 13 opposite the Lao Development Bank, is clean. Twin room with fan, toilet, and shower for 90,000 kip. Twin/Double with aircon, TV, and fridge for 100,000 kip, Free WiFi but only at reception.
- Lao Chaleun Hotel, Th 10, ☎ 251333. Staff are accommodating, and single rooms, although tiny are immaculately clean. from 80,000 kip for a single with cold water attached bathroom.
- Noknoi Guest House, (On road 13 just one block after katuad cafe on the corner opposite a little supermarket), ☎ 031 251 100. Clean standard rooms, complimentary water and coffee. Some room for improvement but are still okay. Cable TV is there but the signal is very noisy. Rooms from 50,000 kip. Air-con room with hot shower for 70,000 kip.
- Pakse Hotel  (near the Champasak shopping centre) offers a broad range of rooms. A great hotel with nice rooms, good service, helpful staff, and a lovely rooftop restaurant. Room comes with good buffet breakfast. An economy room with ensuite bathroom is 200,000 kip. They can arrange tours to nearby sights.
- Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse, turn north off the main street at the crossing near the Green Discovery office. It’s the only guesthouse in town with dorms (very basic). The shared showers have hot water. They also have basic rooms. 30,000 kip for the dorm; 45,000–60,000 kip for single or double rooms. WiFi an extra 10,000 kip per day, and laundry 15,0000 kip per kilogram. Also rent motorbikes, and can arrange a day tour to Boloven for 180,000–250,000 kip, depending on the number of persons.
- Sedone River Guest House, Th. 11 (left immediately after the bridge, first street betweeen Th. 13 and Th. 21, right on the Se Don), ☎ 212158. This guesthouse has friendly staff and a pleasant garden overlooking the Se Don. 50,000 kip for a fan room or 70,000 kip for an air-con room with hot water. These prices cover up to two people; you can pay 15,000 extra for a third. The air-con are large if a bit shabby. Cleanliness is middling; this isn’t a spic-and-span modern guesthouse but has a bit of a shabby character. Unfortunately due to the location by the river there are a lot of mosquitos. 50,000–70,000kip.
- Thaluang Hotel, Street 21, Bane Thaluang (Near intersection of Street 24), ☎ (856-31) 251399. checkout: 12pm. good location, helpful and knowledgeable staff, rooms are fairly old and could use some renovating (July 2011. Air-con and hot water available, the most expensive room has four beds 60,000–150,000 kip.
- Soutchai Travel, (From the downtown stoplight on Road 13, go one block east (away from the bridge) and turn right (Daovieng 2 is at this corner), then take the first left and go two thirds down that street. About a 10-minute walk), ☎ 212921. checkout: 12 pm. This small guesthouse has six upstairs rooms with ceiling fans that seem too hot during the daytime (although you can pay more to have air-con) but are very pleasant in the evening. Free Internet and WiFi. Laundry service. The bathroom with hot water is shared and on the ground floor. 40,000 kip.
- Bolaven Plateau - rent a motorbike. Talk to Sabaidy 2 Hotel for information on a 2-3 day loop and other destinations.
- Tadlo - a village with waterfalls and trekking opportunities.
- Si Phan Don - Also known as 4,000 islands, is less than 3 hours away. Relax here for a few days by the Mekong river.
- Vientiane - among other options, an overnight bus is available (2 people to a bed; snack, blanket, and pillow included). Possible to book this at Sabaidy 2 Hotel.
- Cambodia - Travel onward to Cambodia from Pakse is now possible (as of March 2011), with visa-on-arrival facilities now in place at the southern border with onwards travel to Strung Treng, Kratie, Phnom Penh, and even Siem Reap. Check transport providers carefully as some travellers have been reported being left at one destination, when they were booked for another.
Aug 2011, a single bus ride on VIP coach from Pakse to Phnom Penh, 13 hours, the fare is now 210,000 including tuktuk pick-up from hotel via agent (Laos Adventure travel www.laoadventuretravel.com). For thise wishingto arrange themselves: the bus station is more than 5 km to the east, which costs 20,000 kip by tuk-tuk and the bus fare is $US27. There is only one departure time which is at 8:00 am (although stated in the ticket as 7:30 am). However, others report the cost starts at 300,000 kips for the direct bus, but can be nogatiated to 260,000.
20 minutes on the last stop to the border, a fairly neatly groomed man will appear together with other foreign passengers. Holding a stack of passports collected from the foreigners that he tags along as he gets in the bus, he walks the aisle, announces that the border is near and those who have no visa should ready their $US30, distributes the Cambodian entry card and instructs everybody to fill it up. Those who already have visa should still ready their $US6 (reasons unknown but it may be the price of the departure stamp on the Laotian side, the entry stamp on the Cambodian side plus the Cambodian immigration card to be filled up included in the passport). This expediter instructs everybody to stay in place in their seats unless they want to unwind and stretch. As soon as he collects them and the bus stops, off he disappears just the same way as he appeared. After 40 minutes, he comes up and returns the passports stamped, with the visa sticker for those who have none, and the immigration card stamped and stapled. One can actually do it by himself, however it is impossible to inquire about the wheeling and dealing going on due to communication problems, it is best to shut up. It would be wise to leave the processing to the agent as it means worry & hassle free.
Warning: For those proceeding to Cambodia by bus and making a pit stop at Pakse, dazed and just rudely awaken from sleep, do not ever be convinced to buy VIP bus tickets right away upon setting foot at the bus station. Guiltless tout/drivers will sales talk you to buy them at $US 75—a blunder that should have covered the cost of air ticket from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. Or if you have the stamina to walk with your luggage for about 500 metres north where agencies line their main Street, you can proceed to buy the ticket or, better still, directly flag a tuk-tuk to the bus station to where the Cambodia-bound buses depart, and eke out an additional 13 hours of cramp-inducing trip.
Better still, if you have one day available, stay for the night (for 100,000 kip) and leave early morning. The best offer so far is by Laos Adventure Travel at Road 12, off their "Main Street" after a few blocks east of the bridge, (Bhan Lak Muang) for 210,000 kips or $US26 compared with the rest of agents starting at 230,000 kip and above.